A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Andy Warhol Was Right

As I was reading a Copyright story about a suit being brought against Lady Gaga for the song “Shallow”, I was also listening to “Andy Warhol Was Right” from Warrant.

And I couldn’t find any difference between the chords of these songs. And Warrant or the heirs of Jani Lane could have gone to court with Lady Gaga, but they haven’t.

And then you get a nobody like Steve Rosen who reckons that the song he created is so original and free from influence that someone must have copied him.

And he is claiming that his song “Almost” must have been copied. And he uploaded it to SoundCloud six years before “Shallow” was released, to prove that he was first.

Well, Warrant released “Andy Warhol Was Right” 20 years before Rosen’s “Almost”.

Andy Warhol said that every person will have their fifteen minutes of fame. I guess it’s the perfect song to sum up the range of copyright cases. People searching for their fifteen minutes.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Influenced, movies, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

Past Success

Is past success a good indication that you will have success again in the future?

Netflix thinks so, with the signing of the “Game Of Thrones” TV show creators to a $200 million deal. Their track record on reinterpreting other peoples material is pretty good, but their original content is pending review especially how they reinterpreted the last two seasons of GoT without really having source material to fill in the details.

This is like signing an artist to a $200 million deal when all of their songs are written by outside writers.

Remember the band Bananarama. They had a hit with “Venus”, a cover song and then their other hits were songs written by a British songwriting team called Stock-Aitken-Waterman. Well they got the mega deal, but didn’t really get the hits again.

Kevin DuBrow was given a million dollar contract to form his own band DuBrow but what the label failed to notice was that Quiet Riot’s two biggest songs are cover songs. Or offering Jay Jay French from Twisted Sister the same deal when Dee Snider wrote the material which made the band famous.

When Dokken splintered, Geffen went after Don Dokken and Elektra went after George Lynch, but what both labels failed to notice was that Jeff Pilson was the maestro, with a hand in co-writing all of Dokken’s most successful tracks. But no label went after him.

Even when Vince Neil left Motley Crue, he was courted by label’s and Warner Bros eventually signed him. But his fame is based on tracks Nikki Sixx had written.

Good business sense would be to see what their original shows or movies end up like.

But businesses don’t think like that. Netflix is losing subscribers for the first time in 11 years, Disney is taking back their content for their own streaming service and HBO and Amazon are also keen to get the GoT guys.

So by Netflix having these guys on board, by 2022 they would expect something in return. And Netflix would count on people keeping their subscriptions because of what they have in the pipeline.

But it’s all based on one key metric, as long as the GoT TV show creators brand doesn’t get further damaged in the meantime.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Billions Artists Don’t Get But Should

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.

All the labels care about is the free Spotify and YouTube users and those users who “stream rip”.

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.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Compensating Artists

Social media connects artists to fans. And that is a good thing.

The issue is that a lot of artists use social media as a one way street to market themselves and push their product. But for people to invest in you, you need to connect with them, and there are artists who do it better than others.

Dee Snider comes to mind immediately as one who does a great job connecting with fans. Dave Mustaine and Sebastian Bach do a good job as well, while Robb Flynn and Nikki Sixx do a fantastic job. Another artist who has two way comms going is Corey Taylor. There are a lot more, I know and I follow quite a few.

A simple question from a Depressed Reds Fan user account to Corey Taylor on Twitter got me interested;

“Just curious, where does the main source of income come from? I’d assume touring and merchandise, but I really don’t know.”

Corey Taylor responded with the following;

“We HAVE to tour. It’s the only way we can make a living. Merch helps, but the merch companies make the lion’s share. Streaming is pricing artists – old AND new – out of careers.”

Another user “Rock Feed” added that;

“People have this idea that bands are filthy rich. Royalties are so low for bands once all the suits get their take.”

And this started a conversation from the fans about what they try to do as consumers to make it profitable for the artist they support to earn a decent wage and continue creating music.

