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Unicorns and Zeros: Über’s Spending on Austin Ballot Measure Tops $8 million

April 30, 2016 1 comment

As you may know, Über and Lyft are spending unprecedented amounts of money to write their own regulations for the City of Austin.  The Austin-American Statesman reports that with a week or so to go before election day on May 7, the Über/Lyft PAC has now spent over $8 million–which includes hiring former Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell for $50,000.  Here’s the graphic from Austin Monitor:

chart-6-620x365

From Austin Monitor 

I would lay even odds that the final number will be closer to $15 million.  Just to give you a reference point, the most expensive political campaign in the history of the City of Austin was the most recent mayoral race where current Mayor Steve Adler spent $1.2 million which turned off a lot of Austinites.  Not enough to vote for his opponent, but it did.

So why are they doing this to us?  And why will they do it to you in your town?  As Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas told the Statesman:

“If this were just about Austin, it would seem like $7 million is a lot of money,” he added, “but they’re operating at a much bigger scale than Prop 1 in Austin.”  [The number evidently has gone up by $1 million since that interview.]

Uber Yardsigns

Uber is losing the yard sign audience

That’s exactly right.  Über–and it really is Über although Lyft is equally complicit from a branding point of view–is showing its very Googlely underbelly.  Because don’t forget, Über is a portfolio company of Google Ventures, one of the investment arms of Google.  That investment was $238 million at a defining moment in Über’s history.  $238 million is a strategic investment, not some Silicon Valley angel “spray and pray” investment strategy.

Also remember that Austin has the great gift of Google Fiber and Google has taken offices with over 200,000 square feet conveniently located near both City Hall and the Capitol.  So the Google connection is not in my imagination.  They have a conference room named after Willie Nelson which is like if the alien named her teeth after Sigourney Weaver.

So why are they doing this?  One reason might be Über’s role in Google’s driverless car strategy.  Is it a coincidence that right in the middle of Über’s campaign in Austin, Google just happen to announce the formation of an alliance with Ford, Volvo—and Über and Lyft?

That’s right—according to Reuters, Google, Ford, Volvo, Über, Lyft hired the Obama Administration revolving door lobbyist David L. Strickland to lead the federalization of their driverless car effort.  (Volvo is owned by owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.)

Strickland joins the coalition from the high roller Washington, DC lobby shop Venable where he’s worked since 2014 after leaving the post of –where else–Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the Obama Administration.

In a statement, Strickland said:

“The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles.”

Why would Google and Über want “one clear set of federal standards”?  And why would they want it right now?  And will they use the Austin ballot measure as evidence of the need to federalize the entire issue?

But wait a minute–I thought that Über and Lyft were all about the drivers–why would Über and Lyft be in a high level coalition to promote driverless cars?

Well…dude…it’s not my imagination.  Über CEO Travis Kalanick lets us in on the Über strategy, as reported by the Verge:

Über will eventually replace the people who drive its cars with cars that drive themselves, CEO Travis Kalanick said today at the Code Conference. A day after Google unveiled the prototype for its own driverless vehicle, Kalanick was visibly excited at the prospect of developing a fleet of driverless vehicles, which he said would make car ownership rare. [And which Uber would presumably buy from Google or a vendor like Ford or Volvo using Google’s technology.]

“The reason Über could be expensive is because you’re not just paying for the car — you’re paying for the other dude in the car [meaning the driver],” Kalanick said. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Über anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. So the magic there is, you basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”

A more fundamental reason is that Über is implementing a monopoly strategy right before your eyes.  Many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs embrace Pay Pal founder Peter Thiel’s love of monopoly.  As Fortune writer Roger Parloff wrote in his book review of Thiel’s book Zero to One (a how to for startups):

[D]evaluing competition is a central theme of Thiel’s new book. He asserts that “capitalism and competition are opposites,” because “under perfect competition, all profits get competed away.” He exhorts entrepreneurs to seek out monopolies, concluding, “All happy companies are different: Each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: They failed to escape competition.”

Not surprisingly, Über is doing its best to spend their way to escaping competition in Austin and in many other cities.  It looks like Über may well have a monopoly on its market already.

Federalization would make cementing that monopoly so much easier.  (As we’ve seen with the FTC’s complete failure to prosecute Google for the same claims as Google is being prosecuted in Europe.)

