News Flash: Artists Remain Cooler Than ISPs

Dozens of musicians and artists sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to applaud the steps the agency is taking to protect the open Internet.

The signers include many of the same artists who sent a very different letter to Wheeler last May in response to his initial proposal, which would have allowed cable and phone companies to create pay-to-play fast lanes online.

“We know that you will face political opposition and coordinated attacks from well-funded corporations,” the new letter reads. “But isn’t it cooler to have us on your side than some giant ISP? We think so. And we’ll step up to defend your plan because we know it’s the right call, and we know you understand the importance of making it.”

Among the many signers are riot-grrl icon Kathleen Hanna, Jeff and Spencer Tweedy, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, the New Pornographers, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Jeff Mangum and Astra Taylor of Neutral Milk Hotel, the Kronos Quartet and longtime Net Neutrality supporters OK Go (pictured). The Future of Music Coalition, which fights for artists’ rights, coordinated the letter with assistance from Free Press.

You can read the letter in its entirety below.

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

We write to you at a crucial moment for net neutrality, as we probably don’t have to remind you. We understand that your position can be thankless and that it is difficult to take a stand for what is right when there is so much pressure from powerful interests and their political allies. As musicians and composers, we want to thank you for moving forward with strong net neutrality rules. As so many creators have already noted, reclassification under Title II is the best way to ensure that the Internet remains open for us to build businesses, reach audiences and earn a living in what is a challenging marketplace for creative content.

You certainly have our appreciation. And we urge you to remain steadfast in your efforts to keep the Internet a viable platform for creative entrepreneurs. Without clear and enforceable rules that let us compete alongside the biggest companies, our ability to create and innovate will be threatened, if not extinguished.

Please don’t be fooled by those trying to turn this issue into a partisan grudge match. Not only do recent polls show that some 80 percent of conservatives back your plan, the creative community—which includes folks of all political dispositions—is equally supportive. The reason is simple: creators of all genres and backgrounds will benefit from the protections your proposal would enshrine. Net neutrality is not only a powerful engine of creative expression and civic discourse, it is the very oxygen of a free and competitive marketplace built on technological and cultural innovation. And artists are drivers of both.

Artists have endured tremendous consolidation in the media marketplace that has limited opportunities for many to reach audiences and earn a living. We are sure that you probably don’t need to be reminded, but we’ll mention it anyway: there is a public interest imperative in preserving an open Internet and the creative sector is a huge part of this interest. It is our creativity that enriches culture and inspires the world in countless ways. The Internet is one of the greatest amplifiers of our contributions to society, and society benefits from access to a diverse array of lawful online content. While we await details of the specific provisions in your proposal, we are confident that you have chosen the proper framework with which to proceed.

We know that you will face political opposition and coordinated attacks from well-funded corporations. But isn’t it cooler to have us on your side than some giant ISP? We think so. And we’ll step up to defend your plan because we know it’s the right call, and we know you understand the importance of making it.

So we thank you, Chairman Wheeler. For listening to our perspectives and making some tough but crucial decisions. Now let’s get this thing over the finish line so that today and tomorrow’s artists can continue to enrich our culture and achieve excellence on our own terms.

Alastair Brown, Northcape

Alec Ounsworth, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Amanda Palmer

Anni Rossi

Benji Rogers, Pledge Music

Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe of R.E.M.

The Blow

Bottle Rockets

Brett Lyman, co-owner of M’lady’s Records, Machu Picchu Records; musician, Hive Dwellers

Britt Daniel, Spoon


Cheston Knapp, writer/editor

Chris Funk, Nate Query, Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists

Christina Perri

Curt Sydnor

Damon & Naomi

Dar Williams

David Bazan

David J., Bauhaus

Death Cab for Cutie


Dick Huey, founder/CEO, Toolshed

Downtown Boys

Erin McKeown


Franz Nicolay

Geoff Hing, Defiance, Ohio

Harry and the Potters

Jasiri X

Jeff Mangum & Astra Taylor, Neutral Milk Hotel

Jeff Parker, guitarist/composer/jazz musician/member of Tortoise

Jeff Rosenstock

Jeff & Spencer Tweedy

Jeremy Barnes & Heather Trost, A Hawk & a Hacksaw

Jello Biafra

Jill Sobule

Joan of Arc

Joe Perry, Aerosmith

Billie Perry

Joe Plummer, Modest Mouse, the Shins

Joe Steinhardt, Don Giovanni Records

John Askew, producer/engineer

Jon Solomon, WPRB / Comedy Minus One Records

Kathleen Hanna

Kathi Wilcox, the Julie Ruin, the Casual Dots

Ken Stringfellow & Jon Auer, the Posies

Ken Umezaki, Fifth of Bourbon

Kimya Dawson

Kiran Gandhi, drummer, M.I.A.

Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association

Kurt Wagner, Lambchop

Laura Ballance, bass player/ songwriter for Superchunk, label owner, Merge Records

Laura Veirs

Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth

Martin Perna, Antibalas

Merrill Garbus, tUnE-yArDs

Michael Wells, director of Ops & Digital Light @ In The Attic Records

Michael Slaboch, producer/sound engineer


Nato Green

Neil Gaiman

The New Pornographers

Nicole Atkins

Oliver Kalb, Bellows



Radiator Hospital

Rebecca Gates

Rocky Votolato


Sean Meadows, Everlasting the Way

Sohrab Habibion, Obits


Speedy Ortiz

Storm Large


Ted Leo

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Tift Merritt

Tim Kinsella

Tony Perez, editor, Tin House Books

Tucker Martine, producer/engineer

Vijay Iyer

Wayne Kramer, MC5, Jail Guitar Doors

Will Johnson

Original photo by Flickr user Yuan2003