Of Pigs and Pizza: RIAA Resorts to College Pranks

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Time to check in on the debate surrounding the Performance Rights Act (PRA) once more. The absurdist presence of an 18-foot-long inflatable pig pretty much demands it for amusement value alone.

Last Wednesday, a group of five protesters inflated the aforementioned pig in front of the Dupont Circle offices of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). (Note: NAB sponsors the Radio2020 blog.) According to Kim Hart at The Hill,  the protest was organized by Radio Accountability Project, whose members include the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SoundExchange, and the American Federation of Musicians. I must say, they did not do a very good job of organizing and motivating their supporters. Five people? I’ve been at more crowded board games.

So the big piggy was supposed to satirize the “piggyness” of radio. Subtle. As was their current advertising campaign which accuses radio of wanting a free handout, which is highly amusing when the industry stance has been simply one of preserving the established relationships.

Having watched a number of up-and-coming bands suffer massive travails at the hands of various labels, I was highly amused by the response my colleagues at the NAB had to the pig:

Broadcasters fought back today with their own gimmick– bringing out sausage pizza to the protesters.

“We’re suggesting they provide this food to the scores of exploited musicians who have had to sue their record label to recoup allegedly unpaid album royalties,” said NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton.

I think the family of Jimi Hendrix would be a good place to start. Honestly, if you look outside the confines of the current debate, you will find a metric ton of stories out there about artists being taken advantage of by labels. You will also find little but glowing words for radio and how it has helped so many artists succeed. Simply on the basis of past record, there is little reason to trust the labels, especially as they are currently motivated by the fact that their business model is in the grip of  protracted deterioration that started with Napster.

While radio has been expanding onto Internet and mobile platforms (where it does pay additional fees), the recording industry has been suing college kids for hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to preserve an outmoded way of doing business.

Image: saechang/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

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