Dear Senator Breaux,
The music industry in Louisiana is hurting and needs your help.
The publicly-owned radio airwaves are no longer serving the public. Many radio stations are now owned by large corporations and just a handful of people are deciding which songs get played on the majority of radio stations across the country. It's difficult to get radio exposure until an artist or group has had enough success to get the attention of those few programmers, and it's difficult to reach that level of success without radio airplay. It's a Catch-22 situation that has kept many Louisiana artists off the radio. Besides the negative impact on artists, music listeners are deprived of new and diverse acts. In the days before radio was so consolidated, local programmers could introduce unknown artists to a broad audience, and that's how a lot of artists got their "break."
These large corporations may also have other business interests besides radio stations, like concert promotion or ownership of music venues. It is not unusual for these companies to use the scope of their reach as leverage to pressure an artist. For example, if the artist doesn't play at a venue owned by the company, the company can refuse airplay on the stations it owns across the country. Or if an artist doesn't use the promotional services offered by the company, the company might refuse to book the artist at its venues. Nobody wants to speak up about these unfair and anti-competitive practices because of fear that criticizing one of these conglomerates will cut off access to a majority of the music-listening public. But don't just take my word for it that anti-competitive practices are hurting the industry; between 1996 and 2001, concert ticket prices increased 61%. We can not allow big companies to jeopardize the ability of artists to promote their music.
Senator Russ Feingold will introduce legislation to put a stop to these and other unfair practices that are hurting the music community. Please support his legislation and do whatever you can to see that the Senate Commerce Committee reports it to the full Senate. Given your record as a pro-business moderate in the Senate, I hope you will see the importance of this legislation to the music business, which is responsible for $2.2 billion coming into Louisiana every year. As of 1996, Louisiana's music industry accounted for more than 50,000 jobs; $62 million in state taxes; and $88 million in federal taxes. Please help defend Louisiana artists and protect music consumers against these trends that are hurting the industry.