Posts Tagged ‘#irespectmusic’

#irespectmusic and #savesoho Join Forces in London, Tuesday, April 18!

April 17, 2017 1 comment

IRM London

BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt hosts this very special event.

The Save Soho pop-up venue returns to The Union Club for a special meeting bewteen two artists, both well known for their activism in the music sector. Blake Morgan, from New York – founder of #IRespectMusic and Tim Arnold from London – founder of Save Soho.

This will be a chance to hear both artists perform as well as hear each of them discuss their passion for protecting the rights and freedoms of the creative communities in the UK and the U.S with their campaigns.

The Reservation continues the Soho tradition to support emerging artists.. For this event we are delighted to welcome singer Sara Strudwick in her debut London show.

Make your reservation now….

Guest Post from @RadioCleveKKG: Paradigm Shift

September 5, 2016 Comments off

[Editor Charlie sez:  Karoline Kramer-Gould is the bravest person we know.  Karoline was the long time Music Director of Cleveland’s tastemaker college AAA station WJCU who spoke out about her views on the issue and the tactics of the all-powerful National Association of Broadcasters in the NAB’s opposition to paying artist royalties for the sound recordings they built their business on.  Karoline became a vocal advocate for the bi-partisan Fair Play Fair Pay Act and to date is the only person who actually put their job on the line for artists which is what can happen when you speak truth to power.

Karoline spoke truth to power when she co-authored a letter with recording artist Blake Morgan (of the #irespectmusic campaign) to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte expressing her support for Fair Play Fair Pay in opposition to the powerful NAB. The letter to Chairman Goodlatte is reproduced in Chris Castle’s interview with Karoline published in the Huffington Post.

Karoline left WJCU shortly after speaking out, and was invited to meet with many Members of Congress about the bi-partisan Fair Play Fair Pay act in support of artist pay for radio play.  She now reflects on her experience in a blog post we reproduce with Karoline’s permission from her blog at  And don’t forget to sign the petition at!]

Paradigm Shift:


1. a dramatic change in the paradigm of a scientific community, or a change from one scientific paradigm to another.


A friend who works as a radio promoter called me last week to catch up. During the conversation, he asked me if I’m still looking for work in radio. I told him I didn’t think so. He was sad and tried to encourage me to continue to look for work in that field. He said he misses me. That a lot of promoters miss me. That I have so much to offer to radio.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation.

Two weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to create and program a new Internet radio station. I declined. There was one simple reason. I don’t want to work in radio again.

I miss discovering and sharing new music. I miss the weekly chats with label folks and indie promoters. I miss artist interviews and concerts.

I love the time I spent in radio. I learned a lot. I made wonderful lifelong friends.

I used to think I couldn’t really be happy if I wasn’t working in radio. Now I know that I can finally be happy because I’m NOT working in radio any longer.

Most folks who work in radio have always worked in radio, starting in college. I didn’t start working there until I was in my 30s. I was a business professional in love with IT.

When I first started in radio, I was amazed at a lot of things that seemed normal there – things that would never fly in any other field. Behaviors, ideas, hierarchies. Outdated methodology for charts and advertising. I thought that radio people lived in a bubble. I still do. I loved the bubble. But now that I’m no longer there I can look at it and once again see how out of touch the industry is.

When the letter supporting #FairPlayFairPay and subsequent Huffington Post article came out in October, 2015, it struck a chord with the general public and musicians all over the world. I received hundreds of tweets and messages of support and encouragement. That overwhelming support was balanced by the near silence from the radio industry.

I left the radio station I was working with and began applying for jobs in the radio field. I didn’t receive rejection letters, just silence. At first I thought I was overthinking it – that there was something else going on, it wasn’t the letter and article. I wasn’t that important. But the longer I’ve been confronted with that silence, the more it confirmed my fears that I closed the door on that career path by speaking out.

When that realization hit, I was angry. Strike that. I was livid. I was furious that those who worked for larger stations in bigger markets didn’t say anything or acknowledge what I did. Their silence, to me, spoke volumes about their being complicit in the attempt to deny artists their basic rights – to be paid fairly for their work.

I cursed those taste-maker programmers I knew. They had an opportunity to join me. To raise their voices and add to the strength of the musicians. What kept them silent? Fear of upsetting the status quo? Or was it the biggest trap of all – safety? Perhaps they are safe and comfortable where they are and can’t fathom losing it?

I don’t know the answer. I only know that their silence speaks volumes to me. The people who claim to love music and artists, yet continue to work in a field that denies artists fair compensation, are showing us whose side they are on: their own.

On. Their. Own.

I will never join them in that complicit silence again.


