Michael Croft has submitted an excellent list of questions for Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA, who has agreed to be gang-interviewed by participants in Eric Olsen's BlogCritics project. I highly recommend you read Michael's list and ask yourself what you think the RIAA's answers will be.
The question that drew my attention was this one, #13 on the list:
How does the RIAA respond to allegations on foxnews and elsewhere that their member labels must be using deceptive accounting practices when they claim that records that sell 2 million copies have not ever broken even or turned a profit?
The best source of information I've seen on MLB's books has been a series of articles by Doug Pappas in the Baseball Prospectus. You can find an index of these articles here, in the last article of the series. Take a close look at article number 5, which talks about some of the ways that baseball teams have been known to inflate their expenses. Article number 2, which talks about national and local media revenues, contains this illuminating quote:
Four major-league clubs are owned by large national-media companies: the Angels (Disney), Braves (AOL Time Warner), Cubs (Tribune Company), and Dodgers (News Corporation/Fox). This is a red flag for analysts, because the common ownership of a baseball franchise and a related enterprise can allow the parent company arbitrarily to apportion revenues and expenses between the companies.
In particular, an entity that owns both a baseball team and its local television outlet may well charge the TV station less than fair market value for the club's media rights. This strategy not only allows the club to cry poverty during baseball labor talks, but artificially inflates the station's profits, a figure closely watched by stock analysts. All four of these clubs report suspiciously low media contracts, but in only two of these cases do the suspicions appear justified.
So, my somewhat longwinded point here is that there's any number of ways that the RIAA and the labels can cook the books. Paul Beeston, formerly of the Commissioner's office and now with the Toronto Blue Jays, once famously said that he could, using GAAP, turn a $2 million profit into a $4 million loss. You can be sure that if MLB knows how to do that, the RIAA does, too.Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 11, 2002 to Music