The recording industry is a mess, known for its creative accounting, manipulative one-sided contracts, it’s lobbying efforts to enact favourable laws that benefit the executives and do nothing for the artists and it’s monopolistic control over any new technologies that seek to bring a certain value to the consumer of recorded music.
Streaming service Grooveshark is no more.
The service had over twenty million users. Surely that is ample proof to the record labels that there is a large market for a service/product to offer what Grooveshark offered. However, the record labels have the dollars and the power behind them and any legal war of attrition will end in a record label victory.
Grooveshark’s sin was that they didn’t license the music on the service from the record labels. All the music was uploaded to Grooveshark by its “users”.
Grooveshark contended that if they paid royalties for the plays on the service they would be legit. However, the labels wanted Grooveshark to also pay for the licenses to have the “user uploaded” music on the service. On paying royalties, Grooveshark was also hit and miss, playing the same record label games against them.
But in all honesty, paying royalties is a contested issue. There is no transparency around it so the system is open to abuse.
Nick Menza (former Megadeth drummer) is complaining on social media that Dave Mustaine is ripping him off when it comes to his publishing royalty payments.
Add to that the unsignable contract that Menza (like Bill Ward and Dave Lombardo before him) were given and you can see that when money clashes with art, you have winners and losers on many different sides.
You have winners and losers between the executives and artists. You have winners and losers between the managers and artists. Finally you have winners and losers between the individual artists themselves and it all cases the main creative force is the winner.
If you want an example of the discontent, look no further than the guitar riff in “Every Breath You Take” from The Police.
That riff has been sampled in a lot of pop and rap songs. All of the monies earned from those samples goes to Sting as the sole songwriter and not to Andy Summers as the creator of the riff.
You see, Sting wrote the vocal melody and played the chords on a keyboard. That demo version of the song was then worked on by the whole band to get it to the level that we know today.
That iconic guitar riff follows the keyboard chords that Sting laid down.
A, F#m, D and E.
However the way Andy Summers chose to play it by adding the ninth note of each chord is iconic and innovative. That extra tone and the palm muted arpeggios tweaked the simple chord progression into an Aadd9, F#madd9, Dadd9 and Eadd9 chord progression. But Sting is the songwriter and he gets all the royalties for when that riff is sampled.
Sales of recorded music always goes to the record label and very rarely back to the artist. So why are artist complaining about copyright infringement.
Monies for the artist come from other opportunities like licensing out music for advertisements of products. Australian band Tame Impala has made nothing from overseas sales however the monies they received from licensing out a song to Blackberry and to a Tequila maker ended up allowing the songwriter to buy a house and set up a studio.
As Kevin Parker from Tame Impala put’s it;
“I know what you’re thinking… “wait so…when I bought an album I was helping some businessman pay for his mansion on an island somewhere, and when some dude bought a mobile phone he was helping to pay an artist? WHHHYY?” I’ll tell you why, IT’S MONEY. It doesn’t always go where you want it to go.”
And the best take away from that Reddit session is the following;
“As far as I’m concerned the best thing you can do for an artist is LISTEN to the music…fall in love with it…….talk about it”.
The above sentiments are a far cry from what the classic rockers are talking about.
Roger Waters is angry at the techies for creating tools that facilitate “stealing” and he is angry with the “whole generation that’s grown up who believe that music should be free.”
I enjoy Pink Floyd. I like Roger Waters while he was in Pink Floyd.
I picked up Pink Floyd’s seventies output on LP from a second-hand record store (which meant that I picked up someone’s unwanted Pink Floyd records) in the Nineties and the only Pink Floyd CD that I own is “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” which I picked up from a discount bin.
Man reading his rant, he comes across as not sure if he should love his fans or hate them, because in the end it is the fans who love everything that he has recorded and spend $200 plus on a concert ticket that are downloading his songs. Not the tech companies. So which way does Waters want it.
Change is forever. Every other business can embrace change and move on however the recording industry is still fighting it. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Roger Waters, Joe Perry and others all state that they are thankful they came out in a different time. Illegal copyright infringement is a record label problem, not an artist problem.
It’s actually one of the best times to be involved in the music business. The barriers of entry are low and recording technologies are affordable. You can physically create and distribute your music without a record label and do it for almost zero dollars. However, 99% of artists would still look for a record deal and then complain against the techies when the labels don’t hand over some of that streaming money that they have collected twice, once in licensing and then again in royalty payments for the listens.
The recording industry thrives in making their world look difficult and important. They will use trumped-up numbers of job losses, creative accounting charts and blame everyone else for the reasons why the artist is not getting paid. And the stupid thing is that the artists would sign up again for another term with the label with poor royalty returns.
The music business is not rocket science. Like any form of outlet there are some golden rules and the main one is to keep a decent cash balance.
So, yes that means the artist needs to work.
George Lynch had a record deal with Elektra and was driving trucks during this period just before Dokken broke through with the “Tooth N Nail” album.
Dee Snider worked many jobs while Twisted Sister was establishing itself as a serious live band.
Even Gene Simmons had a decent cash flow happening in the early days of Kiss. If you don’t believe me, then read “Face The Music” from Paul Stanley.
Music is an investment for the long-term that involves winners, losers and more importantly re-investment back into your career.
Time is your greatest friend.