Robert Hunter - Grateful Dead lyricist extraor...

Robert Hunter – Grateful Dead lyricist extraordinaire (Photo credit: Zooomabooma)

When a septuagenarian songwriter for a world renowned band is struggling to pay the bills, you know all is not right with the world of music. Or at least its compensation model, as Robert Hunter, lyricist for The Grateful Dead explains his situation.

Hunter has been forced back on tour this week, partially as a result of medical expenses that simply cannot be covered by income from his published songs with the Dead. He isn’t the first artist of his generation to bemoan the difficulties faced as a result of declining revenues resulting from the shift online. Stevie Nicks has been particularly vocal on the subject, while other iconic acts like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin have been notoriously cautious before bringing their recorded works to online audiences.

While no-one is saying that we should go back to their heyday, there’s an undeniable gap between the respect and value for artists of their era and the somewhat disconnected audiences of today.

A bizarre parallel to Hunter’s difficult situation comes with the fact that John Perry Barlow is  the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is arguably an influential force working counter to the protection of intellectual property online.

We’ve looked at the EFF’s confusing take on copyright before, and it seems that many of the organization’s policies for a laissez-faire Internet would actually support those that detract from the value of the published works of songwriters.

Hopefully, as subsequent interviews with Hunter suggest, this iconic writer’s health woes are firmly in the rear-view mirror and his ongoing tour will be more about the music than raising money. Artists deserve our respect and should be afforded the value for their work over the years, not forced to reproduce it to cover the basic costs of living in their later years.

Having looked only yesterday at the potential for “copyright remedies” at a Judiciary Comittee hearing in D.C., it should be clear that the first remedy required is ensuring that all revenues due to musicians are received in a transparent and timely manner.