But wait–there’s more.  It’s not my imagination–there’s a real chance that Über is going to be found liable for price fixing in its monopoly market.  According to The Guardian:

Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Über, has failed to win the dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit accusing him of scheming to drive up prices for passengers who use the popular ride-hailing service.

District judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said on Thursday that Kalanick must face claims he conspired with drivers to ensure they charge prices set by an algorithm in the Über smartphone app to hail rides, including “surge pricing” during periods of peak demand.

Led by Spencer Meyer of Connecticut, passengers claimed that drivers conspired with Kalanick to charge fares set by the algorithm, with an understanding that other Über drivers would do the same, even if they might do better by acting on their own.

Rakoff said the plaintiffs “plausibly alleged a conspiracy” to fix prices in this manner, and could also pursue claims that Kalanick’s actions drove out rivals such as Sidecar, enabling Über to command 80% of mobile-app generated ride shares.

And 80% sure sounds like a monopoly to me.

As Professor Jonathan Taplin of the Annenberg Innovation Lab wrote in his post Capitalism vs. Competition:

[Peter Thiel and Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg] like monopolies like Facebook and Google and they don’t want the government regulating them. It may very well be that certain types of digital firms are natural monopolies….As a society we are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Comcast, Google, Facebook and Amazon are some sort of natural monopoly that needs to be regulated or whether we are going to pretend that competition and capitalism can exist in harmony in the digital age. Peter Thiel knows that’s a fantasy, but do the regulators in Washington?

You can add Über to that list.  And Über is demonstrating in real time in Austin just how much raw monopoly power they can bring to bear when it counts.  That’s not a fantasy.

 

Cal State Chico Students and @KCSCRadio Say #irespectmusic in a Big Way!

April 29, 2016 1 comment

Blake Morgan asked me to post his statement on these awesome students at Cal State Chico, the student run SOTA Productions and especially KCSC Radio with big congratulations on their campus #irespectmusic event campaigning for artist pay for radio play!  An uplifting surprise before Blake’s panels at Canadian Music Week next week when he takes the #irespectmusic message back to Toronto for a repeat performance in one of the world’s great music cities!

And don’t forget to sign the petition!

Blake:  The brave students in these photos have had me in tears this morning.

I’ve found myself stunned, fogged, and heartbroken these last six days. The loss of Prince, and the world’s outpouring since that loss has had me in an emotional zone, the depths of which––I admit––even I’ve been surprised at. I’ve cried at the loss of such an incomparable musician of such furious joy.

A musician, it should be noted, who was also at the forefront of artists’ rights before they were even really called such. He noted in a recent interview, “We have to show support for artists who are trying to own things for themselves.” He didn’t just rail against immoral broadcasters or the Googles, YouTubes, and music thieves of the world, he acted, courageously––and often paid the price for it dearly––in doing so.

These students below––acting on their own––have taken it upon themselves to stand up, organize, and carry the torch of righteous anger with their own furious joy, even putting their own radio station on the line in supporting the simple idea that artists should get paid fairly.

Words can’t communicate my admiration for them, my respect for them. I wonder at their bravery, and I thank them for sending me these photos and bringing me through my fog this morning.

Respect and love to you students. I’ve got your back. Big time. ‪#‎IRespectMusic‬

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YouTube Creates Financial Incentive for Counternotices that Profit YouTube

April 29, 2016 Comments off

youtube-logo-parody

You knew it was coming.  Google always finds a way to profit from copyright infringement.

Google has found a way to “listen” to the exactly 86,000 form comments the Copyright Office received on its DMCA study of the corrupted “notice and takedown” system at the core of Google’s business model.

Now YouTube has announced that it will hold money on ContentID claims unless the YouTube account files a counternotification, including ones based on the poster’s interpretation of fair use. The next step for a creator or rightsowner to dispute a counternotification is to file a federal copyright infringement case.  That’s the most likely meaning of “dispute process” in the little YouTube picture below.

Since independent artists can’t afford to file those cases (and even major labels rarely do), even if the artist has complied with the murky requirements of “considering” fair use (itself a murky concept), it’s unlikely that these cases will ever be filed.