But, in order to fix the argument about streaming payments or digital payments or how the artist can be compensated, there needs to be a line drawn in the sand, because it is NOT THE CONSUMERS FAULT.

As consumers, we stream, we buy, we go to the shows, we buy the merch and we buy the collector’s edition.

How much more can the consumer do?

Of course, according to the record labels, we should pay more for streaming. Because if we did, more royalties would go to the artists which is all BS. The royalties going to the artist would be the same regardless of what the streaming rate is.

What about the record labels paying more to the artists in royalties?

Then you have the government controlling the rate of payments, which means, music doesn’t operate in a free market, instead it operates in a government granted monopoly.

And Publishers make billions for doing really nothing and pay out nothing because hey, it’s the consumers fault and the streaming companies fault according to them.

Other posts from other artists got screen shotted and re-tweeted.

James Blunt said he got paid 00.0004499368 pounds per stream. Beers are on him. Another user jumped on that and did the math that 1,000,000 streams of a song = 440 pounds. And when you split that amongst band members it doesn’t add up to a lot.

Another user called Source Code tweeted that they read;

“The Who back in the 70’s started a tour 40K in debt. They had a very successful time but afterwards the band were told they were still 40K in debt. It wasn’t the drinking or smashing up equipment that cost them, it was the anonymous greedy suits stealing.”

Corey Taylor re-added that;

“Musicians are LITERALLY the last to be paid”.

And that is true.

Artists are paid once all the expenses are paid. That advance payment has to be recouped. Studio time and promotion needs to be recouped. Legal needs to be paid and Management needs to be paid. Somewhere in between, the digital service provider takes up to 30% of the royalty paid. The label takes the rest and then distributes what the contact states to the artist. Then you have the publishers. Same deal there. The digital service provider takes up to 30% and the publisher takes the rest, distributing the money according to the contract they have with the artist. If the artist sells vinyl and product, they get a higher rate once the monies are recouped.

You know when you see articles like Steve Perry signing a publishing agreement or Nikki Sixx signing a publishing agreement and you can interchange any other artist who has a valuable back catalogue into the phrase.

Well, those artists don’t sign those agreements and get nothing in return. Obviously they are in a position of power to sign an agreement to their terms and get a favourable royalty rate, but there will be rules that the publisher would pay up front an advance fee and recoup that fee over the term.  

And when artists go out on tour and depending on their pull, they even scalp their own tickets to make more money on the show, because why should the booking agent, the venue, the parking stations and the food places make more than the artist. It’s wrong but legal.

Phil Labonte from All That Remains posted that their biggest song has 67 million views on YouTube and they have over 1.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify but see nothing from it.

Phil further mentioned that the band ends up making between 10 to 15% of gross on a tour. Then they need to split that amount 5 ways and pay their taxes. Once that is don’t, they can start paying their bills.

Bigger bands, will take an upfront payment and then negotiate this per show split afterwards.

But for a smaller band, if they have a show that has 1000 people at $20 a ticket, then that is $20,000 in gross earnings. Based on Phil’s numbers, the band stands to make between $2K to $3K for the show. Split 5 ways, it’s $400 to $600 per person. Play 20 shows and if you get the same crowds, then that’s $8K to $12K per person. Gross. Then tax.

And by the end of all the conversations, the artists didn’t care how people got the music, they just wanted to be compensated.

But music operates in a government granted bubble, and not a free market price, so the prices set are relient on Copyright rules (created by the Government) to make up the difference.

Artists tried “pay as you want” bundles (which is a way to test what the free market would pay for your work) and I don’t see too many of those bundles on offer today.

And there was two way communications between Corey and fans, who said, that since Corey plays music in a genre which isn’t popular, how can he expect to make coin on royalties to which Corey replied back with that he doesn’t believe that is the case, as all of the shows sell out and the genre is popular to the masses.

Its back to the same old argument; metal fans don’t stream as much as pop fans. And as an artist, do you want your fans to buy your album or stream it or both.

