Copyright, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Copyright, It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on the insanity which Copyright has become.

Over at YouTube, the copyright holders like Warner Music Group (WMG) are sending takedown notices for a super popular video called “The Fans Deserve Better” which has been allowed to operate since July 2014. In this takedown, WMG even blocked it, so nobody could watch it.

All the video shows is an 11 second clip of Iron Maiden’s “The Number Of The Beast” to demonstrate what a great vocalist is and then 11 seconds of an Asking Alexandria song to demonstrate how bad a vocalist can be.

In my own backyard of Australia, the music labels and movie studios pumped up the political parties with lots of cash to get legislation passed and site blocking is a real thing in the land of Oz.

This time around, the music labels Sony, Universal, and Warner, with assistance from Music Rights Australia and the Australasian Performing Right Association, are asking Australia’s Federal Court to approve their demand for the ISP’s to block stream-ripping sites.

So the ISP’s need to be the Copyright Police for the labels, because they haven’t been able to figure out the stream ripping market, and why people stream rip and what relationship to music these stream rippers have.

Do they attend concerts? Do they buy any recorded music? Do they just want to have content? What do they do with the content?

I know people who have terabytes of books, movies and music on hard drives which they’ve never listened too, watched nor read and they will never have the time to devote to all of that culture. But they want to say they have it. And it makes them feel good. There are articles stating the same about people who hoard digitally.

Is site blocking really needed as the labels and studios profit and loss statements are looking pretty healthy.

Did you know that recorded revenue earned by the labels keeps going up and up and up?

Four years straight.

And of course streaming revenue was the star of the show, which offset the decline in physical and download revenues.

Along the way to these increases in revenue, something magical happened.

The record labels for a long time complained about Latin And South America being a haven of piracy activity. In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned how metal and rock bands continually tour these areas to massive crowds and the bands haven’t sold any recorded product in these areas. Basically the people were starved of legal offerings and resorted to bootleg recordings and then piracy.

Finally Spotify is allowed to open their servers for the people of these countries to stream and these areas along with Australia (which the labels class as another haven for piracy and needs more court blocks) have been the fastest growing markets.

The labels didn’t create this new income stream, the techies did, but hey, the techies are the bad guys here. And isn’t it funny when people are given the choice to stream at a super low price, the majority would pay for that. So instead of focusing on 90% of the music fans who do the right thing, the labels and their lobby groups believe the 10% who obtain music illegally is worth spending money on and to increase the price the other 90% pay for legal options.

Mmmm.

Speaking of the techies as the bad guys, you might have noticed headlines like “Spotify Sues Songwriters To Pay Less Royalties”. It’s all B.S. but with the way the internet spreads news and with people looking for someone to blame at their own failings in connecting with their fan base, these headlines spread like crazy.

What is happening is that Spotify and Amazon have taken issue with the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (which should never ever exist), raising the royalty rate amount that Spotify needs to pay to the Copyright Holders. So instead of paying 10% of their revenue, they need to pay 15% of their revenue.

Spotify is not suing songwriters at all. What they and other streaming services are proposing is a different payment model.

And then you have Apple, which went from an innovative leader to meh, coming out in support of these increases, because hey, since streaming is a small portion of their bottom line, it can only help them out if their competitors close shop. 

And the solution to make users pay more, will get some people paying more, and the rest will return to torrents and stream ripping.

But, what everyone seems to forget is that the money in music is due to the relationship a customer has with the music and the artist. They determine the price they are willing to pay.

Here are a few articles on the Spotify vs The Royalty Board to form your own viewpoints on.

Rolling Stone article which summarises the facts without any bias.

Music Business Worldwide article that has Sony and Warner Music reps urging composes to fight Spotify’s royalty rate challenge.

A Vulture article which explains the facts even better than the Rolling Stone article.

Here is the rock and metal worlds response via Loudwire.

And let’s not forget the reapers hand hovering over “Blurred Lines”, the song written by Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams, which had no infringing riffs or licks, but a funk feel similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”.

In this case, a homage to funk led to $5 million being paid to the heirs of Marvin Gaye plus 50% of all future earnings. And the worrisome part is, these kind of cases put the idea out there that Marvin Gaye was so original and free from influence and that his songs did not pay homage to any artist or style.

From a rock perspective it’s the same as Led Zep suing Greta Van Fleet over a song of theirs for having a rock feel similar to a Led Zep song.

