National Public Radio stations around the U.S. have long been great friends and allies of artists. Artists have long been great friends and allies of National Public Radio stations. The friendship has been based on a bona fide mutual admiration. The stations are tastemakers and the artists give the stations something to make taste about.
Make no mistake–this is what makes NPR different from Clear Channel, Pandora and Google. We know that there are real music people at NPR stations and we are willing to do things for NPR that we would never do for the others. Including work for free as David has said. Including fight with our labels to let us work for free because NPR stations actually play new music. We cut NPR stations a tremendous amount of slack and they return the favor by playing new music. They are cool people.
This is why it seems so idiotic for NPR to take a side against artist pay for radio play by agreeing to be a human shield for “Mic Coalition” featuring Amazon, Google, Pandora, Clear Channel (iHeartMedia) and the lobbying groups Computer & Communications Industry Association, Consumer Electronics Association, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Digital Media Association. Yes, NPR is leading the way to stand with North Korea, Iran and Rwanda and continue to deny fair compensation to artists for radio airplay.
Clear Channel, Pandora, Amazon, Google, CEA, CCIA, DIMA–we know who these people are. While they may not overtly loathe us, we are just a commodity to them. We could just as well be soap. If Clear Channel could get away with never playing a new record they’d do it. Amazon owes its start to authors and artists, and all they’ve done is try to screw us ever since. Pandora’s shenanigans are well known–especially since they recruited songwriter enemy #1 Chris Harrison–and Google’s indifference to artists rights was appallingly crystalized with their mistreatment of Zoë Keating. These are not and never will be cool people. They stab us in the back all the time, so we’re used to that treatment from them. And after all–Clear Channel’s biggest threat is to continue not playing our records. NPR is different, though.
So you have to ask what is sadder than someone who used to be cool. Maybe someone who wants to stand with North Korea. Maybe someone who wants to make sure that artists don’t get paid for radio play now or ever.
We notice when these people stab us in the back. We thought they were our friends. That’s why they got the freebies. Maybe if they’re going to act like Clear Channel they should get treated like Clear Channel?
But here’s the thing about it–we’re not quite ready to believe yet that these people who are so committed to music have thrown us under the bus. Here’s what we know–unlike Tim Westergren, they’re not sitting around thinking about it in a 13 bathroom house.
We’re also not ready to believe that NPR’s reporters are ready to abandon their journalistic principles either. Because make no mistake–they can’t hold their heads up and report on this story when they are part of the story. They’re not objective. They’ve been coopted and corporatized. And we bet nobody in the NPR powers that be bothered to ask them.
No, what we have to believe has happened here is that some suits inside the NPR organization have decided to throw their entire music and news teams under the bus. These dimwitted suits have been lured into this “coalition” by some of the richest companies in the history of commerce that have no cultural connection to NPR whatsoever. And make no mistake about this, either–the currency they used to buy their way into this “coalition” is the goodwill of NPR’s music and news divisions. That’s right–our friends in music and news have been commoditized every bit as much as Pandora & Co. want to commoditize us and they’ve been sold down the river, too.
We think that’s exactly what happened and that, dear readers, is some real inside the Beltway skullduggery. That is some low down bullshit.
So we hold out a hand to our friends and say join us in this fight. Join us tonight. Our cause is just and the time is now. We would be proud to stand with you if you would have us.