The best part of all of the conversations was the comment from Corey which said;

“As long as the RECORD LABELS get THEIR money, they don’t CARE if the ARTIST gets paid at ALL. Or who plays their music – unless it’s a critic on YouTube, THEN THEY’RE UP IN ARMS.

So much truth there. The bottom line is this; the Record Labels own a stake in Spotify. And they own this stake, because they had negotiating power from all the Copyrights they held, who really should be owned by the artists.

Did anyone notice that Tool recently entered the world of streaming?

And they would have done it on their terms, and their own rate. And they will be well compensated.

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

Copyright For Nothing And The Chicks For Free

Reading copyright stories elicits two responses from me. The “Are you freaking kidding me?” response and the “This is stupid” response.

The mighty Meatloaf along with writer , Jim Steinman (who is credited as the songwriter) had a copyright spat on their hands for “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”.

An artist called Jon Dunmore Sinclair claimed he wrote the song and Meat Loaf along with Steinman, stole it. Mmm, I am sure Mr Sinclair, still had possession of the song he wrote and it wasn’t stolen, but hey, let’s associate stealing with copyright infringement as well. Oh, wait, it already is associated, because the record labels have done a great PR job convincing people that accessing music illegally is stealing.

The story goes that Jim Steinman and Jon Sinclair had the same attorney, and via this attorney, is how Steinman heard Sinclair’s song called “(I’d Do) Anything For You”. Meatloaf argued that having a similar lyrical phrase is not copyright infringement, however without having access to hear Sinclair’s song, it’s hard to tell.

Meatloaf settled out of court, while Kate Perry and her team went to court and lost.

Now this one is a complete, “what the!, how stupid is that?” verdict.

You see, in this case, an artist called Marcus Gray (who uses the name Flame) claims that Perry ripped off his beat, and a small musical pattern.

These kind of claims trouble me, because the person claiming to be ripped off is stating that their work is so original and free from influence and not inspired by anything else that came before it. But people should check out this Vox article which shows how similar Flame’s Christian rap song is to another song back in 1983.

But hey, while Perry and her team relied on telling the story of how the song was created, Flame (original name as well) relied on pseudo gurus in musicologists to prove that they are similar. And the court agreed with the musicologists.

Which brings me to the next troubling issue, judges and juries changing the intent for what Copyright is meant to be. Then again, the labels have created this litigious monster themselves when they lobbied hard to get Copyright terms extended to life of the artists plus 70 years.

These kind of cases really started when the heirs of artists started suing.

And for the record, this never should have been an issue. If Kate Perry ripped off Flame then Van Halen can claim to be ripped off as well for “Why Can’t This Be Love”, because they have a C to B note transition. Throw in every other artist who has a song with a musical bar passage which goes from C to B in a staccato way. As Dr Luke (one of the writers) said on the stands), its basic building blocks. It’s like saying a writer can’t use the words “the”, “a” or “and”.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Copyright And Hell

When I was writing this post I was listening to “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath, so “Copyright And Hell” felt right for a title. Because when you start to get into the Copyright World, it’s hell.

So here we go on another post about Copyright absurdity in the music business. If I start including the art world, the photography world and so forth, I’ll never be able to finish a post.

YouTube has finally changed its content claim system, which now puts onus on the copyright holder to prove which section of the video broke Copyright laws.

In case you didn’t know, Copyright claimants had it all in their favour and they used this power to censor YouTube videos.

If you want to know what kind of a mess it became, a video of bird calls and white noise had takedown notices sent to it. Other videos that used 5 seconds or less of music as part of a news story or comedy routine (which is fair use) got taken down.

And every one wants a piece of the pie.

Here’s a lawsuit from a Christian rapper who claims that Kate Perry stole his beat. Yep, people are claiming beats as copyrightable. I guess when you move into a pop world which is all about beats and vocals and no music, suddenly everyone who creates a beat (either using a live drummer or samples) has a case.

