Recording Industry: Radio Is Piracy, But Not Playing Our Music Is A Federal Offense

from the logic-much? dept

It appears that the big record labels and their lobbyists aren’t content with just suing and shaking down students across the country — now they want to threaten them for taking a political stand as well. Earlier this week, musicFIRST, the big time lobbying group put together by the RIAA to push for the highly questionable Performance Rights tax on radio stations, did a neat little publicity stunt where it asked the FCC to investigate radio stations that apparently were “boycotting” musicians who supported the Performance Rights tax, claiming that it was an abuse of the airwaves. Remember, this is the same group that just recently called radio “a kind of piracy.”

So, wait, which is it? If it’s a kind of piracy to play songs on the radio, shouldn’t musicFIRST and the RIAA be thrilled that radio stations aren’t playing their music? Or do they recognize the free promotional benefits radio provides for artists? They can’t have it both ways, can they? First they’re upset that the music is being “pirated” and now they’re upset that it’s not being “pirated”? Please explain!

Now, as for those nasty nasty radio stations “boycotting” certain artists, well who are they? Turns out one of the main culprits is a tiny 100-watt high school radio station who has explained, in great detail the reasons behind their political stance. They are making a political choice by purposely boycotting musicians who support the view that playing their songs on the radio is “a kind of piracy.” You would think that would make musicFIRST, the RIAA and those musicians happy. But, more to the point, that music “boycott” was a temporary thing, and lasted for one month, from mid-June 2007 until mid-July of that same year. Yes. It lasted for one month, to make a political statement, and it happened two years ago. And suddenly the RIAA/musicFIRST wants an FCC investigation? Of a bunch of high schoolers making a political statement against a tax that would harm their educational radio station by not “pirating” materials that the lobbyists claim are pirated?

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Comments on “Recording Industry: Radio Is Piracy, But Not Playing Our Music Is A Federal Offense”

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james says:

Re: paying

ok seriuosly i dont see the big fucken deal about this they shud be fucken happy there music is being used and being spreded around to people get more people into it and then they sell more albums i cud see songs that havent come out yet ok thats not good but when the album id from the 80’s id say fuck it at least there music is being used and herd and people shudent have to pay to use there fucken music

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow. Just Wow.

When products cost more to use/consume than others, naturally, the market will gravitate to the less-cost products. This is nothing new. Retail innovators such as WalMart, found a financial edge in the marketplace could leverage their size to drive down costs on products. However, today, it seems that smaller institutions such as schools, are looking for ways to lower “creative costs”. Don’t get me wrong, “Creative Costs” is just another way to describe taxation, and the Performance Rights Tax is just that.

As a result, smaller education-backed radio stations which depend on donations instead of advertising to maintain it’s tax-exempt status, have found ways to lower associated “creative costs”.

This tax sounds inherently anti-free market, anti-capitalistic, monopolistic, and perhaps it could be proven to be against The RICO Act.

I wonder how long this will last.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:


“””It lasted for one month, to make a political statement, and it happened two years ago. And suddenly the RIAA/musicFIRST wants an FCC investigation? Of a bunch of high schoolers making a political statement against a tax that would harm their educational radio station by not “pirating” materials that the lobbyists claim are pirated?”””

Jeez Mike, when you put it that way, it sounds kinda silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hmm

“It lasted for one month, to make a political statement, and it happened two years ago. And suddenly the RIAA/musicFIRST wants an FCC investigation? Of a bunch of high schoolers making a political statement against a tax that would harm their educational radio station by not “pirating” materials that the lobbyists claim are pirated?”

What a waste of taxpayer money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hmm

It’s not only silly, it’s a waste of taxpayer money. Taxpayers should be upset that the RIAA wants the FCC to waste taxpayer money on pointless investigations. What’s there possibly to investigate? What are they so likely to discover that justifies them wasting taxpayer money on such a pointless investigation like this? Have these people lost their sanity? What the heck?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Hmm

Not at all – not charging a fee for airplay (or opting out of the existings programs, which everyone else is part of) has the smell of payola – pay for play. Basically, the pitch is “play my music, and you will make more money”. The recording industry use to do it by stacking money of the table. Now certain acts may be doing it by telling the stations to keep their money in their pocket – either way, the station is getting paid to play that song.