Ed Sheeran is also going to court to defend “Thinking Out Loud,” from the heirs of Ed Townsend who co-wrote, Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

A few years before that, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph” had a few extra writers added to it (out of court) as well. In this case, the writers of a song called “Amazing” believed their song is so original and free from influence that other artists couldn’t resist copying it (that’s sarcasm by the way). The fact that Sheeran’s song went huge and their amazing song didn’t, meant a writ needed to be served. 

In relation to “Thinking Out Loud”, it looks like another out of court settlement is on the cards and an extra songwriter who is dead, will be added to the credits of an Ed Sheeran song. Yep, Copyright was meant to expire when a person died, but not in this lifetime. They still get songwriting credits.

And these out of court settlements keep coming.

The most ridiculous one out of them all was where a person called Alisa Apps, took Universal Music Group and artist John Newman to court, because Newman’s song had the lyrics “I need to know now” in it, which is the same lyric line as her song.

Are you serious on this one?

Lucky the Justice system actually came to the party on this one and said you can’t copyright generic words or short phrases.

And finally, here is copyright as a shakedown tool, as collection agencies sue bars, nightclubs, restaurants and any place playing music over licensing fees.

In this case, the place in question is meant to owe BMI (a collection agency for 900K plus artists) $6,850. BMI alleges the organisation played music without a proper public license in place. I’m just curious for which songwriter is BMI collecting these monies for. Because when a collection agency sends employees to visit establishments and log the music they hear being played, it sure sounds like a shakedown than a warning or to educate business owners.

P.S. COPYRIGHT AS AN ENFORCEMENT TOOL

One last special Copyright case is how the RIAA, and the labels are suing an ISP for the fast speeds it offers because those high speeds foster piracy and it wouldn’t kick off the people responsible because it might damage their brand. I kid you not. I’m waiting for the day, when the makers of knives are sued because the sharpness of their knives foster greater damage to human organs when someone plunges it through skin in a fit of rage.

P.S.S. – COPYRIGHT AS AN ENFORCEMENT TOOL

People who create a tool that connects to the TV and internet and allows people to watch content they didn’t pay for are jailed for a total of 17 years. I’m waiting for the day when gun makers (a tool created by people) get jailed for 17 plus years, when their tools are used to take the life of people who didn’t want to die.

P.S.S.S – COPYRIGHT AS A MONOPOLY

And one of the outcomes of the Music Modernization Act was that a new music collective would be created for streaming royalties and suddenly we have groups fighting over who should be in it and lots of money going into different people’s hands to approve.

I thinks that’s all I have patience for. Till next time.

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

Change Happens

Change happens. It isn’t easy but the earliest you understand it and accept it, the quicker you’ll be able to move on and make a living in the post-change world. 

There is still too much focus from artists on things they cant control, instead of focusing on things they can control, like creating art, connecting with people, using data from streaming listens to organise tours and merchandise deals in those areas that have super fans.

Super fans according to Spotify are people who have streamed the music of the artist for 45 days in a row. Spotify then targets these fans with updates and pre-sales and turns this data over to the artist for free.

If you have noticed, when you go to your favourite artists account and you see the number of listeners on their account, well, a percentage of those listeners fall into the super fan bucket.

But it takes work to do all these extra things, and there are people feeding your ear with how unfair it is that Spotify is taking the Copyright Royalty Board to court because the Board increased the royalty base fee that these services need to pay.

In my view, the board should not have this power at all, because it is not the fault of the streaming service for the low payouts to the artists.

The record label and the artist did sign an agreement once upon a time which explains in great detail how these payments will be divided, once the monies the label spent on the artists have been recouped.

In the process, the songwriters also signed deals with labels and publishers once upon a time, and in most cases, they also pocketed millions in advance payments in lieu of future earnings, and now suddenly, the fault lays with the streaming services.

Has anyone seen Spotify’s financials to check how much of an expense Royalties are to their business?

They are not avoiding paying.

Music like any other form of economic business needs to operate in the economic world. That means the price and value of art will fluctuate based on market demand. If it has a government institution setting a royalty fee, then the whole business model is in trouble, because the government is over inflating the real value of the art, by setting prices which are out of touch with market demand.

But the oldsters in charge of the RIAA and the labels and their politician friends are all colluding, so the Government props up and shields a business that refuses to operate in the real economic world.

Let me tell you a story about Leo Feist and Harry Von Tilzer. If you don’t know who they are, it’s okay, and if you do, great. Remember how once upon a time there was a booming sheet music business. Well these two guys were influential in this business.

