Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) gave a keynote address on Tuesday at the Future Of Music Summit, defending the proposed Internet Radio Fairness Act. Wyden told attendees that "Music is still dominated and controlled by a couple of multinational corporations who, in effect, act like a duopoly to maximize their profits, not maximize the compensation of artists and not maximize musical choice."
Wyden is the lead Senate sponsor of the bill and argued that the current royalty rates are unfair to webcasters because they are held to a different standard than cable or satellite radio services. He added that "It is the job of policymakers to ensure that the law and public policy doesn't favor one business model over another, and particularly, that it doesn't favor incumbents over insurgents. We've got to make sure that the past doesn't get a leg up on the future."
The Senator also took aim at the major record labels, saying that "For much of the last half century, the music business has essentially been a vertically-integrated industry managed by a few big record companies. These are the companies -- these record companies -- who in my view are using uncompetitive practices to crowd out the competition on radio and TV and record stores and elsewhere."
He continued, "They are the people that made 'payola' a household word. The result in my view is less artistic innovation, and fewer innovations that will be widely shared and consumed. Now, if it weren't for the disruptive independent record labels -- I'm talking about people like I.R.S. and Sub Pop and Tim/Kerr -- we might never have known much about bands like R.E.M., and Nirvana and The Replacements, who I just told you I don't want to dedicate a lame duck session of Congress to, but I sure want us to remember their enduring influence on not just rock music, but on their contributions to our culture and an entire generation."
"I personally think if the royalty rates are lower, the Internet broadcasting market becomes larger, and that's a strategy for creating more income for artists, more music choices for consumers and a broader array of music," Wyden added.
Sen. Wyden's comments can be read here (via Digital Music News).