Blake KKG Conyers

Blake Morgan, Karoline Kramer-Gould, Rep. John Conyers

Remarks at the California Copyright Conference #irespectmusic Grassroots Advocacy Panel with Adam Dorn, Karoline Kramer Gould, David Lowery and Blake Morgan

February 10, 2016 Comments off

Photo courtesy @amyraasch

What a great way to start Grammy Week!  Last night Adam Dorn, Karoline Kramer Gould, David Lowery and Blake Morgan came together to tell their personal stories and they let me moderate.  Each of them has an inspiring story of how they came to their personal epiphany, their inspiration to turn to advocacy as part of their lives.

And in case it wasn’t clear–we were recruiting!  Follow them on Twitter through the ‪#‎irespectmusic‬ and @theblakemorgan, @radioclevekkg @davidclowery @moceanworker and @musictechpolicy.

The following are my introductory remarks to the panel:

Successful advocacy sits on a three legged stool whether we like it or not—lobbyists, campaign contributions and individual action.  The music industry and the larger entertainment industry has largely failed to achieve successful advocacy.  We still have essentially the same problems today that we had 15 years ago and the industry is at least half its former size.  In case you haven’t noticed, the cavalry is not coming.

Why?  At the end of the day, until politicians think they may get unelected if they don’t listen, they’ll smile, take our money and our votes, and do nothing.

Blake KKG Conyers

There is one leg of the stool that we have some control over—individual action.  Any of us have the ability to take action and stand up rather than wait for some miracle from Washington.  That action can range from a Tweet to putting our jobs on the line—and since our jobs are on the line anyway, we may as well tweet about it.  And until we can deliver bodies at the polling place no one will fear getting unelected.

You’re going to have a lot of people asking for your vote in the next few months.  They’re not shy about asking you for money and your vote, so you need not be shy about asking how they are going to vote on your issues.  If that sounds aggressive, it is.  In the long run, we may get a fair and just revision of the Copyright Act, but as the economists say, in the long run we’re all dead.  The NAB has outlived generations of artists and songwriters and Google is learning from their example.

All of our speakers tonight have had this epiphany in one form or another and all of their stories are inspiring examples of individual action. Blake Morgan took on Pandora and Big Radio and founded the #irespectmusic campaign. Karoline Kramer Gould joined Blake in supporting the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act and became an inspiration to all of us. Adam Dorn started SONA out of spontaneous meetings with songwriters who were confounded by the state of the industry. And David Lowery started writing the Trichordist blog as a cathartic blog that has inspired thousands and is widely read.

doug collins

As far as the moderator is concerned, my own epiphany in starting the MusicTechPolicy blog 10 years ago was largely the same—why is the news all bad and why isn’t the market producing an outlet for truth.

The #irespectmusic campaign grew out of Blake Morgan’s personal advocacy and opposition to Pandora’s Internet Radio Fairness Act. His viral posts on the Huffington Post about IRFA and what he perceived as Pandora’s deceptive PR tactics trying to enlist artist support against their own interest led directly to his advocacy in support of a performance royalty for terrestrial radio.

After IRFA failed to pass, Blake started an online petition to support a terrestrial radio royalty—and issue campaign as opposed to a particular piece of legislation. The petition has had over 13,000 signatures so far from music makers and music lovers. That made it easy to attach the #irespectmusic hashtag to the Fair Play, Fair Pay act when it was introduced by Blake’s Congressman, Jerry Nadler.


While the #irespectmusic campaign started with artist pay for radio play, it soon evolved into a campaign for fair treatment for all creators. This lead in turn to his recent lobbying trip to the Senate supporting the Songwriter Equity Act and an alliance with the NMPA.

Adam, Blake, David and Karoline all have inspired each other to continue in their individual advocacy and we hope can inspire you, too.



The MTP Interview: Blake Morgan and David Lowery on the CRB Rates

December 17, 2015 1 comment

MTP had a chance to catch up to Blake Morgan and David Lowery for an interview about the CRB rates announced yesterday.  This is the first of the two posts with Blake Morgan, read David Lowery’s interview here.

MTP: How do you feel about the CRB decision in general as far as rates go?

While I’m happy the Copyright Royalty Board raised Pandora’s non-subscription royalty rate by 21%, I can’t celebrate fully. The fact that webcasting rates were cut by 25% makes this mostly a wash, and flies in the face of basic respect for music makers.

MTP:  Was this more of a victory for the Pandora/Google MIC Coalition or for artists?

Overall, Pandora is going to have to pay 15% more than they have been paying, so it’s certainly not a victory for Pandora/MIC. Artists are going to get more, so that’s a win. However, it could have been a slam-dunk victory for artists, and I feel this is more of a squeaker.

MTP: Do you feel compensated for the value lost from the last CRB when Pandora got the CRB rates cut substantially?  Do you think that the CRB had in mind restoring what was taken away the last time around?

