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

Copyright Just Keeps On Giving

Copyright is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Remember how copyright is meant to protect the creator so they have a monopoly on their work, with the aim to be paid if the work is popular. A lot of artists create works which are not popular and as such, their monopoly on their copyrights have no value.

However, in this case, the creator gets a stroke and other people allegedly forge the creators signature to transfer the rights to corporations who seem to benefit.

The Seinfield creators couldn’t even come up with this kind of a story. You can add elder abuse to the list for Copyright court cases.

The other big one is Ed Sheeren and his song, “Thinking Out Loud”. You see even if Sheeren did copy a Marvin Gaye song, the song should have been in the public domain anyway because both Gaye and his co-writer are dead. Then again the labels wanted these kind of perpetual laws many years ago and now they are getting bitten in the ass.

And companies like Structured Asset Sales, founded by an investment banker called David Pullman exist by purchasing a lot of copyrights from the children of these creators many years ago and now we have this stupidity of suing people.

And as usual, Copyright is already benefiting the corporations who create nothing and now it is benefiting the heirs of artists who create nothing, to sue the creators who create something.

But if you really want to know how the recording industry via the RIAA caused this mess, then read this article over at Techdirt.

Nothing is original especially in music which has mass appeal. No artist writes music without being exposed to music. Everyone is working from the same instruments and the same chords.

And the courts now cannot make a distinction between influence and theft. It’s set the precedent that all influence is theft. And the labels went with that for decades only to be sued over the last 10 years from heirs of dead artists.

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

Under My Copyright

I haven’t done one of these Copyright posts for a while because there has been too much information going around and I couldn’t decide what to write about. Like GNR suing an hardcore fan for leaking demos of “Chinese Democracy” or Kate Perry being accused of copying an artist that no one has heard off.

But then Public Domain 2020 happened and suddenly I was interested in Copyright stories again.

So I started with something close to home.

Australia was once on the US watchlist for countries who consumed content illegally. So the US government pressured our government to get tough on illegal downloads. But everyone just kept on saying, offer enough legal alternatives at the right price and people will take it up. So is it any real surprise that Australians are now taking up these legal options.

Remember that Copyright was created for the artists to have an incentive to create more works. According to Blink-182s Tom DeLonge, this means selling your publishing rights to a corporation for a hefty fee. Of course he’s not the only one. All of our favorite and popular artists have done it. This one is strange because DeLonge even said “he now has an incentive to create more”. And I’m thinking, really.

But the best one is The Rolling Stones along with Abkco Music and Records, dropping 75 rare recordings onto YouTube, hours before they were going to enter the Public Domain in Europe. Actually it was Abkco that uploaded them to YouTube.

And just in case people tried to copy the recordings, Abkco added a dial-tone to obscure the sound and after 24 hours moved the recordings from the public site to a private, invite-only site.

Basically if Abkco didn’t release the recordings within 50 years after they were made, they would lose the copyright. The Beatles and Bob Dylan have done something similar in the past. And if a YouTube post is deemed eligible as a release then Abkco’s copyright term will last until the end of 2089. I guess Abkco has an incentive to create. There’s nothing better than a corporation have the copyrights of a song for 120 years.

And you know the saying if you have a hit expect a writ. Miley Cyrus released a song called “We Can’t Stop” and it went to Number 2 on the charts. It was kept out of number 1 by “Blurred Lines” from Robin Thicke.

Both songs got served with writs and have settled. Cyrus settled before it went to verdict and Thicke at trial with the Gaye family.

The song that was number 3 on the charts better watch out. Someone is after them.

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

Public Domain 2020

The post over at Duke University.

The purpose of copyright is to promote creativity. And it does so by providing creators a limited monopoly to distribute their works with the aim to make money.

The limited time for works was 28 years and if the creator renewed they would get another 28 years and if they didn’t renew, then the works would end up in the Public Domain. All up 56 years was the term.

But not all works made money so 98% of them would end up in the Public Domain after 26 years.

What’s the point in renewing if it’s worth nothing?

Having copyright terms that last 70 years after the death of the creator does not promote creativity.

It promotes money for lawyers because of the heirs who sue or it make money for the corporations who control the rights.

It also promotes laziness from the creator who has no incentive to create anymore works. Certain artists tell us that they have no incentive to create new works and are quite happy to live off their past works which had public acceptance.

Works from 1924 will enter the US public domain and most of these works are already in the public domain in other parts of the world, which means anyone can use these works as raw material for their own creations, without fear of a lawsuit.

Prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1963 would have entered the public domain if Copyright was never extended to last for the life of the creator plus 70 years.

Works from 1963 like the songs from The Beatles’ albums “Please, Please Me” and “With The Beatles” or songs from The Beach Boys’ album “Surfin’ U.S.A” album’s would be in the Public Domain.

Imagine that.