If the lawsuit isn’t filed, then YouTube releases the money.  And of course keeps its share.

monetizationduringdispute2b-2bfinal2bcopy

So YouTube will continue to monetize infringing content–stop right there.  What does that mean?  That means that YouTube’s share of the revenue from monetization continues to flow to YouTube.  And if the dispute is “resolved” in favor of a rightsholder who does not want to monetize, who gets the money?

That’s a rhetorical question.

But here’s who is not mentioned in YouTube’s latest insult to creators–advertisers.  Does YouTube ask advertisers if they want to be caught up in all this mishigas?

And hasn’t YouTube just created a financial incentive for infringers to file counternotifications regardless of the merits if they know that the money will keep coming in after this hiccup of ContentID is pushed to the side?

While YouTube says that ContentID claims are disputed “less than 1% of the time”, Google has said publicly that they took down 180,000,000 videos from YouTube in 2014 alone.  (Google v. Hood at p. 8)  Given the scale at which YouTube rips us off…sorry…operates, it’s entirely plausible that “less than 1%” is tens of millions of videos–and dollars.

As usual, Google is bending the rules and flexing its litigation muscle to protect its crony capitalist position at the top of the corrupted DMCA food chain.

#newmusic weekend: @frances_music @royalblooduk @shedrewthegun @grimezsz @r00msnoise

April 29, 2016 Comments off

Frances (London) “Don’t Worry About Me

Royal Blood (Brighton) “Where Are You Now?

She Drew the Gun (Wirral) “Poem

Grimes (Vancouver) “California

r00ms (Los Angeles) “Bittersweet Company”

Part 2: SXSW Wrapup Interview With @theBlakeMorgan

April 28, 2016 Comments off

In Part 2, here is Blake Morgan’s post SXSW wrap up–if you’re going to Canadian Music Week in Toronto next week, be sure to see Blake’s panels!

Chris Castle: We did a panel together with David Lowery at SXSW about the artist rights movement.  What was your assessment of how that went?

Blake Morgan: I thought it was great––and frankly, it was moving to me––for David and I to stand together publicly for the first time, in the same place. It put a real charge through the audience. It felt like Batman vs. Superman, without the “vs.” part! I won’t forget it anytime soon.

Chris: I went to another panel with Panos Panay that was hosted by the lobbyist for the MIC Coalition.  I’m paraphrasing now, but just a bit.  The lobbyist asked Panos whether Berklee students complained (I think she actually said “whined”) as much as their older counterparts to which Panos replied that what was refreshing about students who grew up in the post Napster era is that they don’t have a sense of loss the same way that older musicians do.  Which I would take to include you.  What’s your thinking on that position?

Blake: Well that’s a really disappointing statement to hear, not only as a music maker but because Berklee is also my alma mater. The only parallel I can think of is, “It’s really refreshing that whales who’ve been born since the dominance of the whaling industry don’t have the same lifespan-expectations that their pre-whaling-industry counterparts did.” What the fuck? So it’s “refreshing” that a generation of musicians––and those who are currently going to music school––no longer have a realistic expectation of being able to make music a profession? Does someone need me to send them the definition of the word “refreshing?”

Chris: As you know, Austin has recently realized how endangered the music community is after the Austin Music Census really spelled it out in clear analysis.  What’s your take on the census and do you think that the trends identified in the census would be replicated in New York or other cities?

Blake: I think the Austin Music Census is one of the most important efforts in this fight to secure a healthy future for American Music, period. What’s in it, and the conclusions the Census reaches are scary, but not surprising. And as a native and life-long New Yorker, I’m sad to say––at least when it comes to New York City itself––that those conclusions are echoed here in New York City, in every part of every music maker’s life. A real termination of artistic diversity here, be it venue-wise, recording studio-wise, even rehearsal studio-wise. Lots of banks securing street-corner real estates, and even more going to condos. The Lower East Side, where I grew up, is almost unrecognizable at this point. Where CBGB’s stood (and where I performed in a band for the first time when I was 13 years old, by the way) is now a John Varvatos store. Yup.

Chris: Did you have any particular experiences in Austin that especially resonated with you?