It’s illegal.

RD says:



Why the F*CK cant these idiots understand that? Just because someone doesnt LIKE your stuff doesnt mean its illegal. If I choose to NOT listen to something, or NOT buy your product, ITS NOT ILLEGAL. I’m talking in terms of consumer choice here, not sharing btw.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Abuse of what?

“claiming that it was an abuse of the airwaves”

So, is it an abuse of the airwaves (what the hell is that?) if a country station refuses to play hip hop? Is it an abuse of the airwaves if a talk show refuses to play music?

There goes my idea of opening a radio station and only letting people in who want my advertising service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Abuse of what?

“abuse of the airwaves”

When you consider the number of mergers and amount of consolidation which FCC provided it’s blessing to over the past years, it seems that the power these lobbying interests have within the FCC is much larger than that which they within the FTC, where it seems, is the proper setting for such a debate.

Additionally, the timing and positioning for this issue is odd- as President Obama recently announced his proposed FCC chairman. The very act seems more like a “Hail Mary” to get another gift, provided on the backs of customers. The poorly designed distribution method which lacks logical, and tangible cohesion to today’s reality.

If the copyright interests invested a similar amount it currently earmarks to lobbying efforts into research, development, and innovation, I’m sure they would be able to find something customers would desire by choice instead of by force.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Abuse of what?

“I’m sure they would be able to find something customers would desire by choice instead of by force.”

The radio stations shouldn’t be forcing a political agenda on their listeners either. Boycotting or trying to avoid valid performance fees, and therefore limiting the playlist of your listeners is just a sort of reverse payola scheme.

Perhaps if the artists not wanting to charge fees instead made music customers would actually want by choice, there wouldn’t be any issue.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Abuse of what?

“The radio stations shouldn’t be forcing a political agenda on their listeners either.”

….you’re kidding me, right? First off, what media outlet exists that can claim they don’t force a political agenda in some way or another. For Christ’s sake, the newspapers publically endorse candidates. Some radio stations offer conservative programming, like El Rushbo (largely Disney on that one, no shock there), others offer liberal programming (NPR comes to mind). Yes, those are talk stations, but why should music stations be any different?

“Boycotting or trying to avoid valid performance fees, and therefore limiting the playlist of your listeners is just a sort of reverse payola scheme.”

No, it’s a REFUSAL of ANY kind of Payola scheme. You can’t say to someone, “You have to pay to use my product AND you MUST by that product”. How can you not see the problem with that? Remember, in most cases, the airwaves might be public, but the stations are run by corporations that answer to shareholders, not the music industry. Why do you think the industry should get to tell them what they MUST play?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Abuse of what?

“Perhaps if the artists not wanting to charge fees instead made music customers would actually want by choice, there wouldn’t be any issue.”

Good idea. But that would require artists to shun the current system and engage more with their customers (read: fans). Such a change would truly shake up the entire industry, and invert the entire business model. It’s a delicate balance that needs to be proven and walked by artists, with the support of more people like Mike.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Abuse of what?

No, actually, it wouldn’t matter – if they make what the people want, the people will take it, no matter if there is a payment or not to be made. Radio stations do play what is available AND what people want to hear.

The problem with most of the “free” artists is that they couldn’t get arrested, let alone airplay in normal times because their material doesn’t merit it.

It’s intentionally free for a reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Abuse of what?

The problem with most of the “free” artists is that they couldn’t get… airplay in normal times because their material doesn’t merit it.

According to whom?

Secondly, as you’ve probably noted, an editorial decision was made and something was omitted from your comment– “couldn’t get arrested”. What did you mean by your seemingly unclear, unintelligible thought? Is the current business model really focused on the ability to arrest customers?

If so, that’s a real poor excuse to do business within the framework of the current model. I hope others take note of your slip of the tongue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Abuse of what?

“When you consider the number of mergers and amount of consolidation which FCC provided it’s blessing to over the past years, it seems that the power these lobbying interests have within the FCC is much larger than that which they within the FTC, where it seems, is the proper setting for such a debate.”

