David Byrne to Cover Biz Markie's 'Just a Friend' at Copyright Concert

"Chances are Biz Markie didn't see any royalties from all the radio play that song got," says Byrne

David Byrne performs in Los Angeles, California.
Chelsea Lauren/WireImage
February 24, 2014 1:40 PM ET

Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne will cover Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" at a free concert tomorrow night in New York City to raise awareness for performers' royalties. The show, dubbed Artists' Pay for Radio Play, will take place at (Le) Poisson Rouge and will feature performances by Byrne, R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, Cake's John McCrea, Marc Ribot and more, who will each play cover songs. "Some of us will play songs that are identified with specific performers and bands that never saw money from all the radio play they got (since they didn't write the songs)," Byrne wrote in his e-newsletter.

Where Do Talking Heads Rank on Our 100 Greatest Artists List?

Their cause is to draw attention to the United States being the only democratic country in the world where performers don't get paid for radio airplay; the Content Creators Coalition has set up a petition for their cause.

"Mr. Markie didn't write that tune (although he did probably write the rap)," Byrne wrote. "The drum and keyboard loop was lifted from a Freddie Scott recording, but the song was written by Gamble and Huff, the great songwriting team that wrote for the O'Jays and the Spinners. So chances are Biz Markie didn't see any royalties from all the radio play that song got."

The concert begins at 6 p.m. and is free to those who RSVP.

In recent months, Byrne has been campaigning for performers and songwriters to make more money all around. Last October, he wrote a lengthy essay for The Guardian about Spotify saying that "the amounts these services pay per stream is minuscule – their idea being that if enough people use the service those tiny grains of sand will pile up." He also blamed major labels for "siphoning off" the royalties the service pays out, "then [the labels] dribble about 15 to 20 percent of what's left down to their artists."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

More Song Stories entries »