All those works available to build new works, in the same way way The Beatles and The Beach Boys built their works on the blues music already in the Public Domain at that point in time.

But when we create works, we do not do it because of Copyright law. We do it because we need to create and we love to create.

Imagine if those terms existed past 1978. Works from 1991 which failed to get renewed would be in the Public Domain.

Imagine that.

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

Decade Of Teachings

DONT SELL YOUR RIGHTS

The recording business thrived on getting artists to sells their rights to the labels in a shot at fame. And the label would keep the bulk of the sales/payments. So when sales started to decline and streaming started to rise, the artists who did not sell their rights or got their rights back, started to grin.

PAYMENTS

You will get paid as long as people keep listening. Or do what Dave Coverdale does with his anniversary editions.

MARKETING

It’s all about word of mouth. What the press promotes, does not crossover to public acceptance anymore.

TOURING

Artists who can play get an audience on the road once they have some streaming numbers on cities. So they build online and capitalize on the road.

ONCE

One offs are one offs. They never happen again to the same scale like Radiohead’s pay what you want model or Kickstarter fan funding to the tune of a millions or PSY’s “Gangnam Style” viral video or Guitar Hero consoles.

STREAMING

Promoters book you based on your streaming numbers. And in most cases, artists break on streaming services before radio and music news websites jump on the bandwagon.

SUPERSTARS

Everyone can play the modern game and if you look at peoples EOY lists for favorite releases, there is a lot of variance.

A lot of variation and each fan has an act which they see as superstars.

So the days of an artist crossing over into the conversation on all levels is done. Satisfy your core, who will sustain you.

RELATIONSHIPS

It’s between the artist and the fan, not the label or the promoter. If the artist doesn’t have that fan relationship, the labels and the promoter make nothing.

PLAYLISTS

Don’t waste time or money trying to get onto a playlist with the hope that you will be discovered. It doesn’t work and to make it work, costs time and money, which nobody wants to pay to fix because streaming services haven’t made any profits yet. And the record labels are just takers.

REPETITION

It hardly exists. Skimming and skipping tracks is the current emperor. But when we do get hooked then we listen forever.

NEW MUSIC

Create because you want to create. Don’t be like the artists who say “it’s not worth it, to write and release new music”.

Don’t put money first.

SAFETY NET

There isn’t one in music. Just because you spend time creating, it doesn’t mean you will be taken off financially.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Don’t waste too much time each day on promoting yourself there. Keep writing and releasing. 10 percent of your followers/fans on these accounts make up your fan base. The rest are not interested.

And use social media to your advantage.

There is no need to do a press tour and interviews with various websites. All you are doing is driving traffic to them who then use it to sell ads.

Drive traffic to you.

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

Getting Paid

I’m seeing news articles that Spotify’s payment rate is declining.

But there never was a set payment rate per stream. It was always based on your streams in a pool of streams and what percentage you take in the pool of streams based on countries and the pool of money of available to be paid out and your percentage stake in those monies.

Yep it sounds simple, but it’s creative accounting at its best and the music industry is well known for it.

However there is an argument that with Spotify’s subscribers growing, the payments to artists for the same amount of streams they had in previous years is lower. A normal person would assume that a growing membership, would mean more money in the pool and that would mean a higher payment for the same amount of streams.

As much as I am a fan of Spotify and streaming services in general, all of these organizations also deal in the murky world of creative accounting like the labels.

And Spotify should be worried.

Their business model is based on licensing agreements. Like Netflix’s original business model. But Netflix started doing original content over 10 years ago. Spotify hasn’t.

Because Netflix knew that the companies they license content from, will form their own streaming service one day. In this case, Disney created Disney TV. And I reckon the labels are watching this with interest. If it works out okay for Disney TV, and the costs are low to host a steaming service, then the labels will consider their own streaming service. It’s just a matter of time.

So imagine a world with Universal deciding to do the same as Disney.

Because the labels never cared that people accessed the music of their artists illegally. They used that as part of their PR, to show that they cared about their artists and to get politicians to pass laws to protect their businesses.

What the labels really cared about was losing control of the distribution and the gatekeeper monopoly they had for so long.

So if the labels go into their own streaming offering, they will get back control of the distribution and a sort of monopoly again. And the only way for Spotify to exist if this happens, is to become a label themselves and pay people to generate content instead of paying organizations to access content.

Spotify might not pay artists what they think they should be paid but at least they are getting paid because Spotify has to pay based on the agreements they have with the labels and the legislation in place around royalty rates. If the label and the publishers keep the monies, then the artist has to negotiate a better deal when they sign up for that initial advance payment.

But once the distribution goes back under the labels control, good luck in getting paid because the labels will get all creative and will work out that the artist owes them money instead. And if the labels do work out that there are payments due to the artists, then those payments are based on the contract artists sign with the label.

