No, Getting Your Music Played On The Radio Is Nothing Like Slavery

from the want-to-try-that-again? dept

Every couple of years, like clockwork, the RIAA gets its friends in Congress to introduce some form of a performance rights bill, that would require radio stations to pay compulsory licenses to performers of the music they play on the radio. Every year it goes nowhere because the radio owners’ big lobbying group, the NAB, is about equal in power to the RIAA. So the two sides fight it out, donate a lot of money to Congress, and nothing changes. There’s generally a lot of FUD thrown up in the process, along with some crap about “fairness” when that’s not what they’re really pushing for at all. It’s all about more revenue for the record labels and that’s it. If you’re unaware, playing music on the radio already requires payments to songwriters/publishers, but not to performers. The reason being that being on the radio acts as promotion, allowing the musicians to make it up elsewhere. We know that this happens because of the widespread practice of payola, in which the labels pay the radio stations to play their music. If it wasn’t worth it to get on the radio, the labels wouldn’t regularly get involved in payola scandals. And yet, they do, because radio play (even today) remains great advertising for music.

We thought things had reached a new low four years ago when Rep. John Conyers sponsored one of these bills and insisted that radio stations playing musicians’ music was the equivalent of slavery. Apparently, the RIAA liked that line so much it fed it to a different Congressional Rep. this year. RIAA darlings Jerry Nadler, Marsha Blackburn and Ted Deutch have joined Conyers in releasing the latest version of a performance rights act, this time called the “Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015” and the RIAA’s spin doctors somehow decided that having Rep. Nadler use the slavery line was a good idea:

Previously, radio complained about the economy, asserting that they simply couldn?t afford to pay performers. But as far as the radio industry is concerned, ?it’s never the right time,? Nadler said. ?What other industry says, ‘ We can?t afford to pay our workers; We want them to work for free,’? he cracked. ?We got rid of that argument here in the U.S. in 1865,” referencing the abolition of slavery legislated by the 13th Amendment.

I’m sorry, but in no possible way is promoting someone’s music on the radio the equivalent of slavery. To say so is not just insulting and offensive, but it’s ridiculous. You can argue about the appropriateness of royalties, compulsory rates or anything else — but to argue that getting played on the radio without direct compensation (despite all the indirect compensation) to slavery is just flat out ridiculous. Nadler doesn’t get paid each time he goes on TV to talk about whatever bill he’s supporting, does he? Is that slavery? No, it’s promotional, just like music being played on the radio.

Just the fact that Nadler has to resort to this silly and tired argument again, despite it flopping five years ago, should tell you all you need to know about this weak attempt by the RIAA to squeeze out more money without doing anything different.

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Comments on “No, Getting Your Music Played On The Radio Is Nothing Like Slavery”

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106 Comments
David says:

Re: If Only

The German RIAA equivalent “Gema” cashes in for radio performances. The really creepy thing is that they managed to cash in from radios playing only independent music for music where the musician is pseudonymous, based on the theory that a pseudonymous musician must be one under contract by the Gema and trying to evade his contractual requirement to cash in via the Gema.

That’s the so-called “Gemavermutung”, the Gema suspicion. If you cannot prove that an artist is not under contract by the Gema, they cash in anyway. And of course, since the identity of the artist is not known, they get to keep all of it.

How’s that for absurdity?

Violynne (profile) says:

Hey now, be nice Techdirt. If the movie industry can relate copying movies to that of the Boston Strangler’s victim, then the RIAA has every right to say not paying royalty rights is slavery.

It’s not like anyone would ever take this statement as honest, except maybe for Lars Ulrich and Prince.

Too bad Mitch Glazier’s sneaky little attempt failed. None of this would be an issue today because it would have taken approximately 0.2 seconds for musicians to have abandoned the music industry and form a new one, where ASCAP (et al) would have collapsed.

It’s also too bad Sony won its case, too. Just think where the entertainment industry would be today if Universal had won.

Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Pot, meet kettle

I don’t have a specific cite, just a lot of information about the history of the music business in America. During Prohibition, the Mafia basically took over huge swaths of the live music business because they were the ones running most of the speakeasies. They also spread into much smaller markets in order to maximize the booze trade. If you wanted to play in a mob owned club, you went through a mob connected manager. He owned you and they owned him.

In fairness to the Mafia, their part was almost entirely on the live music side of things. Others developed the worst recording industry practices, and were already doing so before that. Having said that, the manager’s role as uncritical mouthpiece for the label, whom he knows is screwing his purported client, is a direct extension of the Mafia’s model.

Anon says:

Sorry, but...