And they gainfully employed musicians to demonstrate playing the sheet music songs to people, as a way to sell amateur musicians on the idea to purchase the sheets of music. Music stores then started to employ these kind of musicians as well, and suddenly you had a new industry of musicians earning a weekly wage, playing other peoples songs to people.

But like all great things, change is around the corner. They had a feeling that these new technologies called the phonograph and radio would change the game and they also knew that songs would go from local cities to state wide to country wide faster than ever before and to more people than ever before.

In due time, the musicians employed by the sheet music corporations didn’t have a job and the music business model these two men built and profited from began to fall apart.

But benefits also came about from the new technologies as more artists and bands suddenly becoming popular.

Change happens.

And the way you used to make money is not the same anymore. It’s the same for every business. Apple makes its money very differently in 2019 to how it did in 1985.

You might not have the global dominance of artists from the MTV era, but more and more smaller artists are building a career, with a small cult audience which sustains them.

As artists, be open minded, embrace change and look for creative ways to monetize instead of being angry. And in the end, enjoy the highs and lows the process brings with it.

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

More File Sharing Equals More Music…

One of the main points of organisations or people who support stronger copyright laws and enforcement is the lies that stronger copyright laws act as an incentive for people to be creative or to make art. About 10 years ago, these lies appeared everywhere. What the public didn’t know, was that these organisations had a seat in the Government Policy room, to negotiate a range of bills in secret.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) got introduced in 2011 in the US Senate for discussion. In January, 2012, people held protests in the streets and online about these bills which would put too much control of the internet into the hands of corporations and governments. Eventually, these bills didn’t pass. TPP was written in secret with the corporations, and it got passed without discussion, only for Trump to squash it and come out with another act, even better for the Corporations.

One thing throughout it all that hasn’t dropped off, is the creative output of people. There is so much more content being produced and created right now than ever before. And the consumers have choice, and a lot of it.

Multiple studies have shown that even though there was a massive increase in infringement once upon a time, at the same time there was also a large increase in creative output as well.

And of course, people will associate output versus money made. Like the way Gene Simmons did when he said “Rock is dead”. Some people create art purely for money. Others create art because they want to create or have a need to create. Money will come, merely as a by-product of creating art.

When the record labels acted as gatekeepers, they could put money behind artists and develop them. It used to happen and some labels did it better than others. But that boom in the 80’s, is not because the labels developed artists, it’s because those artists developed themselves outside the sphere of the record labels.

No one can say that a record label developed Twisted Sister, Motley Crue or even Quiet Riot. Even Metallica did their first album independently and had a cult live following before Elektra came in to sign them for “Ride The Lightning”.

For artists that had break out success in 1986, like Bon Jovi and Europe, I would say, yes, they got developed by the label and got the green light for a make or break third album.

Economist Joel Waldfogelm, did some research a while back.

He wanted to see if the rise in sharing had any drop off on the new music being produced. And the research said, no, as new music was being created continuously. However, the record labels claimed otherwise, a claim not based on evidence.

in my opinion, the study also debunked what Gene Simmons said, about “rock being dead”. Gene’s comments circled around how file sharing and streaming meant that no new acts are being developed and able to grow and release quality albums. In fact, the study finds no support for that claim.

The study looked at the best of lists on popular websites for each decade from the 80’s and found on average, about half of the best-of albums since Napster are from artists whose recording debut occurred since Napster.

The study even went further to check how many albums in the 80’s are from artists from the 70’s and how many are from artists who had their debut in the 80’s. And guess, what, the numbers match the post Napster numbers.

How can that be if no artist is being developed?

Basically, there is no evidence that new artists are no longer being developed or are not creating high quality, successful music. Then again, the great artists didn’t need an A&R rep to develop them. They had their own drive and their own motivations.

But the labels have great PR writers and they sure know how to spin a story, along with the publishers and the movie studios. But their theories are not backed by independent research evidence.

The big difference between pre and post Napster is that most of the new musicians are coming from independent DIY artists, rather than the majors. And the labels don’t like this. And they are taking money away from the legacy artists when it comes to recorded music but the legacy artists still make coin on the live circuit.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Moral Panics

Back in 2011, I started writing all these blog posts from articles I read that I had a laugh with, or disagreed with, or had a reaction to. And I felt they were unfinished to publish or I just didn’t have the balls to put my views out there, but I saved them anyway.

