Taking payola and ripping MP3s is bad, kids

A few weeks ago, yours truly was asked to sit on a panel discussion at the upstairs MoMo Lounge at Harlow’s. The discussion, titled something like “Anatomy of a Hit Record,” was put on by the Music Industry Consortium of Sacramento, or MICS, one of those friendly groups that pop up from time to time to serve as a link between industry professionals and aspiring musicians. Also on the panel was Peter Melton from Tower Records’ Pulse! magazine; a guy from KBMB “The Bomb,” DJ somebody; and two guys from KRXQ “98 Rock,” Pat Martin and Paul Marshall.

Moderator Dave Park asked the questions, and the radio guys pretty much took over answering them. “Take money under the table for playing records—kosher?” Park asked. After I volunteered that it didn’t seem much different from Frito-Lay buying end-cap displays at Safeway—and, given the magnitude of the current cash-and-carry gummint in Washington, who’s got the moral high ground to quibble about some program director taking payola to add the latest Incubus ripoff, anyway?—one of the panel’s non-journalists tore into the topic with relish. He seemed angry that anyone might deign to question his God-given right to line up a little side action, which a man in the back of the room did, in an indignant Southern Baptist preacher’s whine from the decimated hors d’oeuvre table. “But it’s thuh pee-puls ayur-waves!” he shouted. Cynical bastards we are, we laughed. He didn’t think it was very funny, though.

Digital file sharing is another hot-button issue. A panel discussion about the ethics of digital music downloading will convene in Classroom C at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law (3200 Fifth Avenue) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, November 12. The presentation, by California Lawyers for the Arts, will include Alan Sparhawk from the band Low, which will play at Capitol Garage later that night with Pan American; Jonathan Poneman of Sub Pop Records; Brian Zisk of the Future of Music Coalition; attorney David Sutphen of Record Industry Association of America, the major labels’ lobbying organization; attorney Gwen Hinze of Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Grace Bergen, formerly with Tower Records. Scott Hervey of Weintraub Genshlea Cheniak Sproul (obviously a law firm) will moderate. The panel is open to the public, it will run for two hours or so, and admission is $15, unless you’re a student (in which case it’s free) or a CLA or MICS member ($5). To make a reservation, call 442-6210.