The proper venue is the IRS. The RIAA wants to tax us so they should lobby the IRS that we are evading their taxes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Abuse of what?

Is it an abuse of the airwaves if a radio station play hip hop.

Hipping and hopping does distort the waves to such an extent that they are no longer in their original configuration. That is abuse.

And besides, just think of all the energy that could be saved by no radio station playing any music at all.

It is scandalous that waves are bent out of shape at such a high cost to the environment. Just think if it was not for those wave polluting radio station there would be no hip hop and no global warming due to all the people hipping and hopping.

Rob R. (profile) says:

It won’t be long until we have a monthly quota of music we are required to purchase at whatever rate the RIAA chooses. If we fail to meet this purchase requirement, we just have an amount arbitrarily deducted from our wages to compensate them.

And after that, being allowed to listen to music will be a luxury and subject to being taxed. The IRS will determine how much we should pay, and of course the RIAA will get 50% of that.

Isn’t that how it should be?

Justin says:


What a bunch of retards. Not that they had much credibility left but this really takes a chunk out of it. This should be noted and every time the RIAA has a court case pending this should be brought up, to instantly discredit anything they have to say. What a bunch of dumbass retarded politicians we have that they listen to the shit the RIAA has to say and goes along with it.

DjGrooveD says:

Re: Credibilty

Thats the problem with RIAA’s involvement with politicans. They feed money to “fix” what they want. The politicians dont give two shits what its about because theyre too busy sniffing the corrupt money!! I can and used to have a radio station online, but all this crap makes it impossible to have a hobby like that. I will be in the PI soon. Find me! Lol

Another AC says:

I wish all radio stations

would just stop playing music that comes from the labels that support the RIAA, there are plenty of other labels and musicians that would love to get that exposure.

On a side note, I really don’t feel bad for the radio stations, it is not as if they have had a bad thing to say about any of this copyright BS from the begining, maybe if they took a stand (at least criticizing the ridiculous lawsuit efforts) before it directly affected them we would not be where we are now.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’m concerned about giving more power to the current broken system. In some aspects, it may be seen as bailout authority in the form of taxation. This act and it’s subsequent taxation does not create additional authority to the Government to invest in or further develop the growth of the creative industry.

Point is, it’s not logical in a Democracy. The RIAA and MPAA are not effective, and made some huge mistakes which got us to where we are today. The fact is that you can’t have Taxes created and pushed forward by the entities that are selected by the industry itself.

richard o langley says:


There was a time when an artist would beg a radio station to play there music.Radio makes an artist move up the charts.If it were not for radio,most artist would remain on the bottom rung of the ladder.People here a song and say,hey thats cool,then by the album.We are not going to buy something without hearing it first,fact of life!

How much money do you think an artist would make if no one heard their music??Thats what it would be without RADIO>>>>>>>>..

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: radio

“There was a time when an artist would beg a radio station to play there music”

Actually, I would guess that as far as the ARTIST’S are concerned, that is still the case.

As a related aside, a couple of weeks back I woke up on a Sunday morning and was flipping through the channels waiting for Meet The Press to come on and landed on the CW, which had WWE Wrestling on. For a laugh, since I hadn’t tuned in to wrestling for over ten years, I decided to check it out.

I was SHOCKED to see they had Linkin Park on for an interview, since they did the theme music for one of WWE’s Pay-per-views (I think it was Wrestlemania), and they were talking quite honestly about how THRILLED they were to have their music played as the theme music, and what a great experience it was to watch their music played in conjunction with the wrestling adverts, since they had been fans when they were kids.

Now I don’t know if WWE had to pay LP for the music, but money didn’t seem to be the point with them, at least in that interview. It was BEING HEARD.

Sailingmaster (profile) says:

Basically. . .

It comes down to this:

RIAA: Waaah! Our business model is failing and we’re going to attack any possible threat to it! Radio is PIRACY! Waaah!

High School Radio Station: We’re going to boycott Pro-Performance Rights Tax artists for a month as a protest.

RIAA: OMG! OMG! Investigate them now! They’re not playing our music! It’s WRONG! Piracy? What?

