Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Copyright Games

It is big dollars to an artist when they sell their copyrights to a business entity to administer. For example. Downtown Music Publishing will have paid Nikki Sixx some dollars to acquire his Motley Crue song catalogue.

Deals like these are meant to be a partnership between publisher and artist where both benefit. The Publisher forks out some cash as an incentive and then aims to recoup that investment by licensing the songs to commercials, movie/tv placements, gaming or some other outlet that requires music. The publisher keeps a portion of the income and then charges an administration fee on the rest.

But, these days, publishers and record labels have amassed a lot of copyrights and when they have business models based on holding these copyrights, you have a copyright system that benefits a corporation more than an artist. So that gives them power in negotiations.

And is YouTube really that bad to the recording industry. Read the Guardian article about how the existing power players believe YouTube is “anti-artist”.

So can someone tell me how these existing power players find  a hardware maker called Apple as “artist-friendly” and how those same people find a music service like Spotify and Pandora as “anti-artist”. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Most artists (old and majority of new) want the 1980’s pay structure, the signing bonus, the $20 CD, even though it cost the label, $1 to make. But these same people love free gmail, free Facebook, free something else. And yet they still scream to be paid like it’s the 80’s. As the Guardian article states;

“Although many have a conflicted relationship with YouTube, there is a generational conflict dividing the field. Those in the “old” music industry want to keep things the way they always were, nailing down copyright in every way possible. Yet around them a “new” business is emerging – prescient and whip-smart artists, managers, labels and media organisations – who see YouTube as a facilitator of a creative renaissance rather than a death sentence.”

Is the system perfect?

Of course not, however neither was the music eco-system when the record labels controlled it and due to lobbying the labels had a government granted monopoly on it. But would the artist prefer. Napster like piracy that offered $0 into the eco-system or a platform that offers millions. And when you combine this platform with other streaming platforms and other ways to monetise music, you get to see different income streams. Because the people have spoken and they don’t want overpriced CD’s.

“With all the major label contracts coming up for renegotiation it makes absolute sense [to attack it]. These are huge businesses run by intelligent people and as much as it’s a mud-slinging exercise at the moment, I am hopeful they will reach a middle ground where artists are being [properly] remunerated and YouTube continues to grow its platform and its offerings to artists. YouTube has given us and many independent artists an audience and an opportunity to build a brand. That’s allowed us to exercise a business that goes far beyond what’s on YouTube.”

And with all of these deals being made, the companies holding the copyrights want the Government to step in and change the royalty rates because the artist is getting screwed and not them. So, on one side you have Music publishers like ASCAP and BMI, along with their “stars” arguing that streaming has led to a reduction in songwriters’ income. Lucky the Justice Department of the US declined their request.

“And in a move that has caused widespread worry throughout the music publishing world — the side of the business that deals with the lucrative copyrights for songwriting — the government has also said that, according to its interpretation of the consent decrees, the music agencies must change a major aspect of how they license music. The agencies must now adopt a policy known as “100 percent licensing,” which means that any party who controls part of a composition can issue a license for the whole thing. In the case of major pop hits, which tend to have many songwriters, there can sometimes be a dozen or more parties involved.”

And now the business model based these publishers have based on a government granted monopoly by extending copyright laws is threatened by another government decision. But hey, “artist friendly” Apple is putting in their own request to increase the royalties because if that does happen, it will kill off all of Apple’s competitors like Spotify and Pandora. And then Apple will have a business model based on another government granted monopoly.

Seriously to see how fucked up copyright is, the fact that a politician needed to settle with Rude Music, the company owned by Frank Sullivan from Survivor for $25,000 because of “copyright infringement” is a joke. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used “Eye of the Tiger” during a rally. And this is somehow copyright infringement because Rude Music believes he should have asked for permission. The truth is, Frank Sullivan doesn’t agree with views of the politician and wants the populace vote.

And Queen has joined a long list of artists to send cease and desist letters to Donald Trump because even though his campaign does the right thing and pays a licensing fee to the publishers to use songs in their catalogue, if the artist disagrees with the views of the politicians they believe they have a power to stop it. All in the name of being liked.

To close out my rant, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation sums up my copyright argument in one nice paragraph.

And on it goes. Again and again, large content owners seem to think that the only way to fight unauthorized media consumption is to expand copyright. But more copyright won’t change users’ behavior. What it will do is chill innovation and free expression online. The way to bring in more paying customers isn’t to write new law; it’s to build a better product and get it to more customers at the right price.

 

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