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.
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.”