The Pirates of Radio One

Sometimes radio people say the darndest things – on-the-air.

That’s what happened at Radio One’s KBFB, Dallas recently when a jock apparently gave out information that included an illegal website where listeners could download the Carter III album – for free. The jock apparently got the story from a hip-hop web site.

You can bet the record label and distributor, Universal Music, was not pleased.

To its credit Radio One avoided further potential of legal problems when the program director reprimanded the jock. The station has since gotten religion on this issue by instructing on-air personalities not to give out website addresses where illegal downloads of music are available.


What is a radio station doing giving out illegal websites to listeners?

How out of touch.

Listeners already know these things. You’re not telling them the latest news. A station promoting piracy alienates the record label and last time I checked stations still need record labels for music, promotions and other things.

The station apparently is now encouraging listeners to support Carter III’s artist Lil Wayne by buying the CD.

By the way, the KBFB incident is not isolated. Apparently numerous other radio stations have been foolish enough to encourage their happy radio listeners to go to the Internet and steal the music their stations play.

These are crazy times in the music media business.

Just the other day Prince put his record exec hat on once again and decided to cover Radiohead’s “Creep” at Coachella.

Prince, the most user-unfriendly artist out there, prohibited those who could not attend the festival from even seeing it on YouTube. Not only that, Radiohead – the group that gave the song away on an optional pricing basis to its fans couldn’t see it either.

This begs the question: who owns the rights to digital music.

Here you have two different acts with two different views on music and downloading. Radiohead offered optional pricing in the much ballyhooed release of In Rainbows and Prince would make the RIAA proud with his anti-consumer stance on the same issue.

Remember, this is the guy who disappeared from the music scene in a nasty dispute with his record label when record labels were really, well -- record labels. That’s how he became the artist previously known as Prince. But he’s up to his old tricks again. He shut down his official website in September and threatened to sue eBay and YouTube for not filtering unauthorized content.

What people seem to forget here is that music has been devalued because of digital downloading and stealing music isn’t going stop anytime soon.

Selling singles for 99 cents on iTunes didn’t devalue music, the inability of record labels to protect its delivery system did. They could put sensors on CDs to keep them from walking out of record stores, but they haven't (and will not likely ever) find an effective way of stopping music piracy.

So today we have some radio stations driving listeners away from their terrestrial signals to steal music online and artists driving fans away because in an attempt to protect what is not possible to protect.

It’s a real mess. The radio industry was the major force behind music sales and the labels were the only source to buy music.

Those days are gone.

In fact, this week Nancy Sinatra and other artists are going before Congress to argue in favor of repealing the performance rights exemption for radio – the people who even helped her have a hit record or two.

The RIAA targeting college students for stealing music is like the church excommunicating young people for having sex. It’s a nice threat but it can’t effectively be enforced.

The record and radio industries achieved their successes together and they apparently are going to fail together as well.

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