DEAR MR. FANTASY


" Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune,
Something to make us all happy....."
Traffic, 1968


During the past 30 years the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) has not ever spoken for, or truly represented, recording artists. They seem like a stooge collective for the major labels. The public has recently become aware of what a rip-off the record labels have been perpetrating on them, and feels violated. P2P (unpaid file-sharing; i.e. original Napster) is a simple way to strike back at the record companies, but unfortunately it hurts the artists, producers & writers as well.

In my humble opinion, the record companies have cut short the life of the CD market by hiking up the retail costs while the wholesale costs basically plummet. It is inevitable that CDs will go the way of LPs. When one downloads a 99 cent file from the iTunes Store, there is currently space available in that file for artwork and notes. It's just not being used at the moment. Not that it matters to the younger demographic - they have forsaken notes, artwork and the actual entire album concept. They just want the songs they prefer; and whole albums be damned. It's us old folks that like to know who playedwhat on each track and what the actual lyrics are. Time for a change, methinks....

Here is my fantasy:

Steve Jobs, head of Apple Computer and the curator of iPods and iTunes, either buys or founds a major label. Currently, the public is not uniformly aware that record companies pay most artists between 10 to 15 % and keep 85% for themselves. They also "own" the artists work -- their masters -- for it's lifetime. How this arrangement has existed without change or legal challenge for more than 75 years is beyond MY comprehension.

So back to Mr. Jobs' new fantasy record company. Mr. Jobs pays the artist 75% and pays the other costs out of the remaining 25%. Impossible, you say? Not if he is not manufacturing CDs !!!!! It's strictly a download concern. Its the 21st Century, gang. He can license the right to others to manufacture his artists albums on CD, in much the way companies sublet their artists work to LP manufacturers now. So imagine a major star, like Springsteen or Beyonce, signing with Mr. Jobs label. It could be the blueprint for the destruction of record companies as we know them and all that avarice that has choked our creativity since the dawn of the music business. The majors would eventually topple, as each artist's contract expired unless they flip-flopped their current royalty payoffs, which somehow I just can't see happening.

I pray to the Lord that I live to see this happen. This is my 46th year as a professional recording musician and this is the first time I have ever seen light at the end of the tunnel.

Send this to anyone you think can help bring this fantasy to fruition.

God bless -

Al Kooper 9/10/04
www.alkooper.com

 

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