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Google, NPR, Pandora join Trojan Horse organization to help artists

Another day, another group of big data and evil corporations trying to influence public policy by lying to you. This new one is called Mic-Coalition. Pronounced "Mike," as in Microphone, as in "give the people a voice." Well, what voice do they want to have, and who exactly are these people? Let's examine. On their website you are greeted with this mission statement:

Mic (pronounced “mike”, as in “microphone”) coalition is composed of companies, associations, consumer groups, venue owners and artist advocates who are committed to a rational, sustainable and transparent system that will drive the future of music and ensure that consumers and consumer-serving businesses, such as retailers, restaurants and hotels have continued access to play music at affordable prices.

Without reading the website any further you can see it's no grass roots organization. It's carefully worded bullshit. Not one of those categories can be defined as "the people." Consumer Groups? Associations? And then there's "Artist advocates." Whatever that means. Notice it doesn't say "artists." But advocates for the artist. Because apparently they can't do it themselves. Or more likely, no one has asked them to join this coalition. Then there are the words "rational, sustainable and transparent system to drive the future of music." Because Silicon Valley has done an amazing job of being transparent, right? The word "rational," is cute. It implies that anything other than what they have in mind is irrational.
Note too, that this is purposefully framed from the consumer standpoint. Or as I call it, the "Think of the children," trick. See it's all about these poor consumers having "access to music" which is one step down on the totem pole from the phrase "right to music." Now I know what you're thinking: No one actually goes shopping in the mall or in restaurants with the express purpose of listening to or discovering, or "having access" to music. And we've made jokes about elevator music, or Muzak for years. And finally, people already have "access to music" via FM radio, Apple Radio, Spotify, etc. So why even bring this straw man argument to the table?

If you already guessing this has something to do with Spotify, or big business, you would be right. Scroll down a bit on their website and we continue with their three-pillared mission.

The U.S. Congress is reviewing the copyright laws that govern music licensing. There is hope that Congress will achieve a healthy balance in the new music economy. But, there is a risk that they will craft a law that stifles innovation to the detriment of consumers and artists.

Translation: "There is risk that Congress might actually pay artists what they are worth and cut in to our profits." Right now Congress is reviewing copyright laws that govern music licensing-- for webcasting. Not for supermarkets and Hot Topic. And about the stifling innovation.We hear that phrase a lot, but when any one with a computer and a few programs can make a song and someone like Skrillex can make a grammy winning track on some shitty speakers back when he was squatting in an abandoned building in Downtown LA, how exactly is innovation being stifled?

As has been pointed out before, the USA is one of the only countries besides Iran, China and North Korea who doesn't pay a performance royalty rate for terrestrial radio. This means out of the 196 countries in the world, four aren't paying. So if 192 countries are paying royalty rates, why is it we haven't seen stifled innovation in the rest of the world?

The final pillar of bullshit is this:

The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), the arm of the Library of Congress that determines webcaster royalty rates, is in the process of determining what those rates should be for the next five years. Their verdict is expected at the end of 2015. If those rates are too high, Internet radio streaming could become unsustainable and those services could be driven out of business. As a result consumers and businesses that play music would have fewer choices in the marketplace.

Could become unsustainable? It already is unsustainable and has been for years. But their answer isn't to fix their business model, but to pay less for the goods? Who else would come up with an irrational idea than non-transparent unsustainable companies.

So who are these companies? Who is underwriting this sideshow? In one bit of transparency, they let us know at the bottom. In addition to the American Lodging Association, you have Amazon, who has put more mom and pop brick and mortar stores out of business (you know, those stores and restaurants that play music for the people), Google, who have been covered many times over for being the opposite of transparent, Pandora, who in addition to not making a profit, is actively suing musicians to pay them nothing, I heartMedia which is Clear Channel, Cox Media, which brings people in the south cable (so basically they're like Comcast) as well as owning a bunch of radio stations and newspapers. And then there's NPR.

Really. NPR. The publicly funded, endowment-heavy, somnolent voice that is comfort food to America's WASP nation. The radio station that every quarter holds doom and gloom telethons that would make a bible totin' televangelist proud, predicting an post-apocalyptic world where Click and Clack and The Takeaway won't exist unless you fork over more money in addition to your taxes.

The Trichordist, who pointed out that this is just one of two Coalition of the Calculating orgs that popped up this week is particularly incensed about NPR, and have some questions they'd like to ask them. In the interest of helping, I'm sharing their questions here.

NPR: Do you think it’s fair that the US is one of the only industrialized nations to not pay performers for terrestrial broadcast?

NPR: Do you think it’s fair that ASCAP songwriters are kept under the 1941 anti-monopoly DOJ consent decree which forces them to give special treatment to companies that look very much like monopolies (YouTube/Google, Pandora, NAB etc)?

NPR: You realize that you get an artificially low rate from songwriters and performers right? Largely because their is/was goodwill between us. Do you want us to lobby to make you pay the same as everyone else? Isn’t there still a bunch of public broadcasting haters in congress?

Answer us. We’re waiting.

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Dabitch's picture

This is quite seedy. Wrap it up in a colorful bow, astroturf your way around the world to make non-payment the norm, then sit back and collect the profits. Cute.

I would not be surprised if this article is met with the usual protesters we tend to see every time the news reports that the EU wants to break up the Google monopoly. Thousands of sarcastic tweets about EU "soon begging for Google to come back", beccause if the search engine doesn't list papers etc they won't be found, seemingly oblivious to that being the actual problem. The short sighted view is eating into our future. Also, it's rather impressive how the anti-monopoly DOJ consent decree is being used here. The gall.

Curious's picture

NPR, who have done so many critical stories on lobbyists influencing legislation to the point of even writing the bills, surely they see the irony here?

kidsleepy's picture

Considering the CEO of NPR makes over $658,000 a year and most performer contracts are agreeing to license their music for little or next to nothing on public radio, I would think that they don't see much irony, no.