#irespectmusic And I Vote: The Good News is the Conventional Wisdom is Wrong

MIC Coaltion 8-15

The MIC Coalition members listed above are the new alliance of big business against artists and songwriters.  The McCoalition (as I call them) is designed to intimidate creators.  Why?

The answer is easy–because their combined mountain of lobbying power gives them an unprecedented opportunity to pull the levers of corruption in Washington, DC.  The message to artists seeking fair compensation for radio play is to cower before this mountain of corruption.  Although I’m going to focus on the U.S., because artist pay for radio play is an American problem, remember that this coalition can turn on any issue that gets in their way–songwriters could be next.  In fact, songwriters have already been targeted by McCoalition’s letter to a former Google lawyer now at the U.S. Department of Justice seeking retribution against SESAC and HFA having the audacity to merge.

No Need To Hurry, It’s All Downhill to Hell

Let’s take artist pay for radio play as one example.  The myth about why the NAB always seems to win the battle for fair treatment for artists is that well, you know, there’s a radio station in every Congressional district and there’s music industry in only New York, Nashville and Los Angeles.

The conventional wisdom may offer an excuse for decades of ripping off artists but it doesn’t offer an explanation.  Unless you accept the idea that we will keep doing the same thing over again the same way.  Which produces no consequences for elected or appointed officials participating in this demonography.

Chop It Down With the Edge of My Hand

In order for the MIC Coalition to get you to buy into the conventional wisdom, you have to ignore some essential facts.  First, there are a lot of good working people in radio who are with us.  Evidence?  Remember that NPR was a member of the original configuration of the MIC Coalition, but NPR abruptly departed.  Why do you think that was?

What about Pandora, another McCoalition member?  Do you think that all Pandora employees are proud of the fact that their company stiffs pre-72 artists on some trumped up and sadistic legal theory?  I doubt it.

But the main reason that the conventional wisdom is wrong is that it entirely overlooks all the music fans, artists and songwriters (not to mention independent labels and publishers, venue owners, and production people) who live in cities all over America, not just the Big Three.  This doesn’t even count the DJs and dance clubs.  As one EDM proponent once chided me, every night there might be 50,000 people in America who go to hear live music.  500,000 go out dancing.

Artists criss-cross America every day playing to fans who care about music.  As Blake Morgan proved with the #IRespectMusic campaign, if you just ask music fans for their support, they will support us.

It also overlooks the fact that states and cities have created music offices as part of their economic development offices.  There are very creative city offices in Austin, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle.  They’re not in the Big Three, either.  These cities also have a music commission as part of the city government.  Why do cities have these offices and commissions?

Because the people want them to.  People who the McCoalition members would do well to remember are known as consumers.

And who are also known as voters.

Getting Unelected Starts at Home

I will posit something very clear and crass: Nobody ever got nothing done in politics unless the politicians thought they might get unelected by ignoring it.

The more we can tie our issues into direct political action, the more likely it is that politicians will pay attention.  This is true at the city, state and national level.  I’m not making a statement about any particular political party affiliation.  There may certainly be lots of political diversity among artists, songwriters, musicians and vocalists.

But the one thing that I know is true is that we all have one thing in common:  The desire to survive.

If you consider all the music makers and music lovers in this country, that’s quite a lobbying group in the best sense of grassroots.  The sense that lets officials know the townspeople will bring the pitchforks for them.  The bell tolls for thee, baby.

All the corporate dollars in the world can’t compete with a group of even 1,000 committed voters in a Congressional district.  There is lots and lots of evidence of the effectiveness of grassroots organizing.

If somebody gets unelected even once, that will be a game changer.  There’s a big difference between lobbying a handful of elected officials when there’s no appreciable downside, and motivating a handful of committed voters facing dire straights.

When the ones doing the lobbying are your neighbors, that’s way different that an onslaught of essentially anonymous emails.

The Time to Hesitate is Through

That’s what the #irespectmusic and I Vote campaign in all about.  So what do you need to do?  First of all, get it straight that no one is going to do this for you.  You need to take ownership of your own destiny.

Get registered.  Get active.  Find out who your representatives are and ask them what they are doing on artist rights.  Ask them if they support Fair Play Fair Pay at the federal level, your local music issues for state and local officials.  For example, thanks to the Austin Music Office commissioning the Austin Music Census of 4,000 musicians, music business workers and venue owners, the City of Austin has stark proof of just how close the city is to losing Austin’s music community forever and they are taking action–thanks to the community rallying around issues like venue retention and cluster development.  You can find your rally point in your own community.

Don’t be scared by the McCoalition.  Remember–Goliath never learns.


One thought on “#irespectmusic And I Vote: The Good News is the Conventional Wisdom is Wrong

  1. Spot on, Chris. I’d add just one thing: when you contact your Representative or Senator or candidate, do it IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Don’t use a form letter. Don’t tweet. Don’t count on a flimsy hashtag (the discarded gum wrapper of self-expression) to get your point across. Ideally, go old school and Mail a letter. If not that, send an email.

    But the key is to make it personal. Speak in your own voice. Tell the politician why it matters to you in direct terms that hit the point: that payment for musicians is a matter of economic fairness and personal necessity and that using political influence to deprive musicians of pay for their work is simply un-American. Your letter needn’t be long. But it must be personal – and it must deliver the punchline: if you don’t speak up for me and my colleagues, we won’t vote for you.

    It really matters, because, to a politician, one letter, one individually written letter is worth a thousand form letters or hashtags or a million signatures on a petition. Because so few people will take the trouble to write, it can be safely assumed that each such writer probably represents a lot of people – voters – who feel the same way.

    For a politician, the arrival of 1,000 such individually written letters is like the Terminator’s truck blasting through the front window. You’ll be back – on Election Day! Now get writing.


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