Saturday, October 19, 2013

God Bless The Turtles!

By Peter Rodman

God bless the Turtles. First, a little history, if you will...
For over 35 years, I have been openly critical--both in print, and on the air--of the "record industry" (as we used to call it) which, time after time, bungled their business with a "defense" that was both lazy and greedy. Oh--and did I mention "crazy," too? As far back as 1977 I wrote a series of columns in defense of used record stores, who were beginning to be harrassed (by actual police) for so-called "theft," just for re-selling used albums they'd bought from customers. I received many threatening letters (which I still have) from ASCAP and BMI back then.
But their response to a changing market grew even more hysterical after that.
The record companies tried to stop cassette recorders from even being marketed. They price-fixed CDs (which cost them 60 cents to make) at $16, for decades. As the internet grew (another innovation they railed against), instead of negotiating better royalty rates (or building them into the hardware itself!!!) they labeled the vast majority of their consumers "pirates," thus permanently alienating their own consumer base--and even tried to stigmatize the passing around of 'mix tapes.'
All of it, completely wrong-headed.
In short, the record business became an industry of misguided bullies.
Having said that, I have also maintained (all along) that better royalties were the key responsibility of the *performance rights* organizations--who, if they'd ever stop focusing on banquets, awards, and shaking down some bowling alley operator in the desert for a minute, might have kept up with the times, in defense of the creators!!! (Question: Why don't everything from patch cords to jewel cases have a royalty built into the price? Answer: Because if your Manhattan address is "1 ASCAP Plaza," the money and effort is obviously focused elsewhere.)
Well, finally somebody is taking the right approach--and as you may have guessed, it's NOT a record company, nor BMI or's an artist.
Flo & Eddie, a/k/a "The Turtles," have bravely stepped forward to take the fight to court, state-by-state if necessary. They are suing Sirius because they receive NO performance royalties for anything before 1972, based upon a horribly flawed federal copyright law. (Unlike many, I have no problem with the low rates Pandora or YouTube pay, IF they are the agreed-upon rates between them and the performance rights organizations. Got a problem with it? Blame BMI, for not doing their job!)
But this is not about "rates."
Sirius brazenly pays NOTHING to any artists, for any of their work prior to 1972--essentially building a large part of their business model on freeloading--and right now, they're getting away with it.
To their great credit, Mark Vollmann and Howard Kaylan have become the first to stand up and say, "No more."
To which I say, "BRAVO!!!" As the past has clearly shown, only artists are going to be able to stand up for artists.
Such a pity, the pathetic "record industry" couldn't (or wouldn't) do it.
******************GOD BLESS THE TURTLES!!!***************

Please direct all angry and/or threatening letters to:
Peter Rodman
1 Rodman Plaza
Nashville, Tennessee

Here's the story which inspired this commentary:

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