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Home » Organizing » 2014 Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit Discusses Metadata

2014 Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit Discusses Metadata


by Bruce Fife, AFM International Vice President and President of Local 99 (Portland, OR)

fairTrade Music S When Future of Music Coalition (FMC) held its October Policy Summit in Washington, DC, the top minds in music, policy, technology, and law convened to talk about our industry, the directions it’s taking, and how we might guide it to a place where musicians can be fairly compensated for the art they create.

The AFM was, once again, a strong presence at the event. Joining the Federation were representatives of Locals 802 (New York City), 9-535 (Boston, MA), 4 (Cleveland, OH), 161-710 (Washington, DC), 10-208 (Chicago, IL), and 257 (Nashville, TN), as well as representatives of the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund, the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, and the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund.

One of the surprises of the summit, for me, was the newfound interest in capturing metadata. Metadata, for those that need a primer, is the information that identifies the contributors to the creation of a song: the musicians, producers, composers, engineers, labels, etc. With digital media, it is increasingly challenging to locate musicians for distribution of funds for new use, reuse, and royalties, etc., without metadata. Consider the challenges of a performance rights organization (PRO) like SoundExchange in not just identifying, but locating the musicians for payment.

The further we move into the digital age, the more critical it is to have this data attached to either the sound file, or as a code that leads to a central database that stores the info. Currently, the information is proprietary to the various entities that collect it. We need to find a way to move towards a central database.

Last year, the AFM attended a closed-door meeting on metadata with various PROs and distribution organizations. This year, two breakout sessions and one “main stage” presentation on the topic were well attended. For more information, including a slide show on these presentations, go to:

The AFM hosted a standing-room-only breakout session on the importance of “do it together” (DIT) when it comes to issues of common concern in our industry, like metadata. It discussed how to organize the music community in your town or state, as well as nationally and internationally, to develop the power to protect our work and careers. This sparked a productive and robust discussion with FMC attendees about engaging the power of DIT to raise the economic bar for musicians of all types.

Local 802 Executive Board Member Andy Schwartz moderated the panel, prompting and guiding the panelists as they shared cogent points. Panelist Marc Ribot of Local 802 is the current president of the Content Creators Coalition (CCC). This new grassroots organization works to alter the negative dynamics of the changing distribution system for music, including unsustainable streaming royalty rates, zero royalties for musicians on AM/FM radio, and wide ranging copyright infringement facilitated by Internet search companies.

CCC is advocating for the artists’ right to control their work, and to choose how, when, and whether their work is distributed for commercial gain, monetized with advertising, or otherwise exploited. It also upholds the right of artists to a fair share of the wealth that their work generates and their right to aggregate collective power to protect their livelihoods and art forms.

Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy talked about his local’s cooperative and proactive approach to problem solving that relies on clear, honest communication, and an understanding that the music business is evolving rapidly. The local’s mission centers on respect for musicians and the work they create—a key issue that resonated with the attendees. Pomeroy reiterated that the next generation of musicians need the right tools and practical knowledge that the AFM can provide, plus an awareness of the importance of protecting their intellectual property.

I spoke about our experiences in Portland with the creation of Fair Trade Music (FTM). The campaign’s primary goal is to raise wages for musicians in the club environment, but also to remedy some of the other issues those musicians face. Read more about FTM on page 8.

FTM is a nontraditional type of organizing. Because club musicians are considered independent contractors, they are not able to organize in the traditional union manner. The Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA) FTM program is moving forward full speed, as is Local 1000 (nongeographic). The success of these campaigns is made possible by active involvement of musicians, coming together to work towards common goals.

This year’s Future of Music Summit was a rousing success. If you want to see some of the in-depth conversations and keynotes featuring powerful voices like Harry Shearer, Kiran Gandhi, and dozens more, watch the videos from this year’s summit on the FMC YouTube channel: It’s worth taking a look at the depth and range of the presentations. You might even be inspired to attend the next summit!

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