Die RIAA! says:

What really needs to happen is the failure of the RIAA. They have been way too powerful over artists for far too long and steal from the artist.

This all comes from the simple design that most music has been lost to pirating, and now the RIAA feels short changed if they loose additional fees in ANY other area of music.


HG says:


MusicFIRST is a coalition that only mildly includes the ‘industry’ you guys are having a great time demonizing–while no doubt buying their stuff hand-over-first. MusicFIRST is predominantly the artists who are not getting paid for the music’s exposure. yes, radio play is promotional, for a few months until album sales are no longer greatly effected by radio play. After that radio play is a way for stations to create a listener-base large enough to run ads and make money,and the artists performing that service–the service of making money for the stations–get no money. In America, when you hear a song on the radio, 5 minutes or 5 decades after it was recorded, the artist gets NO money. There are a very few countries where this is true: North Korea, Iran, and right here is the US. Get your facts straight.

viperfl (profile) says:

If radio stations have to pay then they have every right to choose who they want to play on the radio. We all know with the RIAA that it’s never there fault. They don’t seem to understand business because you can’t charge for every little thing. A company ends up losing money when they do that. Customers get turned away because they think the company is trying to nit pick for every dollar.

With the PRA, your going to find a lot of the smaller radio stations go out of business. The radio stations are going to lose money because of it. In the end, it’s the RIAA and the musicians who are going to lose out. Of course they are not going to blame themselves for causing it.

ashman says:

Music industry needs some regulation

When is the government going to step in an bitch slap the music industry. Yes, artists and writers need to be paid REASONABLY for their work and not extort money from everyone under the sun. These people from the music industry are all over the place wanting to sue people for everything including a deep breath that sounded like it was stolen from a song. I think it’s about time the government stepped in, put a stop to this crap because obviously the music industry can’t come up with a unified policy that benefits the music makers, players and lovers. Now when I say regulation, I am NOT referring to Obama’s former RIAA lawyer picks who are biased out the waah zooo, I am talking about at least a semi-neutral party who can see both sides with out greed and dollar signs flashing in there eyes. I haven’t bought a song, cd or albumn in years and have no plans to until the music industry stops targeting the people who consume there music and until the RIAA is dismantled.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

How To Flood The Airwaves With Music The RIAA Can't Touch.

You can take a piece of sixteenth-century dance music, such as the work of John Dowland

and you can run it through a computer program which applies certain regular transformations, ie, making it faster, making it louder, emphasizing the beat. GIMP has “filters” which do this kind of thing for artistic styles. There is no reason why it should not be applicable to music. You might have to use a MIDI editor to hand-tinker with the results a bit, but MIDI “sequencers” have terrifically high productivity compared to conventional instrumental players. Private individuals, unpaid amateurs, commonly undertake major projects such as Bach’s _Brandenburg Concertos_. When you have a false note, you can fix just that note, without having to replay the whole piece. One person can reasonably arrange enough music for the requirements of of a radio station, or a dance club, or whatever.

Funny story: about fifteen years ago, I introduced a classical musician (pianist, church chorus singer, soprano) to Neil Rubenking’s Pianoman, a remote ancestor of the modern MIDI programs. This was before computers had sound cards. You could program the internal speaker to produce a pure note at a specified frequency. The musician listened to the music which came with the program, and said it was dreadful. She wanted to leave it at that, but I showed her the program’s editor window, showed her how the controls worked, and said “make it better.” In spite of herself, she started doing just that, adjusting the timings, the spacing between notes, etc.

I am not a musician or an artist, but I am a cook, and it is just a commonplace that you can modify a dish in certain conventional ways, according to whom you propose to serve it to. You can make the dish more or less hot by adjusting the herbs and spices, or you can increase or decrease the meat and fat contents, eg. using tuna instead of beef, or use Parmesan cheese instead of Cheddar or Mozzarella. You can modify an Indian curry in such a way as to make it an acceptable school lunch.

