18 February 2004

Treating the Symptom

I'm going to pull a random CD out of my collection (not completely random, as it will be so-called "popular music" from the last 15 years) to show what the real problem with the music industry is. Don Henley alluded to it indirectly in his opinion piece in the Washington Post yesterday:

So whether they are fighting against media and radio consolidation, fighting for fair recording contracts and corporate responsibility, or demanding that labels treat artists as partners and not as employees, the core message is the same: The artist must be allowed to join with the labels and must be treated in a fair and respectful manner. If the labels are not willing to voluntarily implement these changes, then the artists have no choice but to seek legislative and judicial solutions. Simply put, artists must regain control, as much as possible, over their music.

"Killing the Music" (17 Feb. 2004).

I just pulled a copy of Suzanne Vega's 1990 CD Days of Open Hand from the shelf. It bears the following copyright notice, and only notices elsewhere in the packaging consistent with this notice printed on the CD itself:

Produced by Anton Lanko and Suzanne Vega (P) © 1990 A&M Records, Inc. All rights reserved. Made in the U.S.A.

By comparison, pulling a recent first-time novel off the shelf, we find this notice:

All rights reserved. © 2001 by Ken Wharton [the author].

In terms of power relationships, Suzanne Vega in 1990 had a great deal more relative power, following up on a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album (Solitude Standing), than did new writer Ken Wharton, whose novel was accepted for publication before his first professional sale of other fiction. So, what gives? Why are musicians treated like employees and authors like artists? And does Henley's well-presented and well-taken objection to continued consolidation in the music industry treat the cause or the symptom? Does the title of this posting give away my answer?

Can you guess that this is another pathetic cliffhanger, on a subject I've alluded to previously?