I find myself in the position of defending, among others, the recording industry and copyright holders. Not because I believe that there actions are justified, but rather because I believe the concerns that motivate them are genuine. Of course, sometimes they do things that are so indefensible that I lose any desire to keep a fair and open mind.

For instance, plugging another nail in the likely coffin of Sirius XM by requiring that royalties be paid for the songs that they play. This would be related to their efforts to bleed regular radio stations with the Radio Is Piracy perspective. Record labels exist in large part to get songs on the radio. Record sales are nearly impossible to accumulate in large numbers otherwise. As Mike Mesnick points out, this is why payola and its children exist. Radio stations are already struggling. Moves like this may make a little money in the short run, but when Clear Channel and Infinity and the rest start counting their beans, the result will be fewer radio stations playing music and more playing talk radio.

Of course, the result could be precisely what I said wouldn’t happen last week. Assuming that the law allows artists to waive these fees, it will provide a financial incentive for radio stations to bypass the record labels altogether. It’s never been easier to make music. It’s never been harder to get the attention of radio stations. This could really obviate the entire rationale behind the record label system.

I would say that I can’t even begin to fathom what they’re thinking, but I guess I can. People – the very critics of this maneuver, in fact – have been telling the RIAA and its folks that the days of people paying to own music are numbers. That they’re going to have to find some other way to get paid. If they can’t force people to buy records and they can’t stop people from illegally sharing music, what precisely are they supposed to do? The Free-Art people never seem to have a good answer to that questions. Concerts and t-shirts only go so far.

The eternal skeptic in me says that they will get their way because they’ll make it hard for unsigned artists to “opt out” or will charge just little enough that it isn’t worth it to radio stations to become adventurous. So fewer music radio stations. More talk radio. Radio stations becoming even more conservative with their playlist since every song counts just a little bit more.

-{Via Newsome}-

Category: Theater

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One Response to Pay For Play, The Other Way

  1. Kirk says:

    Your post brought to mind this 2007 NYT column about Paramore, and how their deal works. They’re still plugging away at the concert scene, and seem to realize just how bad the economy is: cheap seats at their latest concert cost $10. Along with No Doubt, they sold 20,000 tickets here.

    I should have gone!


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