Features Mar 12, 2009 at 4:00 am

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Lobby for Musicians' Rights


Regarding the top-level image: Thank God it's just an homage! I was like, "Christ, is Peter Bagge actually doing spot work for the Stranger??" Glad to see he hasn't been reduced to that...yet.
The voice of wailing for the fat cats and cars in D.C. And Sean.... great work of you to turn up the heat by writing this.

More people should be exposed to these little know efforts by small groups of individuals who get squueeeeeezed by big advertisers who can and will ream every bit of sweet succulant moo-laaaaah out of the unwitting novice.

Obviously to echo your choice of syllabillic noun to conanat structures there will be those who think that blatant blanket support by people like this commentator is a bit cheeky to say nothing of REEEAAAALLLLLYY self serving...

again, in defense of the dark arts.... it's a little bit like Ian Page-Echols "miffed" little word horrible in todays print on Jen's 25....

perhaps not everyone in non-comic book land, and the BIG D.C. should spend a little more time doing what you do for The Stranger.... go on the offensive in defense of art.

p.s., and don't forget about the oil.

p.p.s... why didn't my whole comment get on the board? webmaster... question to you...

oh ya now I remember...

Rush Limbaugh. puh!all spit together now.
Sean, write less about yourself.
I been thinking about this Performance Rights Act quite a bit and this article is a welcome perspective from a musician. I am still a bit suspicious, though I do agree with the points about the U.S. being out of step with the rest of the world on this issue.

Thing is, I'm all for Sean Nelson and Sam Moore getting more money from radio stations. The problem for me is that this is a bill pushed by the RIAA, who are going to continue to pay artists the measly pittance they already do, and keep most of it for upper level management of various bloated record companies and other affiliated corporations. I sincerely hope, if this gets passed, that Art Garfunkel gets that nickel. But I think putting Art and Sam's faces at the forefront of this is kind of disingenuous.

The RIAA is a giant, wounded beast flailing about in all directions. It's still suing individual filesharers, even after it said it was done with that strategy, because those lawsuits (remember Jammie Thomas?) are still in court and the RIAA would lose face by dropping them. Does anyone think they're pushing this royalties bill so hard at this exact moment in time because they're concerned about artist rights and artist welfare? Come on, recording artists have been fighting with the RIAA over money for years, now as soon as this bill passes the RIAA is going to start playing nice?

The U.S. economy is collapsing, and rapacious failing companies are looking around for sticks they can use to beat on other failing companies. It's sad. If local radio jobs are lost over this, that'll be sad too, but local radio jobs are going to be lost regardless. I'd like to believe this bill will put more money in musicians pockets, but I'm still not sure I do.
Back in the day, when someone played your record on the radio...you sold records and that's how you made your money.

Or when someone played your record on the radio...you sold more tickets to your concerts and that's how you made your money.

I believe songwriters were compensated because what had been the dominant revenue stream--selling sheet music--dried up in the face of changing technologies and consumer preferences.

Well, now the revenue streams of what had been the record industry have become just as antiquated and are drying up. It feels like the RIAA is panicking...grabbing for any source of revenue that they can and marketing these flounderings as what "should have been fair all along."

How long until you hear THIS argument--"When a dj plays a record at a club, why shouldn't the people who made that record get paid--without those records, what good would a dj be, right?"?

Here's the deal...

I want to listen to radio stations that play good music. I want radio stations to stream online for free. I want podcasts of people sharing their music tastes with me for free. I want club dj's playing whatever they can get their hands on. I want the DVDs of shows like "WKRP in Cincinnati" coming out as they were broadcast with the music that was essential to portraying a rock radio station in the 70's, not in some bowdlerized version because of insane licensing demands. I want more "Paul's Boutique"s and I want "The Grey Album".

I think someone should be able to figure out how to make money by giving me what I want--not frustrating me by nickel and diming the things I want until they become impossible to provide.

Of course, I'm still a music consumer. I'm a dinosaur that still buys the CDs for music I hear on the radio. I use the internet to help me make purchasing decisions--it isn't my source for just taking snapshots of the music I want and calling it good enough.