Blake: You know, I’ll tell you…I was so shaken by the corporate nature and lack of artistic spirit at SXSW, that at one point I called an artist friend of mine in Los Angeles and let him sort of talk me down from the ledge. It really helped, and he really helped put things into perspective for me. We talked about songwriting, and what we were working on, and why. It felt like I got an inoculation-shot of art for an hour.

However, he also reminded of something. He reminded me that Tom Waits was the featured performer at SXSW just a few years ago. This year? It was John Legend. He reminded me that when Waits was selected there was outcry from many––because he was too famous! Now look, I think very highly of each of those artists, both Legend and Waits (and I worship Waits), but for a festival that used to be aimed at the fringes, whose goal was to bring to light extraordinary artists who the mainstream was perhaps ignoring, this is a disturbing trend. That resonated with me too.

Chris: My sense is that the era of lobbyists and insiders telling musicians, songwriters and artists to “shut up and sing” is now in the past.  What’s your view on that?  Is the era of “Big Daddy” lobbyists passing to grassroots activism?

Blake: Yeah, I think the lions have broken out of the zoo now. And the zoo keepers really don’t know what to do. We’re fighting for our way of life, our passion, our families, our profession. They’re fighting to make even more money, and sometimes to secure their own jobs at the expense of what’s morally right. Rock & Roll artists, Hip-Hop artists, Blues artists, Jazz artists––and all the rest––you know, if we’d really liked being told what to do, we’d never had become artists in the first place.

Chris:  Did you see evidence of grassroots artist activism on your trip to Austin?

Blake:  I honestly––and really, I don’t like being this guy––but I didn’t see much of any artist-anything at SXSW this year. I probably saw 25 performances, a half a dozen panels at least, and had numerous conversations in the halls and bars during the trip. Most people were quite demoralized, and uniquely, really didn’t want to be. They wanted to be moved––not pitched. They wanted to be compelled––not told. They went there for music––not spring break. I worry about the future of SXSW, now that it’s practically the “Tostitos SXSW Festival as presented by Chevrolet.”

Chris: With a Google Play day stage.

Drivers, Über Is Selling Your Job: Google, Über and Lyft’s Revolving Door Lobbyist Asks Feds for Driverless Cars

April 27, 2016 Comments off

Ah, crony capitalism.

As is well known, Über is as close to Google as 1 is to 2.  So, if there’s any silver lining in the Über corporate power grab going on in Austin right now over a ballot measure to bring Über drivers in line with background checks on taxi drivers, it’s that all the world can see just how self-centered, entitled and power hungry Googleworld has become.

As we have warned a number of times, the reason that Google invested $235 million in Über is not because Travis Kalanick is a great brogrammer, it’s because Google wants to replace Über drivers (aka suckers) with robots.  How do we know this?  Because Travis Kalanick said so.

This made Über an attractive investment for Google for the reason why Google bought the Boston Dynamics firm that makes military robots for its war making unit (probably called Google Porridge or something suitably childlike).

So what about driverless cars and robots is inconsistent with treating drivers as expendable part-time independent contractors who get no severance when it’s hasta la vista, baby?  If you think that’s implausible, you haven’t been keeping up with the public statements of Google and especially Über.  Good thing for you Über drivers that Travis Kalanick’s ego is so huge he just can’t stop gloating.

Would you be surprised that after all the handwringing in Austin about how great Über is for jobs and the local economy, it turns out that it’s all just a step on the way to firing all those drivers?  (Now be nice all you who know how it is to do business with Google.  Stop your snickering.  That’s just rude.)

Attention Über Drivers: The Man 2.0 Is Going to Take Your Jobs and Give Them to a Machine

The Singularity is Silicon Valley’s version of the “Second Coming”.  Yes, we’re way beyond Hale Bop now.  (The Singularity is remarkably similar to the exteriorization of the havingness of the thetan for David Miscavage fans.)

We can joke about The Singularity, when Man is melded into machine Terminator style, but it’s not a joke to Google and Über.  Planning for The Singularity is Ray Kurzweil’s gig at Google.  Google has a major funding commitment to Singularity University–yes, there really is a Singularity University.  It’s based at NASA’s Moffet Field near San Francisco, a facility that Google has on a controversial long-term lease courtesy of the Obama Administration that drew the ire of Senator Chuck Grassley.  It’s right next to where Google keeps its fleet of corporate jets, including the Big Google 767 (N2767) and where Google buys discounted jet fuel according to NASA.

google-jet-thumb

That’s why it should come as no surprise that Google, Ford, Volvo, Über, Lyft hired another Obama Administration revolving door lobbyist David L. Strickland to lead their effort.  (Volvo is owned by owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.)

