Net Neutrality and Independent Artists

There have been a lot of discussions lately about the latest repeal of the Net Neutrality Law in the U.S., which has been in effect since 2015. The biggest win for independent artists with net neutrality is that there are no barriers of entry to the marketplace. An independent artist’s creation receives the same treatment as a label. If the latest changes to the law go into full effect, there are major potential dangers for independent artists.

Currently, consumers pay a single fee every month to access the internet. Whether you access YouTube, Instagram, or if you are just surfing the internet, it’s a single price. Without net neutrality, internet service providers might create tiered packages for separate services. Let’s say you want to text. You would need to purchase a package specifically for using iMessage, Texting, WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime. Want to check your emails? You would pay 5 dollars more to get an email package covering Gmail, Yahoo and other email apps. Want to use YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp or Soundcloud? That would be another 5 dollars out of your pocket. When net neutrality is gone, internet service providers will be able to block and slow down internet, so that they can charge extra for faster internet.

To reiterate, the implication of the new system is that if you would like to listen some music on YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp or Soundcloud, you might pay extra. Will you pay that extra fee to access these? Some people will say yes, and some will no. But what is certain is that the streaming and download numbers in music industry, which is crucial for digital exposure of independent artists and labels, will go down. In other words, the revenues of musicians would be reduced significantly, while their costs would go up.

Another group of independent artists that will suffer from net neutrality would be filmmakers. Since most films are large files, slowing down this internet content would disrupt and reduce the streams and sales of most movies over the internet – unless you paid. Especially if filmmakers are selling or streaming their movies from their own websites, they would have to pay extra costs to to host their movies at a faster speed. But this also means potential danger like big platforms like Netflix and iTunes, whose content is curated with selections from independent filmmakers as well, which is an interesting paradox in the end.

The loss of net neutrality would also disrupt the independent game industry.  After all, social media is where many game creators, graphic designers, sound designers, composers and coders, meet, work together and promote their work. Moreover, most indie games use digital platforms and marketplaces to distribute their games, but with the loss of net neutrality, the hosting costs of these websites and platforms will go up, which will push the prices of games up, and thus reduce their sales.

The tech industry is already looking for new ways to access internet by bypassing internet service providers. Surely every industry is working on ways to minimize the damage from this repeal. For the music industry, I am wondering if the loss of net neutrality will mean the end of download and streaming system, and if we will go back to the major label and radio dominated model that existed pre-2001. As independent artists we are thinking about doomsday scenarios at this point, so this is currently where we’re at with the repeal of Net Neutrality Law.

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