It’s hard for me to climb inside their heads, but it does feel like the CRB decided to make a “some for them over here, and some for them over here” kind of decision. This is a significant cost increase for Pandora, but it’s still less then what we wanted––so it’s like the CRB tried to drive right down the middle. If they were trying to restore what’d been taken away last time, and that’s all, then that would be really disappointing to me.

MTP:  How about no rate increases in the out years other than indexing to the Consumer Price Index?  I saw someone online suggesting that essentially froze the 2016 royalty rate and just adjusted for inflation so that artists essentially would be paid 2016 value for the next five years.

Yeah, that’s a little how I feel. But, I hope it doesn’t matter because there’s such a strong possibility that Pandora won’t even be around in five years. At least if they continue to run their business the way they have been recently.

MTP:  The press seems to always refer to the fact that Pandora “hasn’t turned a profit” yet, and tries to create this impression that Pandora is an otherwise well run company with $1.1 billion in revenue, zero debt, government mandated below market vendors, SG&A over 40% that’s going on an acquisition binge for unrelated businesses with no regard for integration costs—that also can’t manage to “turn a profit”.  Does anything bother you about that press profile?

I have yet to meet a music maker who isn’t bothered by this. Far too many people have noticed that Pandora’s founder, Mr. Westergren, has bought and is building what’s being widely reported as a “massive” mansion, with 14 bathrooms. Not turning a profit? How full of shit do you have to be to need 14 bathrooms in your house, man.

MTP:  What’s the reaction in the #irespectmusic community to this latest move by the MIC Coalition?  Do the new CRB rates make getting a royalty for terrestrial more or less important?

Securing a terrestrial radio royalty for artists remains the singular issue in this fight for music makers’ rights and respect that everyone I talk to supports. They agree it’s embarrassing that we have to even talk about it, that it’s embarrassing for us as a nation to not have it, and it’s critical in winning. Simply put: it couldn’t be more important. It’s a century overdue, and it’s time to get this done for American music makers.

Music Director at WJCU Breaks with National Association of Broadcasters in Letter to Congress Supporting Artist Pay for Radio Play

December 13, 2015 Comments off

[Editor Charlie sez: It’s the end of 2015 and it’s time to look over the good news that came during the year.  For those MTP readers who missed the interview with Karoline Kramer-Gould, the heroic Music Director at tastemaker college radio station WJCU, here’s the reprint from Chris’s blog on Huffington Post.  If you already saw it, it’s well worth a re-read to remind you that we do have friends–a lot of friends–in radio who support treating artists fairly and who have devoted their lives to music every bit as much as artists and musicians have.  What makes Karoline so special is that she was willing to stand up for what she believes in and speak truth to the MIC Coalition.]

The United States is the only democracy in the world that does not pay recording artists for radio airplay. Artists and record labels have been fighting a legislative battle for decades to bring the U.S. in line with the rest of the world, but the powerful broadcasters lobby has always beaten them back.

U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Marsha Blackburn recently introduced legislation titled the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act” as another effort to fix this problem. This time the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”) has joined forces with Google, Pandora and many other companies to fight the bill.

I’m pleased to have a chance to interview Karoline Kramer-Gould, the courageous Music Director of Cleveland’s tastemaker college AAA station WJCU about her views on the issue and the NAB’s tactics. Ms. Kramer-Gould has broken ranks with the NAB and co-authored a letter with recording artist Blake Morgan (of the #irespectmusic campaign) to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte expressing her support for Fair Play Fair Pay. The letter to Chairman Goodlatte is reproduced below after the interview with Ms. Gould.

How long have you worked in radio? Have you always worked at NPR/CPB stations or have you also worked at commercial broadcasters?

I’ve worked in radio for 14 years. I started out as a DJ for a AAA Internet radio station and later I took over as MD/APD. Meanwhile, I was hired by WNCX in Cleveland to start up a 30 minute public affairs show called Greater Cleveland Forum, which ran for almost 4 years on WNCX, WAPS, and WJCU. That led to joining WJCU in 2006 as the Music Director for the AAA format “The Heights”. So, I’ve worked in Internet radio, at non-commercial radio, and in a more limited capacity, at a commercial station as well.

What’s your role at WJCU?

I am the Music Director for The Heights, the AAA format on the station, WJCU. I am, as I always have been, a contract employee (1099 and all).

We’ve always viewed college radio and AAA as outlets for new music and helping artists find an audience in comparison to commercial broadcasters who typically are largely interested in artists who already have an audience. Not to put too fine an edge on that because there are many examples of commercial radio getting behind a new artist who is getting traction, but as a general rule I think it’s fair to say that they rarely get behind a new artist early. Do you agree with that assessment?

