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Pay To Play: San Diego Filmmaker Aims To Fix Music Industry

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Pay to Play: San Diego Filmmaker Aims To Fix Music Industry
Pay to Play: San Diego Filmmaker Aims To Fix Music Industry GUEST:Scott Kirby, writer and director, "Music Matters" documentary

THIS IS KPBS MIDDAY EDITION. HOW DO YOU GET YOUR MUSIC THESE DAYS? ON iTUNES PANDORA? USED ABOUT OCCASIONAL CD? YOU EVER LISTEN TO MUSIC RADIO? IT SEEMS AS MANY AS THE PLATFORMS FOR LISTENING TO MUSIC INCREASE, PARADOXICALLY THE CHANCES FOR MUSICIANS ARE BEING ABLE TO MAKE A LISTEN DECREASE. MEMBERS OF THE ROCKER PINK FLOYD RECENTLY SPOKE OUT ON WHAT THEY CALL THE BIGGEST MUSIC STORY OF THE 21st CENTURY THE DEVALUATION OF MUSIC. IT'S JUST THE LATEST COMPLAINT ABOUT WHAT SOME CALL SILICON VALLEY'S TAKEOVER OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. MY NEXT YES TRACES ARE STRAIGHT LINE FROM TODAY'S MUSIC INDUSTRY TURMOIL RIGHT BACK TO OF ALL THINGS THEY PAYOLA LAWS OF THE 1950s. KPBS IS A SCOTT KIRBY IS A WRITER OF THE DOCUMENTARY MUSIC MATTERS. GREEN I'M HONORED TO BE HERE. THERE'S BEEN A NUMBER OF STARS THAT SAID THEY ARE REALLY HAPPY THAT THEY ARE NOT STARTING OUT NOW BECAUSE OF THEM MASS THE INDUSTRIES IN. TO THINK MUSICIANS AND MUSIC HAVE BECOME DEVALUED? WHILE I THINK THE PROBLEM IS THAT FOR 50 YEARS DURING THE GENESIS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY THERE WAS A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF DYSFUNCTION BETWEEN THE PEOPLE THAT MADE MUSIC AND THE RADIO THAT DISTRIBUTED IT. THE PROBLEM IS EVERYTHING HAS BECOME COLOSSALLY EXPENSIVE BECAUSE OF THE DISHARMONY, NO PUN INTENDED BETWEEN THE RECORD INDUSTRY IN THE RADIO. THIS STEMS FROM THE 1960 LAW THAT YOU MENTION CALLED THE PALE OF LAW. YOU SPENT QUITE SOME TIME EXPLAINING THE CRACKDOWN ON PALE UP IN THE LATE 50s AND 60s. WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH TODAY? IT'S KIND OF A BLEED OVER. YOU CAN'T TEACH NEW DOGS NEW TRICKS WHILE OLD HABITS DIE HARD AND THE DYSFUNCTION THAT HAPPEN FOR 50 YEARS, I'VE A FRIEND NAMED EMILY WHO POINTED OUT ACCURATELY THAT IF RADIO AND THE RECORD INDUSTRY WERE ACTUALLY IN A FUNCTIONAL COORDINATED BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP, MORE THAN LIKELY THE RADIO INDUSTRY MIGHT HAVE COME OUT WITH THE ORIGINAL NAPSTER. INSTEAD OF HAVING IT FLAREUP AND DIE OUT ON THE INTERNET ITSELF? RIGHT BECAUSE THE JUDICIARIES WOULD'VE HAD SYNERGY. ELVIS PRESLEY IN YOUR DOCUMENTARY, HE'S A FOCUS OF THE BEGINNING OF THIS BECAUSE HIS MUSIC WAS SEEN AS A THREAT TO THE RACIAL SEGREGATION OF THE TIME AND BATS WHAT REALLY MOTIVATED IN YOUR OPINION THE CRACKDOWN ON PALE UP. LET'S HEAR ALL THIS WITH HIS BREAKTHROUGH HIT THAT'S ALL RIGHT. [MUSIC] SCOTT YOUR PREMISE WAS THE PAYOLA LAWS HAVE MORE TO DO WITH RACISM IN THE ACTUALLY DID IN MAUREEN CAVANAUGH CONTROL BRIBERY IN RADIO AND RECORD INDUSTRY. ACTUALLY IT WASN'T BRIBERY, THE RADIO INDUSTRY HAD BEEN DOING BUSINESS TOGETHER FOR A LONG TIME. NOBODY PAID THE SITE IS BIT OF ATTENTION. THE PALE OF LAW HAD 99% TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT PEOPLE LIKE EMANUEL CELLAR WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW YORK WAS TRYING TO ERADICATE THE FACT THAT WHITE GUY LIKE I WAS PRESLEY DARED TO PLAY MUSIC UP TO THAT TIME AND HE CONSIDERED THIS TO BE VULGAR AND ANIMAL GYRATIONS AND IT HAD TO BE WIPED OFF THE RADIO. HE THOUGHT THE PALE OF LAW WOULD DO IT AND OF COURSE IT FAILED IT FAILED MISERABLY IN EVERYTHING IT'S ATTEMPTED TO DO. IT JUST MADE DISCORD BETWEEN THE PEOPLE BE THAT MADE MUSIC AND THE PEOPLE WHO PLAY IT. MANY MUSICIANS WOULD LOOK BACK TO THE 60s 70s AND 80s WHEN PAYOLA LAWS WERE IN EFFECT AS THE GLORY YEARS WHEN THE RECORD SALES WERE GOING RIGHT AT THE ROOT. HERE'S A BLOCK BUSTER FROM