Who Shapes Our Culture? Do You?

RRemember the good old days of going to the record shop to pick up a CD or cassette and spending the next couple of months really getting to know the music because you knew precisely how many mowed lawns it took to to buy it? Well, maybe you don’t remember those days, and perhaps they weren’t all that great. For fans, the digital age means being able to access music pretty much anywhere at any time. But what does it mean for musicians who have had to adapt to evolving technology, changing business models and consumer preference?

That’s what hundreds of the brightest minds in music, technology, policy and law will aim to uncover at the 14th Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington, DC. But unlike other conferences where big shot suits industrysplain how the music business should function, the Future of Music confab puts the artist perspective front and center. Of course, there will also be labels and techheads and lawyers and policymakers in the mix. But the point is for these folks to hear directly from artists about their experience in today’s topsy-turvy landscape for creativity and commerce.

Future Of Music Coalition

Future Of Music Coalition

And there’s never been more going on in terms of how musicians and songwriters make a living and reach fans. From big hairy issues like “net neutrality”—the idea of whether Comcast or Verizon should control how creators deliver lawful content to consumers—to shifts in the music economy that are impacting artists to Congressional attempts to bring America’s copyright laws in tune with the Internet age, there’s no shortage of hot-button topics to delve into. For musicians, it’s also an opportunity to hear from policymakers about how they’re approaching these issues, and ways to get involved. The future of music is no longer something that gets to be decided by a roomful of suits or government apparatchiks—it’s something that we all can have a part in shaping. The road to a more functional music industry is bound to be bumpy and the debates sometimes contentious. But the only way that things get better is if everyone who plays a part—from creator to executive to innovator to fan—has an opportunity to be heard. The Future of Music Policy Summit creates that space.

Whether you’re a fledgling songwriter or a touring juggernaut, there’s never been a better time to get involved. And that goes for music entrepreneurs, innovators, attorneys, academics and everyone else in the broader space. Now, some 15 years into a digital disruption whose ripple effects are still being felt across the creative sector, it is time to step out of our silos and come together with the goal of learning from one another and identifying solutions. Because this whole music business thing isn’t gonna fix itself.

Really, it’s about perspective. Which is why the Future of Music Policy Summit strives to make connections between high-level professionals and scrappy up-and-comers. This year will see keynotes from FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and full-time rocker, part-time policy wonk Damian Kulash of OK Go, along with feisty panels and presentations. Of course, there’s a lot more going on than speechifying. Attendees will have the opportunity to connect with groups and individuals who are applying their energy and expertise to strengthen creative communities across the country. Nurturing upcoming generations of leaders in music is key to the Summit experience.

Think about what that can mean. We’re no longer in an era where people sitting in windowed offices in major cities are the only ones in a position to shape culture. Music and innovation are happening everywhere in communities across the country. How can we take these scenes to the next level? What infrastructure and policies will benefit those using music to advance creativity, bootstrap innovation, spur civic engagement and positively impact upcoming generations of artists and entrepreneurs? These are the kinds of questions that don’t often get asked at music industry conferences. But they’re on the set list at the Future of Music Policy Summit.

When our kids and grandkids look back at the state of music in 2014, what will they think? Will they consider it the good old days, or a narrowly averted dystopia? Will they engage with music secure in the knowledge that its creators aren’t just getting by but doing well? Or will they be nothing more than passive consumers of prefab pablum who have grown numb to the needs of creators? From our current vantage point, it is clear that there are tremendous challenges facing artists, but there are also opportunities if we choose to tackle problems with open minds and a collaborative spirit. The good news is that the future of music remains unwritten. The even better news is that everyone can have a hand in writing it.

By Casey Rae, Vice President for Policy and Education, Future of Music Coalition