I absolutely agree with that assessment. One of the great things about the AAA format and Non-Commercial radio is the relationship we have with artists and musicians. It’s this format and these stations where new, up and coming, or less mainstream artists can get played and get a much needed chance to be heard.

It seems to me that YouTube, Spotify and Pandora cater to what I’d call the “lottery” method rather than the career building method of artist development. I don’t know as you could even call “YouTube stars” artist development at all because it ties the artist to a particular distribution platform–can you imagine “Walmart stars” or “WJCU stars”? What’s your view on the benefits of humans versus algorithms for music discovery and artist development?

A computer can never replace the power of the human touch. When I listen to music for The Heights I have only one focus: what will make my listeners sit up in their chair and reach for their phone to Shazam what they’re hearing? I play music that I think represents Cleveland. I measure my success in my job by the phone calls and emails I get from our listeners. Nothing else.

The NAB traditionally claims that the promotional value of radio compensates artists and record companies for any airplay royalty. It seems to me that commercial radio with its restrictive playlists spends more time keeping records off of their air than they do promoting music. In fact, we look to stations like yours to introduce new artists to your listening audience and not the commercial broadcasters. What do you make of this “promotion” argument?

I never hear the word “promotion”. I hear the word “exposure.” And I hate that word with the passion of a billion burning suns. When I hear it I think of some nasty greasy old man in a trench coat “exposing” himself to innocent young women. In this particular case though, that nasty greasy old man is the NAB. To imply that artists should be willing to work for free invalidates everything about them and what they have spent years working on. I would never ask any other skilled professional to work for free and it disgusts me that the radio industry finds it acceptable. Not only that, but the fact that some musicians find it okay makes me think of Stockholm Syndrome. It horrifies me that so many people have been brainwashed to believe it’s acceptable–it not only lessens their hard work but also lessens them as human beings.

I’d be interested in knowing how you perceive the #IRespectMusic movement and the effort to bring US broadcasters into line with the rest of the world. What’s your view on these developments?

I heard about the movement as soon as Blake Morgan started posting on social media. I embrace it and support it completely.

You’ve given me a copy of an email from an organization called the “Free Radio Alliance.” We did an extensive dive on the stations supporting the Free Radio Alliance and a majority were Clear Channel stations (#irespectmusic Looks Deeper: The Free Radio Astroturf Alliance Fights Artist Pay for Radio Play) This makes it look a lot like the National Association of Broadcasters. Have you ever heard from this organization before and how is it that they are reaching out to your station for membership?

I have never heard of this organization before, and the only reason I saw it was because it was sent to my boss at WJCU, who then forwarded it on to me.

Do you feel that there’s pressure from the NAB to get stations like WJCU in line to oppose Fair Play Fair Pay for some reason? (Like blocking a potential alliance with artists?)

Of course there’s pressure, simply by the fact that this letter exists and was sent to Non-Commercial stations around the country. I don’t think they have any ulterior motive beyond the given, which is to rally every station in the United States to their cause and against artists getting paid. Which is sad and pathetic, because I don’t know any GM in AAA who wouldn’t do research on their own on this matter. This is a bill that benefits local radio, college radio, Non-Commercial radio.

The Free Radio Alliance recruiting email that you’ve disclosed [reproduced below] seems to try to invoke an “us against them” message by aligning broadcasters against record companies without really mentioning the artists. The letter to Chairman Goodlatte that you wrote with Blake Morgan resonated with me because it seemed like a natural agreement between two members of the creative community about an issue that is important to the entire ecosystem. What message are you sending to your colleagues in broadcasting by sending this letter to Chairman Goodlatte?

I want my colleagues to know that it’s ok to shout from the rooftops about our acceptance and support of musicians in the United States. I know that my speaking out may make continuing to work in radio an impossibility. But I don’t care. To know the NAB is trying to make the artists the bad guys in this scenario is ludicrous. Radio wouldn’t exist without music. We need the musicians to survive. Opposing this bill goes against all reasoning to me and seeing that lobbying letter bothered me so much I knew I had to do more than be a silent supporter of the cause.

What do you think is the fair resolution of the issue of artist pay for radio play?

A fair resolution is that artists should be paid for their work. I hope beyond hope that this bill passes.

Ms. Kramer-Gould’s letter with Blake Morgan to Chairman Goodlatte:

October 26, 2015

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
ChairmanCommittee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Goodlatte,

We’re writing to you out of respect for our individual professions, out of love for our families, and out of love for our country.

My name is Karoline Kramer-Gould and I’m the Music Director for WJCU, a non-commercial Triple-A radio station in Ohio that serves the greater Cleveland area.

My name is Blake Morgan and I’m a recording artist and songwriter living and working in New York City.

