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More Music, Less Opportunity?

By Published: January 12, 2006
  1. There is not one commercial jazz station in America that is not smooth jazz. In several years the existing radio stations will transition from analog signals to digital ones. When that happens they will triple their capacity for each station. This means they have the ability to slip three separate channels into the space where they used to only have one. Should these radio stations have a requirement to use one of the two extra channels they will get to program formats that are increasingly absent from the dial? The musician community needs to be far more active in this discussion. I weep when I listen to most jazz radio. It is so incredibly conservative. We cannot just rely on the college stations, the WKCR's of this world (Columbia University) for diversity.

  2. The FCC will be looking into media ownership limits later this fall. At this time the NAB (lobbyists for the broadcasters) will ask the FCC to raise the ownership limit. The last time the FCC did this Clear Channel went from owning 40 stations to close to 1240 stations. Should these types of companies be allowed to own as many as 10 to 12 stations in a market place when they are not serving local music communities with jazz and classical music? Let's throw down the gauntlet. Clear Channel is destroying the airwaves! What happened to FREE FORM radio? Radio is not supposed to be about the mass hypnosis of smooth jazz or Britney Spears. It's supposed to reflect the true, beautiful, rainbow patchwork of America.

  3. Many jazz artists improvise on other compositions. They are allowed to do this without a license because of section 115 of the copyright act. The copyright office just opened a notice of inquiry suggesting they would like to change section 115. If they do so without protecting the compulsory license which allows an artist to cover another artist's song, without clearing a license, this could have a profound impact on jazz artists.

  4. In the United States we do not have a public performance royalty for radio. This means that for every song that is played on the radio only the songwriter is paid and not the performer. (In Europe and Canada both songwriter and artist are paid and on digital radio and on cable radio both are paid). This means when you improvise on "Stella , you are never paid for any radio play of your performance. My royalty check every quarter for my jazz CDs, probably much like yours, is about 31 cents. Can we do a little better?

  5. Since most artists sign away the copyrights for their performances as a condition of their label deals and since many jazz artists improvise on other artist's compositions, jazz artists may find themselves in a position where they neither control the songwriting copyright, nor the performance copyright. Aren't we broke enough?


The media universe is changing in ways that are as chaotic as they are profound. With the internet in a sense still up for grabs, a tremendous amount is at stake. We need to stay creative AND combative.

I owe much of this information, by the way, to a remarkable organization called The Future Of Music Coalition.

Guitarist/composer/singer/arranger Joel Harrison occupies a musical space between many worlds. His latest CD is Harrison on Harrison: Jazz Explorations of George Harrison (HighNote) featuring Dave Liebman, David Binney and Uri Caine.



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Joel Harrison

From Harrison on Harrison

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