You have probably heard the term “net neutrality” floating around for the past few months, but what exactly is it? Well, when the Internet was invented, it was meant to be a great equalizer. Everyone could access it at the same speed and access any legal website they wanted to, without any extra charge. No website was blocked, and you did not have to pay extra to view certain sites. Everything was on an equal playing field. This idea of “net neutrality” let the Internet be the open marketplace it was always meant to be.
Unfortunately, the Internet quickly became commercialized by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) such as Comcast and Verizon. This was okay for a while; however, within the past few years, net neutrality has been attacked. ISPs want people to pay even more for the Internet. And worse, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is on board. They have already voted to overturn Net Neutrality.
If Net Neutrality is revoked, then consumers will be offered different Internet packages based on speed. The more you pay, the faster your Internet will be. On the flip side, they might also charge website owners to pay more for their websites to run faster. For example, Comcast could ask Netflix to pay some large sum of money to have their website run at top speed. To combat these costs, they would most likely have to raise the price of subscriptions, which still directly affects consumers.
ISPs might also only allow access to a small handful of websites with each service package as well. The less you pay, the fewer websites you will be able to access, and they would most likely only be the big ones (ie Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.).
You are probably wondering at this point, “well, how does this affect small musicians?” It is simple. Most smaller musicians put their material up on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and websites of the like. If their fans do not feel like paying for or cannot pay for the Internet package that comes with websites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp, then that lessens the chance of people hearing these small bands’ music. Also, bands’ individual websites will not be visited as often because they will probably be extremely slow because the band could not pay for a faster speed.
You may now have another question. “Can’t they just put their stuff on YouTube and Spotify?” Firstly, even streaming could be limited to certain Internet packages. You might not be able to stream anything at all if you do not pay enough money. Even if you can, it may be extremely slow, so it may not even be worth it.
Secondly, if you have been keeping up with music industry news, then you will know that neither of those entities really pay artists as much as they should. Spotify has been sued a countless amount of times by different artists, and a class action lawsuit is currently in the works against YouTube for not paying enough royalties to artists. Moreover, the parameters for becoming a YouTube Partner have become even more restrictive, so profiting from videos has become even more challenging. Although it is a great idea to have your music available everywhere, it also has to be in the places where you can actually make money. Your own website would probably be the best place, especially for CDs, tickets, and merchandise.
Without net neutrality, the Internet becomes a much smaller place. Only the well-established businesses will thrive, and the smaller ones will have to fight for survival even more than they already do. Small musicians will only be able to have their material on the big websites where it is becoming increasingly difficult to get noticed or gain any kind of traction.
We all depend upon the Internet. The FCC has already approved Net Neutrality’s removal, so it is up to Congress to decide whether or not it is truly overturned. A call or letter to your local congressman can really make a difference. If you still want your favorite small bands to prosper, then do whatever you can to support Net Neutrality.