But it’s not just that Wyden doesn’t understand this, or has forgotten about those musicians in his state. He is actively hostile to their interests. Check it.
First in 2013 Wyden introduced the Orwellian “Internet Radio Fairness Act.” This bill would have created “fairness” for internet radio by slashing performer and songwriter pay as much as 70%. It also placed extraordinary restraints on speech of songwriters and performers, threatening prosecution for any group of songwriters or performers that discussed digital licenses and rates with their colleagues. The language of the bill was so broad and regressive it would have punished members of a single band that collectively blogged negatively about bad digital licensing deals. We are not making this up. The congressional research office eventually stepped in because the bill was so bad. Under withering criticism Wyden abandoned the bill.
See our series on this bill:
But now Wyden has taken it up a notch. According to rules of the US Senate a single senator can put a hold on a bill. Despite the fact the House of Representatives passed the Music Modernization Act 415-0 Wyden intends to put a hold on a consensus bill. What an egomaniac. To put this into perspective the Dec 8th 1941 declaration of war on Japan and Germany was not unanimous. The Music Modernization Act enjoys more consensus than WWII! But Wyden intends to stand in the way.
But it’s even worse. When you drill down into Wyden objects to what is perhaps the least controversial part of the bill. The part of the bill that extends digital royalties to performers that recorded before 1972. This “pre-1972 loophole” in digital royalties is pretty much a copyright law typo. Surely the authors of the 1995 act that formalized digital public performance royalties did not intend to exclude pre-1972 performers. Indeed until 2013 most digital services paid royalties to pre-1972 performers. It wasn’t until Wyden’s first bill was shot down that Pandora, Sirius and other digital services began to aggressively exploit the loophole. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think not.
This is skullduggery of the highest order. Now consider who is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this loophole: Google/YouTube.
As previously noted Google along with all the other Silicon Valley firms have large server farms out in Eastern Oregon. And Wyden is eyeball deep in Silicon Valley politics.
As a recent commenter on this blog put it:
Ron Wyden, got his political start as a fairly conservative Democrat, which was necessary for his initial success because outside the Portland metropolitan area (and Eugene of course), the other two-thirds of Oregon’s population is very conservative.
Oregon has always had a boom or bust economy based on agriculture or dwindling natural resources, and pretty much every politician of every skunk stripe collectively bent over and grabbed ankles when the tech sector unbelted and began plowing the “Silicon Forest” with their plastic thingies and their ones and zeros. As you might expect, Google now owns Oregon. QED.
Pretty much all you need to know about Wyden is that he is on the Intelligence Committee. You don’t even approach that gig unless you have been drinking the Kool-Aid for donkey’s years. – Ron or Donna
And indeed our reader is spot on. Oregon politicians have been especially pliant when it comes to Google. The Oregonian estimates that Oregon politicians have given Google tax breaks for a single data center in The Dalles worth $100 million dollars. The data center has less than 200 employees. That works out to $500,000 a job. On top of that the data centers suck down most of the cheap hydro power that should arguably go to rate payers in Oregon. Seems pretty weird, right? Oregon enriching a bunch of California based companies for a handful of jobs? Someone somewhere must be making a lot of money on the deal.
Also consider this. Who do you think has oversight over those federal hydropower rates? The rates the operators of those data centers pay? If you guessed The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources you would be correct. And who might be on that committee? Ron Wyden.
The presence of these large data centers is a net negative to the citizens of Oregon. So why does Ron Wyden feel obliged to do the bidding of Google on a music bill? Whether it’s ignorance or greed the result is the same. Ron Wyden sucks at representing citizens of Oregon. Sure he pleases many Oregon residents when he goes after the trump administration, but surely there are plenty of other progressive democratic politicians in Oregon that would do the same without icky pro-Google Silicon Valley shillery.
Then there is also the matter of the senators adult son, Andrew Wyden, and his “hedge fund” ADW Capital. The one man hedge fund was started it in the Senators Washington DC townhouse in 2011. Andrew Wyden had just graduated from college and someone gave him 3 million dollars to start a basement hedge fund. If the initial 3 million in funds came from campaign donors (specifically longtime Wyden supporter D. E. Shaw) or other investors with business before the senate you could be looking at an FBI investigation.
Even if the senator is clean, the optics are horrible. And it’s extremely poor judgement on the part of the senator. If there turns out to be anything to this story it’s entirely possible that Oregon may be looking for a new Senator before his term is up.
So it’s not a joke to start considering who might replace Wyden in the Senate. Given the growing importance of music to the Oregon economy (surely music is responsible for 100 times the number of jobs that Google data centers created) I humbly suggest Oregon voters look at some smart entrepreneurial musicians to replace Wyden. I believe there are probably a number of Oregon musicians that would do a much better job of representing Oregon in the US Senate.
I asked this question on twitter and here are some of the suggestions:
Well the entire band can’t be Senator, but I suppose Chris like most people is thinking of Carrie Brownstein for her role in Portlandia. Face and name recognition. We have to assume the campaign videos would be funny. Does she still live in Portland? Well regardless state residency didn’t stop Cheney from running for Vice President. Regardless I wouldn’t discount Drummer Janet Weiss (also of Quasi). Secret weapon. Corin Tucker also a solid choice.
Again not sure he’s in Portland proper. I believe he still lives just across the state line in Washington. I always see him in shows in Portland so he’s certainly close. Again Cheney demonstrated it’s easy enough to move. And Krist does have a keen interest in politics. In 2004 considered a run for Lt Governor of Washington. He is also the author of Of Grunge and Government: Let’s Fix This Broken Democracy.
Larry Crane, musician, engineer, producer, music entrepreneur and Tape Op magazine editor. This is my personal vote. Anyone that has had any experience in the studio knows that producing and engineering requires great diplomatic skills. Producing and engineering of a record requires forging grand compromises between many strong personalities and interest groups: labels, managers, and the performers themselves who are often internally conflicted. It’s a tough job Larry but your state needs you!
I always forget Patterson Hood lives in Portland now. Hood hails from the deep red state of Alabama. Yet he is a strong democrat. Patterson and his band Drive-by Truckers have deftly managed to embrace progressive causes (r.g. Black Lives Matter) w/o alienating the portion of their audience that identifies with conservatives. Who else to better bridge the divide between Portland’s urban population and deep red rural parts of the state. Also he is an extremely humble guy and would never even consider a senate run. All the more reason to send Mr. Hood to Washington.
We love scott. He already is Portland’s unofficial music ambassador.
Yes indeed. If Mr Matthews simply remained in his cabin in the woods making recordings and never went to DC for a single day, Oregon residents would surely be better off than sending Wyden back to DC.
Please suggest more Oregon Musicians in comments and we will add them to the poll.