With this historic U.S. election, the pendulum has swung back and another party now controls Congress. What they’ll be able to do in the next two years and beyond is still a big question mark though they’ve laid down an ambitious agenda. Granted that issues like Iraq, health care, minimum wage and education are good ones to tackle first but after those things start to get addressed, there’s a few more issues in the music biz that are worth engaging as well.
1) FCC overhaul
Is there a more incompetent department of government? Besides FEMA, I mean… Not only are they clear as mud about their standards for fining radio and TV but they kiss the PTC’s (the ultra conservative wingnuts of the Parents Television Council) rear end every time a complaint comes up about “obscenity.” It’s gotten to the point that the PTC might as well be synonymous with the FCC. Unfortunately, some Dems like Hillary Clinton (not to mention her hubby) have sucked up to the Soccer Mom vote and championed the idea of punishing the media with a blunt stick over the idea of corrupting our children while reducing all of the dialog on TV or radio to grade school level. Granted that the Exec branch has the pleasure of picking who goes into the FCC but how about some backbone and pressure on Bush to end the FCC’s tyranny? Surely his (and Hillary’s) buddy Rupert Murdoch agree that they’ve gone too far. The issue of media consolidation is another horrible failure for the FCC where they’re willing to kiss the feet of any huge corporation who wants to eat up more of the media sphere. Someone in the govt. needs to remind these creeps that this isn’t in the public interest.
2) Health care for musicians
Yes, we do need health care reform but we also need it for musicians. They don’t have it as part of standard contracts so they have to act like freelancers and stash away money for it every year and/or buy a very expensive plan themselves. This is ridiculous. Every other type of industry offers workers this as part of a standard package so why shouldn’t the labels be pressured to do this also?
3) Audio education
I don’t mean learning by tapes or MP3’s (though that’s not a bad idea) but educating the public (and especially music fans) about the dangers of noise. There’s been plenty of research about the damaging effects of standing too close to concert (or home) speakers or listening to earphones too loudly for too long but a lot of this information doesn’t circulate enough. The end result is going to be a windfall for audiologists in a decade or so as they treat a generation with tinnitus, which is going to cost everyone more in higher premiums when it comes time to treat this coming epidemic. Some public education about this would go a long way.
4) Music education in schools
As budgets keep getting slashed in public schools, the music programs are the first to go. This means that grade school kids will have less of an appreciation for music and maybe less inclination to take up an instrument to play. That’s a shame because giving kids exposure to music and a chance to learn it and play has consistently been shown to help them with learning in other areas as well as giving them a good activity to indulge in after school.
5) VISA program sanity
Post 9/11, the Visa laws succeeded in keeping out many foreign musicians who wanted to travel here to play. Though there are signs that these might be relaxed, they still need to be streamlined. We need cultural exchanges to keep in touch with the world. Conversely, a show of good faith about this might convince other govt’s to make it easier for our own musicians to travel abroad and play.
6) Arts subsidies for non-classical musicians
This is a given in Europe but in the States, we dole out relatively tiny amounts and even then, only to “high art,” which usually means classical though some jazz can sneak in there. It’s reasoned that rock and pop can usually support itself though the fact is that most acts usually can’t, even when they’re signed to a label. If some of these groups were invested in and then did turn a profit, it wouldn’t be too much to ask them to give something back with free shows or helping to promote other art subsidies programs.
There’s also a few artists that I’d petition to keep off the airwaves but that’s for another time…