I’ve Always Wondered

Music rights are a funny thing.

When I was in radio, I learned that music rights and royalties work something like this:

  1. To play music in public – on a radio station, television show, movie, in-store muzak, jukebox, elevator, nightclub, TV or radio commercial or whatever – you pay a fee to one of the big three music licensing agencies – ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.    The agencies distribute the fees to the songwriters (the names that used to be listed under the song title in incredibly tiny type on old albums and .45s)  via an incredibly complex (the better to hide the cheating) formula.
  2. If you didn’t pay the licensing fee, the songwriter and publisher could haul you in to court and charge “mechanical royalties” – better known as “a court judgment”.

And that’s pretty much it.

We’ll come back to that.   Rolling Stone is “covering”  Michele Bachmann’s campaign in…

…well, the same way all the media are “covering” it:

Michele Bachmann hasn’t exactly gotten her campaign off to the best start. It’s bad enough to confuse movie legend John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy and crazily insist that John Quincy Adams was a founding father at the age of nine…

Because goodness knows we can’t have a gaffe-prone president or vice president atop the executive branch…

…but now she’s gone and pissed off Tom Petty. The Minnesota congresswoman played “American Girl” yesterday when she walked onstage at a rally, and Rolling Stone has confirmed reports that Petty’s management team immediately sent the Bachmann campaign a cease and desist letter.

So I’m wondering – provided that Bachmann’s campaign paid her licensing fee, what recourse does Petty really have?

I mean, for over 20 years Rush Limbaugh has been using “My City Was Gone”, by the ultra-socialist Chrissie Hynde, as his theme song, right? Hynde can’t have been thrilled

Say, if I were to play “American Girl?”

Would he object? Even if I were to be a rebel…

…and reject his california-liberal politics?

Because I certainly won’t back down. (Wait – I don’t like that song that much).

Because a good chunk of the right is singing…

Anyway – this one’s for you, Mark Dayton and Tom Bakk and Paul Thissen:

…you knew that was coming, didn’t you?

14 thoughts on “I’ve Always Wondered

  1. Put me down as favoring political gaffes of any stripe. Also put me down for favoring a candidate who selects a song that’s not on the KQRS playlist.

    That’s why I’ve announced my candidacy for president of the United States and have selected Sugarfoot by Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears.

    said now baby
    Give me
    Your lovin
    I need it
    I’m squeezing
    I’m touching
    I’m rubbing
    I told ya
    Common down here baby
    You gotta give me my sugar

    That shouldn’t cause any problems.

    If it does, I’ll just switch to Louie Louie.

  2. Wow MBerg. YOU BREAK NEWS!!
    Someone just announced their candidacy for POTUS here on little old SiTD! Congratulations and Good Luck Bob Collins!!
    Of course, Mr. Collins, MPR will have to take you off the air, off their website and off the payroll. I’ll make a note to e-mail MPR management a cached screen copy of your announcement above – although, based on the lyrics, I imagine former rep Anthony Weiner already has the rights to “Sugarfoot” :( – and copy the FCC, FEC, USDA and all the other alphabet soup agencies to make certain MPR isn’t running afoul of the law. Since Michelle Bachman is my rep, I’m sure her office will have no issue making certain that the myriad of election laws are enforced relative to broadcasters (like MPR) giving free airtime to candidates (like yourself). Better get that fund raising going, because as John McCain learned, BHO is a hard guy to beat, what with so many (94%?) of the reporters and media organizations ignoring his many gaffes and misstatements while amplifying those of his opponents (namely you, now). Good Luck – I’m pulling for you!
    By the way, I’m glad Tom Petty hasn’t prevented President Obama from using “Free Fallin” as the theme for his economic policies and the stature of the US around the world.

  3. Bob,

    A sly move; I think Black Joe Lewis’ catalog is in the public domain.

    But if the move is to out-eclectic the opposition? Damn the torpedoes; I’m using Ride of the Valkyries.

    I’ll use it as an audio bed for my campaign speeches…

  4. RE: Chrissie Hynde v. Rush Limbaugh – according to Wikipedia…
    “In 1997, Hynde battled Rush Limbaugh over using her song “My City Was Gone” without permission. After Limbaugh agreed to donate royalties to PETA, she let him use the song.” -source: Rolling Stone magazine.

  5. Once an artist has given ASCAP or BMI the authority to collect royalties on their behalf, how much control do they truly have over the playing of their music? Could an artist demand that KDWB not play their music, wanting it only played on KS95?

  6. The ASCAP agreement says that once a radio station plays a particular composition under license, it cannot be restricted from further play for the purpose of restricting it to a particular program or station.

    Beyond that, an artist can restrict a particular composition from being played only 500 times.

  7. As in, the artist can lodge 500 complaints per song? Or cap plays to a max of 500? (I may need caffeine).

  8. We don’ty know if “Petty’s management team” is acting under instruction from Petty, do we? If he has any political views, I don’t think he’s ever been very strident about them.

  9. Hmmm. I wonder if Toby Keith would object to Pres. Obama using “How Do You Like Me Now?”

    He might not since Toby Keith is a Democrat who endorsed Barack Obama in 2008.

  10. thorley;

    You are correct, but I believe that he has buyer’s remorse. He’s very careful with his words, but in banter sessions with our military people, he seems to have soured on Obumbler.

    And, Petty had no problem when Billary Clintoon used it, so, yeah, there is a bias there somewhere. But, I’m not a Petty fan anyway.

  11. Tom Petty? I thought he was dead. Oh, maybe that’s just his music career. I heard he plays Canasta with John Cougar Mellencamp, Davy Jones and M.C. Hammer.

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