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Belgian truck drivers to be made to pay to listen to music

Belgian truck drivers to be made to pay to listen to music

Belgian music royalty collection agency SABAM wants to enforce a licence for truck drivers to listen to music in their cabs. Is this fair?

by David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

SABAM is a royalty collection agency operating on behalf of music composers, songwriters and publishers in Belgium. Recently they proposed that truck operators should pay a licence so that drivers can listen to music in their cabs while at work.

There are a number of articles on this topic around the web, but here's one that is fairly typical. Take a read...

How do you feel about this? Have a good think. How do you feel?

Well one common meme around the Internet is that music should be free to download and that record companies are evil. So maybe you feel that SABAM is being unreasonable, and why should the evil record companies get yet more money from ordinary people? And if a truck driver should listen to music on the radio or on CD without a licence, will the RIAA sue him for millions of dollars?

What Internet commentators often fail to grasp however is that there is a difference between songwriters and record companies. The RIAA represents record companies, not songwriters. Whatever you think about RIAA issues, this is not an RIAA issue. It is a songwriter issue.

It isn't commonly known how much money songwriters make. Yes Sir Paul and Sir Elton make shedloads. But the average songwriter earns nothing more than peanuts.

I had a conversation with an industry insider who commented that a song that reached No. 3 recently in the mainstream chart of a country that is major music market earned the equivalent of just $20,000. And that was shared among three writers. That is hardly what I would call a living wage.

Very, very few songwriters earn a living from their craft. Few earn enough to pay for the occasional secondhand replacement car. The vast majority earn just about enough to keep their guitar strung and their piano tuned. And that is counting only the people who make anything at all. Most songwriters don't earn a penny, although they would like to.

Now consider businesses that use music. I'm talking about shopping malls, supermarkets, hairdressers, garages, and yes truck operators.

Why do they use music?

To improve the profitability of their business. Why else would they do it? Their workers will work more efficiently when music is playing; their customers will buy more and come back more often. Music is adding to their profits.

So why should it be therefore that businesses can use music to make money, without paying something back to the creators of that music? Why should the songwriter be expected to give up their work without reward?

You know, if the RIAA were a person, and I came into contact with that person, I would spit in their face. That would be well-deserved justice in return for the attitude they have engendered among the general public towards people who create music, most of whom are pretty ordinary people like you or me, struggling hard to make a dime, let alone a dollar.

Bottom line - if a business uses music to enhance its profitability in any way, then the creators of that music deserve to be paid.

P.S. Collection agencies don't just pay the big guys, as is sometimes thought. As a small guy myself, musically speaking, I appreciate my peanuts, and my collection agency always delivers.

By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass
Thursday March 31, 2011

Readers' comments on this article...

Derek Wiltshire, Swansea, Wales
Thursday November 10, 2011

On the point of charging truck operators a license fee for their drivers to listen to radio. Thos operators would be only too happy to remove the raidos from their trucks and what entertainment would those drivers have during their rest periods and during their time off shift when still out in the truck as many are for weeks at a time. Also these drivers aren't forced to listen to a particular channel or station and many can be found listening to their own MP3 collection just a many car drivers - so if truck operators are forced to pay a license fee for the radios, they will remove the radios and in doing so remmove the ability for the driver to listen to his music collection in a safe & legal manner.
Petzi, Belgium
Sunday April 24, 2011

I heard a rumor that they can crash a wedding party, but never knew anyone who attended such a party. A hoax ?
Istvan, Cluj-napoca, Romania
Wednesday April 06, 2011

I listen to the radio in my car while driving from home to work & vice-versa. Should I pay royalty?! I hope that the eve of the record companies will come to an end!
Alan, Amherst, Canada
Monday April 04, 2011

Just throwing this out for discussion to see where it goes. Shouldn't writers go after the record company's for a better deal? Because in the end the record company will probably claw back any monetary gain you would get from charging the end user by saying “it's there song”. Indeed the songwriter is a lot like the farmer.”He who does the most gets the lease”.
Job M. Van Zuijlen, Arlington, Va, USA
Monday April 04, 2011

Unless the trucking company broadcasts a set program directly to the cabs, I fail to see the rationale. Other than a shopping mall, a pub, or whatever, the cab of a truck is not a public place. I listen to music at work through headphones. It helps my productivity. Should my employer pay?
David Topple, Exeter, UK
Monday April 04, 2011

There's another side to the use of music by businesses, and perhaps other readers might have opinions on this? I actively detest 'piped music' when I'm in a shop, a bank, a hotel, a pub, or anywhere else where music is used to 'improve the profitability' of the business. In fact, I tend to walk out as soon as possible. I also could not do a job in which I were subjected to 'piped music' all day, because I'm one of these people who can't concentrate on anything when they're being tortured like that. In some pubs and bars the situation is even worse: a habit has developed of charging you an entrance fee (usually £1.00 where I live) to get in and listen to some band you probably don't even like anyway.