Is the Radio Performance Tax Reverse Payola?

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of payola is “Undercover or indirect payment (as to a disc jockey) for a commercial favor (as for promoting a particular recording).”

There are two bills in congress, H.R. 848 and S.379, that, if passed into law, would levy fees against radio stations for playing music. Wait… WHAT??? Isn’t that one of the things radio is supposed to do? Play music so that people will hear it and then go out and BUY it?

To listen to the record companies and the artists themselves, you would think that radio is stealing their product. Since the dawn of entertainment-based broadcasting, radio has been used as a means to help promote music and artists. You hear the song, like it, and purchase it. Payola was even used as a means to get radio stations to play songs more often because, say it with me… MORE AIRPLAY MEANS MORE SALES!!!

Now that the record companies are having trouble staying financially in the black, they are looking for new streams of revenue. Hey… let’s charge the people that are helping us a fee. Keep in mind, that radio stations ALREADY pay a licensing fee for the music.

Radio is already in enough trouble. The major groups are all starting to file for bankruptcy protection, literally thousands of employees are being laid off, and syndication is becoming more the rule than the exception. Let’s face it… from a financial standpoint, it’s cheaper to have Ryan Seacrest host 100 of your morning shows than to actually pay for 100 morning shows. I’m not saying radio is innocent in all of this. Consolidation has more or less killed the industry. But… that is a different issue. If these bills pass into legislation, even more people will lose their jobs, and the small radio operators will probably disappear altogether. You will see a good majority of stations switch to talk/news/sports formats. In a lot of cases, it will be cheaper to just shut the transmitters down and call it a day. College radio? forget it… it will completely cease to exist.

And of course, the artists themselves are up in arms over this. “How dare radio play my music without compensating me?” Ummm… let’s go back to paragraph #1. Airplay translates into sales. It’s promotion. You provide the content, radio turn that into sales. And NOT just sales of music. We’re talking ticket sales for concerts and merchandise… both multi-billion dollar industries. Bono has been one of the most outspoken performers in support of the tax. And he’s one of the richest people in the galaxy! Click Here to read what the NAB had to say in response to Bono. I certainly understand that Bono does a LOT of charity work. I appreciate that. But if it wasn’t for media airplay from early MTV and radio, U2 wouldn’t be around today and Bono would probably be a bartender in Dublin instead of owning half of the city! Why do you think artists like the Grateful Dead, Phish, and Dave Matthews ENCOURAGE people to record and trade their music? They know that they might lose some music sales, but they are gaining in merchandise and ticket sales. And The Dead have been around in one form or another for almost 50 years! Sounds like they know what they are doing!

The only music you would probably hear on the radio is that of the biggest artists in the world… the U2s, Rolling Stones, Britney Spears… If you were a new artist trying to get heard, it wouldn’t happen. Whatever happened to the thrill of a new artist hearing their song on the radio for the first time?

Yes… the musicians have a right to be paid for their material. I’m not disputing that. But it is the responsibility of the record companies to pay that. NOT the people trying to help them sell more records. If more artists were to examine their contracts BEFORE they signed them, or learned to negotiate better deals, then this wouldn’t be an issue.

And how would radio pay for these fees if passed? Well, other than laying off even more people, advertising. I think that most “casual” listeners of radio would agree that there are too many commercials as it is. I think that a good average would be 12 to 13 commercials per hour split into 3 commercial “stopsets.” If these laws pass, I have no doubt whatsoever that 20 minutes of commercials per hour would become common.

The record companies know they screwed up big-time when they didn’t jump on the digital bandwagon. And now they are trying to make up for lost time. Piracy is rampant and it’s because the music industry DIDN’T see digital music as a viable platform. For the record (no pun intended), my iPod currently has well over 28,000 songs on it, and it fits in my pocket. How many CDs would I need? The music industry needs to learn to embrace new platforms, not just decide to stick with the old ways of doing business. If they did this back in 1997, there would have been more safeguards against music piracy in place BEFORE it became a major issue.

So… back to the original question. Is this tax a form of revere payola? I think the answer is “yes.” even though payola is illegal, record companies embraced it for years as a way to get their artists more “PROMOTION” by getting records more spins on the air. Now they are asking, no… demanding that radio pay them for the right to promote their music.

