Amidst the debacle that has been government’s collusion with the American health insurance industry, otherwise known as Obamacare, a lesser-known, but similar partnership ,is being proposed that will threaten the way we hear our favorite music.
It’s not insurance companies who are the villains this time. This go-around it’s the Recording Industry Association of America that is willing to use the force of government to extort money from the pockets of successful business owners and ultimately, we the people. And just like with Obamacare, this bill has a pleasant sounding name too.
Let me state for the record that I used to be a DJ on commercial radio. When I used to “spin the hits” the industry functioned much the way it does today. Songs played on broadcast radio stations are a form of free promotion and advertising. This trade-off allows the station to provide entertainment to its audience and allows the artists to promote their music, FREE OF CHARGE, so that sales of their CD’s or digital downloads would increase. This system has worked to mutual benefit of both station and artist since music started playing on radio.
So if it works, naturally government must “fix” it.
Congressman Mel Watt (D-NC) - of course he’s a Democrat - has introduced legislation called the "Free Market Royalty Act." If passed, the bill would require broadcasters to pay royalties for airplay.
But this insidious bill doesn’t stop there. It also gives power to the recording industry to collude, set prices and functionally prohibit individual labels from negotiating independently. All of this will happen with the government’s blessings.
Let’s forget for the moment that the new bill creates yet another government bureaucracy, complete with “copyright royalty judges” from an outfit called SoundExchange, who would arbitrarily decide how much value airplay represents.
Let’s also forget that already struggling stations might decide to get out of the music formats entirely. For a guy like me, that would be great. Talk or news radio would be your only choice on the dial.
Let’s forget that radio groups could retaliate and charge comparable rates to each artist’s label, the same way they would charge ANY advertiser on their airwaves.
But Mark Stefanos, writing for PJ Media, brings up an excellent point on this issue. Stefanos points out that in 2009, during consideration of legislation similar to the Watt bill, an amendment was offered to create a “do not play” list that would allow any artist to opt out of having their music played on terrestrial, commercial radio stations.
Not one musician said they’d sign up.
Many of today’s executives are a bunch of cowards, afraid to compete. Instead they seek the easy way out, eliminating their competition with a bail-out from Uncle Sam.
I recognize the challenges facing the recording industry. Technology innovations like Pandora and other on-demand listening vehicles have been a struggle to monetize.
But it is inexcusable that the music industry chooses not do the hard work to change and innovate with the times. Instead the children-in-charge choose to emulate Resident Obama, shrink from the task required of real leaders, and sell their collective souls to a federal establishment that Milton Freeman once observed, if put in charge of the Sahara, would make sand itself scarce. Lazy corporatists may very well claim another once-proud industry.
Don’t think it isn’t lost me that these companies are sympathetic to the extreme leftists who now run our country. The proposed Watt bill is evidence of their desire to surrender capitalism and merge government and business in an ultimately self-defeating partnership.
But might I suggest, if left alone, market forces will prevail.
We’ve seen evidence of this as executives, with more testicular fortitude, have created new market places using the digital paradigm in Apple iTunes and other for-fee download sites. Radio station owners and SOME music companies are already forming partnerships and coming to terms of mutual benefit.
Go figure, they’re doing all this without the heavy and clumsy hand of government.
If there is a piece of the GOP party platform that rudderless Republicans remember, let it be that they are supposed to be the champions of the free market. They should resist the RIAA’s and Congressman Watt’s attempts to undermine competition and capitalism.
Hell, the liberals have already ruined healthcare. If Watt succeeds, we won’t even be able to sing the blues!
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