My digital saving life is no different to how people just keep physical items, but for me, a physical item will be thrown away to reduce clutter, but anything I create, I store away digitally, like it matters or means something. Once I am gone, who knows what happens to our digital lives stored in clouds and email accounts.

In 2011, there was an article I read, called “Track Piracy Is Killing The Music Business…. In 1976” over at a site called Techdirt. At that point in time, Spotify was still in the stages of gaining approval from the record labels to operate in America (it actually kicked off in July 2011).

And while the labels bogged down the negotiations to get a stake in the company, YouTube silently became the number one streaming service and it still is to this day. And it’s all because YouTube offers the users exactly what Napster offered its users back in 1999. A chance to share their love of culture, with others.

So while the labels negotiated a billion dollar deal that no artist would ever see the terms too (even though the labels had this bargaining power because of the copyrights they held from the artists), it really was funny to read the moral panic put out there by the labels and their lobby group RIAA.

Of course, every generation sees that moral panic it a bit different.

In the early 1900’s, the player piano was killing live music and the music industry along with it. Then from the late 60’s, the tape recorder and home taping was killing music and the recording industry along with it.

Then in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the MP3 player and mp3 was deemed to be killing the recording industry. At one stage, the mp3 player was deemed illegal. To make, sell and buy guns and knives was legal, but to make, sell and buy an mp3 player was illegal. Imagine how much money the lobby group of the labels would have donated (bribed) to the politicians to get that law passed.

Then in the early 2010’s, it became about streaming and how its payments to artists is killing the industry.  With every moral panic, the industry has survived, because in the end people gravitate to something that connects and they share their love of it. While all of this was happening, unknown to many, concert tickets increased at a rate triple the inflation rate.

Netflix said recently that they are not competing with other streaming providers but with Fortnite for peoples attention. At least they get it. It’s easy to be ignored and when that happens, what’s next. We are saturated with choice and it’s a good thing. For those who remember growing up, with three channels on TV, the current world is exponentially better for choice.

So what does all this mean for the artist?

Remember when Cheap Trick’s album from 2009, “The Latest”,  came out on 8-track as a unique marketing promotion, with the offer to download the digital tracks at a price lower than the standard iTunes price. Well it was a cool gimmick because it got the band back into the conversation. I also remember reading, how the guys we’re worried about being ignored than being ripped off, when the interviewer asked them about giving their digital tracks away for such a low price.

In other words, obscurity is a bigger fear than piracy. Just ask those artists who are part of the group of 30 million songs who have never been heard on Spotify.

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

The Artists Live Forever

The artists have the power. They are the ones who write and record the songs and provide something of value.

So why are the rights holders of the artist’s works (otherwise known as the Copyright Holders, aka, the Labels and Publishers) organizing deals with ISP’s, the Courts, the techies and the Government. These bodies would not have any power if the artists never sold away their power in the first place.

If anyone should be organising deals it should be the ARTISTS/PERFORMERS with the USERS/CONSUMERS first and then with all of the other organizations who make money from their music.

But a lot of artists go about it without a plan.

Or it’s a plan with drama, telling the fan or borderline fan, how hard they worked on the newest album, the cost to them emotionally and financially and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into their newest work. It’s like they want to guilt the consumer into paying for their product.

Or some do it effortlessly, without drama. Both systems work, as it depends on the consumer, how they react or the surplus of funds they have left to spend on entertainment.

And it’s a choice, artists need to make.

And because of money, you start to get artist’s giving their fans what they believe the fans want, so that they don’t lose them. But they seem to forget that the fans came into their lives when they wrote songs when they had no fans. Those songs written meant something personal. Songs written with money as the motive or with the aim of critical mass public acceptance don’t end up getting there. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was written when Dee Snider was still struggling to make it.

Hit songs/albums are not made by label marketing or an artist telling the world it is their best work. They are made by cultures of people that connect with the song and then share their love of that music with others.

I remember “Pornograffiti” from Extreme got no press in Australia and it sold. The follow up “III Sides To Every Story” had a scorched earth marketing policy and while I dig the album, it did nothing in the land of Oz.

Geffen promoted Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Roxy Blue and Galactic Cowboys heavily in 1991/92. It was a simple scorched earth marketing policy. Spend money and see what sticks.

But who cares who ran Geffen or worked in AOR. Will people remember Whitesnake or John Kalodner or Dave Geffen?

We know that Metallica released the Black album. Would people care on what label it was on?

We sing along together at a Bon Jovi concert. Do we care or know that it was Polygram who released “Slippery When Wet”?

