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"A picture with Gwen Stefani and the Dixie Chicks will draw a lot more 18-34-year-old eyes than one with Hilary Rosen or Tommy Mottola. It's common sense, and there's nothing wrong with it."
——Simon Renshaw
POLS, MUSICIANS SING IN HARMONY
Elected Officials and Rock Stars
Now Officially Bedfellows
If there's one definable trend in the 2002 music industry, it would be "politicization." Here's a sampling:
  • California State Senator Kevin Murray champions legislation that would repeal the exemption for recording artists in California's seven-year statute. He compares the exemption to indentured servitude.
  • Michigan Congressman John Conyers announces his intention to request an oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee to investigate allegations of payment from independent promoters to radio. Conyers uses the "P" word, as in "payola."
  • Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher sends a letter to the RIAA, claiming that "copy protected" CDs may be illegal. Boucher cites 1992's Audio Home Recording Act, which allows consumers to make copies of CDs or other music purchased for "personal use." That "fair use" provision means that blank DATs or CD-Rs have royalties built into their selling price. The royalties are paid to the record companies. Boucher argues that copy-protected CDs make "fair use" impossible and may be in direct conflict with the law.
  • Don Henley's Recording Artist Coalition moves forward with plans for a series of fundraisers on Grammy eve (2/26) to help finance the group's efforts to become a functioning political advocate for recording-artist rights. The RAC's Board consists of Henley, Glenn Frey, Sheryl Crow, Clint Black and other artists. Managers on the RAC Board include Irving Azoff, Jim Guerinot and The Firm's Simon Renshaw. "The RIAA spends millions of dollars in lobbying for its interests," said Renshaw. "While the RAC may agree with the RIAA on some issues, it's clear they need their own political voice. Is this a matter of the artists biting the hands that feed them? It's more like them slapping the hands that are reaching into their back pockets."

That said, are politicians like Murray, Conyers and Boucher really concerned with the issues at hand? Or, as some charge, are they attaching themselves to high-profile themes that could help their own career agendas. In the case of Murray and the seven-year statute, has he found some very powerful fund-raising allies in million-selling recording artists? Will the politicians tap into these artists' drawing power? Will the artists make themselves available?

"We've done this dance before," said one label topper, who requested anonymity. "Politicians love the music industry, and why wouldn't they? The press coverage is unbeatable."

"Smart politicians work with musicians because they help reach a major part of their constituency," said Renshaw. "A picture with Gwen Stefani and the Dixie Chicks will draw a lot more 18-34-year-old eyes than one with Hilary Rosen or Tommy Mottola. It's common sense, and there's nothing wrong with it."

According to attorney Don Engel, who has had several meetings with California's Murray: "I have no reason to believe that Murray has any other agenda than that of the issue. I know it's politics and that means it gets very political. I want to stay away from all of that."

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