I recognize that I'm just as obsolete as the revenue streams that I contribute to... So, what I want probably doesn't matter, does it?

What do the kids want? Kids want their music for nothing and their ringtones for free. Good luck getting blood from those stones.

And granted, the RIAA couldn't pick a better villain for their efforts than Clear Channel. There's no clear "good guy" in this story.

Everyone involved contributed in killing the goose that had been laying golden eggs--but does it make sense to look down on the dead goose and fight over who gets the feathers?
The music industry, as it currently stands, is a business model that made sense from the invention of the vinyl record until the proliferation of the mp3.

When the record was invented, the industry, predominantly live musicians and sheet-music writers, warned that live music would die forever. The environment changed, so the market changed...Sheet music writers could scream for royalties until they were blue in the face, but things were just different because of the available technology...

When radio was invented, the industry proclaimed that nobody would ever pay for something they heard for free...market changed, everyone moved on...those who adapted had a chance to become successful in the new era.

Now with the mp3, it doesn't make sense to sell the music as if it were still on a physical medium at all. Radio serves little purpose and the selection is never as good as what's available online...people who realize it's now all about DIY, self-distribution on the internet and charging for their services (shows, ad jingles, lessons, etc) are going to be the ones who come out on top.

Music just isn't going to be a profession that makes remotely any cash in this time period, just like in eras past...any music fan under 25 can tell you that, but the industry finds it so hard to accept.
As someone who worked in radio, I appreciate the fact that songwriters are compensated for their efforts as there'd be nothing to play without them. However, I never did understand why the performers weren't directly compensated for their efforts.

While songwriters get paid EVERY time their song is played, what about the band that has THE definitive version of that song?

If it wasn't for that particular performance, the songwriter might not be getting a dime. Think about it
There's a great video of some dude getting his pole smoked by a dude and then putting it in the dude's butt while smoking crack in an alley somewhere around Dupont Circle. Oh, and the dude is wearing an adult diaper. Washington, DC is gross.
Eliot Spitzer has actually indicted radio station execs for payola, which is the practice of record labels (representing the performing artists) PAYING STATIONS to play particular songs. It really is illegal.

So where's the logic? Artists (through their promoters)PAY to have a record played while asking to be PAID for playing it. The former gets the station in trouble with the Feds.

So if I have a struggling group and agree to waive my rights fee to encourage stations to play my record, am I a criminal? Probably I am, as is the station that accepts my waiver offer.

Personally, I like the idea of keeping Uncle Sam out of it. If you make a record and want to have it played on the air, bring a copy down to the station along with a contract for what you want to be paid each time it airs.

The result? Nobody will play your record and so nobody will buy your record (except maybe your Mom).

And this is the real motivation - to get airplay on the coattails of existing popular music, then cash in if your song becomes popular enough to enjoy significant play.

By the way, I have a bunch of CDs that I bought, replacing the vinyl copies of albums I've had for years. I don't remember getting any rights discount on those, even though I'd already paid once when I bought those LPs originally.

Where's the fairness in that?
The only statement of truth in this whole article is the authors statment "of course, by "affects me" I mean "promises to earn me more money." " The sad fact is that the players in this debate have so little ability to look at the consequences of their statement and actions that they don't realize that they are doing significant damage to the very medium that was an important source for their ability to make a living selling music in the first place. The original reason for paying royalties to composer /lyricists rather than to performers is that the performers benefitted economically from selling albums/cds and concert tickets based on the performance. Composers /lyricist did not. In most cases, they do not share in the revenues generated from either record sales or concert tours. Similarly the original fair trade was that the radio station provided free air time to music performers so that they could sell their albums. It is free advertising. There is no question but the relationship is symbiotic. The radio station benefited by being able to play music that listeners wanted to hear and performers were able to get their performance heard so that people would buy their product. Perhaps the solution is for radio stations to pay royalties for the performance, but then sale air time to the bands, but then that wouldn't solve Mr. Nelson's original true statement. In the end, this is all a money grab. The recording industry has already done much to lead to the demise of web radio. Now they have set there sights on over-the-air broadcasters. This is really sad.

Please wait...

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