In June of 1976 Warren Zevon recorded this version of "Mohammed's Radio" in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Back then, you found about new exciting artists like Zevon through the thriving world of rock magazines. In a few years, I was editor of one of them, with a six-figure circulation (not salary) and sales all over the globe (if you only count Great Britain and Australia, as our distributor didn't deal with foreign language people).
And yes, in my day, I did feature a full page article on him.
The other way a guy like Zevon could get known...was radio. Yes. Radio. You had your favorite disc jockey...what that person played was stuff you already liked...and new stuff that had you thinking, "Hang on...I gotta pay attention and find out WHO THAT WAS..."
For several years, I had a radio show and it was a kick to play the kind of people I've featured on the blog...ones who were great but not all that well known. Not yet. OK, some of them, not ever.
There was something mystical about the radio, as you can hear in Warren's song. Those of us of a certain generation stayed up late at night, listening in the dark, our minds creating images from the fantastic sounds coming through the air.
Songwriter Paul Williams recently announced that he, and such contemporaries as Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb, were going to lobby for better royalties, now that radio stations have gone under, and Spotify and Pandora are preferred. Ever since the rise of these monsters, new and indie artists have suffered, and especially the songwriters who don't tour or sing and truly depend on royalties from radio play and purchases. How the hell do you FIND new artists you might like? You listen to Randy Newman and you get a prompt, "If you liked that, listen to this..."?? I've discovered one or two artists via Spotify, simply by typing in a word and looking to see if there were any songs on the topic. I found Jude Kastle that way, and maybe Anne McCue. That's a fraction of what I found through radio, magazine reviews, and record label "loss leader" sampler discs.
And guess what...hearing a tune on Spotify doesn't mean more than a few pennies for the artist.
Ever since SpottyPie and Pandildo appeared, an ignorant, uninformed segment of Internet music fans (ie, assholes in forums with goofy names like "Seniormole") declared these radio sites were perfect...the new "paradigm" by which artists would be able to make a living. They really believed that shit. Like they insisted it was "sharing" not stealing, and piracy's "a good thing."
So here comes the "Songwriter Equity Act," which at least, is telling the naive and nasty know-it-alls of the world that Pandora and Spotify are cheating artists worse than the radio era EVER did.
Here's Paul Williams talking about what he's planning:
"As we celebrate ASCAP’s 100th anniversary and look to the future, we recognize the rules and regulations that govern music licensing haven’t kept pace with the innovation that is transforming how people listen to music. And we’re committed to finding a solution.
That’s why ASCAP members will be coming to Washington this week. I’ll be joined by fellow award-winning songwriters Randy Newman, Carly Simon, Josh Kear, Valerie Simpson, Jimmy Webb, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Jon Batiste and Narada Michael Walden, among others, as we seek to help policymakers understand why we must modernize our music licensing system.
The root of the challenge lies in the fact that the two organizations that represent most of the nation’s songwriters, ASCAP and BMI, are forced to operate within a regulatory structure governed by federal consent decrees created in 1941.
The last time these regulations were updated was in 2001, before the invention of the iPod.
Under this system, if ASCAP or BMI cannot agree with a licensee on the price of a license, then a federal “rate court” judge, rather than the free market, determines the amount we will be paid for our music from that licensee.
As a result of these outdated laws, record labels and recording artists routinely earn 12 to 14 times more than songwriters for the exact same stream of a song. And big music companies like Pandora rake in millions in revenue, while many music creators struggle to pay the bills.
In an effort to correct the imbalance within the current system, ASCAP has announced a new initiative, the “Music Advocacy Project” or MAP, for short. It centers around five guiding principles for music licensing reform:
Simplification: The licensing process must be simplified and reflect the way people listen to music today. A lot has changed in the last decade, and the rules should reflect that.
Market rates: Let the free market determine the value of music copyrights, the same way it works in other entertainment sectors.
Consumer choice: Let music listeners access a wide variety of music on a variety of platforms for a fair price, while compensating songwriters for the value of their work.
Creator control: Include the songwriters and composers themselves in the discussion and effort to reform.
Access: Collective licensing is the best way to facilitate the transaction between music listeners and creators.
Sounds interesting, Paul. It also sounds like a complicated mess. And there's no mention of enforcing piracy, and you don't need ME or fucking Reed Hadley (of "Racket Squad") to let you know that pirates take more money out of creative peoples' pockets than all of Pandora and Spotify with their bullshit. If you demand Pandora and Spotify pay decent royalties...they'll cook the books or they'll be like every crook in the music world and go hide in Croatia or Russia somewhere and scream "Avax, Me Hearty, Piracy Be Good, Ho Ho Ha Ha Hee Hee," with dimwits agreeing 100%.
In other words, Williams needs to address the massive problem of assholes with podcasts, with streaming music oozing out of every pore of the Internet, and the ease by which "freedom of speech" means throwing everybody's songs around in a conspiracy to "share" and never "pay," ie, support a Communistic idea rather than a Capitalistic one. "Capitalism," Lenny Bruce said, "the best system, man." Or have you noticed any decent music coming out of Putinville? Not since Rachmaninoff, who, along with all his contemporaries, fled Russia ASAP.
ZEVON IN 1976 Mohammed's Radio