The problem is simple – in the good old days of Big Band and lounge singers, the song was more important than who was singing it. Any band could imitate any other band.

However, starting somewhere with rock and roll, the specific recording and its uniqueness, the vocal performance of a specific star and their interpretation, is as important as the song itself. We identify a song as much by the single specific recording session that became the “hit” as much as by the music and lyrics.

So it only stands to reason that the recording artist should share in the wealth generated by the song. Their performance as much as the published music sheet “makes” the song. of course, IMHO that means the radio people should pay the same, and the music publishers should split their revenue and take less.

After all, in every debate, the RIAA insists it’s all about the artists (which IMHO includes the performers along with the writers). Maybe they, not the middlemen, should end up with the biggest share of the pie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sorry, but...

yeah, maybe the labels should come up with their own distribution model. They keep wanting to ride on the backs of successful business’, but then the RIAA isn’t willing to pay the network a commission. Fucking welcome to the real world, RIAA. Pay you commissions cause without the distribution, you’ve got nothing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Sorry, but...

You realize the tech industry is larger than Google right? We understand the AA’s believe Google somehow magically controls all the internetz.. But this simply highlights how prehistoric the MPAA/RIAA has become..

The fans of artists/performers care about the artists/performers making money.. Nobody really sympathizes with the multi-billion dollar studios who have done more damage to the distribution of creative arts than anything Le Google has not done..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sorry, but...

The problem is simple – in the good old days of Big Band and lounge singers, the song was more important than who was singing it.

In the days before the recording industry got going, having multiple bands play your songs was the only way that they could reach a wide audience. That also allowed many performers to make a living from their art. Since the recording industry got going, the labels have repeatedly manipulated the market via buying laws, so that they can make a fortune while supporting as few artists as possible, and with as little payout to them as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

To say that is just stupid and insulting to readers.

>>> payola scandals. And yet, they do, because radio play (even today) remains great advertising for music.

That’s due to limited outlets. Bet your last yuan that Apple and Spotify are being paid behind the scenes TOO.

Masnick DOES want creators to work for free. That’s why he still supports Megaupload: unlimited copying effectively FORCES them to work for FREE.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

“unlimited copying effectively FORCES them to work for FREE”

Go home, you’re drunk. Computing technology is built on the premise of copying “bits” – your statement is about as ludicrous as saying everytime you use Office you are asking Microsoft developers to work for free.

It’s in digital format on a technology built for copying.. This isn’t Megaupload’s fault for creating a platform which utilizes said technology. Blaming Megaupload for the RIAA/MPAA short sightedness is like getting mad at Ford bcz their vehicle was used in a bank robbery and the vehicle was drive-able.

For every obstacle the RIAA/MPAA tries to create someone will come up with new technology to disrupt it. It’s a losing battle and the sooner they realize this the sooner they can start looking towards innovating for the future rather than attempting to retain control on outdated thinking.

zomg, techdirt is hosted on a webserver and everytime you access an article those bits are transmitted to your PC.. you must just want all these journalists to work for free.. You’re such a terrible person – that’s equivalent to cannibalism!

^see how stupid this line of thinking is?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

“unlimited copying effectively FORCES them to work for FREE.”

Baloney. I have been producing commercial software for decades (without ever using copy protection schemes). Most of my software has been widely distributed amongst the pirate community. And yet, I’ve managed to make a very good living anyway. I can personally demonstrate that unlimited copying hasn’t forced me to work for free. If it hasn’t forced me, then how can it force anybody else?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

And yet the likes of the AA’s, Antidirt and pro copyrightists etc. will keep on insisting that copyright as an absolute must as without it all artists, creationists etc. will starve and become bankrupt etc.

My hat is off to you sir for showing that you can survive and make a living despite the BS propaganda the copyrightists come out with. Well done.

Accumulator says:

Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

Wow. It’s the old “my homemade stuff that cost near nothing proves copyright isn’t needed for movies that cost $100 million dollars” argument.

Sheesh. If you had to get millions in funding BEFORE even typing the first byte, you’d know why copyright is important.

And yet again, YOU are free to NOT worry about copyright on your own products.

But you do not have the right to dispose of the works of others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

The good old we need copyright so we get paid for whatever junk we care to put out argument. try raising the money via crowd funding before making the film, and then it has been paid for. Do not be surprised when people start making better films for less money using modern technology and co-operation practices.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

If they can’t make $100 million on a movie, then why are they spending $100 million. Nobody’s forcing them to make it, and we all know movies can be made for a lot less.

Really, after 10 years of movie piracy, the industry is now bigger, stronger, and making more expensive films than ever.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

For the record, I’m not talking about “homemade” stuff. I’m talking about a a real, serious business with significant investment and return. With employees and everything.

Nice try at an ad-hom, though.

“If you had to get millions in funding BEFORE even typing the first byte, you’d know why copyright is important.”

If you have to have millions in funding before type the first byte (or playing the first not, as the case may be) then you are doing it completely wrong. Regardless, you aren’t making an argument here. You’re just repeating an unsupported assertion — one that I stand as a counterexample to.

“But you do not have the right to dispose of the works of others.”

I never said that I did. I was simply saying that to claim that unlimited copying forces people to work for free is complete bullshit.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

“movies that cost $100 million dollars”

Since, I don’t recognise the handle, I’ll bite. Why do you people always pick this as your go to figure? Why do movies that cost far less than that not count? Yes, that includes studio productions ($50 million or less for a movie isn’t actually that rare unless you’re trying to make a CGI wankfest).

But, it’s a handy indication that you don’t give a shit about anyone other than major corporations, so we can safely assume you have no real facts to back up your arguments…

“But you do not have the right to dispose of the works of others.”

…as indicated by your idiot assertion that anyone who doesn’t agree with the current copyright system is a pirate. Yawn. Get some new material, you’re a new name to me but your arguments are stale and weak.

What the hell does “dispose of” mean in this context. I threw away some cheap DVDs that had no resale value recently. A couple of them were of movies that had budgets in the range of $100 million. Was that wrong of me somehow? Or, are you the kind of mental midget that thinks that every interaction without payment is a lost sale?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

For future reference, this is out_of_the_blue.

After shaking his fist angrily (though impotently) while twirling his evil mustache made of rare Arabian yak hair and disappearing off the site the last time, he returned, swearing to never use the nickname he heavily tarnished himself.

But it’s the same jackass. Telltale hints include writing an annoying, insinuating tagline in the post Subject, capitalizing random words to sound condescending, repetitive usage of words like “piratey”, “Masnicking” and “$100 million movies”.

His new shtick is to claim that he’s being blocked – even though in his very first post for the year, he’s claimed that no one “ran him off the site” – which “forces” him to switch IP addresses every time he makes a post via TOR. Yeah, the same program out_of_the_blue and other idiots insist that pirates use to hide their identities. His handles nowadays switch between some horrible word that has TOR inside (torpedo, gladiator, etc).

And the best part, he actually either thinks no one can tell, or that he’s so clever for trying to run circles around a non-existent block. It’s pathetic.

It might also be worth pointing out that Whatever/Just Sayin’/horse with no name had the same victim gambit of screaming “censorship” before disappearing, then out_of_the_blue reappeared. Whatever also threatened to use TOR to make 50 different IP addresses so they could all downvote anyone he disagreed with, so… yeah.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Hey, I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I prefer to assume that this is a group of people that have been fooled by the disinformation campaigns and communities that actually block discussion of opposing facts, rather than just one sad individual who has somehow escaped psychological treatment for this long.

Another name to add to the list, at least…

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

Yes, your obscure claims eliminate facts shown by software providers much larger than you. OK.

Care to share these so-called “facts”?

If you bring up Microsoft, I’ll have a good laugh. Their world market share is due in part to illegal sharing. Didn’t they also purchase Minecraft? A product made phenomenally popular because of Notch’s policy of not getting all upset about pirated copies?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

The tech industry created the free-to-play business model.. Why should anyone offer you a citation for information that can be Googled? Oh, I forget.. you AA cronies think Google is evil so refuse to find readily available information through it.. Unless it’s fake DMCA takedowns..

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

First, what facts do you think my claim eliminates? All I was saying was that unlimited copying does not force anyone to work for free. I’m am unaware of any software provider that says otherwise.

In the larger sense, though, my viewpoint regarding software piracy is pretty mainstream in the industry. That there may exist larger software companies who may disagree with me on various points means nothing.

…unless you are saying that a company must be right or represent the majority view simply because it’s big. I hope not, because that’s nonsense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

The seizing of domains has been a problem due to not blocking just the infringing domain but 10k other sites using the domain. Depending on the hosting will depend on the how it is removed. Don’t burn the bookshelf just to destroy one book.

With the megauploads. Content creators data was also lost due to the seizure. How much money did they lose due to RIAAs and US government ham fisted actions. Sure, there was a lot of illegal stuff on megauploads. I bet you could also find illegal files on Drive, Dropbox, and any other cloud storage services. But what I think is worse than illegal files is that the some independent artist just lost all of their work due to illegal seizure and deletion of evidence. It may have been crap or it could have been something amazing but it was all deleted without any ability to recover it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

What kind of idiots think they can stop the advancement of technology and protect outdated business models by going after legitimate services?

Oh, thas right.. Everyone working for the MPAA/RIAA.. Darwin does strike.. Can you feel the clock ticking away?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And "seizing" domains with infringing links is nothing like censorship!

So… People are stupid to use a site for legitimate purposes, because some other people use it for illicit purposes? That’s what you’re going with? Anyone at any time should expect to lose their personal and business data because someone in an unrelated industry claims it’s a “pirate site”.?

Just admit that the actions of the twats you support have real harm on innocent law-abiding citizens. It’s got to be easier than making up random excuses that don’t pass any kind of internal logical test. No wonder you people are insane – the fantasy world you try to exist within doesn’t make any kind of sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Promotion

“To tell the truth so is Bitorrent.”

Well said!

As evident by HBO’s own admission.. Game of Thrones being the most popular TV show amongst the pirating community and ALSO being one of the most popular shows of ALL time is no coincidence..

Anybody else notice HBO isn’t raising kane over the first episodes of season 5 being leaked online?

They recognized the promotional value early on and in the end are still making butt loads of money in merchandising and new subscribers. Not everyone in the entertainment industry is as blind as the MPAA/RIAA.

Pirates are nothing more than FANS (not criminals) responding to a lack of innovation by the labels/studios. Time and time again we can see that people will use innovative and legitimate alternatives to consume media. If you as an industry don’t wish to offer legitimate alternatives you cannot get upset when a developer creates technology that delivers the experience consumers want.

This is the fabric of a capitalist society – if you don’t want to appease your audience then someone else will.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Promotion

Wrong. GOT is simply very popular. There is one large fanbase. It’s just that some douches steal it.

The show’s director and Time Warner’s CEO state that they “benefited” from the piracy of GOT:

Observers, including series director David Petrarca and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said illegal downloads did not hurt the series’ prospects, as it benefited from the resulting “buzz” and social commentary, while the high rates of piracy did not significantly translate to lost subscriptions.
Source

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Promotion

The old ‘piracy’ is stealing argument.. So every time a digital copy is made the original disappears right? Remind me again.. How many oh so poor studios have had to shut down because of piracy?

None? Wait, you mean they’re making more money today than ever before? Funny how that works aint it?

Anonymous Coward says:

If you’re unaware, playing music on the radio already requires payments to songwriters/publishers, but not to performers.

OK, I’m totally confused. Do stations not need permission to play songs, and does that apply in all cases or just certain cases? Is the “publisher” mentioned the same one that the performer contracts with? If so, then how can they argue that the performer isn’t getting paid?

Anonymous Coward says:

So if someone released their music under a license that allowed radio stations to freely play it and the radio stations wanted to freely play it they would still be forced to pay someone to play it? That’s the very antithesis of free market capitalism. Who is the RIAA to pass a law that intervenes with my ability to strike a license agreement between myself and a radio broadcaster. Who are they to tell me what’s in my best interest. That’s for me to decide. It’s absolutely none of their business and they don’t need to use laws to force what they want in between every agreement that doesn’t involve them.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Tech douches talking about the music business. Funny.

Make you a deal: we’ll stop talking about the music business when you stop pretending that you understand how tech and the online ad industry works? Because, seriously, if you think we don’t get the music biz, your total misunderstanding of tech is much worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I can answer that for you: Sunlight. They are all afraid of being exposed for what they are. Fraudsters running a scam that preys on artists and consumers a like. At one point they actually served a necessary purpose, yet in today’s day and age, that purpose is becoming less and less necessary as other, cheaper means replace them.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Go fuck yourself, Masnick.”

< />”I’ll tell you to fuck off every day and twice on Sundays.”

This is the attitude of the music industry that wants us to give them money! This is a “representative” of artists who claims to be working in their best interests, while crudely insulting anyone who disagrees with them from the safely of anonymity. Is it any wonder there is so little public respect or support for these people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Because those of us who understand tech cannot fathom something as basic as how record labels operate?

Did I miss when music industry insiders have shown anything that resembles intelligence? I must have blinked.

We can create the technology that makes the world go round but can’t wrap our heads around greedy interest attempting to cripple innovation.. I guess we “tech douches” should just quit altogether since we’re incapable of grasping the complexities of simpletons..

Roque says:

It's about 'access'...

Here’s another take that local bands and performers should understand….the NAB and the RIAA are not out for YOU. To tour and play your tunes and get enough audience from a given town you are pass through needs a level of access. They are out for themselves and if they were really serious about ALL performers and musicians it would get together and allow better ‘access’ cause it’s all about ‘access’ to resources that should benefit indies and upstarts and make them play with hungry performers…Advertising and radio play….internet is nice but it’s not ‘all encompassing’ like these mediums for promotion. 91% of people still listen to the radio by the latest survey. If only the field to entry was reduced and the radio market was put back to it’s pre-2000 percentage per given market to 35 vice 75 now….but alas it never will unless there is a strong and sustained ‘will’ by the underground and the indies. This is not be-all-end-all but it’s a start. I think a previous commenter said it with less words…

Anonymous Coward says:

There,s 1000,s of bands who would love to be played on the radio,
its advertising ,promotion,
like youtube lets play videos ,of video games being played .
Many people over 20 will not buy any cds or digital songs itunes downloads,unless they hear that singer,band on the radio .
when you get paid on the local top 40 pop radio station,
you know you are successful .
ie you are in the charts,you have a hit .

That One Guy (profile) says:

Enjoy your freedom

I can’t help but smile thinking about the screams if the radio stations responded to this by simply refusing to play *AA affiliated music, and making it known why they were doing so.

Being played on radio is slavery? Congrats, you’re free, enjoy it. Meanwhile, smaller, independent bands are now quite enjoying their ‘slavery’, and would like to thank you for making it possible.

Assuming the radio stations stuck to their guns, watching the major labels go to the radio stations begging to be allowed to don their ‘chains and collars’ again would be downright hilarious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Enjoy your freedom

The part that is confusing is that ‘radio’ stations only have about 10 or 12 song in their rotation. In fact, I think payola is happening right now. Why else would all the stations in the us play these same 10 or 12 songs.

Well, radio is dead anyway, so who cares who pays who. I guess as long as some sucker advertisers can be found, they can find something to play.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Enjoy your freedom

“Why else would all the stations in the us play these same 10 or 12 songs.”

While payola is probably happening (especially since it was legalized), the more probably explanation for this is that almost no radio programming is done by the local radio station anymore. Most of it comes from a tiny number of companies who provide the exact same programming to hundred of stations across the nation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Enjoy your freedom

I think the local stations still handle their programming but they are under tremendous pressure to follow the formula set forth by the parent conglomerate. Deviating from that formula too much by a station manager would be a very risky proposition at best that unless it happened to generate a huge ratings bump for the station would likely result in the manager’s replacement.

radarmonkey (profile) says:

*scene up at end of press conference*

*reporter stands up and raises hand*

“Congressman?! Congressman?! You and your colleagues have been equating radio stations not paying artists as the artists being slaves; a position the RIAA has publicly taken as well. Given the similarities of that argument and you’re presentation of it today, are you (and by extension, your colleagues) being paid by the RIAA or are you slaves to the RIAA? Congressman?! Where are you going, Congressman?!”

OldGeezer (profile) says:

I can look at my CD collection and count a number of them that I would never have bought if I hadn’t heard a song that I liked on the radio. It is advertising for them and the demands for payment could be justifiably from the stations and not the other way around. Payola didn’t end because of the scandals in the 50’s Read the Wikipedia article about it. The record industry has continued to use loopholes in the law to pay stations to promote what they want. It just doesn’t seem logical. They are willing to pay to play and at the same time demanding payment for what amounts to advertising for them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Entitlement, (noun), See: RIAA/MPAA

I believe the term is ‘having your cake and eating it too’. They want to get the increased sales from the promotional value that radio adds, but at the same time they also want to be paid, by the radio stations, for that same promotional value that they are adding.

It’s basically like a company calling up a newspaper, one that had been running ads for that company, leading to a significant increase in sales, and demanding that the newspaper pay for the ‘privilege’ of doing so(so you know, just like various EU newspapers/sites have done with Google).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The RIAA/MPAA doesn’t believe in logic. They want a fairy land of magic and rainbows where everybody just pays them however much they want for whatever crap they decide to put out through mediums they alone control..

Oh and they want everyone in tech to work for them alone and not offer any alternatives that people would actually.. you know.. enjoy

sorrykb (profile) says:

Nadler doesn’t get paid each time he goes on TV to talk about whatever bill he’s supporting, does he?

Is that a trick question?

The top two industries contributing to Jerrold Nadler’s Campaign Committee and Leadership PAC for Campaign Cycle 2014:

1. Lawyers/Law Firms
Individuals: $100,494
PACs: $31,350
Total: $131,844

2. TV/Movies/Music
Individuals: $38,350
PACs: $59,500
Total: $97,850

(From opensecrets.org)

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