So while record label people come and go, artists remain, as their music lives forever. But the label heads want to be ones that live forever and all because artists give away their rights and power to them.

And artists need to be creating. These stupid perpetual Copyright laws made artists lazy especially artists who made some dough, during the era when the record labels controlled the distribution.

If you don’t believe me, how many albums of new music did Jimmy Page do after Led Zeppelin disbanded?

From memory, two albums with The Firm, one solo album, a Coverdale Page album and one Page Plant album as the other album was Led Zep songs reworked in acoustics. A total of 5 albums in almost forty years.

The artists are in charge. They need to know that. They can post their tunes to streaming services and make coin, provided they care about making connections with fans.

And it’s exciting.

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

It’s An Artist World, So Why Are You Giving Your Rights Away

When you have a non-major label song enter the much loved “major record label” chart, you get a sense that something is happening in the wind.

Especially when its a kids song, released in 2016, written by a South Korean company who does children music, with 50 plus million Spotify streams and over 2 billion YouTube views.

The song is stupid and not my cup of tea, but this post isn’t about the song, it’s about how a non major label song can breakthrough in the internet era. These anomalies that happen few and between will end up being the norm. If the artists allow it to happen.

Because at the moment, we still have our favorite bands drip feeding a pre-release single every 4 weeks of their upcoming album and unless it’s ubiquitous, the music is instantly forgotten. Can anyone say “Bullet For My Valentine” had a new album out last year?

We also have these “newbie” acts struggling for years to get their songs noticed and then they build a loyal audience, get an offer from a label or a publisher, sign away their copyrights and they forget why they broke through in the first place. Which was their music to fan connection.

In other words, if you are not being heard, you can’t solve your marketing problem tomorrow.

Some acts could not have made it without a label, but the label is not keeping these acts going anymore, the fans are.

But the recording industry is the same as it ever was by focusing on radio and charts while the internet allows acts to put out new music every day if they desire.

Every artist riding high on the “much loved” charts started by giving their music away for free. No one waited for a label rep to say yes, or for a label to give them money. They just started, they wrote, they played, they recorded, they released and they repeated. And they failed, and they tried again.

And if you have a deal, you need to know that the labels work to a calendar about what to release and when to release it. It’s never your choice.

Record Labels want to sell, while an artist is looking to have a career and fans are looking for access. And remember if there is no artist and fan connection/access, the labels will have nothing to sell and the artists will have no career. It’s an artist world right now, so why are you giving away your rights.

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

Take A Walk On The Stream Side

You can buy an album and never listen to it, however if you do listen to the purchased album, the artist has no idea how many times you played it.

Streams means you listened, and it tells the artist which song/s you listened to, even if it was in the background. It tells the artists from which area you are from. It arms the artist with tools to plan their tours.

And it’s rare that you will stream the whole album. You probably will only stream the songs which are your “hits” or if the album crosses over, maybe the actual hits.

And in the same way you cherry-picked your favourites and made that awesome mix tape, or CD once upon a time, you do the same in the digital era with a playlist.

And if artists want fans to buy albums, where do they expect the majority to play them?

Most computers don’t even come with a CD drive and most new cars also don’t have a CD drive either. As for those super expensive stereo systems from the 80’s, are now marketed to audiophiles.

And for iTunes files, its an overpriced offering compared to what is available. I stream and still buy some albums on CD throughout the year. It’s because I can’t stop buying. But the new generation is all about on demand and streaming. It’s a different market and artists need to adjust.

And if artists are waiting on just sales to get traction, they are operating in the old world. Without big streaming numbers, acts get no traction in the mainstream, but acts can have a career on the outer edges, satisfying their core, niche market.

Every artist should be getting their fans to stream. But we still get the voices against streaming services and how these services pay poorly. If that’s the case, you need to renegotiate your terms with the corporations which hold your Copyright.

But streaming shows your fans. If anybody is streaming your music a lot, they’re a fan, and they’ll pay to see you live and they will buy VIP tickets and merchandise and any special edition of an album you put out. Don’t you want to know that information?

And the chart that matters is one of listens. But artists still want sales and that number 1 Billboard spot (for bragging rights) and they package their album with tickets. Metallica did it with “Hardwired” and Jovi did it with their last two albums.

But seriously, is selling an album with tickets reflective of the albums success?

Of course not, it’s typical record label creative accounting. It might matter to the artist, but fans don’t give a shit. And remember, for an artist to have a career, it’s a relationship between fan and artist.

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