Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

I like to joke with cashiers, usually when the computerized check out machinery is acting up, that all this new technology is here to make our lives easier. The reaction is usually "Yeah right". Well I've got exactly that feeling as I look at the latest attempt of the music industry to try and find it's way through the maze created by new technology.

A little history just to set the stage. In the modern era of the popular music industry the system has been largely set up to the advantage of the record company and disadvantage of the artist -whether that was singer, musician or writer. What a lot of people never understood was that if you were a singer or musician who didn't write your own music or at least not your hits you never made a dime from having that song played over and over on the radio. And that's still largely true today.

With the change in the way we the listening audience buys our music there are folks out there trying to make sure that the artists get taken care of on the business side. And that's a good thing. I'm not so sure that a bill pending in Congress called the Performance Rights Act is the right way to go. The PRA works on the basis that radio (AM and FM) have been getting a free ride for years and it's time to pay up. Under the bill radio stations would pay an yearly licensing fee for the music on top of the songwriters royalty payment. Small stations (like those here in Jamestown) would pay $5,000, non-commercial stations (like WRFA) and college stations would pay around a thousand. Large stations would pay a lot more.

I see several problems with this idea. First it will send a lot of small stations completely out of the music biz. In the end that's not good for the listeners or for the musicians. Second it ignores any value that the artist gets from the free airplay. You want a commercial on the station you pay for it. Radio play has driven sales for generations. Now radio stations will give away valuable air time and pay for the privilege. That just changes the direction of the unfairness. Finally small community radio stations and college stations will get crushed by the added burden. Most of these stations work on very tight budgets.

I'm all in favor of making sure the artist gets paid. A smart fellow once noted that the worker is worthy of his wage. And the current system is outdated and unfair. Instead of settling for the quick and dirty version why not spend the time to get it done right?

Call that the view from the Phlipside

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