MICHAEL JACKSON'S BILLIE JEAN. [MUSIC] THEY PAYOLA LAWS DIDN'T MESS UP THE INDUSTRY THEN. THAT'S GOOD THEY WERE NEVER FOLLOWED. FOR 90% OF THE TIME NOBODY EVER HERE TO THE PAYOLA LAWS BECAUSE NOBODY CARED ABOUT THEM. THE PALE OF ALL WAS A MAJOR REACTION IN 1960 AND APPARENTLY THE REAL PURPOSE OF IT WAS TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD BETWEEN LABELS THAT HAD A LOT OF MONEY AND THE LABELS THAT WERE CASH POOR. AND NEVER DID ANYTHING OF THE KIND. HOW DOES IT STOP ANY COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE RECORD INDUSTRY AND MUSIC RADIO? GOES LIKE EVERY SUBJECT IN MUSIC MATTERS, WE HAVE PEOPLE COME AND SAY YOU CAN'T STOP PAYOLA. YOU CAN'T STOP AN INDUSTRY WITH TONS OF MONEY HAVING AN ADVANTAGE OVER PEOPLE THAT DON'T HAVE A LOT OF MONEY. JIM CARREY HIS AT THE STOCK THE DISC JOCKEY TALKS ABOUT HOW YOU HAVE SODA POP AND CEREALS THAT OUR EYE LEVEL AND THEN THE OFF LABELS THAT ARE AT YOUR FEET. THEY WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE ADVANTAGE OF HER COMPANIES THAT DON'T HAVE MONEY. OUR GOVERNMENT KNEW THAT AND THEY JUST TRY TO MAKE A KNEE-JERK REACTION TO STOP ELVIS PRESLEY AND WHEN IT DIDN'T WORK NOBODY HAD A PLAN TO SAY WAIT A MINUTE IS THIS LOT REALLY LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD? OF COURSE IT DIDN'T. 90% OF THE MUSIC ON THE RADIO STATIONS COME FROM THE THREE MAJOR LABELS. WHAT ARE THEY HAVE GOING FOR THEM? THEY HAVE ALL THE MONEY. YOU ALSO GO ON IN THE DOCUMENTARY TO TALK ABOUT THE NAPSTER AIR ARAB. YOU POINTED OUT AS WHEN THINGS STARTED TO GO WRONG. THE THING IS THAT NAPSTER SHOWED THE WORLD THAT MUSIC COULD BE SENT OUT WITH THE CLICK OF A MOUSE BUTTON TO 10 PEOPLE AND THEN INSTANTLY TO 1000 PEOPLE THAN TO 50,000 PEOPLE THAN 1 MILLION PEOPLE WITH NO COST. THE LOGJAM HAPPEN BECAUSE THE TWO INDUSTRIES HAD NO BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP GOING. THE RECORD INDUSTRY HAD A GREAT CHANCE TO LOOK AT NAPSTER AND REALIZE THAT THIS WAS A BLESSING TO THEM. NO LONGER WHAT THEY HAVE TO MANUFACTURE THE CDS ARE THE PRODUCT, PUT IT IN TRUCKS AND TRAINS AND SEND IT AROUND AND THEN INVENTORY. ALL OF THIS STUFF WAS EXPENSIVE. BUT WITH THE INTERNET ALL THESE COSTS ARE DECIMATED. THEY SHOULD HAVE PASSED ON THE SAVINGS TO THE CONSUMER AND THEY DIDN'T. THEY ACTUALLY RAISED PRICES AND PRACTICE COLLUSION. INSTEAD OF COLLABORATING WITH NAPSTER, THEY BROUGHT IT DOWN. HERE'S THE SONG THAT LED TO THE DOWNFALL OF NAPSTER. [MUSIC] THAT SONG LED TO THE DOWNFALL OF NAPSTER. LED TO THE LAWSUIT THAT LED TO NAPSTER'S DOWNFALL. YOU SAY THAT THERE WAS A GOLDEN MOMENT WHEN THE RECORD COMPANIES COULD HAVE, NAPSTER WAS GONE AND THE FIELD WAS OPEN FOR FILE SHARING AND FOR INTERNET MUSIC WHERE THE RECORD INDUSTRY COULD HAVE FORMED SOME SORT OF ALLIANCE WITH ANOTHER INTERNET PROVIDER AND ACTUALLY STARTED BRINGING OUT MUSIC THAT THEY STILL OWNED ONTO THE INTERNET. IT'S KIND OF SILLY. NAPSTER WAS THE FASTEST GROWING INTERNET SERVICE IN THE HISTORY OF MUSIC, ANY INTERNET CONCERN. THEY WENT FROM ZERO USERS TO 1 MILLION FASTER THAN ANY OTHER USAGE BEFORE. BECAUSE THE INTERNET AND MUSIC ARE PART PERFECT PARTNERSHIP TOGETHER. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS SAY THIS SERVICE NAPSTER SEEMS TO LIMIT ALL OF OUR NEEDS. WHY DON'T WE JUST CHARGE SOME INEXPENSIVE PRICE AT FIVE BUCKS A MONTH AND SAY HEY PEOPLE THAT USE NAPSTER GO AHEAD AND USE IT. YOU KNOW WHAT MORNING, THEY WOULD'VE BEEN ABLE TO LET 90% OF THEIR EMPLOYEES GO AND JUST HIRE A BUNCH OF ACCOUNTANTS. ONE OF THE THINGS WAS THAT WE DID HAVE iTUNES. THAT STARTED UP IN 2004. YOU TALK ABOUT iTUNES HOWEVER NOT MAKING MUSIC ABLE TO RESPOND TO THE FORCES OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND. THAT MEETING TO MUSICIANS AND LABELS AND A LOT OF PEOPLE NOT BEING PAID FAIRLY FOR THE MUSIC. APPLE'S iTUNES PRACTICES COLLUSION. THIS IS PRICE-FIXING. IF YOU GO TO APPLE'S iTUNES YOU FIND THAT THE PRICES ARE $.99 AND A DOLLAR 29. WHEN THEY FIRST STARTED OUT, THEY WERE THE SAME PRICE FIVE YEARS LATER THEY WERE THE SAME PRICE AND TODAY THAT THE SAME PRICE. IF YOU GO TO AMAZON.COM'S MUSIC SERVICE, THEY ARE STILL $.99 A SONG. BASICALLY WHAT YOU HAVE IS THE FREE MARKET GUIDELINES TO NOT HOLD. HAD THE MUSIC INDUSTRY DROPPED THE PRICES LIKE THEIR PRICES DROPPED, THE MUSIC INDUSTRY WOULD BE BOOMING. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE INDUSTRY CHANGE? TWO THINGS. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY BEING FORCED TO PRACTICE OUR MARKET ECONOMY GUIDELINES WHICH IS EVERYBODY'S PRICES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE MET BY SUPPLY AND DEMAND. AND I WOULD LIKE PEOPLE TO LOOK AT THE PALE OF LAW. DID IT ACTUALLY LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD? DID IT ACTUALLY SEGREGATE MUSIC? IF WE COULD LET THE PEOPLE THAT DISTRIBUTE THE MUSIC WHETHER THAT WOULD BE PANDORA SPOT IF I OR APPLE'S iTUNES, THEN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY WOULD COMPLETELY DO A 180° TURN AROUND. THE REASON WHY NETFLIX IS SUCCESSFUL TODAY IS BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE THEIR PRICE, AND THEY LIKE THEIR SOFTWARE THAT HELPS THEM FIND FILMS THEY CATER TO WHAT THE NEEDS ARE. WE NEED AN EXACT REPLICA OF THAT IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. WE NEED TO LET LAST A FAIR CAPITALISM WORK IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. I WOULD LIKE TO SPEND THE LAST COUPLE OF MINUTES OF OUR INTERVIEW TALKING ABOUT SPECIFICALLY YOUR DOCUMENTARY MUSIC MATTERS. OBVIOUSLY YOU FEEL EXTREMELY PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS SUBJECT HAVE EVER MADE A DOCUMENT TO BEFORE? IT'S MY FIRST ONE AND I WAS FORCED INTO DOING IT BECAUSE ALL OF THE EFFORTS I DONE PREVIOUSLY BY STARTING TO COMPANIES, ONE CALLED RIM WHICH IS RADIO INFORMATION MANAGEMENT AND CALLED FAIR AIRFIELD. AND I REALIZE THEY FAILED BECAUSE OF THE PALE OF LAW. WHAT FAIR AIR COMMUNICATIONS DID WITH JOHN BRODIE AND JEFF WHITE WAS TRY TO CONNECT MUSIC AND BROADCAST INDUSTRY WITH AN INTERNET PIPELINE THAT COULD SENT EVERYTHING THEY NEEDED BETWEEN THEM AND THE COMPANY FAILED. I SAID HOW COULD THIS FAIL? I REALIZED IT WAS THE PALE OF LAW. THE TWO INDUSTRIES HAD NO HISTORY OF SYNERGY TOGETHER. SPEC YOU MAKE THIS DOCUMENTARY MUSIC MATTERS, WHERE HAVE YOU SHOWN THE MOVIE? YOUR ACTION SETTING UP PLACES TO SHOW IT. WE ARE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CALE CI IN ORANGE COUNTY CALIFORNIA, AND WE ARE PREPARING TO SHOW IT AT THE BOATHOUSE PAVILION AND WE ARE GETTING READY TO SHOW IT ORANGE COAST COLLEGE. BASICALLY THE FILM IS AVAILABLE TO ANYBODY WHO'S INTERESTED IN ANYBODY WHO'S A MUSICIAN OR THAT'S A FAN. YOU CAN GO TO MUSIC MATTERS.ORG AND CLICK ON OUR TAB ON TOP. WATCH THE FILM INTERACT AND THIS IS A FILM THAT TRIES TO GET MUSICIANS AND FANS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE PALE OF LAW WAS. GO RESEARCH THE RACIST UNDERTONES OF IT AND SAY IS THIS LAW HELPING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY OR UNDERMINING EVERYTHING IS TRYING TO DO I'M INTERESTED IN WHAT KIND OF REACTION YOU'VE GOTTEN TO THE FILM. EVERYBODY HAS BEEN VERY POSITIVE ABOUT IT DONE VERY WELL. WHAT WE FOUND OUT UNFORTUNATELY IS THAT THESE PEOPLE THAT WERE TRYING TO GET TO WATCH THE FILM LIKE IT THE CHINES GET PEOPLE TO TAKE 53 MINUTES OUT OF THEIR DAY IS A DIFFICULT THING. WHAT WE REALIZED IS THE MOVIE IS A MEANS TO AN END. THE END RESULT IS THAT PEOPLE LEARN ABOUT THE PALE OF LAW AND LEARN ABOUT COLLUSION. THEY ASKED THE QUESTION IS THE PALE OF LAW IN COLLUSION WITH THE MAJOR UNDERCURRENT OF THE COMPLETE DYSFUNCTION WE HAVE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? SCOTT KIRBY A WANT TO THANK YOU. THANK YOU MAUREEN.

