The following post was written by Audrey Harrer, the Associate Creative Director of Online Learning Media. Audrey is a multimedia producer and studied composition and film scoring here at Berklee. Her work is experimental, and she is particularly interested in the space where music and drama collide.

Where are you allowed to perform music and dance? What is your music worth? How loud is too loud?

Policies are what define these things. They can be government policies, school policies, or just the rules around your house. Policies are laws, guidelines, or methods of practice that guide our principles and behaviors. In modern society, we live in a matrix of policies that define everything from our food and shelter, to our art.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit 2012 in Washington DC. It was a densely packed day of influential presenters, from Sen. Ron Weyden of Oregon to Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, discussing, sharing and debating the issues of today’s musicians. Topics explored included the Internet Radio Fairness Act, artist compensation, and online music technologies. The Future of Music Coalition focuses on “education, research and advocacy for musicians,” and it works to affect government and industry policies in a positive way on musicians’ behalf. A major sentiment that echoed throughout the Summit was that more musicians need to be involved in policy making.

Each of us have our own perspective on what is fair, what it means to be an artist, and what changes we hope to see in the future. It is important that we share these perspectives, whatever they may be. If you have ever debated your curfew with your parents, asked for a deadline extension, or bartered for more vacation days at work, you have been involved in a policy discussion. Outside of our personal worlds, policy can become a vague thing with no clear path to impact, but that doesn’t have the be the case. If there is an issue or idea that you feel passionately about, figure out the first step you can take. If you wish your town had more live music, propose a concert series to your local events office. If you have an idea for an industry-changing business, start a website. If you disagree with a policy, find out who to write. Additionally, if there is someone doing something that you really believe in, see what you can do to support them in building a movement.

It is important for us as musicians, students and teachers to be involved in shaping the policies that affect our livelihood, and you have to speak up to be heard. Oh, and about those questions from the top…

Public performance of music is closely tied to free speech, but as soon as you involve amplification, things get tricky. In Boston, you need a permit to perform in a subway. In NYC, you have to audition to perform in a subway. And in Pinal County, Arizona, it is illegal to dance outdoors! If you are selling your recorded music, you can expect to make about $0.005 per Spotify stream to $7.75 for a physical CD. (If you plan to make a living in the music industry, check out Berklee’s salary guide.) Also, every city and town is different when it comes to volume, but once it hits a certain decibel range, it is illegal to play loud music in many places.

Future of Music Links
FMC Website:
Youtube playlist of the live stream:

Some links from other FMC Summit presenters/partners:

Some sites from the tech presentations: