We thought it was crazy enough when an RIAA-organized lobbying group called radio "a form of piracy"
because it didn't pay musicians to promote their songs. But it appears that Rep. John Conyers, one of the biggest backers of forcing radio stations to pay an additional tax to help promote music, has taken it a step further. Via Copycense
we learn that at an event put on by recording industry lobbyists, Conyers decided to compare the lack of a performance right mandatory fee for radio stations to slavery and indentured servitude
"In 1865, slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment. No more free labor," Conyers said. "It abolished at the same time involuntary servitude. What does that have to do with what we're here for today? Well, when you tell somebody that you're benefiting from their work product but there's no avenue for compensation, it kind of harkens back to that great problem."
What an incredibly shameful thing to say. Beyond making the absolutely bizarre and ridiculous connection between the failure of one giant industry to force another big industry to hand over a chunk of cash (most of which never will be seen by any musicians), it ignores basic economics
. Historically, the money has flowed the other way
. For decades, record labels and promoters have used forms of payola to pay radio stations
to play certain musicians. Why? Because they clearly knew that they got a ton of value out of those songs being promoted
on the air. Songs on the radio are advertisements. What kind of industry gets Congress to force
broadcasters to pay
to run their advertisements -- and then has the gall to have an elected official claim that not paying to play these ads are the equivalent of indentured servitude
Of course, Conyers knows all about Payola. Back in 2002, he was the one who called for payola hearings
on Capitol Hill. So how is it that he suddenly thinks that money not
going the other way is somehow "no avenue for compensation"? He's being blatantly intellectually dishonest here. Is it worth mentioning that in the last election the two largest contributors
to his campaign were lawyers and the Music/Movie/TV industry?
The performance right tax is not about "indentured servitude." It's not even about people benefiting from a product where "there's no avenue for compensation." Quite the opposite. Getting your music on the radio is a huge challenge for most artists, and if you can get your music heard that way, it's still a huge
boost to a musician's career. Does Conyers think that when there's a popular commercial
on TV that people want to see that the makers of that commercial are "slaves" because they're not getting paid every time the commercial is played? It's yet another example of corrupt politicians in DC pushing legislation that helps one particular industry, and making up completely ridiculous arguments to support their position. This isn't about slavery or indentured servitude. It's about Congress granting a huge mandatory windfall to the record labels (at the expense of radio stations) because those labels are unwilling to actually do something to properly capitalize on free promotion from the radio stations.