To Taylor, Love David

06/24/2015 02:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016

Dearest Taylor:

I'm writing because, like many others, I saw the love letter you penned to Apple in defense of "independent" artists, everywhere. And what a well written and well thought-out letter it was.

However, between you and me, we need to clear up a few things:

First, may I say that, while I applaud your effort to help bolster the voice of all the newbies "just starting out" in the music biz, let's face it, we both know independent artists have about as much of a chance of "getting out of debt" (as you put it) due specifically to Apple's reversal on the 3 month royalty thing as Caitlyn Jenner does of winning another decathlon.

Second, I'm not sure if you're aware, but Apple was already prepared to compensate artists for the Free 3 Month trial in the form of increased payouts going forward. And, while some say it's still not good enough, 6% or 7% of nothing is still nothing.

Third, some naysayers say they feel that your motivation in writing the letter was not because of your desire to help the little guy, but rather, the simple fact that if Apple holds back 3 months of your royalties, you'd stand to lose millions.

To me, that's hogwash. You have enough money to last you ten lifetimes and, even though you're barely old enough to rent a car by yourself, you seem savvy enough not to fall under the influence of your team of greedy music biz veterans who stand to lose their trio of matching Ferraris should the royalties not come through. So, I say, "Screw the h8rs!" Although, this guy does have a point.

Having said that, being where you are, at the tippy top of the musical mountain, I'm not sure you realize that your letter, as heartfelt as it was, will wind up nothing more than a great piece of pop culture fodder for a trillion buzz-hungry media outlets in search of the latest hourly scoop, for a couple of reasons.

One being, because, as it stands now, 99% of independent artists earn next to nothing from their performance royalties - you need to be played thousands of times, first , before the conversation of "royalties" - of any kind - means anything to you. So, 3 months or no 3 months, it really won't have much effect on the bank accounts of the new artists you speak of.

Case in point, I'm as far from a new artist as it gets, but I just received a royalty check from one payout service for the first quarter of 2015 totaling a whopping $0.09. (I pasted a photo of the little beauty below, as it will hopefully give you as big a laugh as it got on Facebook.) Sadly, this is the norm for most independent artists; getting checks in the mail wherein the stamp on the envelope is worth more than the check itself. The fact that I've actually composed T.V. theme songs and have a vast catalog of tunes orbiting somewhere in the void should demonstrate how difficult it really is to earn adequate royalties from your music.

And, sadly, checks like the one below further prove that, while there are a heck of a lot more opportunities now for the indie artist than ever before, when it comes to breaking new talent and sustaining a career, there's still no substitute for terrestrial radio.

Sure, these days, it seems every other month some lucky troubadour stumbles their way to a bazillion Youtube hits, then earns a few hundred grand thanks to ad placements, but, for the most part, there's still nothing like being played in heavy rotation with 50,000 watts of N.Y.C.'s over-caffinated, empty-headed disc-jockeys behind you.

Ask anyone's who's had the benefit of The Machine behind them - i.e. having your single played 10-20 times/day in a major market like New York, L.A., or Chicago, and they will tell you, the world is yours. But, I'm sure you, of all people, know exactly what I'm talking about, as you're probably reading this from your Gulfstream lll.

The other reason your letter to Apple doesn't really hold water, in my opinion, is, when speaking about performance royalties, one would be remiss if one does not address the elephant in the room, which is, surprise, FM Radio.

Did you know, Taylor, darling, that FM radio pays ZERO dollars and ZERO cents in performance royalties to ALL artists when playing their music, bar none? Considering you just tweeted your undying love for "pop radio," I assume you don't. Your label probably does, however, as they negotiated a deal with Clear Channel in which they make an exception in your case, and a few other mega-stars and agreed to pay you performance royalties.


See, you really can't have a conversation about performance royalties these days without including terrestrial radio. AM/FM stations, nationwide, have been exempt from having to compensate artists since the beginning of time. They claim it's "good exposure." Thus, they feel those lucky enough to be chosen should simply say, "thank you!," and move along. Given my praise for its career-making abilities in the previous paragraph, as well as your obvious Twitter glee, perhaps they're right. Who knows? But, if you're going to take the time to go after Apple with such drive and intensity, you should probably do the same, and then some, with pop radio, toots. It seems a bit hypocritical to lambast one company for a temporary hold on performance royalties, while pledging your eternal allegiance to the biggest offender in the industry, the next. Just sayin'.

This is obviously a conversation for another day, but it makes for a good time to suggest to you that, if you really want to use your musical super-powers to help artists, everywhere, I would implore you to take a trip to D.C. and help Rep's Nadler and Blackburn urge Congress to push the bills removing all terrestrial radio exemptions through its mucked-up channels.

Beyond that, if an artist as well-established as yourself wanted to do something, personally, to really help today's up and coming artists earn more money, I would recommend allowing a different independent act to open each of your shows on your next tour. They'd sell more CD's and downloads in one night than they'd make in 12 months of royalties from Apple. If that's too crazy, simply tweeting out one new artist a day that you like to your sixty-million-plus Twitter followers would instantly boost that performers profile and download revenue, tenfold.

Don't get me wrong, love. I think it's great what you did. Most artists are chicken shit and are terrified of biting the hand that feeds them, so kudos to you for the effort, as every bit helps to level the playing field. But, in the end, royalties for new artists only mean something if said artists are played consistently.

It occurs to me, as I write this, I may come off just a tad bit oppositional, but we actually have a lot in common with regards to this 'soapbox' stuff, and, while some might say I lack the credibility/experience to wax poetic about politics or the economy, this is the one area where my credentials, albeit long-expired, hopefully still qualify me to teach a class at night school on Music Biz 101.

For instance, back when folks were just starting to use words like Upload and Download, my band, The Rosenbergs, managed to get Universal to change their unfair performance contract with an email, and you got Apple to change their policies with a blog. See? Quite similar.

I would go a step further and say we were the quintessential "indie" band, turning down a potential major label deal to try an entirely new business model w/ King Crimson's Robert Fripp, in which we retained ownership of our masters.

If you think I may be tooting my own horn a bit here, you're right. But keep in mind, I was just paid nine cents for my life's work, so it evens out.

Looking back, I think our little band from Jersey accomplished quite a bit when it came to helping independent artists everywhere think of him/herself as a "business" and not just a "drug-addicted rock star." And, with regards to royalties, my testimony on Capitol Hill in front of the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (C.A.R.P.) - a pre-cursor to the 3 judge panel that now determines royalty percentages for all music licensing - was used to help online broadcasters avoid having to pay billions in back royalties, which, had the labels gotten their way, would've immediately bankrupted the entire online streaming universe. So, although I'm probably the only living participant of those hearings, I'm pretty proud of that.

Believe it or not, to this day, those pesky judges still can't figure out a stable system of paying artists their fair share across the board. In fact, between you and me, the rules change so much and so often with regard to performance royalties, no other industry in the world could survive with such chaotic uncertainty and rates that flip-flop every 3-4 years.

Actually, it's a miracle there's any online music at all. Especially, considering the favorable treatment received by FM and the likes of satellite broadcasters over the likes of streaming services. But that, too, is a story for another day.

Don't get me wrong, T.S. In spite of all of the above, when all is said and done, I think it's great what you did and are trying to do. It's about time independent artists had the support of music "royalty."

As far as the naysayers, just shake it off.

Your Pal,


(Disclaimer: Many of the aforementioned facts and statements may be completely unsubstantiated and bordering on delusional, due to the fact the last time I was relevant in the music biz, Michael Jackson was still black.)