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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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November 1, 2007 1:02 PM

The Internet and music

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Internet's importance to independent musicians was obvious at the Crocodile Cafe on Tuesday night. I went there for Matt Nathanson's concert, which was billed as a Rock the Net show. I had never heard of Nathanson but everybody else at the sold-out show knew him. The young crowd sang along, lyric-for-lyric, and yelled out requests in-between songs.

How is a musician on an independent label like Nathanson able to sell out a show so quickly to an obviously smitten crowd? Through the Internet and a lot of touring. The Internet is vital tool of commerce and communication for a musician who is on the road for about 10 months.

Nathanson is part of a growing list of 763 bands and 155 record labels that have joined the Rock the Net campaign. Seattleites will recognize many of the names on the list like Death Cab For Cutie, and Conduit Records.

Nathanson was part of a teleconference for Rock the Net before his show on Tuesday. The teleconference highlighted why a net neutrality law is needed for the music industry. Nathanson explained how he has used the Internet to make a career in music and communicate with fans.

The community that I have built between my fans and myself, and the network that I built -- the lifeline of my existence -- is crucial that the Internet be free and clear for everybody to use.

Independent labels and bands could be shut out if service providers are allowed to discriminate against competing content or content not to their liking.

Luckily for independent artists there are a number of groups pushing for good Internet policy. In Washington, D.C., The Future of Music Coalition is working hard for net neutrality, and closer to home there is Reclaim the Media, which was at Nathanson show. Jonathan Lawson of Reclaim the Media manned a table with literature about net neutrality and the FCC's still not figured out Seattle media ownership hearing.

Nathanson made an effective pitch deep into his set. He pointed out that Rock the Net had a table by the entrance, and explained why net neutrality is important. He couched it as a free-speech issue that demanded the attention of the youthful crowd.

The First Amendment never really goes out of fashion, he said.

The message was not lost on an attentive audience. As the crowd squeezed through the exit a group of fans huddled around the Rock the Net table.

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