As a pop star protest against “indentured servitude” by penny pinching record companies grew to near-deafening decibel levels on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s Grammy Awards, the music industry roared back. Led by Don Henley and Sheryl Crow, the Recording Artists Coalition has been demanding changes to a California law that ties musicians longer to contracts than in other industries.
Their efforts reached a crescendo Tuesday night with four Los Angeles protest concerts featuring such stars as the Eagles, Billy Joel, Stevie Nicks, Crow, No Doubt, The Offspring, The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Beck, and Eddie Vedder.
But music labels, production studios, CD manufacturers, merchandisers and graphic artists sounded a loud sour note to the artists’ demands as they launched an alliance of their own on Tuesday to fight any changes in the law.
The recording artists are behind a bill currently before the California state legislature to repeal an amendment won by the music industry in 1987 that allows record labels to keep artists tied to contracts longer than talent in other sectors.
The new California Music Coalition said the artists want the right to walk away from their existing contracts and that this will ultimately hurt the industry and the state economy.
“We have joined together today to urge the Legislature to reject this bill,” said Glen Barros, head of Concord Records, an independent record company based in Northern California.
“We are a coalition of small and large businesses and individuals who are committed to keeping jobs and opportunity in California and supporting California’s economy,” he said.
The recording industry directly supports more than 27,000 California jobs, including 40 in my own company, and tens of thousands more rely on our business,” he said.
Barros and others in the group said if this bill passes and is signed by Gov. Gray Davis, a record company’s ability to discover, represent and promote new talent would be reduced.
Furthermore, the opponents charged that the bill will benefit only a handful of superstar artists and will take away countless opportunities for artists to receive the promotion they need to be given the attention they deserve.
Miles Copeland, chairman of Ark-21 Records, a small record label, noted that the industry is already reeling from a variety of external causes, such as the digital revolution and online file swapping.
“Significant harm could be caused to the entire music business because of the very visible complaining by a few successful recording artists in our own family,” Copeland said.
“If the mega stars succeed with this effort, I feel strongly that it would be at the expense of those artists who have not made it yet,” he said.