Major Labels

Does The RIAA Care About Artists Getting Paid?

image from In the midst of the discussion about Anonymous and the RIAA, one Hypebot reader had this candid statement to say about the RIAA:

"The RIAA doesn't care about the artists they represent. The money they have made suing individuals for downloading music rarely makes it into the hands of any of the artists they represent, most of it goes to paying the exorbitant salaries of the RIAA staff and lobbying the government for more control over their industry."

At a time when the RIAA denounced LimeWire for not caring about creators being paid for their works, one reader thinks the RIAA is the biggest "pirate" of them all.  Do you agree? Are they completely wrong to say this?

Share on:


  1. The only people who care about artists being paid are the artists. club owners couldn’t care less….labels don’t care…RIAA doesn’t care….

  2. Er, the statement is completely wrong because the RIAA does not represent artists at all. The RIAA represents labels and distributors.
    The RIAA does not care about artists because it does not represent artists. Anything reaped from RIAA legal actions benefits its member labels and distributors.

  3. YES, not only do i agree. its just the FUCKING TRUTH! the riaa lobbies for corporations, i this case the corporation are the major labels. BUT! if any artist, producer or songwriter thinks any corporation cares about them, they deserve to get screwed. everybody at some point must use and exercise there common sense.

  4. Agreed with CJD. And I’m not sure about RIAA staff, but my guess is they don’t make “exorbitant” salaries…

  5. I find it interesting that every post that includes the word “RIAA” always has a theme of bashing the trade organization without any merit.
    Understanding the customer hierarchy ladder will illustrate my point that surrounds the underlying issue we are facing in the music industry. In every business there are primary customers and secondary customers. Understanding who your primary customer is without a doubt integral to success.
    Take McDonald’s for example. In the 80’s and 90’s McDonald’s considered its primary customer being real estate developers and franchise owners NOT the people who ate at the restaurants. The results: declining sales. McDonald’s new mantra became: “The new boss is the consumer.” Success followed. They figured out who the real customer was and created value for them, resulting to financial success.
    Most music start-ups fail because not only do they not understand their customer, they just do not know who their customer really is or identifying the appropriate customer hierarchy ladder.
    The RIAA’s primary customers are record labels. However, the record label’s primary customer is the consumer who buys their product (the artist’s music). However, the music brand is created by the artist, which enhances the value of the product and the financial return to the label.
    RIAA -> Label -> Artist -> Consumer -> Hardcore Fans
    The stronger the brand (artist), the higher the sales (artist & label). It is important to realize that the RIAA is a trade organization representing the major labels, not the artists. It is the major labels that in turn represent and pay the artists. The success of the major labels depends on the success of the artists.
    The value chain is interrelated and the success or failure of one affects the whole chain. Smart artists with the major labels have competent managers, attorneys and accountants who can keep the labels in check for payments. Just like every business, it is always harder to collect if you are owed money. This is not strictly a music industry phenomenon.
    I really do believe that many of us are missing the boat in regards to the function of trade organizations and their role. Look at the MusicFirst Coalition. The RIAA is also a member of the Coalition and they are fighting for the right for performers to be paid a royalty for terrestrial radio broadcasts. Why hasn’t anyone bashed the RIAA or MusicFirst for attempting to take NAB headfirst for the benefit of artist performers being paid? This means that the RIAA does care about artist’s getting paid right? If the labels get paid, the artist’s get paid. If the labels do not get any money, nothing funnels to the artists.
    I think most of us in the music industry are very quick to point fingers and find a scapegoat for some the industry’s failures. In the end, it is all about product, branding, convenience and creating a better value proposition for fans and figuring out how to get paid more effectively.
    Getting paid money that is owed (Accounts Receivable)is an administrative issue. The artist and their team, just like any business, are responsible for figuring out the best way to get paid the money they are owed. If you attach a middle-man or a partner to your product (label), then it is your responsibility to get paid.
    Look at SoundExchange. They have millions of dollars of unclaimed money. The real question is whether the artists want to get paid or if it is too much of a hassle for them to try to get paid.
    We are all responsible for how we conduct business and get paid. Artists are not an exception to the rule. This is why having the best possible team representing the artist is key.
    Constantine Roussos

  6. RIAA does rep everyone.
    This site is full of novices, anymore.
    Respect artists, people.
    Companies screwing artists: Google, Limewire, etc.

  7. Agree in part, no comment on rest. At the heart of this debate, whether or not artists see a penny from these settlements, is that culprits like Limewire who steal from artists should still be held accountable for their theft. Using RIAA as a shield to protect these theives doesn’t help any one. If artists want to get paid, they must take actions to hold labels accountable for this. Artists need to organize and unite to do this, or else, nothing will change.