I would encourage people to take a look at this website… www.noperformancetax.org to get more information.

Aren’t Final Credits Part of the Movie?

I had a great time last night.  I met my friend, Claudine for dinner and then we went to see James Cameron’s “Avatar.”  I think we were probably the last two people in the country who hadn’t seen it yet.  We went to a 10pm showing (in 3D, of course) at the Bridgeport, Connecticut Showcase Cinemas, which are owned by National Amusements.

After paying $30 for two tickets, we went into the theater.  It was 10:01pm.  The movie had already started.  I knew we were running a little bit late because dinner ran long.  We expected to walk in during previews.  Apparently they didn’t do previews.  OK… no problem.  We were late and missed the very beginning.  I accept that.

I loved the movie.  Of course the special effects were brilliant. Sigourney Weaver was fantastic.  James Horner’s score was beautiful.  The story was OK.  Did I mention the special effects?

At the end of the movie, they started to roll the end credits.  And then about 1 minute into the credits, they just shut down the projector and started cleaning the theater.  Um… HELLO!!!!!  I was still watching!

I understand that most people don’t stay for the credits.  I also understand that it was very late and the movie theater employees wanted to leave.   But… I paid $30 to see a movie, and both Claudine and I are the type of people that enjoy staying and reading the credits.  I consider it a part of the movie going experience.

So both the Bridgeport Showcase Theater and their parent company, National Amusements will be getting letters from both me and Claudine.  I may even write to 20th Century Fox and James Cameron himself if I can find his e-mail address.  OK… I’m sure he won’t care.  I’m not looking for restitution, my money back, or free movies… I just want someone to know that there are those of us who believe that the ending credits are a part of the movie and we want to see them.

Kanye West Needs to Go Away

I didn’t watch the VMA’s.  But I saw the clip that everyone is talking about.  Kanye West had no right to LITERALLY steal Taylor Swift’s moment.

He is seriously no-talent hack who can only stay in the spotlight by trying to upstage others.  He can’t sing without a voice-synthesizer.

Now, from what I understand, he is supposed to be the first musical guest on the new Jay Leno Show.  If Jay and NBC were smart, they would drop him.  Better yet… they shoud REPLACE him with Taylor Swift!

C’mon Jay… DO THE RIGHT THING!!!

A.I.G. Executive Resigns… in the New York Times!

Jack DeSantis, Executive VP of A.I.G. Financial Products (based in the Wilton, CT office), has resigned from the company, and has shared his resignation letter with the world in “The New York Times.”  The man has some really good points.  I have been fairly vocal about my thoughts on huge bonuses being paid out.  My feeling in the past has been that I never had a problem with it.  If these behemoth companies could afford to pay bonuses, that was their perogative.  However, if a company that has been part of the bail-out program was still paying out these obscene amounts, and using my tax dollars to do it… then I have a problem.

Mr. DeSantis, however, raises some interesting points.  Many of these executives were working on the premise that they would only take $1 a year in salary, while the remaining portion of their compensation would be in the form of stocks and bonuses.  It ws with good faith that they signed their contracts.  And, as is the case with Mr. DeSantis, a lot of these executives that had nothing to do with the company failing, are now being asked to give the money back.

My dilemma is that I believe in principle that a contract should be honored.  But the fact that it is that it is now my tax dollars instead of the company’s profits being paid out.  I’m struggling to pay my rent, let alone my back rent, and put food on my table. I need to keep my car on the road so that I can get back and forth to my $200 a week part-time job.  Mr. DeSantis clearly states in his letter that his family will not suffer at all financially.

On the positive side, and I commend Jack DeSantis for this, he will be donating his entire bonus of over $700,000 to charity.  Jack… drop me a note and I’ll tell you my address so that you can send just a tiny portion of that bonus to me.

Read the resignation letter here .

Job Hunting… Cancer… Economy… It’s All in Here in… My Story

First off, let me state that this post isn’t about trying to get people to feel sorry for me.  I’m not that type of person.  But there are a few things I would like to get off my chest.  Let’s just call it “venting.”

