In a speech at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, addressed issues facing her organization ranging from copyright concerns to the recent fundraising and publicity efforts of the fledgling Recording Artists Coalition. Led by Don Henley of the Eagles, the RAC recently held four benefit concerts on the eve of the Grammy’s in Los Angeles in an effort to raise money and awareness for their cause, in particular their goal of repealing California Labor Code 2855, which bars recording artists from opting out of personal service contracts after seven years.
In her remarks Thursday, Rosen equated the RAC characterization of the record labels during their recent publicity campaign to “throwing fresh meat” to the public. “It’s not as simple as it’s been portrayed,” Rosen said. “My fundamental view is that people should not be able to walk away from a deal they’ve made” adding that she saw the loophole in 2855 — that singles out recording artists — as a fair exception. Unlike sports and entertainment contracts, in music Rosen said, “the artist is uniquely in control of the delivery of albums.”
Ironically enough, considering that the RAC and RIAA are now diametrically opposed on the contract issue, Rosen claims she approached Henley and his manager Irving Azoff about creating an artist organization ten years ago, going so far as to offer office space for the endeavor.
In recent years, the RIAA has become best known for its efforts to combat music copyright issues, taking to the courts to stop online music file-trading services such as Napster from continuing to operate. Despite successfully halting Napster for the time being, Rosen asserted that the next wave of file-trading servers such as Music City, Kazaa and Morpheus “get more traffic now than Napster ever had,” and that a recent survey conducted by the RIAA registered a full thirty-four percent of music buyers who said the number one reason they weren’t buying music because they were able to find what they wanted for free.
With music sales declining in the past year, Rosen says the record companies share the blame for “not taking enough risks” and failing to be flexible in finding different ways to make music available to consumers, comparing the rigid album format to “only selling Coke in a sixty-four ounce bottle.”
“The clear problem in the last couple years is that the record companies have tried to serve too many masters, whether it’s listening to bricks and mortar retailers complaining about selling music online, or artists who didn’t want to sell singles online,” she said. “With too many voices the consumer got lost.”