This is the world that the artists have created when they signed away their masters and Copyrights to a record label. And for this tragedy to be fixed, the artists need to understand that it starts with them.
The labels have been the recording music gatekeepers for decades and they had full control to sign artists to contracts with less favourable terms.
In the process, the labels amassed a catalogue of music which gave them negotiating power at the table and when it came to take overs or selling off parts of the label, these profitable back catalogues bring in a lot of money.
French entertainment giant Vivendi owns Universal Music Group (UMG). Now Chinese tech company Tencent is looking at a 10% stake in UMG worth up to $3.6 billion dollars. The worth of that stake is because of the artists and the works UMG holds on behalf of the artists; works which they more or less paid a pittance for and works which have probably really recouped 100 times over.
How much of those billions would go back to the artists?
But hey, artists instead are forming a lobby group to fight against the tech lobby groups in the U.S. Because the distributor is now a problem. This is the same as the artists forming a lobby group in the past to fight against the truck drivers and the record stores.
I’m all for more power to the artist. It’s the artist that creates the song which connects with audiences and makes dollars. But for the artist to also have a fair say, they need to lobby hard against their employers (if they have a label deal) and the publishers, because these organisations make billions from the deals they organise with streaming companies and by selling off their small stake in the company.
And going back to the Music Artists Coalition (MAC), which also includes high profile managers, I don’t see how they will advocate for the 98% of artists doing it tough, when they represent the 2%.
But it’s a start.
Will MAC get back the masters from the labels. Oh, wait, most of those masters got destroyed in a Universal Warehouse fire.
We’ll lucky for the Public, that there is a copy of the music online. Otherwise, the tunes would be lost forever, in peoples records collections, which either end up in the trash or in a second hand book shop.
Because the labels don’t really care about this history. If they did, they would have stored the masters better, in a climate controlled room instead of a basic warehouse and they would have stored the back-ups at a different location instead of the same building.
The labels (with their lobby groups) have court granted blocking on their side in most countries, so visits to sites like The Pirate Bay have reduced. However, fans of music just use YouTube and the free tier of Spotify to access music (which are both legal) and the labels don’t like it, because they are unable to find a way to convert the users of the free tiers to paying subscribers, especially in Italy.
So in this case, the labels cant increase the price to access music because people are not paying the current price as it is. So the price needs to come down. But the labels don’t want that. The option they want is to cut off the free-tiers, however this will just drive people back to the pirate sites.
And if the price to stream in Italy comes down, the record labels need to be reasonable here and still pay the artists their fair share, but we know that the words fair and reasonable are not associated with the labels.