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RIAA Watch (2018 edition)

It’s probably been 15 years since I did my last RIAA Watch column for CounterPunch. Probably 10 since I last looked at the RIAA website. There just hasn’t been a whole lot to report. But sometimes you get curious.

So what’s new and what isn’t? Well, for starters, they’ve got a spiffy new layout, long on page size photos and short on words. Perfect. They’ve adapted to a model that is Instagram friendly. And what are they pitching on the home page? The 60-year history of their Gold and Platinum Awards ™. Notice they’ve dropped the “Records” part of the award. They seem to be catching up to the late 20th century in that regard.

For those born, say, before 1985, you might remember these. They were really nice wall-hangings of gold or silver colored 45s or albums that were made available (at a cost) to artists, managers, song writers, music publishing companies, corporate music magazines, radio stations, etc. Or to the publisher of a small bootleg review publication that ran rants about the RIAA in every issue if he happened to be at the right charity auction.

They came with an official RIAA hologram and a plaque presented to the applicable person/organization. They made great publicity photos for artists way back when.

I kind of wondered what a gold or platinum MP3 download would look like. But only for about 10 seconds. I scrolled down. The next item came under a caption of big block letters that proclaimed “WE ARE MUSIC.” All caps. If you shout it loud enough maybe somebody will believe you. I don’t. The RIAA has never recorded a piece of music in their entire history.

So I clicked on “MORE ABOUT WHAT WE DO” (all caps again, but smaller). They seem to be lowering the tone a bit. But, jeezus, it’s still kind of rude to shout.

After the same old bullshit about protecting the artists’ interests and representing some of “some of the most iconic record labels” I click to the next page. But not without thinking, “none of the labels mentioned are iconic to me, just gargantuan.”

There it was – the most honest thing ever to appear on the RIAA propaganda site. “The Recording Industry Association of America® (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies.” The vitality part might be a stretch but at least “iconic” has been changed to “major.”

And who’s running the show? It seems Cary Sherman has failed his way to the top. (Chairman & CEO) You may remember Sherman as the enforcer who carried on Hillary Rosen’s program of suing fans for illegal downloads. He did it with such zeal that he  earned the nickname Cary Sue Sherman (first use by veteran music journalist Keith A. Gordon, I believe.) That name cropped up in so many publications (including ours) and so many websites that many think, to this day, that he is a she.

Good lord. Maybe I’ll check back again if Spotify ever becomes a member.

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