Music, My Stories, Copyright, Alternate Reality

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.

    Standard
    Copyright, Music, My Stories

    How Valuable Are Things?

    I just helped my in laws move a lot of stuff out of a storage facility and into their new house. They’ve had their stuff in storage since Feb, 2013. Over 6 years.

    And guess what happened when we started to move their stuff out of storage.

    Most of it went to the rubbish tip. I threw a tonne out for $390 in tipping fees

    So I was curious as to how much my in-laws would have paid for storage over these six years and I almost drowned on the water I was drinking when they told me $33K.

    $33K to store things which they thought as valuable years ago and it ended up in the tip.

    I said to em, “you know how nice you could have fitted out your house with new furniture for $33K.”

    Would you pay $33K to store stuff?

    I wouldn’t.

    I’m either a seller or a giver to the local charity or a tipper. The only thing I’ve moved from each house move has been my record collection.

    And it got me thinking about my record collection (Vinyl, CD and Cassettes). I saw them once as valuable. I had all of it under lock and key in an alarmed room, once upon a time.

    These days, I don’t have them secure at all. While I still love listening to the music, having the record in hand doesn’t have the same feeling as it once did. Maybe because my eyes can’t see the lyrics anymore, especially when they are tiny. I still collect them because I am a collector, but in the end what’s the point, I’m thinking.

    My Dad has a pretty massive record collection and after he got his stroke and faced death in the face, his priorities became very different.

    In the end, value is in the eye of the beholder. What I see as valuable, another person won’t. And I remember reading an article about how Elvis memorabilia has gone down in value because people who normally buy it, are dead or they have enough of it, which they are also trying to sell.

    So how valuable will our collections and the artists works be in 40 years time?

    That’s why the Copyright Corporations like the record labels are trying to lock up the rights of creators works for their whole life plus 70 years after death (and they are trying to get laws passed to make it 90 years after death).

    Because there will be value to some.

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

    The More Things Stay The Same

    Back in 1999, the record labels argued that they lost billions of dollars due to file sharing via Napster. They came up with this figure by saying that one file shared is the same as one lost sale. 20 years later, they are still exaggerating the same BS. And politicians get lobbied hard and suddenly there is legislation to support the record labels business models.

    As internet speeds got faster, file sharing then started on movies and TV shows. Suddenly, politicians had even more money thrown at them to pass legislation from the movie studios. In democratic lands, ISP’s are forced to censor the internet, courtesy of the movie studios and music labels, which is no different to what dictatorship governments carry out on a daily basis. And when ISP’s don’t censor the internet, the movie studios and music labels take them to court for facilitating piracy. And while this is happening at the hands of the entertainment industry, the government themselves are stifling free speech by raiding the homes of reporters or by keeping eyes on the public through surveillance. ISP’s are also meant to store text messages, phone calls, web searches and tower pings on its customers.

    So much for trusting the good guys.

    Meanwhile, the music labels today are raking in billions courtesy of streaming (which started off as a legal alternative to peer to peer file sharing, which brought in $0). This shows, that if people are offered a legal alternative at a price which is right, they will take the legal option.

    And those streaming billions were not there in the past. It took a tech company to create this revenue stream, while the record labels (the ones who should have been doing this) decided that the only way they could make money again is to get laws passed to protect old business sales model instead of innovating.

    And an artist wants to have a label deal.

    Why?

    The labels don’t care about you and all they want is to lock up your copyright forever, because without the rights of songs, the labels have no power and if they have no power they cannot negotiate these huge licensing deals with streaming platforms.

    Even the movie studios like Disney lobbied hard for laws to get passed to protect their old business models. Then Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Amazon came out with streaming services and brought in billions of dollars that were not there before. And now Disney is entering the streaming market. Enforcement doesn’t work but better legal alternatives do.

    And the record labels still complain at the price of streaming. They reckon Spotify should charge more and also do away with the free tier, but are too gutless to bring out their own streaming platform and charge the money that they believe customers should pay. So they bash on Spotify or YouTube or Pandora.

    And when politicians leave office, they get a nice cushy job for the very firms that lobbied them hard to introduce legislation in their favour. And this happens in democracy, which brings to mind the “One” video clip from Metallica and the scenes from the movie, “Johnny Got His Gun”.

