RapReviews.com writer Adam “B” Bernard recently wrote an entry on his Adam’s World blog simply titled “Joe Biden is Down w/ The RIAA” — as if that alone is a damning enough statement to disqualify the Democratic ticket from receiving any reasonable person’s vote in the upcoming presidential election. In his first paragraph, he accused Senator Biden of being “in bed” with the RIAA, thus suggesting that the Recording Industry Association of America should rightfully and universally be viewed as some AIDS-infested whore. He would go on to quote a CNET article that reported: “Last year, Biden sponsored an RIAA-backed bill called the Perform Act aimed at restricting Americans’ ability to record and play back individual songs from satellite and Internet radio services.” Oh, the HUMANITY! When it was all said and done, he outright stated that he was no longer voting for Barack Obama, in no small part due to his VP pick: the “part time lover” of the evil RIAA. He claims he made this decision because he cares about independent artists.
I’m an independent artist. Mr. Bernard, allow me to explain why your writing does a disservice to us.
Before I continue, however, let me state that I am a fan of your work and I believe that you truly feel having Joe Biden as our Vice President would somehow damage my career. This is by no means a personal attack against you. I also acknowledge that the RIAA holds the interests of major corporations over my own. I’m certainly not trying to equate the values of the record companies who comprise the RIAA with those of the artists who may or may not be represented by said companies. But they’re not mutually exclusive, either. For better or worse, the RIAA’s purpose is to protect both intellectual property and First Amendment rights. You seem to hold the position that there should be no regulation whatsoever by the recording industry, and that is a dangerous philosophy to have if you care about my livelihood.
It is the job of the recording artist to determine how much access he grants the consumer. For example, I pay to maintain this site and let the public read it for free. That’s a business decision on my part. Similarly, I release what I deem to be an appropriate amount of “free” music — whether in the form of a stream/download, mixtape, or radio single — in hopes of making new fans and enticing people to buy my albums. We call that creating a buzz. In an attempt to create this buzz, an artist may even decide to give out his entire album for free. Conversely, an artist might be so confident in his ability to sell that he’ll charge for the air he breathes. This is all at the discretion of the artist and any companies with which he’s involved. It is the task of the consumer to decide if the artist did a sufficient enough job at “selling” the product. Ultimately, the consumer must ask himself if the artist has made the case that the product will be worth his purchase. This is how the music industry, and dare I say capitalism, works.
We know the bootlegging issue can be a double-edged sword. As you argue, P2P networks and similar services can create exposure that wouldn’t otherwise be there for a new artist. But they also take money out of our pockets, which can prevent us from creating new music. Since you care about us so much, realize that we’re more hurt than major labels by bootlegging, because in our world every sale counts. At the end of the day, us artists get to decide how much of our work we should be paid for. If you don’t like the price tag, don’t buy it. Just because you can get something for free doesn’t mean you have the right to. The RIAA’s enforcement of this principle does not stifle the artist’s opportunity to succeed. If an artist fails to get over, it’s because he failed to work the market properly. And I don’t mean to trivialize that — that’s no easy task. That’s why we need regulation to ensure that the artist has a fair chance, and isn’t deprived of it by well-meaning people convinced that stealing his music benefits him.
Now, I know I’m supposed to “keep it real” and hold the us versus them Hip Hop mentality which says I should be at odds with EVERYTHING, even the industry I work in and by extension my own well-being. But despite the fact that “Perform Act” bears a striking resemblance to “Patriot Act,” recording songs off the radio for the purpose of illegal redistribution should be restricted. If the intention was for you “listen but don’t touch” and you have issue with that, blame it on the artist who chose to release his music that way. Don’t blame it on the recording industry for protecting its investment, and for the love of God, don’t blame it on the candidate who actually supports our rights. What a concept! That CNET article mentioned earlier actually chastised Biden for holding “pro-copyright views.” Are you kidding me?
Adam, you now claim you’re likely voting for a third party candidate because of this. While that is your right as an American citizen, maybe you should consider the fact that the Vice President doesn’t actually have that much power. In fact, if Biden’s team loses the election, he remains in the Senate where he’ll have the ability to vote on and sponsor those horrifying bills that defend intellectual property rights. If he wins, he gets to sit in a chair in the front of the room and break ties. Meanwhile, the real reason us independent musicians are suffering — the state of the economy — will continue to worsen if enough people like you do not vote for the one viable presidential candidate who just might steer us away from the failed policies of the past eight years.
Just something to think about, from a recording artist to a guy who writes about them.