SAVATAGE Guitarist Comments On RIAA's Attempt Raise Royalty Rates For Internet Broadcasters

SAVATAGE/TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA guitarist Chris Caffery appeared on "The Classic Metal Show" on Saturday, May 5 to promote his latest solo release, "Pins & Needles". During the course of the discussion, Caffery was asked about his take on the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and their attempt to raise royalty rates for Internet broadcasters to the point where it would force most of them out of business. A couple of excerpts from the interview follow:

The Classic Metal Show: You are definitely an artist that has used the Internet and Internet radio to help promote your projects. You do a lot with your website, and you have hosted Internet radio shows as well as doing interviews like you are doing here. What is your take, as an artist that uses the Internet, on the raise in royalties that has been imposed by the RIAA?

Chris Caffery: The industry is so achy right now, and everything has gone so toward the digital medium now that I guess there's just a lot of people that are trying to find a place any way they can to get paid. If you look at what's happened to record sales, they've taken a percentage nosedive that's pretty much unfathomable. If you would have asked anybody back in 1990 what record sales would be like in 2007, I don't think anyone would have guessed they'd be where they are now. It's a really difficult time. The bottom line is that somebody somewhere has to get paid in order for the industry to continue. It's really a difficult thing. Unless it's all going to go independent, which it almost looks like it might lean that way. But at that point, how do you even assemble who is on TV? How do you assemble who is going to advertise? The record companies have always been the channel to the mass media. They've kind of been like the organizers. It's like in the international community. If you have all the soccer teams, somebody has to hold the team together and get it together. Someone has to go out and work out the deal with Nike. Somewhere, there's got to be some kind of organization. Right now it's just this freeform thing. The only bands that are going to make any money are the ones that are going to be touring live and will try to generate music sales off of the net. But if people keep stealing, that's going to disappear more and more. It's like when my record started appearing on the MP3 sites. People were going, "Well, your record is available here for X amount of dollars, and it's not illegal in Russia." You know what? You don't live in Russia. Just because something is not illegal in Russia doesn't mean that you should download something for free from Russia living in the United States, because it is illegal here to download it for free. If the majority of bands were selling [back then] what they are selling now, they would have never even gotten deals. They would have been laughed off the major labels. There were hundred-thousand-dollar deals and million-dollar deals being handed to just about anybody when you had a record deal in the late '80s and early '90s. Now, record companies want to basically only hand people enough money to pay for the food in the studio.

The Classic Metal Show: We've asked this same question several times to people like yourself, K.K. Downing and Don Dokken, and each time downloading has come up. Is it your position as a musician that Internet radio is allowing people to download music illegally?

Chris Caffery: Oh no, not at all. I don't have a problem with the Internet radio. I just think that what the RIA is trying to do is trying to assemble something, somewhere. Like I said, somebody needs to get paid. If everyone was buying…if there was no illegal downloading, then what would be the problem with anybody playing somebody's music? There wouldn't be. Then there's absolutely no difference between Internet radio and commercial radio other than the fact that commercial radio does pay. I think that's what the RIAA is going after is the fact that with commercial radio stations, artists get checks from BMI and ASCAP and the publishing companies and things, and the majority of the up and up stations will pay for that. The whole thing is that basically, the industry has gotten so bad, and there's so many people that aren't being paid for so many things that it comes to a point where somebody has to come in and try to put a foot down. Fortunately, Internet radio is helping tremendously to pick up the slack for artists whose record companies are not able to afford to get them airplay on commercial radio because it costs a friggin' fortune. On commercial radio, you've got to buy a Top 10 song. No matter what anybody says, you have to buy ads to get time back. You don't get on the radio for free unless you are a friggin' superstar. So it's like, how does a band get going? It gets going through the Internet radio, and then all of a sudden, people want to take the money from Internet radio. It's weird. Everybody, all the way around, is suffering from the illegal downloading. Unfortunately, the Internet radio stations are going to feel what the artists are feeling too in this. We're feeling it huge. You used to be able to buy a house on a publishing advance. Now you're lucky if you can buy a friggin' used car. It's changed so much. It's gone from shitty publishing deals being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to now a great publishing deal might be ten-to-twenty thousand bucks. It's really changed a lot because of what's happened in the industry. There's a lot of older artists out there, and they have their lifestyles and their "wife styles," as I like to call it. Ten years ago, you used to make X amount of dollars for a record, and now you're making X divided by 20 on it. I think people are in panic mode. I'm fortunate enough because TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA seems to be one of these things that doesn't seem to be affected by any of it. We're lucky enough to be doing so well that as an artist it doesn't put me into the panic mode. I like to pay attention to what's going on, of course, because I do have solo records and I do work with people that are in that situation. That's what makes me go back to having as much respect as I do for Paul O'Neill. He puts a tremendous amount of time and money into the shows and a tremendous amount of time and money into the records. The fact that people are buying the albums and the concert tickets; it just shows that maybe people need to put the same type of effort into making these same kinds of things happen. Back in the old days, you recorded seven or eight songs, threw a couple of filler tracks and a cover tune on and you threw a record out every eight months. You slapped some wacky cover on it and everybody bought it and went to see your concerts. The industry is just not like that anymore.

To hear this interview in its entirety, go to this location (Real Player Required).

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