73 years ago, Congress and the Department Of Justice issued a temporary consent decree to force songwriters to let big companies use their songs without negotiation.
73 years later, that temporary decree is not only still in place, but major broadcasters and webcasters met today to try to uh, influence Congress and the Department Of Justice to keep that consent in place. This decree, by the way, allows a federal judge to randomly decide what a reasonable rate is for a song. It wouldn't surprise me if the rate hasn’t changed in 73 years either.
This meeting of the minds was billed as a panel by a “ diverse group of music distributors, artists and users about the heavy handed tactics of music publishing companies and the PROs they influence.”
The panel was hosted by Greg Barnes of DiMA. Other panelists included David Oxenford, National Association of Broadcasters and Mathew Schruers from the CCIA. The companies represented by these lobbying outfits (Amazon, Clear Channel, YouTube/Google, Spotify, Pandora, Microsoft, Yahoo) have a combined market cap of over a trillion dollars.
No songwriters were on the panel. In essence this is the same arrogant move as Big Oil holding a conference to keep a law in place restricting the funding for energy alternatives without allowing anyone from Tesla to speak. Big money indeed. I guess they decided the songwriters were all Luddites not interested in adapting, or something, right?
Not so fast, though. Tireless fighter and champion of ethical treatment for artists, David Lowery was in the audience. His detailed account of the experience on the Trichordist is as priceless as it is heartbreaking. I imagine it was a bit like an absurdist theater, equal parts performance art and Howard Stern pranking. I urge you to read it, but the tl;dr version is, when it came time for a Q&A, at the end of the session Lowery shot his hand up and was ignored. Then denied. And then told he couldn't speak in no uncertain terms
Undeterred, Lowery had a nice contingency plan in the form of parting gifts. Shirts. But not just any shirts. In his words:
I did what I had to do. I marched up to the panelists and presented each of them with a gift wrapped “shirt off of a songwriters back” They looked like they were gonna pee their pants. It was priceless.
“I got less than $17 dollars for a million spins on Pandora, that’s your consent decree at work.” I told the room and walked out.
The whole thing was so fucking stupid on the broadcasters/webcasters’ part. If they’d just let me speak they could have spent the final 15 minutes to counter my questions and statements with measured doses of nonsensical legalese and mock concern for the plight of the independent songwriters. But by acting like spineless cowards they totally screwed themselves. Just goes to show that if you put on a “Show trial?” you very well may end up with a show you didn’t expect.
That's Silicon Valley and all their minions at work. Holding conferences that sound as if they are on the side of the artists and then leaving them out of the discussion all together. Not like this hasn't happened before. Just ask Jonathan Segel, a musician and ex-Pandora employee. The prevailing thought seems to be, unless the sheep willingly and cheerfully go to the economic slaughterhouse, they should put a muzzle on it.
Thankfully one musician went to Washington, and did the opposite.
Remember kids: Marxist sell outs aside, punk’s not dead. It’s now fucking shit up in Washington D.C.