    Little Kid – When it comes my turn, will you want me to go?

    Father – For democracy, any man would give his only begotten son.

    We might want to re-think what the hell we are fighting for.

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

    Who Should Watch Over The Royalties?

    Last year, the Music Modernization Act became law, in an attempt to fix some aspects of Copyright. While it had a nice clause about moving some very old music into the public domain, the issue that got all the artists excited was the changes required to the mechanical licensing process for songwriters, making it easier for songwriters to get the royalties they are owed.

    But.

    In all the excitement no one thought to read the details. The law gives birth to a new collection society for these mechanical royalties. So companies/organizations had to submit their proposals to The Copyright Office. And the one that looks like it could win the “bid” (the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)) is one of the organizations which caused part of the current mess with royalties.

    In other words, it’s another system created to move money to the big music publishers and away from independent artists.

    The publishers have the PR down, telling people how they represent all songwriters which is not quite true.

    And independent songwriters make up 99% of the music business, but they are all confused about what is going on and what they need to do to collect their royalties. Trusting in organizations to do the right thing is not really a good business model. And in times of confusion, the one that benefits most, is the one in power, which is the NMPA.

    As the Techdirt article explains:

    There is a pot of unclaimed royalties that have already been paid by music services that is estimated to be between $1.5 and $2.5 billion.

    With so much money at play, the new organization will need to create some fancy algorithms to match the monies to the songwriters. However, the new law also gives the new organization a POWER to distribute any unclaimed royalties to themselves after a three year period.

    So how proactive do you think this new organization would be to find these independent songwriters?

    And this kind of conflict of interest isn’t new. SoundExchange is a good example. In 2005, this new body was formed, a spin off from the labels to collect online royalties and by 2009 it had a lot billions of unclaimed royalties to couldn’t match, even to well known artists.

    If the NMPA gets the green light from the Copyright Office they will control billions of dollars in royalties. It’s more power to the old legacy players.

    As the are Techdirt article states, the biggest challenge to being a successful independent musician is not piracy, but rather the legacy industry getting in the way and keeping money it owes independent musicians.

    The Techdirt article.

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

    Gaming The System

    If there is demand for an artists music then why aren’t the artists servicing the demand.

    Because there are people putting up bootleg and demo recordings of popular artists on digital services and making money from it in the process. In some cases they even uploading fake recordings which somehow manage to get onto the artists homepage.

    Actually that homepage part crap needs to be sorted by Apple and Spotify quickly because how the fuck can you fuck that up. Too much reliance on algorithms and not enough human eyes and ears.

    I got a song in my Spotify Release Radar from Tommy Lee and instead of seeing the aged, white tattooed T-Bone, I see a young black rapper. Same deal with names like Dio, Ratt, Rush, Badlands, UFO, Keel, Vandenberg, Cinderella, Icon, KISS and Journey.

    The process to game the system is simply.

    You just set up an account with a digital distribution company and start releasing music.

    Now these distribution companies are set up for independent artists to release music. But we have bullshit artists using it to game the system and fuck it up for legitimate independent artists.

    And the digital distribution companies do have fraud prevention methods but people who are gaming the system are just getting smarter than the algorithms coded by people who are not as smart as the con artists.

    One fraudulent leaker earned $60K in royalties by putting unreleased tracks from a popular artist on their Spotify and Apple Music accounts.

    What the fuck were the artists record labels reps doing?

    Didn’t they see these unreleased songs go up.

    I guess not because, they were too busy fighting stream ripping sits, pirate sites, website blocking and anything else that involves censorship of the Net instead of developing artists and taking care of their artists and paying them on time and fairly.

    The way the payments work for is that Spotify or Apple or Pandora will pay the digital distributor royalties for the artists. This normally happens three months after. So for royalties earned in January, the payments to the distributor happen in March/April.

    And then the distributor will hold these payments as they “clear” the royalties from being free of any copyright claims. This takes another three months.

    So for a fraudulent uploader to earn $60K, it means many people were asleep at the wheel.

    And legitimate independent artists get punished even further as they wait over six months for a royalty payment. All because people want to game the system and the system has too many people asleep at the wheel.