From this framework, it doesn’t seem particularly shocking to, um, translate old music to make it useful for the way a modern audience uses it. That said, there is a virtually unlimited supply of public-domain classical music, of every possible description. Now, as it happens, sixteenth-century dance music was timed for a woman in high-heels and a crinoline, that is, a hoop skirt. When she moved, it took maybe a second or so before her clothes caught up with her, and the timing of contemporary dance music reflects that. For someone wearing jeans and running shoes, the timing naturally needs to be adjusted. Similarly, the sixteenth-century woman had been taught to play some instrument or another, as a matter of course, so she could listen and pick out the beat without it being louder than the rest of the music.

Alex says: guys have put lots of thought into your arguments

I don’t agree with RIAA on lots of stuff, but Performance Royalties for radio is a great idea. Until now, radio has been given a free pass on playing music. Essentially they have made their money off a product that they do not pay for.

It’s like having a newspaper that doesn’t pay its writers. Sure the writer gets “free promotion”, but promotion doesn’t pay the bills.

The reason the RIAA is complaining about the boycott, is because the boycott of artists standing up for their right to be paid for their work is unethical. In the 1960s would you have said to bus drivers in the South that it was ok to just not pick up Blacks who refused to sit at the back? Or maybe all those union workers who go out on strike should just be fired?

It’s funny how people think that they have a right to free music, all its done is flood the market with shitty quality recordings and made it that much harder for completely grassroots, independent artists like myself to make a living.

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George says:


I am one of the oldest pirates out there. Back a few decades ago I recorded a LOT of music from the radio. I still have those recordings – reel to reel tapes, mono cassetes and later stereo cassettes. Over the years I used those COPIES of songs to find original copies I could purchase. I bought a lot of music, but there were many songs that I could not find or were “out of print”.

Then along came Napster. In less than 1 hour my first time using Napster I located every song I was ever searching for (that were unavailable for purchase). But Napster also gave me a means to sample music that I otherwise would not have. I bought more music that year than any other in my 5 decade+ life.

When Napster was ‘shut down’, and the RIAA started suing people, I STOPPED purcahsing music. I’m not the only one. Had they prosecuted me way back when for recording from the radio like they are suing people these days, I would have never had an interest in music nor made ANY purchases. That’s what they are doing to their “future customers”.

Their business model is broken. Everyone knows their game. The ONLY effective means they currently have for promoting new music is RADIO. Now they want to bite off the only hand that is feeding them. If the performance tax was not going to put 100s of businesses out of business, I’d say go for it. But the real problem is that musicians are highly underpaid and the lawyers at the RIAA are (over)paid.

saris says:


Well, everyone should stop buying music for a whole month, do not buy music anywhere, and do not download it, just listen to what you have, for one solid month (Longer if you an handle it)

if enough people did that, it would give them an eye opener. However, the RIAA will probably start suing everyone for NOT listening to music. I think the RIAA should be brought down hard if they are not willing to work with their customers to work out a viable business plan.

And last I knew radio stations had control over what they played over the frequency they pay for.

Harry Kozlowski says:

And what of TV?

As I watch bands perform on the Letterman and Kinnel shows I wonder if the Performance Tax applies to live performances on TV shows? If not, isn’t that grossly unfair? Aren’t TV shows that benefit from bands actually performing their songs be subject to the same tax radio is facing? You can’t pick-and-choose, RIAA…or can you?

Samuel Lee Albert (user link) says:

RIAA Tyrants

Thier material is not worth more than peoples lives!
what they deem as illegal is punishable by over
whelming fines and inprisonment. the purpus of media
is for it to be seen and/or heard.

What was free promotion has become piratcy.
They should pay for any and all promotion.
If they want so much to alienate themselves
from the people let them kill thier business.
Without piratcy forean markets are cut off.
The laws were meant to protect companies from
each other, not from the people.In short, RIAA
will kill itself, for lost touch with the world.

George – Jun 18th, 2009 @ 12:28pm artist are over
paid too. cars! houses! but i agree with every thing else.

Robert says:

The Media MAFFIA strikes again

Shows all to well that the media maffia strikes again.

Cant both have the cake and eat it RIAA. If radio is piracy well than you should be VERY VERY VERY happy that you are boycotted by some station or does infact free samples sell copies down the road. cant have it both way Mr Maffia boys.

