14 March, 2011


this article first appeared here. and it was crafted with the help of my friends at the Future of Music Coalition.

The most important piece of furniture in the living room of my cabin in western Massachusetts isn't a comfy chair or functional table, it's a vintage radio and record player from the early 1920's. Almost as big as a modern refrigerator, it's a monument to a time when music had a physical presence that was hard to ignore. Next to it, you'll find my laptop and smart phone charging, taking a brief rest from their daily toil of communication, commerce, and yes, entertainment. Seeing them side-by-side reminds me that, while the core of what we love about music has remained constant through the years, the way we interact with it and its creators has changed dramatically.

Recently, President Obama made a bold commitment that can open up a new world of possibilities for musicians around the country. Speaking in Marquette, Mich., the president laid out a framework to ensure that 98 percent of Americans have access to the next generation of high-speed wireless broadband. His vision included a future in which young people no longer need to leave their hometowns to succeed because they are able to connect virtually with new education and business opportunities formerly only available in big cities.

This type of universal connection would not only transform our economic future, but also the future of music and our engagement with it. Along with dramatically increased exposure to new artists and sounds, high-speed Internet gives us unique and meaningful ways for us to deepen our connections with the acts we love.

As a recording artist, I'm dependent on the Internet for the basics of maintaining my career - everything from tour dates to record releases to my virtual storefront. For an independent musician like myself, the Internet is as essential as electricity. Artists make their home at the intersection of the old and new. When we create, we apply innovative ideas to transform tradition, making better sense of shared human experiences. Consistent high-speed access to the Internet is one of our most powerful instruments in this process.

Unfortunately, while many of us are reaping the benefits of this evolution, a staggering 35 percent of Americans don't have the high-speed Internet they need to participate. They are quite simply left out of the revolution.

I draw an incredible amount of inspiration from where I live. From the river that runs below my back porch to the quiet hills that surround my cabin in rural western Massachusetts, my surroundings are inseparable from what I write and perform. I wanted to find a way to share this experience with my fans and also tap into the artistic possibilities of the Internet.

In order to do this, I created an ongoing series of concerts called "Cabin Fever," broadcast live over the Internet from in and around my home. I like to characterize them as "Wayne's World" meets "The Judy Garland Show." These concerts allow me not only to share my surroundings but also share in what my fans are saying to me beyond the merchandise table and social networks, in an artistic format not limited by time or travel. The experience has offered the most inspiring work of my career and has brought home the incredible opportunities the Internet offers for connection, community and art.

That is why it is so important that we work to fulfill the commitment that President Obama laid out to bring high-speed wireless Internet to all corners of our country. Before wireless, those in rural communities like mine faced tremendous cost and infrastructure obstacles to getting connected. Today, access may be in reach of so many more Americans. As long as this access remains open and allows for direct participation, it could transform local economies and creative culture. In the same way that it makes my tiny rural cabin a concert venue of infinite size.

The time is now for this historic investment. We must urge Congress to support the President's call to ensure that every American has access to the economic, educational and artistic opportunities that universal access to high-speed wireless can create.

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