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The sound of silence?

June 20, 2009

Hands up who’s heard of the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia1? This quaintly-named organisation might soon get your attention when silence overwhelms our cities and suburbs. Or so Cameron Houston suggests.

The PPCA has shown that it has its finger on the pulse of contemporary culture with its bid to increase music licensing fees for restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, shops, hairdressers and gyms. One of the proposed fee increases is a dizzying 4729 percent.

This grab for cash seems to be predicated on the belief that having artists’ music played in public places is a privilege for the business playing it, rather than for the artist. It seems to overlook the fact that having new music played in cafes, shops etc can lead to people who were otherwise only going to buy a coffee to head off to buy some new music. It also seems to assume that music is, in itself, a drawcard to businesses rather than – at best – mere background noise or – at worst – a complete turn-off.

So, what impact could this have? If business can’t, or won’t, pay the licence fees they can opt to play music that’s out of copyright. Wouldn’t that be a tragedy! Some decent jazz, classical, mid-20th century… I think I could easily live with that.

If Fitness First is being honest and not predatory, gym fees would rise by five bucks a month. This is ludicrous – I never visit the gym without my iPod, and most other people working out are similarly equipped with their own personal soundtracks. I also rarely attend classes, which would be what would attract the fee. When I do I’ve been known to go home and buy a track I’ve heard to add to my cardio playlist. A person can’t workout to Daft Punk forever, after all.

I doubt that this is going to be the day the music died – but I am hoping that American Pie is still under copyright, because… regular playing of that song would completely suck.

1 I wonder how many technological advances there’ll be before the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia considers a name change?

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