  8. Hey John, you are right on the money. Companies screwing artists include:
    1) Google/Youtube
    2) Terrestrial Radio / NAB
    3) Apple
    4) Limewire/PirateBay
    The sad thing is, we do not seem to get it. Apple and Google really get it. Look at their stock prices. Piggybacking music is a crucial component of success for them. The most searched terms on the Internet are music related: music, lyrics & videos. Google knows this. So we will get Google Music.
    Problem with the music industry is that most do not really get it. We are fighting each other while others reap the benefits. Apple and Google are probably the two most innovative companies. Their positioning is translating into billions of dollars.
    Google Music & Apple iTunes will not save the music industry. Loss leading is not the way of the future:
    Google: It is not about the music, it is about the ads.
    Apple: It is not about the music, it is about the hardware
    Companies have pulled the rug underneath the music industry and the sad thing is, many have not received the memo about this. And yes, this trend will continue until we develop a sound strategy to increase our value proposition and diversify revenue streams.
    Licensing for example is a key issue. If you make it hard for people to license, they will not. Territorial licenses are to blame. Clearing is to blame. We are to blame. You make it difficult and inconvenient to be paid then you will NOT be paid, even if someone wants to pay you.
    Constantine Roussos

  9. Artist should be held accountable as well. Look at the war surrounding the performance royalty to be paid out to performing artists for terrestrial radio. Many big-name artists do NOT take a more vocal stance because of their selfish self-interests. This is hypocrisy at its finest.
    Many artists are scared to take the position of going against terrestrial radio because they will take a hit if their songs are taken off the air. They are in it for themselves, not the music industry as a whole.
    This is the problem we are facing. We collectively as an industry have done a terrible job at finding sustainable ways to adapt to the change that digital brought about. There are so many opportunities but the problem is we are divided based on self-interests or just fear.
    Constantine Roussos

  10. Your comment is spot on. It’s very difficult to explain this paradigm and I think you did a great job in a few short paragraphs.
    I would like to add that, if you are an unsigned or unknown artist, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can leverage how much these companies (mostly google/youtube) take advantage of your work (lost sales/licensing money?) for what you or your label would normally pay into marketing and promotion. Like any business, it’s all about positioning.
    I think if things keep going the way they are, Google and Apple won’t be pulling the rug out from under the music industry (otherwise known as disrupting a market)… they will BE the music industry.

  11. You are a genius, musicextension.
    Even tech sites are hypocrites. Everyone needs to support artists.
    How can anyone defend companies like Google and Limewire. Both making HUGGGGGEEEEE amounts of money off of music and not paying the artist shit!
    Fuck you!

  12. Nice bit of passion there! What’s up with all the McDonald’s analogies recently!?
    Getting paid for royalties is an administrative issue, but that’s not an RIAA issue. That’s for collective societies such as ASCAP and PRS for Music to deal with.
    The RIAA has a role to play, they play it terrible, but regardless they have a role. That role is governing the music industry and under that includes making sure the system runs smoothly – including artist getting paid.
    I’m quite vocal about my dislike of the RIAA. Just look at their track record suing dead peoples and innocent grannies. Like my article a month ago, its an old dog.

  13. The labels and RIAA are to blame. Back when Napster launched everyone panicked and wanted to sue Napster to high heaven. If they worked with the intelligence of Shawn Fanning instead of getting in a panic and shutting him down we wouldn’t be pointing the finger at Apple.
    If you want to start hating someone or something – go after the ISPs! They make billions profiting from our losses. I would love to know how much traffic comes from illegal-file sharing.
    We should just start getting used to the China model. Music should be the promotional tool that pushes everything else. Then we can get over what was once then and start planning for what is next.