Strickland joins the coalition to eliminate Über and Lyft drivers from Washington, DC lobby shop Venable where he’s worked since 2014 after leaving the post of –where else–Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In a statement, Strickland said:

“The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles.”

This echoes what Über CEO Travis Kalanick told anyone who cared to listen a couple years ago as reported by The Verge:

Über will eventually replace the people who drive its cars with cars that drive themselves, CEO Travis Kalanick said today at the Code Conference. A day after Google unveiled the prototype for its own driverless vehicle, Kalanick was visibly excited at the prospect of developing a fleet of driverless vehicles, which he said would make car ownership rare.

“The reason Über could be expensive is because you’re not just paying for the car — you’re paying for the other dude in the car,” Kalanick said. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Über anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. So the magic there is, you basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”

Yes, that’s right.  “Magic.”  Which kind of sums up what Mr. Strickland said.

But implicit in Mr. Kalanick’s magic is that car ownership won’t be economically rational, yet there will be cars for Über.  Who do you think will own those Über cars?  Skynet?  Or Google?

This is What Hypocrisy Looks Like

The Austin-American Statesman reports that the Über PAC formed to jam Über’s self-regulation magic down the throats of Austinites has spent over $3 million including over $600,000 on prime time television ads among other outlets to saturate the airwaves in Austin with Über’s message to vote for Über’s regulations to replace the City Council’s duly enacted regulations.  Early voting on the now-notorious “Prop 1” is now open and the vote occurs on May 7.  So we have more fun to come on obnoxiousness.

It’s like living in Iowa during caucus season if only one party had the money to advertise and only advertised negative ads–like magic.

This included Über PAC magically hiring Lee Leffingwell, the former mayor of Austin, as the head lobbyist for the Über PAC.

See a pattern in the magic here?  It’s called the “revolving door,” the same reason Google hired now-Senator Ted Cruz to stop a state antitrust lawsuit.  Which did stop.  They do it because it works and it’s cheap.

Today’s Bureaucrat is Tomorrow’s Google Lobbyist

Google White House Meetings.png

White House Meetings by Google Lobbyists: GoogleTransparencyProject.org

Mr. Strickland’s hire is of particular interest given the restrictions of Executive Order 13490, Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel:

4.Revolving Door Ban — Appointees Leaving Government.  If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post-employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions for a period of 2 years following the end of my appointment.

“5.Revolving Door Ban — Appointees Leaving Government to Lobby.  In addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 4, I also agree, upon leaving Government service, not to lobby any covered executive branch official or non-career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration.

We can’t quite tell precisely when Mr. Strickland left the Obama Administration for ethics purposes (someone knows), but it appears that he joined Venable in January 2014.  So it is likely that the 2 year revolving door ban in paragraph 4 has been satisfied.However, it is hard to see how the ban in paragraph 5 is not currently in effect, and how Mr. Strickland will be able to work his “magic” to eliminate jobs of Über drivers without violating the Executive Order.  But if anyone could finesse that, it would be David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager and current political director for Über.

Mr. Strickland says the coalition will “work with policymakers”.  If Über’s handling of Austin’s Prop 1 is what “working with policymakers” looks like, I wonder how Mr. Strickland describes taking a hot poker up the butt.

Of course as the excellent reporting by Glenn Greenwald’s site The Intercept will tell you, there seems to be some kind of exception in Obamaland if you’re one of the hundreds of government employees now working for Google during the Obama presidency.
rv-door-visulizatnoi-susan-molinari-1024x507
Graphic is from the Google Transparency Project.
Abracadabra, it’s magic everywhere.

 

SXSW Wrapup Interview With @DavidCLowery and @theBlakeMorgan

April 27, 2016 Comments off

We’re going to post two interviews with David Lowery and Blake Morgan about their impressions on SXSW from an artist rights advocacy point of view.  This is David’s and Blake’s will follow.

Chris Castle:  We did a panel together with Blake Morgan at SXSW about the artist rights movement. What was your assessment of how that went?

