Chase Dean is a political science senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not represent the viewpoints or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
In 2005, a band of four boys from Sheffield, England had their entire world turned upside down after their friends uploaded their music to file-sharing sites and Myspace unbeknownst to them. The press eventually got a hold of the band’s internet-based success which not only changed the music industry, but the internet as a platform for indie artists to garner newfound fame. That band was the Arctic Monkeys.
The Arctic Monkeys are among many indie artists who can attribute much of their rise to fame to the internet. Indie artists are defined as artists not affiliated with a major record label. Despite net neutrality regulations not existing at this time, the model of the internet. A platform that allows indie artists to share their music largely without fees is a resource that is indispensable for artists that don’t have the same resources as those signed to major record labels. However, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent rollback of net neutrality regulations could lock this gateway to success.
As of December 2017, the FCC passed an order to rescind current net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote along party lines. The order was spearheaded by the Republican chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, who viewed the regulations as too restrictive. Net Neutrality rules were put in place by the Obama administration to prevent broadband companies from slowing down and blocking certain types of content. Without net neutrality regulations in place, broadband companies would be able to charge consumers fees to access certain websites or faster speed tiers on certain websites.
This repeal has multiple implications for the indie music scene, most of which are harmful. One of the ways this may affect the scene is that internet providers are now able to charge a fee to access popular music-sharing websites such as SoundCloud and YouTube. This means that for artists and consumers, a fee would be required to access websites designed for the free sharing of music. For artists signed to major record labels, this may not be a huge issue considering the resources at their disposal. However, it would force indie artists and independent record labels to fork out profuse amounts of money just to compete with larger labels who will pay more to boost their artists.
This would further drive down the already abysmal profits indie artists make through their music. For example, Spotify has admitted that on average, rights holders are paid somewhere between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream. Of course, “rights holders” doesn’t just mean the artists themselves, but also the labels and publishers. In essence, if people frequent streaming sites such as Spotify less, those payouts will decrease, ultimately leading to indie artists losing their livelihood.
As of now, politicians have taken action in fighting this disastrous repeal. Both Republicans and Democrats have backed a Congressional Review Act resolution in the Senate to block the repeal, but they still lack the support to pass it.
Indie music is a staple of the music industry as it continues to defy the norms and expectations set forth by mainstream artists, further cultivating innovation in music. Without a free and open internet, indie artists will not be able to share their music or follow their artistic goals.