We’re writing to thank you for your leadership and to implore you to support H.R. 1733, the Fair Pay Fair Play Act of 2015. This bi-partisan bill would–for the first time in American history–ensure artists the rights to fair and reasonable royalties when their work is performed on AM/FM radio.

As you know, the United States is the only democratic country in the world where artists don’t get paid for radio airplay. Furthermore, the short list of countries that currently share the United States’ position on this issue includes Iran, North Korea, and Rwanda.

We’re writing to you together–and doing so now–with the urgent hope of dispelling the mythology that people in radio and people whose work is played on the radio are on opposite “sides” of this issue. The truth is, each of our livelihoods depend on middle-class artists and music makers being able to make a fair living from their work.

We’re writing to you to refute the factually inaccurate lobbying letters now circulating at radio stations like WJCU from the (so-called) Free Radio Alliance and the National Association of Broadcasters. Letters that aim to dissuade anyone in radio from supporting this much-needed reform. Letters that erroneously characterize this bill and assault common sense and reason.

The Fair Pay Fair Play Act rights an almost century-old wrong–one that now has our nation standing on the wrong side of history.

Music is one of the things America still makes that the world still wants. We believe the people who make that music should be paid fairly for their work.

Thank you for your courage in addressing these critical issues with such consideration as Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary.

Together and in music,

Karoline Kramer-Gould
Music Director, WJCU
Cleveland, OH

Blake Morgan
Artist and Songwriter
New York City, NY

The “Free Radio Alliance” letter:

Dear College Broadcasters, Inc. Member Media Outlet,

Please take a moment to read this letter, because proposed legislation in Congress could cost your student media outlet financially. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help stop new fees from being imposed on college broadcasters.

Right now, there is a bill (H.R. 1733) moving through Congress that would impose a performance royalty for every song radio stations play. This legislation applies to all broadcasters, both commercial and noncommercial, and the fees are in addition to what stations already pay in streaming royalties to the SoundExchange and copyright dues to BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Not only does this proposed law mean having to pay more in order to play music, H.R. 1733 has the potential to create significant new paperwork requirements for student media outlets.

If enacted, H.R. 1733, also known as the Fair Pay, Fair Play Act, would:

Add a new a performance royalty for sound recordings played on AM/FM radio on top of existing copyright and streaming royalty payments already in place

Put terrestrial, streaming and satellite radio all under a rate-setting standard that is most favorable to record labels and thus least favorable to radio stations and others who play record music

Set an initial royalty payment for college radio, public broadcasting stations, and other noncommercial broadcasters that will increase over time Establish a new public performance right for all recordings made before 1972 to significantly expand the number of songs subject to a performance fee

Supporters of the performance royalty recently told college radio stations that they will only have to pay $100 per year under H.R. 1733. However, H.R. 1733 contains language that is contradictory and open to interpretation, and the final royalty paid by student stations could be much higher. Equally important is the bill’s complex and burdensome record-keeping requirements that may force college radio stations to keep track of which songs and artists are played and how often, and report the size of the audience each song is reaching. Such census reporting for audio streaming has already proven difficult for student stations and without a reporting waiver, many college stations will not be able to comply with these new regulations.

In short, this proposed bill adds financial, administrative, and programmatic burdens to stations without addressing any of the challenges college stations face with current royalty statutes. If H.R. 1733 were to become law as is, your station will face new fees, more paperwork, and potential programming limitations that are likely to be harmful to your educational and public service missions.

When a performance royalty was imposed on the satellite and streaming industries twenty years ago, Congress, as well as the record labels, made clear that the new performance fee would NOT apply to terrestrial radio broadcasts. We at the Free Radio Alliance believe that this commitment must still be honored. That is why the Free Radio Alliance is working to prevent a performance royalty fee from being imposed on noncommercial and commercial stations alike.

The good news is that over 206 members of Congress have co-sponsored H.Con.Res. 17, the Local Radio Freedom Act. This resolution opposes a performance royalty. We have made great progress because radio stations have been active on Capitol Hill. But the threat is not going away any time soon.

Currently, the House Judiciary Committee is actively preparing for copyright reform legislation, which could provide an opening for the record labels to continue to move forward on a performance fee. To help combat these efforts, we hope your station will consider joining the Free Radio Alliance. There is no fee required and our only mission is to oppose a performance royalty. If you are not a member of the Free Radio Alliance and would like to be, please contact us at or call us directly at [_______].

In addition, we urge your support of our social media campaign. The Free Radio Alliance recently launched Listeners Not Labels to engage radio listeners in our fight. More than 240 million Americans listen to radio each week and we need your help engaging them. Please help us by:

Clicking here to send a tweet from your station’s Twitter account.

Clicking here to post a message on Facebook from your station’s account.

