Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Artist Rights It's articles like this that made me stop reading Slate. That and the site's terrible redesign. The article critiques the Recording Artists Coalition's arguing that it's proposed labor law changes (7 year ceiling on recording contracts, weakening work for hire clause) will limit the recording industries ability to make profit and so reduce their investments in new talent. But for those of us who frown on indentured servitude, the recording industry should not be allowed to own its labor supply any more than Hollywood could under the studio system. The fundamental problem is that artists are in very weak bargaining positions before being picked up by a label, and in a much stronger position after (if) they become hits. So who should appropriate the profit from hit artists? Draconian labor contracts benefit the recording companies, as they can force artists to work for low wages even if they're wildly popular. Weaker labor contracts mean that artists get to keep most of their value if they become hits, and studios will earn lower profits unless they find better and/or cheaper ways to find profitable acts. Every other industry manages fine with more limited power of their labor suppliers, so I see no reason why the music biz should be any different.


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