Musicians Campaign for Free Internet

By | March 28, 2007 at 1:28 PM

Sensing a revolution in the way Internet traffic is managed, rock musicians find themselves in the unusual position of defending the status quo.

Independent, lesser-known musicians and smaller record labels launched a nationwide campaign Tuesday to support the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, which they said is under fire from providers who want to charge a fee to have some Web sites load faster than others.

The Rock the Net campaign, made up mostly of musicians who are on smaller record labels or none at all, said they’re fearful that if the so-called “Net neutrality” principle is abandoned, their music may not be heard because they don’t have the financial means to pay for preferential treatment.

Some said they don’t want to pay. The Web, they said, has allowed many unknown musicians to put their music online, giving fans instant access to new music and giving bands greater marketing capabilities.

They said independent record labels are also on an equal Web footing with major players like Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

“It could be a pretty sad world where money alone buys the ears and anybody that can’t afford it, can’t get proper placement, is pushed off to the ghettos,” said Derek Sivers, owner of CD Baby, an online store that sells compact discs by independent musicians.

Former musician Jenny Toomey, who is now executive director of the Future of Music Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group for independent musicians, said the issue is so important, it has attracted big-name artists such as R.E.M., Sarah McLachlan and Kronos Quartet, a classical musical string ensemble.

“Never before have I been doing work for the music community where every single artist that we called said, `Yes, use my name. I’m on board to support this,'” she said during a teleconference Tuesday. Her group is one of the campaign’s organizers.

The Rock the Net campaign is also sponsored by Noise Pop Industries, which sponsors an annual San Francisco music festival, among other things, and Zeitgeist Artist Management, which manages musicians.

According to the campaign’s Web site, 124 bands and 24 music labels support the initiative.

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