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On September 1 Mitch Bainwol will take over as head honcho at the RIAA, an organization bent on bankrupting the target audience of the major record labels that it represents. Is he up to the task? You bet.
For the first time in my journalistic career, I’m cutting Hilary Rosen a little slack (very little, though). With as much relish as Rosen seemed to take doing her job, ultimately it wasn’t her that was calling the shots. It was the label execs that supply the organization’s $44 million (2002) budget. If they didn’t think that brow-beating music fans over music downloads was a good idea, then Rosen never would have been able to proceed with such a diabolical plan.
While Rosen states that she left the RIAA for personal reasons, it is more likely that she may have been a liability to the organization, having come to power in 1998 as a Clinton White House insider. In an era where partisan politics is a mandate, this just wouldn’t wash when the industry was trying to convince a Republican Congress and White House that all rights and liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution should be set aside with regards to music.
Exit Tipper Gore’s tea-time buddy. Enter Senate Majority leader Bill Frist’s former chief of staff.
Bainwol is the ultimate insider with regards to the present administration. Besides his recent tenure with Frist, he was previously executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In other words, as an accomplished bagman (campaign fund-raiser), Bainwol already has the knowledge of which pockets to grease and the access to grease them. This doesn’t bode well for music fans.
In a press release, Bainwol states, "What could be more rewarding than helping to promote two great American traditions: music and property rights?" This would be something like his former boss, Frist, stating "What could be more rewarding than helping promote two great American traditions: healthy Americans and for-profit HMOs. Placing his emphasis on the second will undoubtedly serve to the detriment of the first. And privacy guarantees don’t fit anywhere into the equation at all.
Bainwaol inherits (at present) over 1,000 subpoenas issued by the RIAA to obtain information from Internet Service Providers on suspected music file sharers. While the initial court appeals by some of the ISPs have been successful, that probably won’t last. It’s in the bag.
Meet the new bitch. Kinda looks like the old bitch.
BILL GLAHN writes the RIAA Watch column for CounterPunch and the Husgow Record Guide bi-weekly at www.mondogordo.com. His "Piss On It: The Best of Live Music Review" book will be published by Options Publications later this year. Glahn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org