In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Your 30 second performance

The music industry’s share of the entertainment pie is shrinking. Certainly part of the reason is people have many more ways to amuse themselves as compared to two or three decades ago. I’d like to think that the music industry’s own idiocy has contributed as well.

As their market share has dwindled, they’ve clawed at the remaining share like the passengers of a sinking ship struggle for the lifeboats. But now it seems the passengers of the sinking music industry are fighting each other for a larger share of what the public is willing to spend.

According to the CNet News article “Music publishers: iTunes not paying fair share,” ASCAP believes that they’re entitled to more money. They want three things:

  • A payment for movie downloads because they invariably contain music.
  • A payment for music streamed over Internet radio stations.
  • A payment for the 30 second sound samples a prospective buyer can listed to on iTunes.


Film makers license music for use in films. They pay a synchronization fee to ASCAP for this use. I was surprised to learn that when the film is shown in a theatre or broadcast on television, a performance fee is paid to ASCAP because these are considered public performances. Little known artists often forgo the synchronization fee to get their work into a film, both for exposure, and to get the performance fee. But when you stream or download a film from the Internet, no performance fee is paid.

Frankly, I can’t stretch the definition of ‘performance’ to include my watching a film I bought from iTunes on my iPod. If the artist gave away the synchronization fee, they knew full-well what they were doing. Don’t come after the listener because the artist gave away the farm.


The entire idea of Internet radio was under threat because the music industry wanted to charge fees for the use of music that would all but make it impossible to have streaming radio be a viable business. Happily, they managed to hammer out a deal, though Internet radio isn’t what it used to be because the ‘broadcasters’ have to pay a significant fee to use the music.

So if the Internet radio stations have to pay to broadcast the music, why aren’t the artists getting a cut of the payment? If they aren’t, it’s not the listeners’ fault.


iTunes and many other on-line music retailers offer you the ability to listen to a 30 second clip of a song before you buy it. The consumer is far more likely to make a purchase when they’re certain they’re getting what they want. To claim that this sample is a performance shows how far the music industry has fallen. Who sits and listens to the samples for entertainment? It’s a ridiculous thought. The sample is advertisement, pure and simple.

You can bet that if ASCAP somehow managed to make this ridiculous proposal happen, the samples would disappear from iTunes overnight. Apple wouldn’t put up with that crap. It would be lovely if sales fell and ASCAP received less money, as a result.

The more I hear, the more I see the music industry acting like those passengers from the sinking ship. The number of lifeboats has been reduced but they’re all going to kill each other to get the seat they believe they are entitled to. As a result, they’ll all drown.

Good riddance, too. People like music. People will pay for music. The music industry, in its current form, can not survive. Either it changes, or it dies and something else takes its place. Either way, people will continue to enjoy music and someone will be there to service the public’s appetite for music. Based on its actions, the industry is choosing to die rather than change, so I wish they’d get on with it, already!


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1 Comment

  1. Shawn

    When was the last time you actually heard on of the artists complain about this stuff. I can’t recall. It seems to be the big guys at the top who are losing their big fat cash cows that are moaning. I can’t remember the exact words, but itunes is the largest seller of music now. Apple will not stand for anything that messes with this success.

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