  14. I would like to draw some attention to the more basic elements of the RIAA’s existence. Guess what, everyone, we actually do live in a capitalist society, one where lobby activity is a primary vehicle to effect regulatory change in an otherwise stale legislative process. With a new digital economy enacted in the last decade, how does the music industry protect its interests in a capitalist economy? News flash – capitalism requires lobbyists, as shitty as it is for consumers. Don’t blame the RIAA, blame capitalism. But while you’re blaming capitalism, you might want to toss that apple computer you’re using, the programming language that was developed in an entrepreneurial organization funded by a venture capitalist, and the freedom to whine about this kind of thing in general.
    I remind you that aggregate revenues went from $15 billion in ’99 to $6 billion in ’09. Part was from the un-bundling of the album, part was from the recession(s) and part is from competition with other forms of entertainment, but it’s a little silly to argue the fact that the MAJORITY of this loss is from competition with free on a level never before seen with tapes or CD-R’s.
    In a physical world, we as a society have agreed that we will respect the laws against theft and copyright, and if we try to steal a CD at Best Buy, we’re pretty ok with a security guard catching us and Best Buy prosecuting us to the full extent of the law. However, in a digital world, no such protection exists. And we seem to have rationalized to ourselves that, no, it’s different. Electric pulses transmitted to me through the wall enabling me to listen to music is different from putting a piece of plastic into a player plugged into my wall, fundamentally. So, no, sorry, the “social contract” doesn’t apply to the internet. Bullshit. IT HAS NOT BEEN LEGISLATED YET. Pirates have to know that there is a massive legislative gap between regulation and technology, and as cyber crime becomes a major threat with more than just a single $15 billion industry at stake, we WILL have something analogous to police and security guards in a digital world. It is part of our social contract and our capitalist society.
    Now, how does a record label engage in a capitalist economy and protect its industry? By lobbying in Washington. And with a problem as grave as a 60% decline in THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY over a decade, you’d better be paying your lobby market prices to get the best bang for your buck. What has come out of these lobbying efforts? Not much you can shake a finger at – but we have no way to know what the landscape would look like without these lobby efforts. So has the RIAA made all the right moves as the lobbying arm of recorded music? Probably not. Is it trying to do a massive job with a tiny budget? Yes. (Add up the lobbying of AT&T, Comcast and Google – you can probably fund 500,000 RIAA’s) And most importantly, should the RIAA exist to represent the interests of recorded musicians? Not to answer in the affirmative is to sound the death knell of the industry immediately. Do we know any businesses that will willingly put themselves out of business? Not really. Ok. We’ve just justified the existence of the RIAA.
    The ignorance of an organization like Anonymous baffles me. The main problems they whine about in the music industry have to do with capitalism and rule of law, not with musicians, record labels, or industry mechanics. Copyright and capitalism are synonymous. Taking down Limewire is a right given to copyright holders by our laws, the foundation of how we do business in America. It’s not the “fault” of copyright holders, it’s their right. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Or is Anonymous too self-absorbed to extricate itself from its myopic and confusing moral code.
    Aiming to take down capitalism seems a little silly, especially if you start with the music industry. Let’s punish our creative industries to attack fundamental capitalist tenets, right? Fucking idiots. As if there aren’t more valid targets than Gene Simmons. With all the bullshit that goes on anyway in capitalism, it seems to me really lazy to attack the people who are actually liberal, creative, and provide joy for most of the people they do business with. Why don’t you look at finance, government or health care? That looks a little more dangerous, though, right? Probably a little too spooky for these guys.
    I’d like to think about a world where copyright doesn’t hold any water and any art that I produce lacks any economic incentive. Then everyone gets free cancer treatment, textbooks, and Lady Gaga CDs. Wait, what? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve heard this before.
    Let’s abolish a citizen’s right to private property. Then we’ll all do tasks for the collective good, right? So Kyle makes my shoes, Constantine cuts my hair, and I’ll make some music for all of us. Yup, this will WORK! This is good! Workers of the world unite!!!!!!

  15. The statement is completely true. Why is the RIAA even relevant to the music industry? All they do is take money from labels (and their lobbyists) and go after those consumers who choose to live beyond the societal norms of purchasing music because the consumer was raised in an era where they can just download the music for free. I think there are so many other areas of the music industry that need to be resuscitated with money than copyright infringement. In twenty years, the RIAA will be obsolete anyways.

  16. Some truth here, the RIAA has never represented artists, they represent the labels, but the labels sell the work of artists and any money gained should end up either against the recoupable or paid, neither will happen.
    The RIAA failed to act when it could out of sheer stupidity and arrogance, the means existed before and during napster to prevent the widespread thievery. They did not want to give up control, they lost. We all lost.
    Only those who know little about the music business think the major labels will go away, they will change, but pop music will continue to make revenues for the few. Meanwhile some of us might want to treat music as an art form and try to preserve this, it is a slippery slope when we look at everything as a product whose value is directly proportional to sales.

  17. It’s just sad how the RIAA could pay artists and record labels while being able to stay afloat as an organization, but they choose to not help aid in restitution. Maybe if the big dogs took a pay cut and were a little more concerned with the initial cause of their organization, they wouldn’t be viewed by so many as industry devils and might even get rewarded more in the long run. As an artist myself, I would not be opposed to giving them a percentage of the money they “recovered” each year for my music which was stolen. Then again, it would also need to be a collective payment from all artists because there really isn’t an easy way to keep record of what songs were downloaded and how many times for each individual artist. It would basically have to be a generality. Artists would almost be paying for their protection to maintain sales with minimal loses based on a ratio of the percentage of the total amount of money recovered by the RIAA to the percent of money that was potentially lost by artists who are recognized by the industry.

