The future of Net Neutrality may threaten the business of independent musicians. According to the Rolling Stone, the Federal Communications Commission’s decision whether or not to repeal Net Neutrality on Thursday, December 14 could have a detrimental impact on the music industry.
Independent artists currently use the free and open Internet to communicate with sponsors and to release their music and merchandise directly to their audience. However, the repeal of Net Neutrality could make the direct sale of merchandise to fans that much more difficult.
Currently, the Internet is designed where users pay only one Internet Service Provider (ISP) for access. Should Net Neutrality, which was implemented in 2015, be repealed the doors are open for ISPs such as Comcast and ATandT to regulate Internet packages like cable television.
“If music consumers were forced to pay an extra charge just for using streaming sites such as Spotify and Pandora, then there would obviously be less people using those platforms,” said Cale Tyson, an independent artist from Nashville. “Therefore, we wouldn’t be getting as many plays and thus making less money.”
It isn’t only independent musicians advocating against Net Neutrality’s repeal. Over 150 musicians and actors have signed petitions or rallied against the repeal online.
“Some fans and all musicians know that record sales have never been the largest part of a musician’s income,” said Americana singer Cory Branan. “Traditionally it’s touring and [merchandise sales].” These sales include more than just apparel, but also concert tickets.
Net Neutrality could also impact fees paid to a musician’s team, says Blues singer Janiva Magness. Booking agents and managers need to access the Internet. The additional costs of that access will come from the artist’s income.
Independent musicians, on average, only make up to $35,000 a year. Compared to how much musicians are valued by their fan bases, this isn’t a high salary.
“Artists’ royalties are potentially severely reduced while your fan base dwindles,” said Magness.
What’s more, for many musicians Net Neutrality feels like the last escape from a corporate world. Up to 86% of companies report an increase in worker happiness after introducing employee recognition programs.
But with musicians, happiness comes with a sense of freedom over one’s fan base. With Net Neutrality, independent musicians and bands have been able to develop their fan base on their own terms and grow from there.
The repeal of Net Neutrality could mean fans and sponsors have limited access to discovery platforms, which give corporations in the music industry a leg up.
“We’ve allowed these entities so much power over us,” said Luther Russell of Those Pretty Wrong, “that Net Neutrality might be the only thing left keeping their boots off our necks.”
The vote to repeal or sustain Net Neutrality rules will take place on Thursday, December 14th. Those Americans who want to take action against the repeal can visit battleforthenet.com.