The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no stranger to debate over it’s rules and regulations, no more so than when they make a new decision. The debate rages over it’s recent decision that clears the way for internet-service providers to charge tiered-fees to content providers for prioritized bandwidth-speeds for content delivery. With this, the independent (indie) music production could be dealt a crippling blow.
With the internet-boom and the rise of broadband, indie music-producers, for the first time, have had access to inexpensive tools for collaboration and production and, more importantly, given near unfettered access to the global digital music marketplace. While traditional recording industry companies, and key content-distribution providers (such as Amazon and Itunes), hold the professional digital distribution markets, the nature of internet-content distribution offers smaller labels, and bands with no label, a chance to get their music directly to their audience. By eliminating the corporate middleman, indie music makers are given the chance to interact with their audience, as well as see a larger net return of their capital investment.
Why is net-neutrality critical to the indie music maker?
The debate’s main focus is on the impact that net-neutrality has on streaming-video (like Netflix) while the impact on the digital distribution of music has been largely ignored. The latest study conducted for the RIAA by IFPI (http://www.ifpi.org/facts-and-stats.php) concluded that digital downloads account for approximately two-thirds of all music sales and will continue to grow and be a dominant market force in the long-term foreseeable future. While indie music makes up only a tiny fraction of that figure, with an end to net-neutrality, indie music-producers could see themselves thrown back to the pre-internet dark ages of music distribution.
Major corporate digital-music providers would be able to pay the tiered-fees for access to, what has been dubbed, internet “fast lanes”, while indie music-producers, unable to afford the fee, would find themselves critically handicapped by reduced bandwidth-speeds. When major internet service providers put prioritized content filters into place, the major corporate digital-music providers would have free reign of the distributions channels and the delivery outlets. Indie music-producers would be forced to contend with the restriction, or even elimination, of the distribution channels and delivery outlets that they have come to depend on for their income.
Largely ignored in the media-frenzy surrounding the debate over net-neutrality, indie music-could be faced with a devastating blow to vital piece of their business infrastructure.