When I tell people that I work in music policy, I sometimes get a puzzled expression. What's there to legislate/regulate? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
Here's some background info that does not necessarily represent the views of my employers:
Historically, the music industry has been a top-down business, with access to market tightly controlled by a few powerful gatekeepers. I'm not expressly criticizing the major labels — their business model is their own, as it should be. Still, it has become apparent that the old system of funneling massive promo dollars to a handful of acts in order to win blanket radio play is no longer a viable strategy. (I've yet to hear of bloggers being plied with hookers 'n' blow in exchange for MP3 placement, but you never know.)
That said, the "digital disruption" has raised issues not only for the mainstream industry, but also independent labels and creators. My organization, Future of Music Coalition, is directly involved in the debates at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law, with the express purpose of making sure artists' voices are represented. (We're also non-partisan.)
FMC believes that artists should have the right to choose methods of distribution and promotion that make the most sense for them, without unnecessary bottlenecks and gatekeepers. Which is why we support net neutrality. We also endorse responsible media policy that recognizes the value of the arts in local and regional communities, and strengthens the relationship between culture and commerce. This can mean initiatives to expand and protect community radio, fighting further media consolidation and working towards a more robust broadband marketplace that fosters competition and creates opportunities for more artists to reach potential audiences, regardless of geographic location.
Then there's the issue of compensation. For artists to have the neccesary time to invest in the creation of new works, there must be some financial incentive. New technologies that allow musicians to access the marketplace in innovative ways should be encouraged, but not at the expense of their ability to earn a living. There's a natural tension here. But it's probably true that solutions are more likely to emerge from people coding the future in their garage than giant telecommunications companies whose last great innovation was call waiting.
FMC recently composed a post-election analysis of what impact an Obama administration (as well as a new Congress and FCC) might have on the music community. If any of this seems even slightly interesting to you, you can check it out here. The FMC blog is also a good resource to stay up-to-date on these issues. (Please excuse the web 1.0 website — we've had it since 2000, but it's getting completely overhauled.)
Of course, nothing in Washngton happens without coalition. My organization is part of a broader group that's committed to promoting open and equal access to a democratic media system that serves the public interest. It's called the Media and Democracy Coalition, and it's pretty awesome.