Arts & Life

Jenny Toomey, Rocking the FCC

Artist/Activist Seeks Local Radio Access for Independent Musicians

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The Federal Communications Commission is beginning town hall meetings across the United States to give people a chance to discuss how well the media serves their community's public interest.

Three Tunes from Jenny Toomey

Songs from 'Antidote,' her most recent album

Listen 'Patsy Cline'

Listen 'Fool for You'

Listen 'Clear Cut'

One of the FCC's most vocal critics has been known to introduce herself at public hearings this way: "My name is Jenny Toomey and I'm a rocker."

Available Online

But as NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, Toomey is also executive director of the four-year-old Future of Music Coalition, a Washington, D.C., think tank advocating more local access to radio stations — especially for independent musicians.

Live Against the Death Penalty

Excerpts from a July 2003 protest concert by Toomey and cellist Amy Dominguez outside the Supreme Court Building

Listen Hear the Concert

Toomey, a Georgetown University grad with a philosophy degree, was a fixture of D.C.'s punk rock and riot grrl scene. Her band Tsunami gained some national attention in the 1990s. But when she sought a deal with a national label, she became frustrated with the workings of the music industry.

So Toomey and her friend Kristen Thompson made their own label — Simple Machines — and encouraged other bands to do things for themselves and manage their own businesses. They even wrote a how-to booklet.

Now Toomey organizes conferences that bring together music industry sectors that usually don't interact much: FCC commissioners, professors and recording industry honchos.

Ian MacKaye, of the band Fugazi, says Toomey "desires to humanize what has turned into a largely inhuman industry."

Toomey's last album was released over a year ago and she still hasn't had time to promote it. For now, she says, it's more important to speak out on behalf of her fellow musicians than to sing her own songs.

"There's not a lot of people who've had this many years of experience being both a musician and an activist," she says. "And we really need musician activists right now."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from