I’m in a lot of financial trouble.  Serious trouble.  I know… everybody else is, as well.  The economy is circling the drain and nobody knows when it will bounce back.  Although , I have faith that it will.  Corporations are laying off employees by the thousands and those thousands just become more people that I have to compete with in order to find a job.

I was let go from my position as the Marketing & Promotions Director for a cluster of of radio stations in Connecticut back in May of 2007.  It was a job that I absolutely loved, and was very good at.  I was never given a reason as to why, but that’s not important.  It’s a part of being in the radio industry.  After a week or two of wallowing in self-pity, I began to view it as an opportunity.  Perhaps a time to re-invent myself.  I re-did my resume, and laptop computer in hand, started to re-discover the old career web sites that I had not needed to look at for a number of years.  I began reaching out to contacts that I had built up over the course of time… friends, colleagues, clients.  I was getting some interviews.  Some went well, some didn’t,  In July, I decided to take a part-time job at Starbucks, not so much for the paycheck, but to have a place to go and be around people.  Plus, they offer a very good benefits package to part-timers.  Medical Insurance that I needed because…

In March of 2008, I was diagnosed with cancer for the 3rd time over the course of 10 years.  This was one month after the loss of my father, so yes… between the job loss, losing my dad, and the cancer (we’re not even going to touch on the romantic issues that I had to deal with in that time frame)… I had a pretty miserable year.

An aggressive approach to dealing with the cancer was called for.  For the first time, I didn’t have surgery.  We have been treating with chemotherapy and then a month of radiation treatments at the end of 2008.  So now, I was not only searching for a job, I was dealing with this hideous disease.  It affected my job search.  I was still getting some interviews, but I believe that my “condition” may have hurt my chances with some potential employers.  I didn’t “look like” a cancer patient, or what one might expect a cancer patient to look like.  I hadn’t lost my hair.  But I felt awful.  It not only affected the way that I approached job hunting, it affected how I handled myself in interviews.  I am a very open and honest person, and felt an obligation to tell my potential employers about my condition.  Stupid, yes.  But at the time, I felt that people deserved to know what they were getting involved in with me.  In truth, I wasn’t applying for jobs that I couldn’t handle.  I wasn’t sending resumes for jobs that had the title “VP of Anything”.  I had chemo treatment once every two weeks.  The side affects I would be able to work through.  They weren’t all that bad.

It is illegal to not hire somebody based on their medical conditions.  But let’s face it… employers can find a million other reasons to not hire you.

So, I realized that I needed to really concentrate on getting myself better.  Not that I stopped the job search, but sort of re-prioritized it.  Of course, once I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as my health, the economy fell apart. Thousands were out of work.  As of now, the unemployment rate is at a 25 year high.  Believe me, I sympathize with each and every one.  The problem is… my creditors don’t want to hear that I have no money.   Which brings me to…

My take on the economy.  I don’t pretend to know anything about the economy.  I’m not very good at politics.  But what I do know is that I never had a problem with huge mega-bonuses that CEOs get, or millions in severance packages.  Hell, I was even all for pro-athletes getting completely ridiculous contracts.  My feeling was that if somebody had the money and was willing to shell it out so that a football player could play in 16 games a year, then great!  Now, however, when I see that the former boss at Merrill Lynch took a 50 or 60 million dollar bonus and left the company after only 3 months of work… and after his company was bailed out by the federal government… well, I have serious issues with that.  There was, one story a few weeks ago, and I wish I had paid more attention to it, where a CEO took his $60,000,000 bonus and split it up between his employees.  He even gave former employees a cut.  WE NEED MORE PEOPLE IN THIS SOCIETY LIKE THIS!!!!

And now, the bailout plan that’s in the works is primarily for home-owners that can’t pay their mortgage.  That’s fine.  But what about those of us that don’t own homes.  I rent.  And I’m about a month and a half away from being evicted.  What’s the stimulus plan to help me and the others like me?  Sure… there are agencies that offer things like rental assistance.  Yes, I applied.  Their question to me was “Do you have enough money to pay your rent?”  When I told them no, they responded that they couldn’t help me because I couldn’t pay my rent.  WHAT??? If I had enough money to pay my rent, then I wouldn’t need rental assistance.  This is a true story.  So, when I eventually do find a job, I will go back to them and see of they can help me pay my back rent.  That is if I’m not living in my car by then (at least that’s paid for).

