Thursday, August 2, 2007

The ongoing debate over SoundExchange's independence from the RIAA

There is an ongoing debate over whether or not SoundExchange is controlled by the RIAA. Originally, it was an unincorporated division of the RIAA. Then in 2003, it was spun off. But to paraphrase an old saying, you can take the SoundExchange out of the RIAA, but you can't take the RIAA out of the SoundExchange!

Or can you?

In theory, SoundExchange is made up of 9 label representatives and 9 artist representatives. In theory, only 6 of the board seats are supposed to be RIAA. But as we see below, it's not really balanced out the way it should be ideally. Adding 2 more seats to independent labels might be the way to really fix this in the eyes of many.

SoundExchange Board of Directors by categories:

Independent Artist Reps: 3
RIAA-releated Reps: 8
Other reps, often siding with the RIAA: 4
Other reps, often opposing the RIAA: 3

Seems like the votes will fall to the RIAA side in most cases. If I'm wrong, I'd like to know about it.

Truly Independent:

Richard Bengloff - American Association of Independent Music Walter F. McDonough, Esq. - Future of Music Coalition (FMC) Dick Huey - Matador Records (note that Dick Huey holds the small independent label seat on the SoundExchange board, and while he has been a vocal proponent of radio royalties but at the same time a supporter of small webcasters)

RIAA Representstives

Alasdair McMullan - EMI Music North America
Andrea Finkelstein - Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Kendall Minter (Entertainment lawyer, RIAA-affiliated label owner)
Larry Kenswil - RIAA
Michael Ostroff - Universal Music Group
Mitch Bainwol - RIAA
Paul Robinson - Warner Music Group
Tom Silverman - Tommy Boy Entertainment LLC (RIAA board member, although Tommy Boy isn't a RIAA member label)

Board members often siding with the RIAA position

Daryl P. Friedman - Recording Academy
Jay L. Cooper, Esq. - Recording Artists' Coalition (RAC)
Kim Roberts Hedgpeth - AFTRA
Patricia Polach - AFM

Unknown or inconsistent RIAA siding:

Michael Hausman - Michael Hausman Artist Management, Inc. (Manages currently-independent released Aimee Mann, RIAA-released Suzanne Vega among others)
Patrick Rains - PRA Management (Manages RIAA-released artist Cheryl Crow and a lot of big smooth jazz names, operates an indie label PRA records that released 20 discs or so in the 90s)
Perry Resnick - Music Manager's Forum-U.S.



Blogger Fred said...

I'm going to disagree on the "independence" of some of those Board members. Please remember that all of them were invited to sit on the Board by the RIAA. It really isn't likely that they are going to choose people who were going to offend the ones who invited them to sit at the cool table. The only ones with a real constituency are the union reps, and, as you note, they are hardly firebrands.

Just as important as the independence of the Board is the makeup of the executive suite. Every executive at SoundExchange has an RIAA pedigree. Even when they had a chance to change that record earlier this year, they replaced one former RIAA counsel with another. These are the people who run the organization on a day to day basis, and if you think they aren't beholden to the RIAA for their jobs, you are mistaken.

Also, please do not forget that SoundExchange and the RIAA had joint strategy sessions before and during the CRB hearing process. There wasn't an artist rep in the room, or, as far as I can tell, an indie label rep. The RIAA wasn't a party to those hearings, but SoundExchange made a pretty good stand-in.

And if you've seen any "independent" influence on the way SoundExchange has handled negotiations of the webcaster rates, please point it out. From where I sit, it has been textbook RIAA tactics all the way, and every press release has been straight from the playbook.

Given that history, parsing the "independence" of Board members is useless unless they actually demonstrate some independence.

August 2, 2007 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian Zisk did a pretty great job of calling John Simspn out on this very issue the Royalty Week article found here:

In that article, JS notes that RIAA has provided SE with free legal ("RIAA lawyers have in the past have come over and given us the value of their expertise and they don’t charge us for that...")

... and then tries, in the same paragraph, to say the main reason SE hired an RIAA lawyer away to be SE's general council wad because "... there’s a very limited number of people who are really expert in (statutory licensing)"

Yeah, right. I'm sure there's a real shortage of copyright lawyers kicking around there in D.C... they're practically extinct ...

When the article then continues with "He’s a great litigator by training" ...

... is it any wonder people expect the worst?

August 3, 2007 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of *course* SoundExchange is a tool of the RIAA. The RIAA didn't get into the position they're in without mastering the art of the political process. There's no way they would allow a law to be passed that didn't give them the upper hand in some way. That's Politics 101.

August 5, 2007 10:56 AM  

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