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In this guest post, Featured Artists Coalition (FAC)’s acting CEO Jeremy Silver explains why Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien’s confirmation as a MidemNet 2010 speaker is good news for artists…

We’re all thrilled that Ed O’Brien, who is a founding board member of the FAC, is going to be speaking at MidemNet in January next year. It’ll be really interesting to hear him speak then because the world will have kept on transforming itself at the high rate of change it is currently enjoying – and so who knows what the hot topic will be?

The FAC is now six months old and has achieved a lot in its short history. The philosophy of the artists’ perspective is gradually being better understood by the industry and by governments – and the strength of the organisation’s voice at the table is growing. Sometimes that is painful as people react aggressively and emotionally, often mistaking what they think the message of the organisation is.

The FAC is all about creating a level playing field for artists in the new music industry and creating a new way of doing business where the emphasis is on partnerships and transparency. This organisation is really committed to making the ways in which money is made in the music industry visible and understandable to all. At the heart of all of this is the relationship between the artist and their fans.

No one in the artists’ community is against getting paid – and none are supportive of illegal file-sharing.

But the issues are about making sure that, in the new digital ecology, the flow of money through the system is equitable, visible and understandable to all.

It’s not a question of wanting labels to disappear, on the contrary, there are many members of the FAC who believe that the labels have a long and healthy career ahead of them – as long as they develop the right relationships with their artists. There are lots of new ways for artists today to pursue a relationship with their fans online and record labels are going to have to work a lot harder than they used to,  in order to convince artists that they can really be of service to them in that mission. Not many labels today demonstrate great competence in the emerging arts of online marketing. Of course, waving a wad of cash under the noses of penniless musicians has had a time-honoured track record of success.

But continuing to propose old-style contracts is rapidly becoming unacceptable; for example contracts that contain clauses demanding life of copyright assignment, corporate ownership of recording masters, corporate ownership of artists’ internet domain names, recoupment of all costs expended in corporate marketing programs, packaging and breakage deductions, no international audit rights, etc, etc. These ought to be things of the past – and yet they still show up in standard recording contracts issued by major labels in the 21st Century.

The FAC is supportive of the record labels’ real efforts to break away from their oppressive traditions and notorious pasts and reinvent themselves as true partners in the digital age. The FAC is also very welcoming of all the new models that internet innovators are working on to improve how artists can reach their fans direct, how they can distribute their music on their own, and how they can encourage fans to spend money on music through new attractive and compelling consumer services.

The FAC has called upon the labels to lighten up their licensing regimes and has encouraged them to take part in government sponsored trials in the UK to experiment with new business models and to try to figure out the best way of motivating music fans to move to legitimate paid for, cool services that are exciting enough to compete with the boring free p2p services. The role of internet service providers and network operators will become more and more important in all of this. Collaboration with these new industry partners will be crucial – simply seeking to tax them is not the answer.

Over the next ten years, our industry is set to become a much more mixed economy than in the past. Finding new ways of collaborating and increasing the degrees of trust, partnership and real creativity inside our industry, regardless of governmental interventions, will be the real route to growing our businesses successfully in the digital era.

Quite a few FAC members, including Ed, are going to be attending MIDEM. We’re looking forward to engaging further in this debate – and particularly keen on hearing from real innovators who want to drive the next wave of online creativity.


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