December 21, 2005

Good tidings we bring...

by Chris Randall

Schism sent me a link to this story, knowing it would incite me to rant, while small flecks of spittle formed in the corners of my mouth, and my eyes rolled back in my head. (I know that's why all of you visit this site; that, and gear pr0n.)

However, I think you'll be surprised at how I'm going to take something like this. First, you'll need to read the article, then come back here. [Go ahead. I'll wait.]

BoingBoing is, by far, the worst offender, but the Interweb At Large simply doesn't understand what performing rights societies are all about. To most of the self-styled intelligentsia, ASCAP == RIAA. This is fueled by various reports you see that read like the following: "John Doe has a really cool little store, that sells cool things we like, and he recently got a visit from [performing rights society], saying that since he plays cool music in his cool store, thus contributing to the overall vibe of coolness, he has to cough up $300 a year or some such. The OUTRAGE!!!"

I'll explain it in simple terms for those of you (and I'm talking to you, Cory Doctorow) that don't have the faintest idea what the fuck you're talking about. It's like this: I'm a musician that (barely) eeks out a living writing songs. It is a proven fact that people buy more shit in a store if there's music playing. They're playing my music so people will buy more shit in the store. Their profits go up as a result. I am (justly) entitled to a piece of that, because I helped sell more cheap-ass Chinese clothing.

That, in a nutshell, is what performance rights societies are all about. They make sure that if music is used to sell a product, the musician gets a piece of the action. Nightclubs bitch the most about this, because they have to pay the largest licenses. But you have to realize that a nightclub is simply a fiscal mechanism for turning beer in to money. It has nothing to do with music at all. Customers come to hear the music, and during the course of this, buy beer. In almost every nightclub in the country, the entertainment, be it Superstar DJ Blowme or Bob's Local Cover Band, is a loss-leader for the alcohol sales.

Which brings us to this fellow. (Or bloke, rather. He is British, after all.) Now, if there was a loophole by which a store that sold musical instruments didn't have to pay a license, well, then all Wal-Mart would have to do would be to have a musical instrument section. Sorry, dude, but it's for the greater good. Pay your fucking hundred and fifty quid, and get off your high horse.



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Dec.22.2005 @ 9:40 PM
wait, i still don't think i get it. the problem is about the PA in the store, not the random guys riffing? or not?

Dec.23.2005 @ 12:01 AM
I agree with you that, if scottish music instrument seller is playing CDs in his store he probably needs to cough up his dough to PRS.

But that is not the case here. In this case (assuming the journalist got the story right), he is being asked to cough up because his CUSTOMERS are playing stuff on the instruments in the store.

So he should pay Led Zeppelin (in effect) because a teenage customer decides to butcher "Stairway To Heaven" on a 200.00 starter guitar?

I guess the "No Stairway" signs need to be updated to "No Music".

I guess I can screw my political enemies by walking into their offices, tooting "Happy Birthday" on a harmonica, and then demanding that they pay ASCAP immediately or face a lawsuit. And then sue them when they throw me out of their office...


Dec.23.2005 @ 8:12 AM
to CR, ok, what you are complaining about is that the musicshop guy should pay for music performed by his stereo, right? neither the article, nor your initial post and first reply seemed to go in that direction. instead the message was any occurence of whatever sound in whatever situation is a reason to let shopowners pay ... which is what i was writing against. if its only about the stereo, its a simple story: he indeed should have to pay.

Dec.23.2005 @ 3:08 PM
Just left a comment where I pointed out that the article you link to talks about one thing and then you're arguing about something else.. but it seems to have disappeared. Odd eh? I'll try again.

1) Paying to play music in a store like everyone else = OK.
2) Paying because people might play recognisable riffs whilst testing guitars = Not OK.

In the comments you seem to be talking about (1). But in the original article you don't make that clear at all.


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