For the last few days––since last Tuesday to be exact––I’ve mostly concentrated on pushing out one message on my Facebook and Twitter-profiles. The message is this: I Respect Music. You may have seen this line popping up elsewhere too as a movement has begun, of people taking selfies while holding up a piece of paper saying #I Respect Music. I’ve seen other creative variations on the theme as well, with pictures of people holding up big letters that spell the line, or writing it on their body with a Sharpie. Fun!
But #IRespectMusic is not just another hash-tag. There are lives at stake here. The website http://www.irespectmusic.org was created to launch a petition urging the US government to implement an artist royalty for radio airplay, once and for all. As the website says, the US is one of only a handful of countries that don’t pay a performance royalty for artists. Other such countries include North Korea, Iran, China, and Rwanda. This is a list we don’t want to be on. And I say we because I have, in fact, become an American citizen.
But I am also a Finnish citizen. And as a Finn I can say that for half of my life I’ve lived in a country that does pay artists for radio airplay. And it’s made a big difference over the years to my financial situation. These days, in the name of promotion, artists are being asked to perform for free much of the time. The streaming services pay us next to nothing and record sales are down across the board. So how are we supposed to make a living? Herein lies the reason why at last the time has come for both musicians and music lovers to stand up for artists’ rights. The musicians need to make money in order to survive, but music is also a source of solace and hope for most people in this world. If the only music that is available in the future is mainstream-pop financed by the last remaining major labels––which is the way the world is going right now––I suspect lovers of other kinds of music will suffer as greatly as us middle-class artists.
The I Respect Music petition is the brainchild of my dear friend Blake Morgan. He and a group of around 30-40 conscientious, conscious, and dedicated artists including guitarist Marc Ribot, writer Chris Ruen, recording artists David Byrne, Jennifer Charles of Elysian Fields, Melissa Giges, and myself have been meeting up at regular intervals since November, planning an event to rally for artists’ pay for radio play. The early support for both the petition and the rally has been tremendous!
Judging by the popularity of an op-ed written by Blake Morgan for the Huffington Post, people are ready to embrace the message that music and art are important professions that need to be respected. The status quo puts our very existence into jeopardy. We deserve to get paid just as lawyers, doctors, and farmers do. Music is our profession. Music is my profession.
I urge the readers of this blog to stand with us in the fight for artists’ pay for radio play in the US. This issue, at this moment, is the lowest hanging fruit for us. There will be more fights to come, because this petition alone will not be the answer to all our prayers. But it’s a damn good beginning! As a musician or a music lover, please join our cause by signing the petition at http://www.IRespectMusic.org
I Respect Music.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”