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

The Gatekeeper Society

The artists have the power. They always had. They are the ones that create the works, the songs.

But there used to be a gatekeeper society when it came to music, and this society said to the artists, “if you want to play this game of fame, sign your life away on the dotted line.” And to make it worth your while, here is an advance payment. But the devil doesn’t tell you that they will recoup this advance payment for your whole life plus 70 years after your dead.

And this gives the rights holders of the artist’s work (otherwise known as the Copyright Holders, aka, Record Labels) the power to negotiate with ISP’s, the Courts and the Government. The artists sold away their power and the record labels make billions in streaming revenue. And because of this power the record labels amassed, they can influence law makers in passing laws to protect the record labels business models and on occasions the labels via their lobby groups, get the law enforcement arms to act as a piracy surveillance force.

Now if an artist was “out there” and didn’t fit the norm, that’s when new record labels would be formed, like Metal Blade Records by Brian Slagel (a record store employee) so he could promote the local metal bands from LA.

Or Megaforce Records, by Jon and Marsha Zazula, so they could release Metallica’s first album. Or Sanctuary Records by Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor, who discovered Iron Maiden and named their label after Maiden’s song, “Sanctuary”.

And the gatekeeper society rules would transfer over to these new labels and suddenly we have gatekeepers here deciding which bands would get signed and which bands wouldn’t and which bands they would manufacture, amassing a large catalogue of copyrighted songs in the process.

But today, the artists themselves can write, record and release, without the need for a label (however they need a digital distributor/aggregator) to get their music on digital platforms, and of course, they will need to source their own supply of organisations who deal with physical products like vinyl, CD’s and clothing.

And it might sound daunting for some, but it’s focused work. So if anyone should be organising deals it should be the ARTISTS/PERFORMERS with the USERS/CONSUMERS.

And if the artists have their music on legitimate channels with fair and just price structures for people to access content, well the problem of piracy goes away. Then it’s up to the artist to decide what is next and how to further monetise their fan base.

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Alternate Reality, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Certification

Certifications still exist in 2019.

In order for an organisation to exist they need to find something relevant.

The RIAA is a lobby group for the record labels, and a trophy giver to artists. These little trophies, like a gold certification for 500,000 albums sold in the U.S. used to be a little bit easier to calculate when sales was the only metric used.

But when digital downloads and streaming started to take over, for right or wrong reasons, the RIAA and its sister like companies in other parts of the world, got all creative in their counting.

Suddenly, a thousand odd of streams is an album sale or 12 tracks downloaded is an album sale. Artists then would offer their albums with ticket bundles and if the fan clicked on the download link, that counted as a sale. Or artists would offer their albums with clothing sales and again, if the fan clicked on the download link, that would count as a sale.

For right or wrong reasons, certain artists and their backers are looking for bragging rights.

So what does a certification tell the world?

I was trolling through the recent certification awards on the RIAA website and I saw a lot of artists who I have never heard off, get a lot of single song certifications, so my assumption here is that these songs are streaming like crazy. And a check on Spotify confirmed that.

But two certifications got me interested because I used to cover these songs in bands. KANSAS got a triple platinum certification for “Dust In The Wind” and a 4x Platinum certification for “Carry On My Wayward Son”.

Now imagine that.

Song’s released in the 70’s are getting cherry picked by fans and listened to over and over and over again on streaming platforms. And you can’t say that the songs are part of a ticket or clothing bundle.

Here are the facts;

  • “Dust In The Wind” was released in January, 1978 and it got no certifications whatsoever back then, nor in the years after.
  • And the record labels have a habit of not spending money to promote old songs if they don’t make money, so those songs become forgotten.
  • It wasn’t until digital services like iTunes offered up the track that it got a Gold certification in December, 2005.
  • And 14 years after that and almost 9 years since streaming commenced, the track went from Gold to Platinum to 2x Platinum and now 3x Platinum.

Whereas;

  • “Carry On My Wayward Son”, released in November 1976, got its Gold certification in December 1990 and in November 2019, it got platinum x1, x2, x3 and x4 certification.
  • And when you look at the streaming numbers you can see why;
    • “Dust In The Wind” has 231,083,018 streams and “Carry On My Wayward Son” has a combined count of approx. 270,000,000 streams on Spotify.
    • On YouTube, the official video and audio of “Dust In The Wind” have a combined count of 300 million views and “Carry On My Wayward Son” has close to 160 million views of the official video and audio.
    • Plus you have the user uploads when all combined add up to a lot of million views.

    And it’s a long journey for a song and an artist.  

    Debates can be had on sales and certifications but what I find impressive when I see theses kind of things is how artists are still relevant even when they are out of the mainstream press. It’s like the saying goes, you can’t keep a good song down

    And it pisses me off how record label reps had so much control to kill an artists career once upon a time, even though the music from the artists always had an audience for their music.

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