David Lowery:  I thought it went well.   It’s nice to see how far we have come,  a few years ago we would have had more pushback from the technology shills.<

Chris: I went to another panel with Panos Panay from Berklee ICE that was hosted by the lobbyist for the MIC Coalition (backed by Google). I’m paraphrasing now, but just a bit. The lobbyist asked Panos whether Berklee students complained as much as their older counterparts to which Panos replied that what was refreshing about students who grew up in the post Napster era is that they don’t have a sense of loss the same way that older musicians do. Which I would take to include you. What’s your thinking on that position?

David: Panos has a real gift for stating tautologies and passing them off as nuggets of wisdom.   His students haven’t started their careers yet.  How would they know? What do they have to compare it with?  Sure in the music business you HAVE always started out working for free.   But the difference  now is you rarely graduate from a sort of indentured servitude for YouTube to fair pay for your recorded works.

I’ll tell you what I’ve seen as a long time studio complex owner, when these young musicians get about 5 years into an actual career and they see that a million spins on YouTube is the equivalent of selling 100 albums, the lightbulb comes on…

Finally I don’t mean to be too catty about this, but according to the US Department of Education the average Berklee Graduate makes $30,100  a year.  59% earn less than what a high school graduate would be expected to earn.   https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/school/?164748-Berklee-College-of-Music.  For reference compare that to the 85k at UGA’s Terry College of Business where I work.

Although his students may not have a “sense of loss” at this point in their lives, I think Panos and Berklee have  moral, ethical and federal obligations to have this “sense of loss” for them.  It is their obligation to care how their students are compensated after graduation. When I hear sentiments like this I want to ask for my tax dollars back.  This is a perfect storm of everything that is wrong with the music business and higher education all at the same time.

Chris:  I think it’s fair to say that the lobbyist from MIC Coalition tried to make it about age, as in artists who have the “sense of loss” are older.  Sounds like that is just a coincidence like the rooster crowing at sunrise.

David:  That’s right.

Chris:  As you know, Austin has recently realized how endangered the music community is after the Austin Music Census really spelled it out in clear analysis. What’s your take on the census and do you think that the trends identified in the census would be replicated in Athens, Richmond or other cities you’re familiar with?

David: As you know, Athens like Austin has a thriving independent music scene.   The results of the Austin Music Census seems remarkably familiar to me.  Great economic activity is generated by live and recorded music in both of these cities, but I doubt much of the revenue is flowing back to artists.  I see plenty of indie artists with national and international profiles working part time service industry jobs when they aren’t on tour.  I think it’s very simple.   Touring supports you when you are on tour, recorded music revenues support you when you aren’t.  If you dramatically decrease the artist share of revenue from recorded music and give it to monopsonies like YouTube,  Spotify and Pandora this is what you get.

Chris: Did you have any particular experiences in Austin that especially resonated with you? 

David: Well this is completely anecdotal but walking into a popular local restaurant and getting a table  without a reservation on a friday night during SXSW Music  tells me the music industry has no money.  Most music business people, especially the indies can no longer afford the badges. Further without technology corporations backing labels can’t put on showcases or sponsor shows.   Music is a sideshow for the technology companies that dominate SXSW.   I played the first SXSW and played another dozen in the intervening years.  It breaks my heart.

Chris: My sense is that the era of lobbyists and insiders telling musicians, songwriters and artists to “shut up and sing” is now in the past. What’s your view on that? Is the era of “Big Daddy” lobbyists being overtaken by grassroots activism?

David: Well I was surprised that it ever worked in the first place.  It’s just so pro-corporate.  Fortunately we don’t have “right to be forgotten” laws in the US so the comments of these lobbyists live on for ever.  We get to beat them over the head with these comments for the rest of their careers. (That’s a promise we at the Trichordist tend to keep).However tempering that, I see that the “big daddy” lobbyists have to continued to generate new astroturf organizations and “pass through” non-profits to hide where they get funding and policy direction.

I feel this has disastrous consequences for democracy.   Just look at the automated comment bombing of the regulations.gov website by Google proxy Fight For The Future.   Exactly 86,000 identical comments?  And there were not bots involved?  Come on.   Where is the DOJ on this?

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