Writer’s blockheads.

Hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. Summer is usually kind of a slow news cycle in the arts world, but for come reason there has been a series of provocative articles in the past few weeks on various topics. For those of you looking for some amusing (and sometimes amazing) reading this Friday, this is for you…..

First up is this widely circulated and spectacularly ignorant piece that would be almost comical but for the not-so-subtle racism couched in buzzwords and simplistic conclusions. Fortunately Bill Eddins demolishes this nonsense in his excellent response, emphasizing the fact that blatant racial stereotypes are neither the cause nor the solution for the various issues confronting orchestras these days.

NotebookThis article eloquently explains why Pandora sucks for musicians and songwriters. As convenient as it is, I still wince when I see one of my musician friend’s Facebook posts telling me how they’re currently getting ripped off what they’re listening to on Pandora.

On the upside, the Pittsburgh Symphony musicians got a nice new contract a year early, after what was apparently a cordial set of negotiations. Then the orchestra reported its deficit tripled last year; presumably that fact was an element of the contract talks, since no one seems too concerned at the moment.

More recently this appeared, MPR’s hyper-contorionist attempt to be “fair and balanced” regarding the Minnesota Orchestra situation. While most would acknowledge that serious miscalculations have been made all around (unsurprising after a 10-month lockout), this article completely sidesteps some important facts. For example, the original proposal from the Minnesota Orchestra Association (MOA) didn’t just have an average pay cut of 30%, it also tore up the master agreement, starting from scratch in terms of industry-standard working conditions (check this oufor starters). Then they walked away and literally locked the doors. In essence, the MOA management continues its quest to completely rebuild the entire business model of a (formerly) thriving arts institution by first destroying it, then plowing forward at a bargain price with the musicians that hung around. That is, after the shiny new lobby is done, and if they can ignore the picketing from former patrons. Make no mistake- the MOA and Board hold the key to the future here, not the (fleeing) musicians or their likely-soon-to-be-former Music Director. And the entire community is losing out, with no end in sight.

Finally there’s this, which just left me speechless, but the comments are worth reading. Truly one of the most appalling things I’ve ever seen on a prominent NY press outlet, and further evidence of the sad deterioration of the Village Voice, formerly known for some outstanding arts writing prior to firing everyone with an even ounce of talent. Take note, MOA….



5 thoughts on “Writer’s blockheads.”

  1. I think the Pandora article is rather interesting specifically because it shows that it’s more profitable to listen to free AM/FM radio. Sure, you can say internet radio is free, but.. is it? You’re paying for an internet service in order to listen to it. Or even a cell phone service to do the same.
    In one of the comments, they point out it’s not a fair price per play because it’s actually being accessed by in indeterminable amount of people. However, listeners log in with an email address to access Pandora (don’t know how iHeart Radio does it) so you should be able to track how many people heard a particular song to pay the fractional royalty. I have a Pandora account, but maybe only use it every two moths or so. To me there’s no variety.
    All that being said, what I really had been thinking about while reading the article, was why wasn’t YouTube mentioned? Are artists getting a better deal there?

    • Well, if you read the article carefully it appears that performers are paid a different rate on AM/FM than streaming/digital, unlike songwriters who have a completely different formula. And if you believe David Lowery, Pandora hardly pays anything at all to artists. Anecdotally, I’ve heard this from quite a few people, not to mention the same problem with Spotify (maybe even worse).

      I don’t know anyone that receives royalties from YouTube unless there’s a specific agreement with the label or umbrella company (note all the content that gets pulled down quickly for copyright infringement). Even then I can’t imagine it would be very much. In any case, YouTube is free and basically user-driven, unlike Pandora and Spotify, which earn millions from subscribers.

      The fact is that at the moment artists don’t really make much from broadcasts of any sort, except from a PR standpoint and to drive sales and/or merchandise/sponsorships on tour.


Leave a Reply to Frank Almond Cancel reply