If you’ve read George Orwell’s Animal Farm which he wrote in the mid-1940s, it was a satire on the Soviet Union, a totalitarian state. It was a big hit. Everybody loved it. Turns out he wrote an introduction to Animal Farm which was suppressed. It only appeared 30 years later. Someone had found it in his papers. The introduction to Animal Farmwas about “Literary Censorship in England” and what it says is that obviously this book is ridiculing the Soviet Union and its totalitarian structure. But he said England is not all that different. We don’t have the KGB on our neck, but the end result comes out pretty much the same. People who have independent ideas or who think the wrong kind of thoughts are cut out.
He talks a little, only two sentences, about the institutional structure. He asks, why does this happen? Well, one, because the press is owned by wealthy people who only want certain things to reach the public. The other thing he says is that when you go through the elite education system, when you go through the proper schools in Oxford, you learn that there are certain things it’s not proper to say and there are certain thoughts that are not proper to have. That is the socialization role of elite institutions and if you don’t adapt to that, you’re usually out. Those two sentences more or less tell the story.
Six media giants control 90% of what we read, watch, or listen to (see below). This has a profound effect on the music that we get to hear. According to a Future of Music Coalitionpress release Rich Bengloff, President, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) is quoted as saying:
Independent music accounts for approximately 38 percent of digital sales in the U.S. and over 40 percent of audience impressions at internet radio but consistently receives only slightly more than 10 percent of traditional commercial radio airplay. It’s obvious that music fans want independent music, and commercial radio programmers continue to ignore that demand at their own peril.
In addition to mostly playing music from major labels, radio stations in the United States do not compensate performers when their songs are played on the radio. Very few countries do not compensate performers for radio airplay. In addition to the U.S., there is North Korea, Iran, and China.
To maintain the status quo, Gene Green (D-TX) and K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) reintroduced the “Local Radio Freedom Act” in February 2013 — the same pair dropped a similar resolution in the previous Congress. The language of the resolution proposes that:
“…Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over the air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.”
Why does the United States treat its music performers the same as China, North Korea, and Iran? The simple answer is that Congress is corrupt. In his farewell speech to the Senate, John Kerry said:
There’s another challenge that we must address and it is the corrupting force of the vast sums of money necessary to run for office. The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself.
[T]his dependence upon the funders produces a subtle, understated, camouflaged bending to keep the funders happy. Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power, and the question we need to ask is, what does it do to them, these humans, as they spend their time behind the telephone, calling people they’ve never met, but calling the tiniest slice of the one percent? As anyone would, as they do this, they develop a sixth sense, a constant awareness about how what they do might affect their ability to raise money. They become, in the words of “The X-Files,” shape-shifters, as they constantly adjust their views in light of what they know will help them to raise money, not on issues one to 10, but on issues 11 to 1,000.