    Read this article over at Pitchfork.

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

    YouTube Manual Claims

    If it’s not Spotify, it’s YouTube.

    If it’s not YouTube, it’s Pandora.

    If it’s not Pandora, it’s streaming.

    If it’s not streaming, it’s free streaming.

    If it’s not free streaming, it’s stream ripping.

    If it’s not stream ripping it’s torrents.

    There is always something or someone which is in the sights of the record labels and their association, the RIAA.

    YouTube was criticized for not doing enough to control unlicensed uploads of movies and music. YouTube then provided the entertainment industries with ContentId, a way to claim videos as theirs that other people have uploaded. And by doing so, they could claim any monies paid on the video.

    But with any automated system, it’s open to abuse and the labels did a great job abusing it. Legitimate content that had a few seconds of music (which is fair use) to illustrate their story or point in the video got taken down or claimed.

    A birthday party video which parents shared that had music in the background got taken down or claimed.

    And the uploader had no real rights to fight back. So the labels kept on abusing this process. They even took down their own legal content on occasions.

    But after years of complaints, YouTube is finally doing something about it. Or is it.

    The story of YouTube changing its policies has been getting publicity as YouTube being this evil monolith against creators but their changes only relate to the manual claims tool available to Copyright Owners. Most big artists are part of major labels and they use ContentID.

    And the problematic and automatic ContentID is still the same and still open to the same abuse.

    However YouTube has seen a new greedy trend emerge in manually claiming videos. These people claim a small snippet of a video uploaded to YouTube and by default transfer all monies from the YouTube video creator to the Copyright Claimant.

    By changing the rules, YouTube is not stopping people from claiming these videos but they are asking for evidence and timestamps which somehow is pissing off the claimants.

    And the claimants can still block the video.

    To me, it’s much ado about nothing, it’s still the same old world and nothing much has changed. But it still doesn’t stop artists from Tweeting how YouTube is ripping artists off.

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

    Keep Your Eye On The Copyright

    I haven’t done a copyright post for a few weeks, but the Google Alerts each day come up with some of the most WTF moments.

    First up, is Eminem’s music publisher is suing Spotify because somehow Spotify is playing songs on its service without the proper permissions from one of the biggest artists.

    Is Eight Mike serious?

    I guess they are. Read the article here.

    Eminem is streamed a lot on Spotify and somehow, Eight Mile (which is basically Eminem) reckons Spotify doesn’t have a license to have his songs on the service.

    One of his songs” ‘Till I Collapse” has 702 million streams, so I wonder when or at what stage in those hundreds of million streams did the music publisher realise that Spotify didn’t have a license.

    And there is so much talk about Eminem’s most popular track “Lose Yourself”, which to me is a rip off from “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. The Am to F transition over a droning pedal tone is not original or unique at all.

    What seems to have happened here is that Eminem has seen how other artists have made their own special deals with Spotify and he’s thinking, “I want a piece of that pie”, so let’s drum up some BS rubbish to get Spotify to pay me more.

    And while I am on the topic of payments, here is a win for the artist. Ennio Morricone, who composed some massive soundtracks back in the 70s won back the right to some of his songs from the label. But he had to go to court and to appeal to get his songs back.

    Morricone gave up his Copyrights for a large upfront payment and low royalties in the late seventies, however his music became very popular from the 90’s onwards.

    Metallica kept using his music as an intro to all of their concerts and suddenly the movies from the 70’s in which he composed music for, had a new lease of life in the 90’s with DVD releases and what not, but the composer got nothing.

    The labels of course argued these are works for hire and that the artist is not entitled to his works.

    And that large upfront payment the label would have made in the late 70’s would have been recouped tenfold over the last 30 years, while the artist would have had that just one payment.

    And finally, we have the US Government siding with an artist on a copyright suit.

    As people are aware, Plant and Page were accused and then cleared of copyright infringement in June 2016 over the opening bars of “Stairway To Heaven” and the song “Taurus” from the band Spirit.

    The decision was appealed by the heirs and the judge agreed so it’s going back to court.

    So should the Government pick a side here, especially when the whole mess of copyrights is because previous Governments kept on changing and extending the terms of Copyright to suit their back pockets.

    Standard