Following our account on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

Signing the petition asking federal lawmakers to oppose a performance tax and encouraging your radio and social media followings to do the same.

To learn more about this issue, please visit or

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. Thank you for taking the taking the time to read this letter and consider joining the Free Radio Alliance!


Peggy Binzel

Free Radio Alliance

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: Did President Obama Just Endorse Spotify During an FTC Investigation of Apple Music?

August 15, 2015 Comments off

The White House now has a Spotify account.  You would know this if you happened to run across the 500 or so stories about President Obama’s Spotify playlist in the news.  Is this a particularly remarkable occurrence?  Not really–except for one thing.  Something you won’t find in any of the earned media.

Spotify is behind an antitrust investigation into Apple Music by the Federal Trade Commission.  That would be the Federal Trade Commission that reports to…President Obama.  In the middle of a serious investigation into Apple, the White House–that is the “people’s house”–endorses Spotify.

WH Spotify

So how might this have come to pass–now.  Curious timing, wouldn’t you say?  Maybe not.  Aside from the fact that Kara Swisher of Re/Code reported that Google’s head business executive Omid Kordestani is on the Spotify board and ex-Google employees are in leadership roles at the White House (starting with Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States and former vice president of business development at Google), Spotify hired Jonathan M. Prince, the Obama Administration revolving doorman and Clintonista.

Jonathan Prince Employment Timeline–Open Secrets

One of Mr. Prince’s duties appears to be running Spotify’s brand new in-house shillery as reported by Tech Times:

Spotify recently hired four outside lobbying groups who have been privately questioning Apple’s practices in meetings with politicians. Specifically, Spotify has been alleging that Apple took advantage of its size and power in creating unfair deals with various record labels. Spotify is also raising the issue of Apple’s standard 30% fee on all subscriptions purchased through its App Store, the fee which Spotify recently notified its users they could cut by cancelling and resubscribing.

Spotify’s global head of communications and public policy, Jonathan Prince, described the company’s political intentions as a more general effort to keep lawmakers up to date on the latest developments in the area.

Right…just keeping “lawmakers up to date”.

Given Mr. Prince’s easy access to the White House, you have to wonder if keeping “lawmakers up to date” included coordinating an announcement and press event around the White House adopting Spotify, starting with President Obama’s playlist.

And it won’t just be President Obama–according to the official U.S. Government blog on, there’s going to be more to come.  As the White House tells us–subscribe!  Of course, you can only “subscribe” if you already have a Spotify account.  So what the White House is actually saying is “get a Spotify account!”

WH Spotify 2

How many press releases do you think Spotify is going to milk out of this one?

Not to mention fawning coverage like this from the L.A. Times:

The world’s most popular streaming service revealed on Friday that the world’s most powerful man, President Obama, and his administration have launched an official channel on Spotify, and will be contributing playlists to the service.

Maybe this was some kind of coded message to the FTC?  Is that phrase “the world’s most popular streaming service” a dog whistle for “slam these monopolists”?

What do you think?

Or do you think that this smacks of..whatchamacallit…crony capitalism?

According to the Spotify press release:

Over the years, the White House has continued to grow its social media presences and find new ways to connect with people all over the country through a range of platforms. On Spotify, you can expect to see the White House share playlists created by administration officials, as well as playlists curated around events and issues to engage the public and acquaint them with the people working in the administration.

Maybe we’ll see a playlists created by FTC commissioners?

No?  Oh, why ever not?

Do you think that the White House is participating in Spotify’s chest beating about being better than Apple Music?  That would be the Apple Music that scored 11 million subscribers in less than 2 months, nearly half of what it has taken Spotify 6 years to convert?

Don’t get sidetracked on this–this is not a political issue.  It’s also not a matter of whether President Obama or other White House folk use Spotify.  We all use a host of products.  Not all of us have a platform like the White House from which to endorse a product.

The point is that it appears that Spotify is using its lobbying muscle to (A) go after Apple Music at the FTC rather than just meeting Apple in the channel with their big boy pants, and (B) get the boss of the FTC to pick a winner.

Spotify definitely ain’t too proud to beg.  It smacks of real desperation, and however much artists may be flattered to be on the President’s playlist, I doubt they’ll be that flattered when they realize their music is being leveraged in the name of crony capitalism.

It stinks.  If they’re going to get the President of the United States to endorse their product, they could at least have the White House encourage subscriptions.

But then–he is the leader of the free world.

Guest Post: Five Reasons Why The Major Labels Didn’t Blow It With Napster by @thetrickness

May 30, 2015 2 comments

[Editor Charlie sez: We’re pleased to get a chance to repost this must read piece by industry veteran Jim McDermott who brings great insights into the Napster history and the flaws in the narrative that the tech press has so eagerly promoted. You can also read Chris’s 2008 interview about Napster with Andrew Orlowski in The Register, The Music Wars from 30,000 Feet.]

