SOTA Productions Bringing Dead Kennedys Guitarist East Bay Ray to Campus December 6th to Talk About Artists' Rights

Promo PhotoThe School of the Arts (SOTA) Productions class at California State University, Chico has invited Dead Kennedys lead guitarist East Bay Ray to campus for a question and answer session on artists’ rights with Chico State professor and music industry lawyer Anita Rivas. 

“A Conversation with Artist Advocate East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys” takes place Thursday, December 6th beginning at 5 p.m. in Rowland-Taylor Recital Hall, located in the Performing Arts Center at CSU, Chico. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend. Seating is limited; come early to insure getting a seat.

Ray has been an outspoken critic of the current “internet monetization” business models and the “unethical exploitation of content creators.” He has been featured on National Public Radio, music publisher panels and has lobbied the U.S. Congress to enact legislation to protect artists’ rights. During his Q&A at Chico State Ray will address the current economic plight of American artists and songwriters.

“He will specifically talk about how special interests groups and mega corporations — like Pandora and its backers, including Wall Street, Google, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Electronics Industry — are not only lobbying Congress to strip artists of their right to be fairly compensated, but also their right to collectively bargain and to speak out about the way their works are used,” said Rivas.

According to Ray, “The “Internet Radio Fairness Act” (S-3609) is nothing more than an attempt to siphon off artists’ livelihood for the benefit of Wall Street. He recently posted the following message on his Facebook site:

“There has been a bill introduced in Congress, the so-called Internet Radio Fairness Act, that was created for Pandora so it could pay more profits to its shareholders at musicians’ expense. The owner of Pandora is e-mailing his customers with misleading information and is not giving musicians equal time on his site. The bill, reduces payment to musicians by 85%; strips musicians of our right to collectively bargain; and doesn't allow the copyright royalty judges to consider whether a kind of digital radio might replace sales.”

In a separate statement, Ray wonders “Why is there a giant piece of reality being swept under the rug when it comes to discussions about artists and the Internet? 

“Music, photos, videos, writing, etc. are generating more money than ever before as Internet companies monetize our work, making billions in profits, through advertising and other means, yet creators only see a miniscule piece of it. It’s not a revolution when independent artists’ livelihood is sucked away by businessmen. There are 45% fewer independent musicians now than in 2002 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Meanwhile Google’s YouTube is making a $1.2 billion profit this year. Google’s excess profits were the livelihood of perhaps 12,000 middle class independent musicians that are now gone. The Internet companies work hard to hide this reality from the fans. Businessmen providing access to music should not make more than the people creating music. And these corporations have the same exploitive attitude towards photographers, writers, journalists, filmmakers, etc. — anyone who creates content that draws eyeballs for them to sell to advertisers. It just ain’t that cool. Creators are the ones that make life interesting for us.”

Added Rivas:

“To make matters worse, these ‘businessmen’ want to make it illegal for musicians to organize or take any action, including the action of speech, with regard to collective rate-setting. This legislation is overreaching and violates the First Amendment (freedom of speech and association) by prohibiting artists — who own their own recordings — from being represented by any collective, such as SoundExchange, which presently has the power to audit the webcasters.

“Imagine a single artist attempting to audit Google. American workers have the ability to collectively bargain under the union anti-trust exemption of the National Labor Relations Act, so why should artists, many whom do not even make a minimum wage, be subjected to punishment under the Sherman Act for exercising their First Amendment rights?” 

Rivas said these powerful “corporate bullies” are also suing the musician and vocalist unions, the indie label association, ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and Soundexchange to force artists and songwriters to their knees.

“Another creepy aspect of the legislation allows these special interests to retaliate against the current judges who refused to change the rules for them, by replacing these judges with political appointments so the corporate lobbyists can easily influence their decisions,” she said.

These “businessmen” and “special interests” which comprise the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition (or are members of their member trade associations) represent a market cap of over one trillion dollars, Rivas noted.

“And though artists have been silenced over the decades by broadcasters, the electronics industry, Napster and the E.F.F., all citizens must take a stand, because if you think there is nothing left to lose or only artists are affected, the loss of these rights by any one of us, means the possible loss by all. The dilution of First Amendment rights through the efforts of special interests is something that everyone should be concerned about.”

Students from SOTA Productions are excited that Ray will be coming to campus to speak about such a hot topical issue.

“We’re psyched to have East Bay Ray share his thoughts and valuable insights,” said Christian Robles. “It’s a tragic time for many artists today, but at least we have an artist advocate like East Bay Ray who has always been a source of strength and inspiration.”

Added Jonathan Nichols, another SOTA student:

“Today’s artists are finding it harder and harder to enforce their rights and earn a living. They are being taken advantage of and have no one to represent them. It is time we stop these major corporations from ripping off the artists! Anyone even slightly interested in the music industry or the Internet cannot afford to miss this rare and informative talk.”

East Bay Ray is a U.C. Berkeley graduate and guitarist of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys. The Dead Kennedys were one of the top punk bands in the mid-1980s and specialized in scalding-yet-witty political/social commentary. The band’s hits included such classics as "California Uber Alles," "Holiday in Cambodia," "Police Truck," and "Moon Over Marin." The Dead Kennedys are notable for being the only punk band to have an entirely independently released album — "Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death" — certified a Gold Record in both the U.S. and United Kingdom.

According to Rankopedia.com, Ray is currently ranked the number one “Greatest Punk Guitar Players Ever.” In addition to playing lead guitar, Ray was also one of the major songwriters for the band and was instrumental in setting up and running the band’s independent business and record label from the start.

“A Conversation with Artist Advocate East Bay Ray of The Dead Kennedys” is an I.R.A. (Instructional Related Activity) funded event and is being sponsored by CSU, Chico, the Chico State chapter of M.E.I.S.A. (the Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association), Internet radio station KCSC, and the School of the Arts.

For more information on East Bay Ray’s visit to Chico State please contact Rivas at agrivas@csuchico.edu.

----

Photo Credit: Pixie Vision Productions