F*ck you very much, RIAA

In their ever-increasing goal on complete music homogenization and greed, the RIAA-sponsored SoundExchange Royalty Program has strong-armed a new ruling through the United States Copyright Royalty Board that basically starts charging all webcasts of music a fee for doing so, on a per-listener, per-song basis. Read the article above to get the lowlights, but basically this ruling means the end of streaming radio as we know it – if they can even afford to survive, internet radio would have to be saddled with so many ads it would become … well, broadcast radio. Similarly, to generate income, they would have to rely on being fed that same shitty, boring and ‘artist of the moment’ crap that most stations play over the airwaves now.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the purpose of the federal government was to:
a) provide a national defense
b) mediate in intra-state disputes
c) guarantee the civil rights of it’s citizens
d) regulate interstate commerce

Even in the broadest definition of (d), cow towing to an industry group that has been PROVEN TO PRICE FIX (with their own settlement being further bullshit), as well as lie about the money it collects, doesn’t seem to be in their charter. And yet, here they are – giving them royalties for playing music, retroactive to 2006! It’s sickening, and it might just be enough for me to never buy an RIAA-sanctioned artist’s music again. I’m sick of this greedy, little cabal getting their hands into everything, and threatening to litigate at the slightest hint of music theft; if they were any good at what they are doing, wouldn’t they have figured out how to distribute the music and make money with a model that works? iTunes did it, but every method that the RIAA puts out there fails miserably – because they are monopolistic, greedy and oft-horribly designed ideas that only make sense to the penny-pinchers and lawyers.

In response, a vast number of webcasters went silent yesterday to protest the ruling. I doubt it will do any good, unfortunately, but I liked seeing it even if it meant that I was cut off of many of my streams of music. I think we have just seen the end of streamed music as we know it – and the only thing that will come out of it is another crappy RIAA-sponsored idea that strangles the market with lame, label-forced music that no one ones to hear, forcing out what we want – in other words, why we turned to streamed music in the first place.

My only hope is that there are enough independent artists out there to create their own version that bypasses the RIAA completely. If they do, sign me up.


5 Responses to “F*ck you very much, RIAA

  • I completely agree with you about how crappy all of this is, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Frankly, I’m surprised they put up with Internet broadcasting as long as they did.

    I think this is another example of the RIAA being right in theory, but acting like idiots in practice. I do think they’re right to say that you can’t just broadcast their music without any form of permission or compensation. It certainly doesn’t fall under fair use. However, their strong-arm tactics make them look like assholes.

    Just like they’re right about copyright infringement (which is not theft) being wrong. It’s illegal to pirate music, but suing your customer base is never a good idea.

    Ultimately, you’re right. The RIAA’s business model is dated, and they aren’t adapting. But we still aren’t seeing massive consumer backlash, even after selling defective CDs or even ones with RootKits on them! What is it going to take for consumers to get pissed off?

  • I concur with apertome’s points. The RIAA always seems about 3 years behind where they should be. I have yet to see them actually do anything positive for artists on the whole.

    By the same token, why are my tax dollars going towards investigating MLB players taking steroids 5 years ago?

  • I’ll be honest and say I don’t really listen to streamed music. But I agree with some of Michael’s points. Mostly, I understand, as someone who values the stuff I make and think and create, that I’d be pissed if people were using it without my knowledge and permission. However, I think pissing off your customers is not a wise idea. But people still buy music and people still ‘steal’ music. The RIAA, no matter how asshole-y, won’t stop people from buying CDs and no matter how restrictive, won’t stop people from illegally listening to music. But I do think it is their right to try …

  • But many streamcasters – such as WXPN, Pandora, etc. were paying fees to broadcast music. They pay fees in form of their BMI licenses which allow them to play a vast array of songs without having to get individual permission to play each one. Those fees are pretty high, and a cost of business, which I understand.

    What the RIAA is doing here is basically double-dipping – ‘we understand that you pay for the right to broadcast this under your umbrella BMG license, but now we’d like you to pay per user per song, as well.’.

    From USA Today:

    “Many Web stations already pay copyright royalties to songwriter organizations. This new fee — which traditional over-the-air radio stations don’t pay — goes to record companies.”


    From MSNBC:

    “The fee hike will only affect Internet radio, not terrestrial AM and FM, because of a strange wrinkle in copyright law: broadcast stations pay royalties only for the composition as a piece of intellectual property—these are the fees that go to songwriters through ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. But in 1995 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lobbied Congress to pass a law that would require an additional performance fee specifically on digital music. So Internet radio stations pay both the composition fee plus an additional royalty for the performance of the song—the actual act of streaming it online. This fee goes to record companies and artists through SoundExchange, an independent body set up by the RIAA to collect and distribute digital royalties.”

    So, it’s not like they are ripping off the music – they pay for the right to play it. But the RIAA is … shall I dare say it, being greedy. Ironically, according to this article, the very organizations that are forcing these fees – the Performing Rights Organizations (such as ASCAP, BMI, etc.) are also guilty of unfairly distributing the wealth. Basically, many times they charge for the right to broadcast a song, but if the song doesn’t qualify for reimbursement to the artist, they receive nothing or nearly nothing… interesting how that works out, isn’t it?

  • Thanks for clarifying that, Marty — I misunderstood and thought that people weren’t paying at all and were complaining that now they had to pay. In that case, I’d have little sympathy. But this double-dipping is outrageous.

Leave a Reply