Guest post by Jim McDermott, originally posted on  Follow him on Twitter @thetrickness

For a long time, pundits have been saying that the major music labels blew it by suing Napster instead of doing a deal with them. It’s as though they’re obligated to repeat this like a mantra; the labels didn’t get it, they were clueless, they were asleep, how could they have missed such a golden opportunity, yadda yadda. Sift through all the reverential twaddle that’s written about Napster, and you’d think they walked into the major labels offering trays of gold and precious gems but were rebuffed.

These pundits weren’t there when Napster was going down, so to a degree they can be excused for not understanding all the complexities that were in play at the time. But increasingly, I’ve noticed a trend amongst former colleagues, people who worked at majors during the dawn of Napster and saw the rise of file sharing, people who should know better, saying we blew it with Napster too. Could be they’ve read so many articles spouting this opinion that they’ve adopted it themselves. Or maybe they say it because they don’t want to seem, you know, unhip.

Whatever the reason, it’s bullshit. The major labels were right not to compromise with Napster. I was VP of Electronic Music Distribution at Sony Music at the time, dealing with these issues day to day. Understandably, some people may think, what does it matter if the majors were right or not? They lost. But I think its important to understand the various facets and history of these events, if only to provide perspective for issues the industry is still dealing with today.  So, at the risk of being unhip, here are Five Reasons Why The Major Labels Didn’t Blow It With Napster.

1) The Economics Sucked: Here we are in 2015; Spotify, Pandora and other streaming services are struggling to become profitable. Artists complain how little they’re being paid, and consumers seem unwilling to pay more than $9.99 a month. It’s clear that selling music profitably, even all you can eat access that’s totally portable and personalized via widespread adoption of mobile devices, is difficult.

Now let’s look at things from the perspective of a major label in 2000. CD sales have contracted a bit, marketing costs are rising, but the music business has bounced back from economic challenges many times. The music business in all facets is cyclical. CD sales generate over 13 billion dollars in 2000; via an ecosystem that, despite flaws, is working fairly well. Artists are getting signed, records made, distributed, marketed, put on the radio, and sold. There is not only a perception that music has value, it is the reality. Then along comes Napster. Napster’s play is that their distribution network has par or greater value than the content, and that a nominal monthly fee ($10-20) is what the consumer would tolerate. This fee would be split between Napster and the labels.

Now, Napster didn’t approach labels to get licenses before they launched, they just put their software out there. Major labels were not in the habit of giving anyone licenses for unlimited replication and distribution of their masters, which is what Napster enabled, again, without consent by the rights holders. If you could even put a number on what such a license might be valued at by a major label in 2000, it would certainly be in the billions of dollars (because remember, 13 billion dollars worth of CDs, a tangible, countable product, were being sold annually at that time.)

So here are these Napster guys, sitting across from you in a meeting, saying “let’s make a deal, we’ll give you ten bucks a month per user, and hey, if you don’t do a deal with us, we’ll keep doing this anyway, because (smirk smirk), “fair use” enables us to do so.” Honestly, why would anyone do a deal under these circumstances? You’re got 13 billion dollars in revenue on one hand, and on the other a couple of guys politely extorting you to settle for ten bucks a month per user. NO WAY was that going to be a deal that happened in 2000; it’s not even a deal that makes sense today.

2) LOTS of Experimentation Was Happening: There’s a perception that the music industry did nothing but sue people during the Napster years, and that it wasn’t until Steve Jobs pushed the majors to license iTunes that anything got done. This is not correct, I know so because I was there and involved. The Madison Project was an experiment some of the majors did with Roadrunner cable in San Diego to test the viability of consumers buying, downloading and burning their own CDs. And this 1999 year end review in Billboard Magazine details a bunch of other projects and digital licensing deals that were happening at the time. At Sony Music, we were working with Liquid Audio, A2B, RioPort, Microsoft, Real Networks, Intertrust, Launch, and many others. In 1999/2000, Apple wasn’t really a player in digital music. It barely made sense to talk to them because they had no audience for music; the only presence Apple had at this time was when startup guys bought their pretty Powerbooks into meetings. Nobody was waiting for Apple to come along and save digital music (they had to buy SoundJam MP first anyway). Everyone was learning, but we had a responsibility to minimize mistakes while we learned. Rushing into a deal with Napster would have rendered all other efforts to develop a legitimate digital music marketplace stillborn – and frankly, it would have made the future success of the iTunes Music store literally impossible. Had a deal been done with Napster, iTunes would have looked radically different, if it existed at all.

