The dialog around net neutrality is kind of a huge issue right now and something I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve called, texted and emailed congressmen as countless friends of mine have. It’s something that is going to directly impact what is at this point essentially a natural resource, even for people who don’t have direct financial interests tied into the internet. We can’t afford to deal with this and find a way forward that is actually substantial and helpful. it’s struggle that could very well define our generation but also one that could leave unsigned bands even more screwed than they already are. It may require turning a few simple concepts on their head but I that’s kind of what we do with this blog and really reflecting on the influence of net neutrality and its direct impact on your band is something you’re going to want to do before ‘forgetting’ to reach out to your congressman like so many will when they find out net neutrality has been dismantled.
When it comes down to it we have already seen what it looks like to have band promotion without neutrality on social media. When it comes down to it, barely anyone sees band posts anymore unless they have been heavily promoted or commented on. People don’t seem to understand that the very same thing they are bitching about with net neutrality has already happened and is going to continue happening and in fact get progressively worse. I don’t know a single band in 2017 who reasonably hopes to promote their album without advertising on social media. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but it’s extremely fucking difficult and would still require a huge budget if you wanted to get any actual traction with things. So just as you might be frustrated that no one sees your post unless you give Facebook 20 bucks imagine what will happen when that universe ends up getting a whole lot worse, like beyond your wildest dreams.
Because there’s a few hypothetical realities getting painted here that I think it’s important to be somewhat aware of. First is the ever ominous and highly likely possibility that we are going to see a net inequality within net inequality. That is to say, if we lost net neutrality it’s guaranteed Facebook will be one of the few fast lane sites, making it even more important for bands to promote themselves there. However the issue of course will simply be that your Facebook feed is going to be an even more important place for you online than ever. Don’t you think that this is going to be Facebook’s excuse to jack up prices even further? Think about that. Think about how screwed we are going to be. That’s just one platform too. If Spotify, for example, starts to roll out something similar then man… bands are going to really end up being stuck between a rock and a hard place and that’s hardly something we want to think about.
Of course you might think that naturally another network will form that will get people involved and make them figure out new and exciting ways to promote their bands, but that’s an opinion that shows an inherent misunderstanding of technographics. When it comes down to it people don’t want to migrate to new platforms when all of their shit is already in one place. There is a critical mass that you need in order to attract people and music freaks are a small population. Technically savvy music freaks willing to change social platforms is an even smaller one and that’s where it will soon become clear that we are all struggling. Net neutrality’s impending doom isn’t going to take people away from their walled gardens, it’s going to build those walls higher and make the barrier of entry for bands even higher. We’re all going to wind up screwed out of our ability to promote bands because we simply won’t have any reasonable options.
The fallout from net neutrality leaves a few possibilities though that could be potentially helpful, or at least not as shitty as things are now. First off we could find people starting to break out of their phones and start to interface with the real world. Flyering could once more become important outside of select markets. People could also possibly build their own ISP’s, something which the goons behind net neutrality tout as a solution to enhance competition. I’m not super confident that either of those things is going to end up happening, nor am I confident that the end of net neutrality won’t just be a death spiral for the underground music industry. I’m not the only, or loudest voice suggesting that the end of net neutrality could be a serious trigger point to send us all into some sort of horrific dystopia, but I have no problem joining the throng. Things could potentially get very bad very fast with what’s unraveling here.
What I will say though is that I’m fairly confident there will always be kids out there who want to dig into the underground. They are going to use the channels they have in order to share the art they love. Yes, that population is going to become smaller just because of a lack of access to information, but that is something we’ll have to fight. When I was a kid getting into music I won’t lie, Facebook and Wikipedia were my main tools for music discovery. When it comes down to it I think this was the case for a lot of people from my generation. I wound up deep in the music world as a result of it. I think that there are sustainable paths forward but we need to sit down and make sure we get what we’re getting ourselves into and prepare ourselves for the fight to save underground music. Without this we might as well be dead.