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The RIAA and Clear Channel may be the first place to blame the struggles of indie music, however oddly enough we can take so much from what they offer to the music industry.
Personally I have worked in the music industry for over 10-years, specifically the indie music scene. During those years I have read articles, emails and personal contacts from both the industry and artists on the scene. Through so many of these contacts the same tone seems to ring "We hate the RIAA and Clear Channel for squeezing the independent artist out of the mainstream listening audience".
Today, over 10-years later, I wonder if anyone really understands who has caused the squeezing of the indie music scene. Indie music was not squeezed out of the mainstream listening audience by the RIAA or Clear Channel it was squeezed out by the Indie Music Community (I use community loosely).
For years I personally have contacted thousands of musicians, labels, recording studios, magazines, ezines, promotion companies, web casters, and any other aspect of the community to join together for one single cause, support and promote indie music. Embarrassing, as it is this is when I found there was no Indie Community just opportunists looking at their checkbooks. 90% of those that I have suggested to come together either do not answer me entirely or their first response is "What's in it for us?" I suppose to these people making indie music legitimate is not a good enough reason.
The RIAA describes itself as: "The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members' creative and financial vitality. Its members are the record companies that comprise the most vibrant national music industry in the world. RIAA members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States."
Without arguing with what they refer to as "legitimate sound recordings", we still can grasp a lot about how this organization works. The RIAA is a combined group of Industry Leaders who have come together to promote their artists, much like a co-op. While they state they represent "90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States" I would be willing to say if factoring in the recordings not legitimate "Indie Music and Labels" the percentage would drastically change the music landscape.
So what makes Indie Music not legitimate? Pretty simple, the Indie Music Community does not exist. It has taken these ten-plus years to recognize or even admit to this reality, who really wants to admit that the industry they have committed their life to is nothing more then separate and weak companies, organizations and individuals who remain happy playing "second fettle" to mainstream media.
The best example of the lack of dedication to indie music within the community is Clear Channel. One of the United States largest broadcasting networks only accomplished their growth because so many independent stations were willing to sellout. Clear Channel has repeatedly urged the FCC not to allow more broadcasters because it will interfere with their airwaves; they have forgot the whole name "Public Airwaves". A simple requirement for FCC licensing is your broadcasting serves the community, can someone please tell me how Clear Channel serves the community? Furthermore, why do they still hold FCC licensing?
Clear Channel has been allowed to practice a monopoly in so many areas not just with broadcasting but also some of the largest music venues in the nation. Not only has this organization caused a monopoly while the FCC patted their back, but they also dabble in the illegal act of bribery. Clear Channel makes it a practice to broadcast music by those artists who agree to use their venues exclusively, this has not been a secret for some time, so again why do they still have a FCC license?
So how does an Indie Artist get in the door of a large listening radio station? The best way to accomplish radio play with the "legitimate" recordings is hire an Independent Music Promoter. Independent Music Promoters are the middlemen between the record company and stations who have the legal right to offer "promotional payments". With this six-figure payment the label then pays the promoter for each single added to each stations play list. Nothing wrong with this, I mean after all every grocery store you frequent has a paid display from Coke or Pepsi, right? The difference here brings us back to the phrase "Public Airwaves", meaning the broadcast actually belongs to the public. Independent Promoters and the radio networks are selling the public; this is theft of public property, your property.
While the RIAA and broadcasters admit the practice of Independent Promoters, both lay the responsibility of stopping the practice on each other. Truth is if the RIAA stops the use of Independent Music Promoters their music will not be heard, and if the radio networks stop the practice they could stand to loose millions of dollars.
Meanwhile the RIAA spends millions of dollars a year on Independent Music Promoters and expects us to believe their "poor mouth" talk when forcing themselves into the electronic distribution arena and endorsing larger royalty payments for Internet Radio, almost double of that paid by traditional broadcasters. This falls on another attempt to squeeze out indie music from the public listening audience.
After all is said and done, what is the lesson we can learn and apply to the indie music community?
The community has no unity to effectively promote indie music or force changes in the FCC laws. The RIAA had the foresight to know that creating a co-op of recording labels would offer an effective promotional tool and leverage to effect radio broadcasting and retail sales. Clear Channel also had the foresight to know there were hundreds of broadcasters willing to "sellout", much like what I have seen in the indie industry and their focus of "What's in it for me?" Clear Channel knew the larger their broadcasting network the more they would control the music industry as a whole. Clear Channel now holds the two top players in their back pockets, the RIAA and FCC. While none will admit this, it only takes someone who can think on their own and draw their own conclusions to realize the truth.
I guess it is a safe bet that a large majority of the public does not fall under these criteria's for understanding the music industry. If even a small portion of the public understood I would call for class action law suites against the RIAA, Clear Channel and FCC for theft of our property, bribery, creating a monopoly and deceiving the public by swaying the music charts through the use of Independent Music Promoters.
I know this is all my personal fantasy of events, however wouldn't it be something to see those who say they support the indie musician to put their words into action and stand as one and say "We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it any more!"
Clear Channel is used as an example, however most major radio networks practice the same business operations and ethics. Clear Channel is used because they have become the easiest target in the indie community.