3) The Responsibility to Artists & Stakeholders: Ahh, that word, responsibilityNapster was never burdened by that word. They couldn’t even promise they’d be able to say what tracks and which artists were downloaded on their service, because for one, the consumers were creating the metadata associated with those tracks when they uploaded them. Napster didn’t have to concern themselves with  getting publishing clearances from all the songwriters of a given track, or mechanical rights fees, or locating the film for the album artwork, or making sure the digital masters they uploaded had no artifacts – they didn’t care, and neither did the users of Napster, because it was all free. A label has a responsibility to the artists and their art, the rights holders, and yeah, to the retailers who are selling legitimate music products. We couldn’t wake up one day and say, OK Napster, you’ve got a GREAT idea, screw all those agreements, all that legacy and stewardship!

Invariably, people point out that labels exploited artists for years, and use that as some rationalization for file sharing. But all it really means is that Napster made it easy for the fans to screw the artists too, and a few entrepreneurs got really rich instead of label guys. You can’t support Napster by claiming some moral high ground.

4) The Genie Was Never Going To Get Back In The Bottle: It is wildly naive to think that doing a deal with Napster would have somehow contained file sharing. All you need to do is look at the decade following Napster’s demise and see that it was replaced by a never ending variety of peer-to-peer players, including services like Limewire and The Pirate Bay. Signing a deal with Napster, which would have turned it into a paid peer-to-peer service, would have instantly created a market for competing free (or ad-based) services. People get very philosophical about what Napster did to the marketplace, and the opportunities it created. But all it really proved was that all the music you can download for free with no consequences had great appeal. Once people got charged a fee, or got sued, they’d go elsewhere for their free music. Napster was never going to be an answer to anything, just the first in a long line of questions we’re still pondering today.

5) Legal Precedents Had To Be Established: I heard it in meetings many times – “we can’t do any deal with Napster until the court case is resolved and we have legal precedent on file sharing.” In the early 2000’s in the USA, majors were either licensing content to digital music services, or developing their own. If it was found that file sharing was “fair use”, as Napster argued, then the digital music marketplace would be dead overnight. Napster was available from June 1999 until July 2001 when it was ordered closed, just two years. But that was a very long period of “foundational erosion” for anyone trying to build a legitimate download marketplace to endure. It cannot be overstated how important it was to assert legally that the majors owned the digital distribution rights of their masters, and that file sharing was not “fair use”. That had to happen before any compromise could be considered.

Outside of America, the digital download marketplace was evolving a little bit slower; internet media consumption was limited due to bandwidth constraints, and some markets were more enthusiastic about mobile. It wasn’t certain that existing artist contracts included rights for digital downloads and streaming in all territories; in 2000, we had a whiteboard of tracks cleared for download sale in the USA, and for months it was just 80 songs – and Sony Music had a catalog of millions of tracks. So it wasn’t just about establishing legal precedent about fair use and file sharing, it was about labels proactively confirming their rights by actively exploiting/licensing them. This took time, which became compressed because of Napster’s arrival.

OK, here’s a bonus 6th reason 🙂 Just Because You Lose, It Doesn’t Mean You Did The Wrong Thing Fighting The Battle. Sometimes in life, you fight battles that end up being futile. Nobody wins all the time. But that doesn’t mean that fighting wasn’t the right thing to do just because you lost. In a December 2014 video piece from the New York Times, one of the original developers who worked on Napster recalls thinking, “If this piece of code works, this is going to be huge. And I had a moment there where I asked myself, is this morally correct? Technology’s advancing, this is going to happen anyway.” And of course, they launched Napster and it became huge. So you’ve got premeditation, prior knowledge of wrongdoing, an understanding that this would hurt someone – but they did it anyway.

There’s an old adage, and it applies all too often in the growth of giant digital media players: if you’re going to steal, steal big. Boost a $1000’s worth CDs and get caught, you could do four years in jail. Bootleg CD and record plants routinely got raided in the physical product days, product confiscated and arrests made. But Napster facilitated the theft of billions of dollars of intellectual property, and nobody really got punished. Well, certainly not the guys who created and ran Napster; although, quite a few music fans who used the service and got caught file sharing suffered hefty fines.

Obviously file sharing didn’t go away when Napster was shut down, and a segment of people still get music, movies and software this way. But file sharing didn’t end up being predominant way music gets consumed. The legal download business blossomed for a time, and now streaming is where things are happening – with licensing fees potentially headed upwards. So perhaps we didn’t “lose” the battle after all.

Napster really only proved that many people love free music, and if you enable them to steal something without feeling like they’re doing anything wrong, they’ll do it without qualms. These facts are nothing to build a business on, or get nostalgic about. No matter how hip it may be to do so.

If you made it this far – thanks for reading!

Jim McDermott

(note, these are just my opinions.)

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