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What Happened to Music FIRST?

And so the critically important fight over music rights fees wears on.

Pandora lobbies in favor of the Internet Radio Fairness Act now before Congress so as to make not only its business but the business of every current and future company playing music online more viable (keep in mind, Pandora has yet to turn a profit thanks largely to withering and model-killing rights fees foisted on the industry by the labels).

The MusicFIRST coalition (shouldn’t it be called LabelsFIRST?) counters that absurdly over-the-top fees are appropriate despite their industry-stifling impact that over the long run will result in less online music and less revenue into music industry and artist coffers.  Then again, these are just details, right?

Meanwhile, eMarketer reports that “Ad Support is the Future of Mobile Music.” As this picture shows, eMarketer projects that almost 90% of revenue for mobile music will come from advertising by 2016.

That means the music industry, once supported by fans buying content, will increasingly be supported by advertisers paying for access to fans who refuse to buy content. That makes the question of how that pie is split and whether your slice is big enough to bother with all the more critical.

The irony of all this is the absurdity of MusicFIRST’s argument that this legislation and Pandora would “slash music creators’ pay.”  Without a thriving marketplace of advertisers and content there is no pay – period.  Unless the marketplace is allowed to breathe and grow, the short-term panic of MusicFIRST will do more harm than good to the artists they supposedly support.

I remember seeing the gleam in Pandora founder Tim Westegren’s eye when I heard him outline the genesis of Pandora.  Pandora was part of his dream to create what he described as “a musician’s middle-class.”

This legislation now before Congress is an important path to that dream, no matter what the music industry says.

Please do what you can to lobby your peers and your fans to support this legislation.  You can take action here.

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