I started participating in meetings held by what was then a little group of musicians and other artists including Marc Ribot, Melvin Gibbs and Rosanne Cash, who were, like most of us "lifer" musicians, completely frustrated by the almost total lack of respect we, and other "content creators" experience in this country, especially when it comes to getting paid. David Byrne was sitting behind me, and while he talked of some things getting a bit better, I knew that he and lots of other people had been blogging about how problematic many of these issues continue to be: piracy and theft of intellectual property, the downturn in the music industry in general, with music especially being transformed into free manna for the downloading masses and clickbait for ads.
For me and my crowd, this discussion takes place but its like complaining about the weather - no one feels they can do anything about it. But this group seemed smart and determined, and, listening to them speak, a waning fire began to stoke in my gut.
The first challenge was to find an issue EVERYONE could get behind. Not about downloading or piracy. Our own ranks are divided about that and we can't start with Zen vs. Theravada. It has to be Creationism vs. Evolution as an obvious no-brainer rallying point.
Case in point - Aretha Franklin. You know that song R-E-S-P-E-C-T? Aretha didn't write that, so she never made any money off the publishing. She performed it lots, and it's been played on the radio to three generations. She never made a penny off that radio play, ever, anywhere on Earth. Why? Because like North Korea, Iran, and two or three other totalitarian hellholes, the United States does not require the payment of radio royalties for performers. The jive, corporate yammer argues, "If we pay musicians it will bankrupt this country! We will lose jobs!" etc. etc. blah... Same shit you hear when they want to raise the minimum wage to equal TWO Big Macs. Bottom line is, Sweden, India, Japan, France, name a country here that isn't said totalitarian hellhole OR the US - that's a country that DOES pay its artists royalties for radio play, with no cataclysmic results anyone knows of. Also, those cool countries that do pay? Well, when Mudville got played on the radio in Finland when we toured there, we had no mechanism for collecting that money the cool Finnish radio station was law-bound to pay us, nor when we got played in Japan or Germany or Brazil. US law doesn't make them pay so our collecting agencies don't collect.
Good call Marc, et. al.
So, on February 25th, Mike Mills and I are going to perform a song that James and Bobby Purify recorded and got a hit with and which they didn't write and thus never got paid for the gazillions of times it was played on radio worldwide. So many hit songs resulted in the writer getting paid $$$ and the performer, without whom the song would NOT have been a hit, getting nothing.
Go to c3action.org, please sign the petition and get involved. Every signature goes as an email directly to a member of Congress. Come and see the show on the 25th, its free!
Tuesday, February 25th, 6:00 pm
Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleeker St. | New York, NY | EVENT PAGE LINK
with David Byrne, Marilyn Carino, Mike Mills (REM), John McCrea (Cake), Wendy Oxenhorn, Marc Ribot and Chris Ruen