We are smart people we dont get lied to like this without exposing those LIES

Radio Veteran says:

RIAA = Mafia

“You can’t say to someone, “You have to pay to use my product AND you MUST by that product”.”

It’s tyranny.”

Kind of reminds me of the stories of the Mafia wiseguys who shake down local store owners every week for their payment for “protection”…doesn’t matter if the store owner didn’t make a profit that week, the Mafia still gets paid…the same would be true of the RIAA.

Radio Veteran says:

The real dirt on Ascap/BMI/Sesac fees

If this RIAA bill passes, and if it’s anything like the current copyright fees paid to BMI, Ascap, and Sesac, it really doesn’t matter WHAT music you play. If you’re a radio station that plays music, whether it’s mainstream pop, or African tribal music, you pay. And you pay based not on the actual songs you play, you pay based on how much money you Gross (BEFORE EXPENSES) on advertising sales. What format you are doesn’t matter a bit. What matters is that you play music – any kind of music.

Once a year they ask us to give them a playlist of songs we played just two days of the year. Our fees don’t ever go down if just so happens that we aren’t playing any of their artists. They just quietly shove those playlists into a drawer somewhere and happily raise our fees the next year. And there’s not a thing we can do about it.

And because rates are based on Gross Revenue, if you don’t make a profit one year, doesn’t matter, you still pay.

We have one radio station that’s been on the air for 26 years in a town of 5,000 people, and another that’s been on the air for 3 years in a town of 50,000 people. The one in the small town pays TEN TIMES the amount the one in the larger town pays…because there is no cap on fees. They can continue to raise you rate every single year from now until the end of time.

The RIAA would get the same type of compensation if this tax passes.

Tom Sheller says:

Greed, greed, greed

It seems to me that the very same artists and organizations that depend on radio stations to get their music out there are now biting the hand that feeds their bank accounts. Maybe this is more about wringing more money out of anyone that they can.

Well this sort of greed often backfires. Consumers aren’t the stupid clods that the “suites” think we are. I like the response of some to charge the artists to play their music. After all they made a cash cow issue first.

Now let’s get some sanity back. Stop the madness, to borrow a phrase. When I find who is supporting this greedy commercial grab, I will personally boycott those very same folks. Chew on that Musicfirst and RIAA. I don’t need you. Do you need us?

hmm says:

OK I have the perfect solution:

1) ALL radio stations are forced to pay $80,000 per song regardless of whether or not they ever play that song.. (must be RIAA controlled music).
2) Listeners are forced by a tiny ear implant to listen to the music whether or not they want to 24hours a day…and every song deducts $5 from your wages.
3) In order to preserve democracy, these ear implants only have one volume setting 0%…so although you’re forced to PLAY and LISTEN to the music you actually end up with nothing at all (except an empty wallet).

EVERYONE WINS (well everyone important…and thats only the RIAA isn’t it…everyone else can just go screw themselves as long as they leave everything to the RIAA in their will)…which leads me to……

4) Everyone is a filthy dirty pirate (except the boss of the RIAA who is the second (and possibly third) coming of Christ, therefore everyone has to leave everything in their wills to the RIAA otherwise they don’t get into music heaven.

hmm says:

Actually I’ve come up with a much shorter alternative..

Everyone who the RIAA decides is a “filthy dirty pirate” (which also means a terrorist because as we know anyone who’s ever downloaded a song is also an Al Quaeda member and enjoys blowing up babies) is punished by actually having to listen to some of the princess-pop crap that the RIAA thinks is actually classed as “music”!…That should be enough of a deterrent for anyone.

Bryan O'Doyle says:

Music industry needs some regulation

Commenter wrote “These people from the music industry are all over the place wanting to sue people for everything including a deep breath that sounded like it was stolen from a song.”

~ Has WIN inherent

Got me thinking the days of absentmindedly humming ANY tune as one goes about their day, may be over. Not that Bhudda would have an issue with that.

Last : hope that nobody points out to those gov’t/industry busybodies the popular JACK FM “Playing What WE Want.” Oh Shit!

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