up now. If you’re a musician, if you work with musicians,
or if you fantasize about maybe one day considering the possibility
of becoming a musician, get out your calendar and mark off
April 30. If you’re supposed to work or be in school that
day, call in sick. Call in drunk. Call in personal. On April
30 the Future of Music Coalition is coming to town for an
all-day series of presentations about making a living as a
musician in the 2000s, and it could be the most important
day of your musical career since the first time you picked
up your axe.
There have been a bunch of these “how to make a living in
the music business” seminars in the area recently; I’ve been
involved with some of them, and some of them were quite good
(and some I’ve heard weren’t so good). This one will be brilliant.
I have attended the last two annual Future of Music Coalition
Policy Summits and can vouch for the organization and its
goals without the slightest reservation.
Titled “The Future for Musicians,” the seminar is part of
a four-stop tour across Upstate New York and is co-sponsored
by the American Federation of Musicians and funded by the
New York State Music Fund—that big pile of money that Eliot
Spitzer cranked out of the music industry after he caught
the major labels and Big Radio with their pants down a few
years ago. The Fund has been responsible for a lot of very
cool things over the past couple of years, and, yes, we have
Eliot Spitzer to thank. Seriously.
The seminars will feature real live international serious
experts and will cover such topics as the use of new technologies
for distributing and promoting music; navigating ASCAP, BMI,
and SoundExchange; online music marketing; podcasting/ webcasting;
state and Federal policies affecting musicians; governmental
funding opportunities; and health-insurance options for working
And it’s free! Go to www.futureof music.org to find out more
and reserve your spot. And tell every musician you care about
about this. See you there.
Moving on. The antitrust unit of the U.S. Department of Justice
this week approved the merger of the Sirius and XM satellite-radio
networks, saying that the merger would not be anti-competitive.
How could this be, you say, since these are the only two satellite-radio
networks, they competed against each other, and if they merge
there will be no competition? Like, huh?
Well, the DOJ, following a trend in what’s left of antitrust
jurisprudence in this neocon “the market will provide” age
we live in, takes a broad view of “competition.” In the DOJ’s
view, XM and Sirius aren’t just competing with each other,
they are also competing with terrestrial radio, with Internet
radio, with iPods—and apparently, with singing in the shower,
daydreaming, meditating in absolute silence, and doing cartwheels
naked down State Street whilst screaming “Lindy’s landed!”
This being the case, the merger sailed through, with the added
benefit that it will be good for the shareholders of the two
huge, and heretofore money-losing, corporations.
Of course, this theoretical view ignores what some of us here
on earth call reality. XM and Sirius competed mightily with
each other, and this competition yielded the following benefits:
reasonable prices for both the receiving equipment and the
monthly subscriptions; aggressive innovations in technology;
and an amazing array of diverse programming, as the two competitors
beat the bushes to attract mass-market and niche listeners
alike. For every 24-hour Howard Stern channel, there are a
dozen interesting and specialized programs. Just a few months
ago I wandered into the Monterey General Store to see the
wonderful Pete and Maura Kennedy perform; between sets Pete
was telling me about their weekly Sirius radio show. David
Johannson’s got a satellite show, too. So does Vin Scelsa,
Christine Lavin, Martha Quinn, Lisa Lisa, Bob Dylan, etc.
Now, imagine that Sirius and XM aren’t competing anymore,
and there’s only one satellite network. No longer are there
two entities clawing and scratching for your attention and
your money. There’s just one. What do you think is going to
happen to the prices? What do you think is going to happen
to the cutting-edge technology? And maybe most importantly,
what’s going to happen to the fringe music, the special live
performances, all the extravagant things these networks have
been doing to get you to sign up?
Uh-huh, stagnation, cost-cutting, no more risky innovation,
and a beeline to the lowest common denominator. If you’re
a satellite-radio fan, you’re captive.
Until it gets so bad that you decide that maybe your iPod
is a worthy alternative, just like the DOJ says it is. Except
that the DOJ’s anti-competitive ruling caused your migration,
limited your choices, and killed off a true haven of diversity.
A-O, way to go.
Rapp is an intellectual-property lawyer with offices in Albany
and Housatonic, Mass. He teaches art-and-entertainment law
at Albany Law School, and regularly appears as part of the
Copyright Forum on WAMC’s Vox Pop. Contact info can
be found at www.paul rapp.com. Comments about this article
can be posted at rapponthis .blogspot.com.