When the Grammy Awards take place on Sunday night, your best bet is the obvious one: somebody will get on stage and praise fellow Grammy-winner Barack Obama. The music industry, whose business model is totally upside-down at this point thanks to the availability of cheap music via the internet, owes a lot to the Obama Administration. Aside from the Defense Department putting Lady Gaga in control of personnel policy, the Obama Administration has put the weight of law enforcement behind the music industry – the 1%, if you will, as opposed to the 99% of consumers who want better access to cheaper music.
That isn’t who Obama was supposed to be. This friend of the younger generation – a man endorsed by the U.S. Pirate Party – was designated “a president who might carry an iPod (or a Zune) and, in a moment of late-night tedium, perhaps illegally download some Fleetwood Mac tracks” by the Daily Telegraph. Instead, Obama has sided with The Man.
It began even before Obama took office, when he tapped several industry lawyers for top positions in his Justice Department, including Tom Perelli, a “long-established agent of the major labels,” and David Ogden, another music industry favorite.
The music industry returned the favor when, in August 2009, Obama called on them to help him with his United We Serve campaign. They responded with enthusiasm, with groups like Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Jack Johnson, and Dave Matthews Band signing on. Michael Martin, who headed up the get-together effort, stated, “We’ve had great success with getting artists to make requests of their fans and we’ve had a tremendous response rate. Up to a 30, 40, 50 percent response rate.”
This cozy relationship continued when Obama issued a White Paper in 2011 terming illegal streaming and “peer-to-peer” sharing (P2P) “financial espionage” and calling for streamers to receive a 20-year prison sentence. “In other words,” wrote digital music guru Moses Avalon, “sites promoting the P2P lifestyle, would be investigated the in same way as street gangs, terrorists and the Mafia.”
And, of course, the Obama Administration pushed the abomination that is SOPA, largely in an attempt to get some campaign cash out of his friends in Hollywood. Last time around, they gave him more than $9 million in direct campaign contributions, and invaluable help in the pop culture. No wonder he wants to continue paying them off.
Now, nobody is for online piracy. It’s stealing, plain and simple. But the Obama Administration has used a baseball bat where a scalpel would do. And it’s done it all in the name of its glitzy friends. On Sunday night, expect those friends to sing his praises… again.