Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

The monopoly corporations that reap billions through their control over the flow of music through the cultural “marketplace” also accrue the power to define who-is-who and what-is-what in the public mind. This is a kind of piracy on the high political/cultural seas. “If these corporations can define popularity it assures that today’s Belafontes, Robesons or Miriam Makebas cannot.”

 

Who You Callin’ A Pirate?!?!

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

It’s an absolute inversion of reality for the industry’s lobbyists to describe others a ‘pirates.’”

As a kind of follow up to last week’s commentary on shifting ownership in the music industry there is another recent development worthy of our attention. The last “mainstream U.S.-based” company “accused of employing music piracy as a business strategy,” the company now also described as “the last of its kind,” Lime Wire, has reached a settlementwith music industry’s watchdog the Recording Industry Association of America, the infamous RIAA. This settlement, of more than $100 million, is said to be largely about putting Lime Wire’s owner Mark Gorton into “huge debt” so as to make his a “powerful cautionary tale,” a warning to others who might think of getting rich by making corporate property available to the world for free.

The settlement is seen as a victory for the RIAA who “can now boast that they’ve driven file-sharing services underground and overseas.” It is the musical version of killing off the numbers game to develop state-run lotteries or the suppression of one drug trade in favor of a more harmful and deadly one managed by the pharmaceutical industry. In this case the danger of free exchange, or the threat that corporations may lose their stranglehold over managing popularity and the financial benefit that often follows, is the very “racket” to be controlled. So as one reporter notes, it’s “hard to tell” where any settlement money will go. “In the past” Greg Sandoval explains, “the RIAA has split up big awards with the four member labels.” And as a spokesperson for the RIAA said, “recouped” funds are usually “re-invested” into their “ongoing education and anti-piracy programs.”

It doesn’t take long to notice that nowhere in any discussion of settlements and compensation do artists get mentioned. And why should they? Their art is not their property and these trials have nothing to do with them. They and their art are highly coveted commodities owned by the subsidiaries of the world’s corporate elite. And this is also why it’s an absolute inversion of reality for the industry’s lobbyists to describe others a “pirates.” It is the industry that preys upon the colonized, takes advantage of their talent and desperation to achieve a life most of us have been propagandized to believe possible or necessary. It is the industry that needs this cultural extraction to occur in order to protect their already solidified positions atop the world’s social hierarchy. They too learned the lesson Harry Belafontesays was passed to him from Paul Robeson. “Get them to sing your song,” Belafonte recounts, “and they’ll want to know who you are.” This is about the power of definition. And if these corporations can define popularity it assures that today’s Belafontes, Robesons or Miriam Makebas cannot.

The RIAA who can now boast that they’ve driven file-sharing services underground and overseas.”

Gorton’s lawyer pointed out the hypocrisy apparent in industry claims that the online free exchange of music has cost them dearly. While crying broke these corporations have developed other revenue-generating operations like Internet radio, video game royalties and “ad dollars from YouTube.” It was also mentioned in court how, even amidst all this “theft,” the top three Warner Music executives somehow made more than $100 million in bonuses since 2004. Even this week it was reported that though Universal Music Group’s first quarter is down a whopping .09% since last year its parent company Vivendi’s first quarter is up, due in part to those “other revenue streams,” to $1.36 billion. That’s not bad for a first quarter net income especially when it would likely take the life-time earnings of all the families in the history of all the families of all who hear this commentary to maybe come within a tenth of that number.

So the legalized, institutionalized theft of our cultural expression by the “lords of capital” has now again made illicit the use of new technology to subvert their ability to determine who among us gets to be popular and to what extent artists may benefit from the commercial sale of their art. We’d all be better off bootlegging industry product and sending the artists $5 directly. We all would pay less for the music we want and our favorite artists would make more per sale than they do now. It sounds like a win-win situation to me.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit us at www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press) and can be reached via:IMixWhatILike.com

Direct download: 20110518_jb_Pirates.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:51am EDT