  18. here’s some constructive suggestions. the RIAA needs to continue to focus on upholding copyright by supporting legislative actions that make it possible to shut down websites that don’t police illegal infringement themselves. how does a website like stay in existence? baffling.
    2nd. to anonymous. my advice would be to enjoy the contemporary ease with which piracy exists today, because it won’t exist forever. it will move from head of the distribution to the tails when regulation is enacted. we’ll never be rid of piracy, but as long as it’s relegated to the tails, we’ll leave it alone.
    3rd. regarding capitalism. not perfect by any means. lobby activities are poisonous for the social good. HOWEVER, reducing lobby influence on political processes is a long process, for a good reason. all this intelligence and effort should be going to constructive political action and awareness so we can use our broken democracy to fix as much about our capitalist democracy as we can.

  19. Very well. I’ll just tackle a few fallacies he states as fact:
    “we as a society have agreed that we will respect the laws against theft and copyright…”
    Clearly this isn’t true. Otherwise “piracy” wouldn’t be an issue. Only a few thieves on the fringes would do it. I submit that, as a society we do, in fact, respect the laws against theft. But society does NOT respect the laws against copyright infringement. (one more argument that infringement and theft are not the same thing, btw.)
    “the “social contract” doesn’t apply to the internet. Bullshit. IT HAS NOT BEEN LEGISLATED YET.”
    No social contract is or ever will be “legislated”. It forms and exists for a myriad of reasons (economy, culture, marketplace, tradition, needs, wants, religion, etc.). All of these elements coexist and the social contracts are born from where they come to an even resting place. Like water rising to its own level. Legislation is like using a damn to change the water level. People will break, tunnel under, go over or go around a damn if they feel they have the right to the water.
    “should the RIAA exist to represent the interests of recorded musicians? Not to answer in the affirmative is to sound the death knell of the industry immediately.”
    This sounds to me like the “The VCR is going to kill movie theaters” argument. People want recordings of music. I don’t know how, but somehow, some way, artists will figure out a way to provide recordings to their fans and still pay the bills.
    “Do we know any businesses that will willingly put themselves out of business? Not really.”
    Smart businesses (particularly businesses that hinge on technology) often have entire departments dedicated to out innovating their own cash cows before the competition does. (e.g. apple and google ironically) Businesses that ignore innovation are doomed to fail. Historically, businesses or markets that go running to government for artificial protections have eventually been replaced. (there are exceptions, the auto industry comes to mind)
    “Ok. We’ve just justified the existence of the RIAA.”
    Umm. No you haven’t. Try again.
    “Copyright and capitalism are synonymous.”
    What? Are you joking? They are practically the opposite.
    By the way, the food and fashion industries do fine without copyright… and some argue (correctly, in my opinion) that if copyright were established in those fields, it would destroy those industries.
    “Taking down Limewire is a right given to copyright holders by our laws”
    This is a (kind of) true statement. What troubles me about this (and the whole piracy thing altogether) is that LAWS CAN BE CHANGED. He talks of lobbyists and how much more well funded Google and Apple are than the failing recording industry. How long before the labels and the RIAA can no longer afford to pay their lobbyists? How long before Google and other tech companies lobby for copyright reform that ask for LESS PROTECTION for content creators? (in the name of culture, of course)
    Musicians hear me, we better start figuring out ways to get paid that don’t rely on copyright.
    On a side note, I don’t think Anonymous cares about musicians or any specific group. They are, I believe, anarchists. They simply want to take down the bully. Doesn’t matter to them what the collateral damage is. If the bully falls, it’s a “win”.

  20. I don’t with suing music listeners because all they want to do is enjoy the music. LimeWire could have created a system where they would share some of the advertising revenue with the artists.
    Shutting mp3 sharing sites down will not stop people from downloading and sharing music for free. Trying to sell music to listeners that business model’s been dead for about a decade.
    Artists and labels need to become more innovative with how they earn money in this business. There’s many opportunities to make big profits in this business, but trying make money by suing people for sharing music is not the way to go.

  21. Artists can and should set up their paywalls and or donation revenue streams to avoid ALL 3rd parties. It’s SOOOOO EASY TO DO!
    The idea that licensing royalties need to be centralized and flow through Washington DC is Monarchist baby boomer fascist ass talk propaganda, and out of date.
    Do I think ISP’s… Google & friends, should pay fees?…YEP and they could set up a sign up interface to do so. The content providers could send their US Copyright reg into Google for verification along with bank account or paypal info and wham: a free market with only those who bring something to the table involved. Lobbyists and other lichens are not required.

  22. If they did they’d give out fair contracts. You can sell 50,000 cd’s on your own and make more than if you went platinum with a major. It’s always been that way. If you do get a major label contract, the advance is ALL that 95% of the artists are going to see. And they wonder why people hate their FUC*ING guts!

Comments are closed.