Rich Bengloff, President of A2IM, Answers Six Questions
Rich Bengloff, President of A2IM, Answers Six Questions

The American Association of Independent Music is holding its sixth annual Indie Week, June 20-23, with labels flying into New York to participate in educational seminars and good-old fashion brain-storming sessions. The not-for profit trade organization represents the independent music label community in the United State and has 282 member labels. In the days leading up to event, Billboard sat down with their President Rich Bengloff to discuss the lay of the land. Who sets the agenda for A2IM?

Rich Bengloff: We have a member-elected board comprised of 11 labels, which sets our agenda. We just expanded the board by two seats because the membership has doubled over the past six years. The board has staggered terms, with three or four coming up for election each year.

It is representative of our membership in terms of size, geography and musical genres. We like to say our members are across the U.S. from Mountain Apple in Hawaii to Tropisounds in Florida to Redhouse Records in Minnesota to the Hansen Brothers 3CG Records in Oklahoma.

What is A2IM's agenda?

Our agenda is to serve the interest of the indie master rights owners. We do advocacy, we provide commerce opportunities and member services, including education. The goal is to give our members an economic return, while reinforcing the cultural importance of the indie music community. We are really 30% of the U.S. industry. Treat us right! The biggest issue used to be access, now it's more about parity and resources.

What are some the biggest issues facing the music industry today?
That would be monetization and fighting piracy. The current interpretations of the DMCA and how it is being abused makes it very difficult for our associate members' legitimate services to compete on a level playing field. Anyone who is paying shouldn't have to compete with free. Pandora, which paid out $55 million to rights holders last year, is competing with earbits, and that is just not right.

How is A2IM's relationship with the other trade organizations like the RIAA and artist's organizations?

We don't always agree with RIAA, We have different positions on net neutrality, webcasting rates, and radio ownership. That said, they represent the creator community and we represent the creator community, so in many areas we work with them side by side to insure a healthy music community economy.

The Recording Academy have become our closest friends on the artist side. They allow us to use their space. We had almost no Washington D.C. relationships and they were kind enough to share all of their relationships with us. They have worked with us to increase indie label artist registration for the Grammy Awards, which has resulted in more awards for our community.

A2IM had its first ever radio summit with Clear Channel earlier this month. How did that happen and what was accomplished?
It had never been done before. They meet with the four majors, but hadn't met with indie labels. We had a diverse group of 18 members labels, not only by genre but it was also an opportunity from some of our smaller labels to participate. Its an example of our bigger labels like Danial Glass from Glassnote and Alan Kovacs of Tenth Street Entertainment working to bring along our smaller labels who normally may not have the same opportunities.

They had programmers from 40 countries and were kind enough to give us a spot. We were there to build inroads to hopefully get more radio airplay. What we learned is that they need a portal to deal with our music because they can't handle 282 labels trying to get music on the air.

What has been the biggest change for independent music labels since the formation of A2IM?
Working together to do things we have raised the profile of the indie sector. We now are getting offered better deals. One of the biggest is the perception of the indie community as being on par with everyone else, whether it be for cultural, artistic or economic reasons.