EDITORIAL: If musicians don't get paid, we won't have much music

By: The Gazette editorial
April 23, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm
photo - LeShawn Carey of Carey-On Saloon was recently fined $21,000 for copyright infringement on songs that were sung during Karaoke at her bar near Peterson Air Force Base. (JERILEE BENNETT,  THE GAZETTE)
LeShawn Carey of Carey-On Saloon was recently fined $21,000 for copyright infringement on songs that were sung during Karaoke at her bar near Peterson Air Force Base. (JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE) 

A Gazette story Sunday explained how some business owners are shocked when told to pay fees for playing the radio, Pandora or their personal CDs for patrons.

Welcome to the free market, where fair distribution of capital facilitates the world's most creative and beneficial endeavors.

When a new drug cures a disease and saves lives, the inventors may get big rewards. Remuneration enables them to pay investors and invent more drugs.

The financial reward also facilitates drug innovators and their employees in buying homes. The homes employ architects and construction workers who subsequently buy goods and services with transactions that benefit an array of others working in various trades — all because of a beneficial new drug. Each transaction makes life better for buyer and seller. Each creates wealth that can even be shared through charitable gifts to people in oppressed, lawless regions who have nothing to buy or sell.

Critics of capitalism view it as a system of inequality and greed. Just invent helpful drugs for the common good.

The composer of a song is not much different than the inventor of a pharmaceutical or anything else of value. Like the drug maker, the musician puts forth tremendous time and effort with only the distant and unlikely prospect of income. The artist must draw on years of experience and discipline to create and/or perform a tune that just might be so good people will buy it. The drug inventor and musician each wants to create something that will benefit millions of strangers.

To embark upon and sustain creative pursuits, innovators require the potential of capital gain. Those who cannot achieve returns — due to professional failure or a system that won't allow reward — must choose safer endeavors. It's hard to imagine Michael Jackson embarking on "Thriller" in return for a wage he could have earned working 9 to 5.

Americans protect the right and ability to profit from creativity with a legal system that is second to none. That's why so much of the world's most popular music — whether it's country, rock, jazz, R&B or rap — emanates from the United States. That's why so many of the world's musicians have relocated here for much of the past century. They may not analyze the details, but they know this country offers the potential to support their art with profits.

Three private associations of musicians — ASCAP, BMI and SESAC — assist members in getting paid in a manner regulated by courts.

The collection agents monitor broadcasters, public venues, restaurants and corner bars. When a business charges $7 for a beer that wholesales for a buck, the owner sells an experience that comes with overhead. When a portion of the ambiance involves music, the artist deserves a slice. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC charge fees to enterprises that make commercial use of music and disperse a portion of those fees to members. The money is allocated through a system that determines which songs are played the most and least. The music is a cost of doing business.

Nothing is free. One man's free song is another's sacrifice. Societies that allow or force widespread "free" use of property end up with little of value. How many worldwide hits emanated from the Soviet Union or East Berlin? Artists from Cuba and Vietnam aren't known for topping international charts.

So don't complain too much about the markup of drinks when patronizing businesses and enjoying the sound. It pays overhead, which includes royalties to musicians for their role in our enjoyment of a night on the town.

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