Even insurers are caught in the crossfire. A rapper took out an insurance policy which covered any liabilities related to their professional music career. The rapper was involved in a copyright dispute which incurred costs. He asked the insurance company to pay, and the insurance company said no, accusing the rapper of withholding important information when purchasing his insurance policy. And now the rapper is suing the insurance company for not paying. And both will have spent more dollars fighting each other than paying the bill.

But each time I do these posts, there is a story about Copyright which defies the logic of fantasy fiction.

The issue that Taylor Swift has with a competitor manager buying out her old label is old news today. But two weeks ago and for a 48 hour period it blew up in my Google Alert Copyright feed.

It just goes to show how quickly content becomes irrelevant in the internet age. So when you spend 12 months perfecting that album, remember that it could be hot for a week or two and then crickets.

So, an artist writes a song, records it and they release it as DIY and they own the publishing and the masters.

But if the artist signs a deal, writes a song, spends the money advanced to them to record it and then spends more money of the advance to release and market it, well the label owns the master recording for a very long time and the artist still has their publishing rights as the songwriter.

If the songs make no money, the label wouldn’t care much about them, but they still wouldn’t let go of the masters easily, just in case those songs make millions later.

However if the songs make millions, then the label has a good income stream and they would fight tooth and nail to keep those masters. Which is ridiculous, especially when Universal kept it secret that a fire at one of their storage facilities wiped out the Masters of some of the greatest albums. And the back up Masters Universal made got placed in the same facility, next to the original Masters. In other words, the labels don’t care about the Masters, because if they did, they wouldn’t have burned like that.

In relation to Big Machine (Swift’s Old label), 80% of its income came from Taylor Swift’s catalogue of songs. So it’s selling point to any buyer is that catalogue.

So what say does the creator have about who buys their most profitable work, the songs which made them popular?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney got a buyout back in the day before the owner of their songs ended up changing hands so many times that eventually Michael Jackson (realizing how the recording business works) purchased them.

Well if you are a creator and you sign a basic deal, you basically have no say whatsoever in who owns the master copyrights to your songs. However if you had the negotiating power, you can add these terms into your contracts. But in most cases it’s stacked against the artist.

The best advice is to build your brand so it’s strong enough to negotiate in your favour, so you own your masters and your publishing when the label comes calling.

But everyone is tempted by money and the patience and discipline is hard to maintain.

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

Spotify

It always happens, when the saviour, the good one, the one with actual good intentions, the one who is trying to bring balance ends up being like the ones that came before it.  

How much more privacy can people give up, when every time we deal with a corporate entity online, we end up sacrificing our personal details to gain access?

Deal with Facebook, you give them access to everything. Deal with Apple and their store, same thing happens. Same with Amazon, Google, Snapchat and so on. Basically any organisation you deal with online will take some personal detail. Which is okay if you want to transact with them but then those personal details will then be sold and given to third parties for years on end making those organizations billions from our data and habits.

The Verge has a story about pre-saving albums on Spotify and when this happens the labels get access to our emails and any other permission which they request. Sony wants a lot, while Universal and Warner Music Group want less, but all of them involve getting permissions to users private playlists, date of births and what not.

It’s not illegal what Spotify and the labels are doing, however it doesn’t mean it’s right. If anyone should be given data on Spotify users, it’s the artists themselves. They are the ones creating the songs, forming the connections with the audience and bringing money in to Spotify and the labels. Then again, the city the listeners are from and how many listens have come from each city should be enough data for any artist to plan what comes next.

If you are an independent artist with a core audience, there is a high chance you would be all over this kind of data because you know its key to your career to satisfy and grow this audience. Obviously a larger artist would care about this data but wouldn’t have the time to deal with it because their enablers will be keeping them busy. If the artist is making money, they are also making money.

And the issue isn’t because private data is being shared. The issue here is that the labels want to control it and make changes to it as they see fit.

But the firing line just doesn’t stop for Spotify. Pitchfork has a story about how Spotify settled a few infringement cases privately and nothing will be disclosed about those settlements. It’s the same subterfuge employed by the labels, but hey, when you give the labels a stake in your business, what do you expect would happen.

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