WSJ.com – Tax Relief for Songwriters Gains Support

No way am I saying anything negative about this: An article in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal (free feature) explores a provision in tax legislation currently making its way through Congress that would provide relief to songwriters.

Quote:

Country music is cool these days — and now Congress may make it more profitable for the people behind the lyrics. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, prodded by members of the country-music industry, added a provision to pending tax legislation that would lower taxes for songwriters.

The lawmakers propose to change a section of U.S. tax law — written before singer Garth Brooks was born — that would tax songwriters’ handiwork as capital gains rather than ordinary income as under current law.

“This is just such a glaring injustice,” says Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. The association, which represents about 30,000 songwriters, says members’ average songwriting income of just $4,700 a year makes more advantageous tax treatment only fair.

At issue is a 1950s era provision that treats the sale of creative works as “income” (taxed at up to 35%) rather than as the sale of a capital asset and thus subject to capital gains tax (taxed at 15%). The songwriters want to have the treatment of “catalog sales” changed to capital gains. (The royalties collected on radio play or the sale of a recorded songs are not at issue.)

One thing, however. Readers of this blog won’t be surprised when I dismiss the meaningless statistic about “the average songwriter having an income of $4,700.” If there are 30,000 songwriters (and frankly, I think I know that many personally, so I figure there are a lot more than that), I’m amazed the average annual income is not $470. Talk about your long tails. How many hit songs are recorded every year? I have no idea, but there aren’t enough hits for the revenues to be spread out over 30,000 songwriters with any significance after the writers at the top of the pyramid take their share.

That said, I live in Nashville and if I ever want to get good service in a restaurant, there’s no way I’m ever going to suggest this isn’t a really swell idea.

Update: Upon further reflection, I’ve decided to advocate that an amendment be placed on the tax bill requiring whoever wrote the song Honky Tonk Badonkadonk to have his taxes doubled rather than cut.

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Banning Hodder? How dumb is that

Banning Hodder? How dumb is that! I’m late in catching up with the news that Iranian blogger Hodder (who is a resident of Canada and who has been staying with a friend in New York) has been barred from the U.S. for six months. Hodder (Hossein Derakhshan) came to Nashville for BlogNashville and left with lots of friends. Here are more details (and calls for support) from a site called “Committee to Protect Bloggers” and from Jeff Jarvis.

(via: Nashville is Talking)

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Nashville weather blogging update

Nashville weather blogging update: This morning, I mentioned this is a good day to have the RSS feed from the weather bloggers at Nashville’s WKRN. Now, I’ve learned the folks at the National Weather Service in Old Hickory (a suburb of Nashville) are live blogging the storms. (Note: As you can see from the photo I just took out my office window, the rain has let up here. ( Click to enlarge.)

Update: Flickr set of three ‘after the rain’ shots.

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iPod ‘how to’ question – any help?

How do you give someone an iPod that is pre-loaded with tunes from the iTunes store: A friend of mine called me last night with this situation: She would like to give someone an iPod and pre-load it with some specific songs she would purchase from the iTunes store.Simple enough. But when I tried to explain to her how to do it, I decided it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Why this is problematic for a non-technical person: She’s very much a non-technical person and so is the recipient. She wants the music to all be purchased. The DRM “digital rights management” baked into songs purchased on iTunes, along with the skills necessary to connect an iPod to multiple computers (on both the Mac and Windows platform) make this simple-sounding exercise a potential land mine of Christmas morning screw-ups for people who simply want to hit a button and have it play.

After thinking about it a while, this is the alternative I suggested. It’s not a “pre-loaded iPod” but it’s the best I could think of that uses relatively non-technical consumer-level skills. Does anyone have a better hack that a non-technical person could understand? (That’s key: please, no “First, you need to port Linux to the iPod” suggestions.).

1. Give the person the Nano in the box.
2. Using iTunes, create a playlist of the songs you’d like to give, selecting them from the iTunes store (note: you don’t have to purchase a tune to add it to a playlist).
3. In your iTunes window, highlight the playlist you’ve created and then click on the “arrow” at the right of the name.
4. Select the “give this playlist” option and follow the instructions.

To me, this is not really a “solution” to what she wants to do, rather it’s a hack that Apple has packaged as a feature. Nonetheless, if you’re wanting to give someone an iPod and some songs, I think this is probably the way to do it with the least potential for Christmas morning frustration (as long as the recipient has a computer with a broadband connection).

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