So what about social services like welfare and food stamps?  Oh, I tried that, too.  Apparently I’m not eligible for welfare because I don’t have a child and I am not disabled.  You may ask, “But what about the cancer, Eric?”  What I am going through is not disabling in any way, shape, or form.  I am able to work at 100% capacity.  So, no, I don’t qualify under that.

As for food stamps… Apparently I make too much money at my part-time job to qualify.  I guess they really expect people to be able to live on the $150 a week I might take home after taxes are taken out.  Never mind that there’s rent, bills, utilities, and gas for the car to pay for.  Believe me, I understand that there are people who abuse the system, and they should summarily be destined to spend a number of years as guests of our friendly department of corrections.  It’s those people that make it more difficult for honest people to get the help they need.

I have had the very good fortune to have many friends and family to lean on.  I’ve even had  family members (who shall remain anonymous) send me checks of fairly large sums (large to me) to help me thorough on a couple of  occasions.  I am normally not normally the type of person to take this kind of help.  But I had to, and I know that they would have been insulted if I didn’t.  I’m normally the person on the other end… the person that tries to help others in need.  It’s actually one of the reasons I’ve liked my career path so much.  Being in radio gave me the opportunity to help countless non-profits and charities to promote awareness and fundraisers.  I even spent 2 years working for the Muscular Dystrophy Association as a fundraiser.  There are not a lot of jobs where you can make a living helping kids.  And I would go back to Non-Profit in a heartbeat.  I would go back to MDA, and I would LOVE to work for the American Cancer Society.  I have applied 7 or 8 times, and interviewed on two different occasions, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I’m having such a hard time breaking in there.  I have 2 years of very successful find-raising experience, through my radio jobs did a great job of helping them to promote their events, I’m the publicity chairperson for one of our local Relay For Life events, and I have the personal experience… 3 times!

And I miss my job at the aforementioned cluster of radio stations in Connecticut.  I didn’t for a while.  I admit that I was very bitter about how the whole thing played out.  But I’m beyond that, and if the opportunity would ever arise, I would also go back there in a second, although many of the people that I worked with are gone.  Many of my colleagues, whom I consider friends, are still there and the listeners and fans of the stations were out of this world!

But I also look forward to whatever challenges lay ahead.  I have renewed vigor in the job search arena, and even though I am still in treatment, my cancer is in the past.  I would love to find a job that allows me to use my skills that I have, but challenge me in new and exiting ways.  It certainly doesn’t have to be in radio or non-profit, but something that allows me to use my creative side along with some decent business sense.

I know that I am not unique in that many people have health, career, and financial issues.  I just thought  I would share my thoughts and hope that others will share theirs.  Believe it or not… it’s GREAT therapy!

I know that I touched on many topics in this post… Normally, I would probably have split them into different blog entries.  But I feel that they are all connected.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Time For a Rant About…

For the love of God… WHY do people let their children mis-behave in public???  This is what happened to me today.  I was standing in line at my friendly neighborhood Arby’s (a bastion of fine dining), and the person in front of me was either the father or possibly grandfather of two, let’s just say, overly enthusiastic children possibly in the 4 to 5 year old range.  One boy and one girl.  The children are running around, wrestling with each other, pulling at each other’s clothes (the boy was wearing a particularly nice sweater that the girl was stretching to death), and oh yeah… BUMPING INTO OTHER CUSTOMERS SUCH AS MYSELF!!!!  And the whole time, the father/grandfather completely ignores them.  Wait… he didn’t completely ignore them.  He asked if they didn’t have Strawberry shakes, what else would they want!  How about something more along the lines of “If you two don’t calm down this instant I’m going to pour a strawberry shake down your pants!!!”  Nothing… not even an apology to me and the and the other patrons who became his children’s personal bumper cars.

Don’t get me wrong… I love kids.  I have two nieces that I love dearly and can give back to the parents at anytime.  But come on people.  You’re not doing your children any good by letting them run amok and not disciplining them.  I certainly don’t believe in hitting a child… but a stern voice can do wonders for kids.

Thank you… and goodnight!