Do you remember when you bought your first record album? Or maybe it was a tape, or a CD.

Many shoppers now skip brick and mortar stores, like record shops and buy music files online or subscribe to streaming services such as Pandora, or Spotify.

That move has caused some to blame Silicon Valley and the digital age for the downfall of the music industry.

But a San Diego filmmaker says not so fast.

Scott Kirby is the writer and director of the documentary "Music Matters." He traces the decline of the industry to a U.S. bill passed in 1960 called the "Payola Act." The law made it illegal for record companies to pay radio stations to play their records, unless they disclosed the transaction on air. It was designed to level the playing field, so musicians and smaller record labels would have the same chance as bigger acts for airplay.

But Kirby argues in his documentary that the real reason the Payola Act was passed was racism, and it was an attempt to keep black artists off the radio. He said the law does the opposite of what it was supposed to do: ensure diversity on the public airwaves.

“It just made discord between the people who make music and the people who distribute music,” Kirby told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “The Payola Law was a kneejerk reaction to the 1960s.”

Kirby also touched on the failure of the music industry to capitalize on the Internet. He uses Napster, an online music-sharing service that launched in 1999, as an example.

“Napster showed the world that music can be sent out with the click of a button at basically no cost,” but the music industry failed to take advantage of the service, Kirby said.

Instead, the industry raised costs for CDs.

Kirby said he hopes his documentary will force viewers to re-examine the Payola Law and the music industry.