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

I Guess People In The Recording Business Don’t Like Change

The History channel morphed from running historical documentaries to scripted TV shows and unscripted reality shows. Home Box Office morphed from running licensed movies to creating its own content and renaming itself HBO.

Newspapers ran long form stories that people wanted to read. Then the goal shifted to profit-seeking click bait and we got news tainted by money and political agendas from the owner of the news outlet. In the end, the papers got rich by selling advertisements and re-printing PR stories. And the people stopped buying newspapers and took to the internet for their news. The urban boundaries of the traditional newspaper suddenly couldn’t compete with the worldwide boundaries of the internet.

Change is constant, because we get bored easily. The internet connected billions of people and almost 20 years later we take it for granted, the same way we take electricity for granted. We expect it to work all the time and god forbid if we have downtime.

Great buildings of yesteryear are being torn down as cities constantly reinvent themselves. Hell, my hometown is in the midst of converting from an industrial steel city into an innovation hub. So why should music be chained to the ways of the old.

Steve Albini published his 1993 essay “The Problem with Music”. You can find it at this link.

Here is a brief summary of the figures found in it;

These figures are representative of amounts that appear in record contracts daily. There’s no need to skew the figures to make the scenario look bad, since real-life examples more than abound. Income is underlined, expenses are not.

  • Advance: $250,000
  • Manager’s cut: $37,500
  • Legal fees: $10,000
  • Recording Budget: $150,000
  • Producer’s advance: $50,000
  • Studio fee: $52,500
  • Drum, Amp, Mic and Phase “Doctors”: $3,000
  • Recording tape: $8,000
  • Equipment rental: $5,000
  • Cartage and Transportation: $5,000
  • Lodgings while in studio: $10,000
  • Catering: $3,000
  • Mastering: $10,000
  • Tape copies, reference CD’s, shipping tapes, misc expenses: $2,000
  • Video budget: $30,000
  • Cameras: $8,000
  • Crew: $5,000
  • Processing and transfers: $3,000
  • Offline: $2,000
  • Online editing: $3,000
  • Catering: $1,000
  • Stage and construction: $3,000
  • Copies, couriers, transportation: $2,000
  • Director’s fee: $3,000
  • Album Artwork: $5,000
  • Promotional photo shoot and duplication: $2,000
  • Band fund: $15,000
  • New fancy professional drum kit: $5,000
  • New fancy professional guitars (2): $3,000
  • New fancy professional guitar amp rigs (2): $4,000
  • New fancy potato-shaped bass guitar: $1,000
  • New fancy rack of lights bass amp: $1,000
  • Rehearsal space rental: $500
  • Big blowout party for their friends: $500
  • Tour expense (5 weeks): $50,875
  • Bus: $25,000
  • Crew (3): $7,500
  • Food and per diems: $7,875
  • Fuel: $3,000
  • Consumable supplies: $3,500
  • Wardrobe: $1,000
  • Promotion: $3,000
  • Tour gross income: $50,000
  • Agent’s cut: $7,500
  • Manager’s cut: $7,500
  • Merchandising advance: $20,000
  • Manager’s cut: $3,000
  • Lawyer’s fee: $1,000
  • Publishing advance: $20,000
  • Manager’s cut: $3,000
  • Lawyer’s fee: $1,000
  • Record sales: 250,000 @ $12 = $3,000,000 gross retail revenue Royalty (13% of 90% of retail): $351,000
  • less advance: $250,000
  • Producer’s points: (3% less $50,000 advance) $40,000
  • Promotional budget: $25,000
  • Recoupable buyout from previous label: $50,000
  • Net royalty: (-$14,000)
  • Record company income:
  • Record wholesale price $6,50 x 250,000 = $1,625,000 gross income Artist Royalties: $351,000
  • Deficit from royalties: $14,000
  • Manufacturing, packaging and distribution @ $2.20 per record: $550,000
  • Gross profit: $710,000

 THE BALANCE SHEET

 This is how much each player got paid at the end of the game.

  • Record company: $710,000
  • Producer: $90,000
  • Manager: $51,000
  • Studio: $52,500
  • Previous label: $50,000
  • Agent: $7,500
  • Lawyer: $12,000
  • Band member net income each: $4,031.25

The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month.

The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never “recouped,” the band will have no leverage, and will oblige.

The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won’t have earned any royalties from their t-shirts yet. Maybe the t-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys.

So you wonder why artists are still in debt to their label. Yeah they might have recorded and they might have toured, but they really didn’t make anything. So if you are an artist today, what era would you rather be in.

But Steve Albini didn’t stop there. 21 years later, Albini did a presentation about music at an event. You can read the whole presentation here.

Here is a summary;

I hear from some of my colleagues that these are rough times: that the internet has cut the legs off the music scene and that pretty soon nobody will be making music anymore because there’s no money in it. Virtually every place where music is written about, there is some version of this troubling perspective. People who used to make a nice income from royalties, they’ve seen the royalties dry up. And people who used to make a living selling records are having trouble selling downloads as substitute for records, and they no longer make records.

It’s worthwhile to remember from where we’ve come. From where this bitchiness originates. In the 1970s through the 1990s, the period in which I was most active in bands in the music scene – let’s call this the pre-internet era. The music industry was essentially the record industry, in that records and radio were the venues through which people learned of music and principally experienced it. They were joined by MTV and videos in the 80s and 90s, but the principle relationship people had with music was as sound recordings. There was a booming band scene and all bands aspired to getting recorded, as a mark of legitimacy.

In the 70s and 80s most bands went through their entire lifecycle without so much as a note of their music recorded. But recording was a rare and expensive enterprise, so it wasn’t common. Even your demo tape required considerable investment. So when I started playing in bands in the 70s and 80s most bands went through their entire lifecycle without so much as a note of their music ever being recorded.

The key point here is the artists who played music for their whole lives, wrote songs and never had anything officially recorded. All because the gatekeepers of the day didn’t see them worthy. Today, everyone can record and release their music. If it gets heard, is another story, but you have a chance to record and build a musical legacy.

Radio stations were enormously influential. Radio was the only place to hear music from any people and record companies paid dearly to influence them. Direct payola had been made illegal but this was a trivial workaround. Record pluggers acting as programming consultants were the middlemen. They paid radio stations for access to their programmers and conducted meetings where new records were promoted.

CBS told Journey to change their style and become more radio friendly otherwise they would no deal in place.

The most significant bit of tailoring was an accounting trick called recouping costs. The costs of making a record wasn’t borne by the record label, except initially. Those costs were recouped or taken out of the income the band might otherwise run as royalties. The same was true of all those promo copies, posters, radio pluggers and payola men, producers, publicists, tour support, 8×10 glossies, shipping, freight – basically anything that could be associated with a specific band or record was ultimately paid for by the band, not by the record label.

As the label shifted from vinyl to CD as the dominant format, the labels could easily sell the CD as a convenient, compact, trouble-free way to listen to music. The profit margin exploded and the money got stupid. Retails costs of a CD was half again or double more than an LP but the manufacturing, shipping and storage costs were a tiny fraction. The labels even used vinyl’s legacy as a tool to increase this profit margin by charging bands for unique packaging, despite the fact that CD packaging was designed to be standardised.

21 years later and Albini is still pointing out the record label creative accounting. And these creative accounting practices have been in place since the 1930’s and they are still in place today. The whole world changes, wars happen, we put man on the moon and the recording label contracts having changed a bit.

You may have noticed that in my description of the mass market music scene and the industry as it was pre-internet I made little mention of the audience or the bands. Those two ends of the spectrum were hardly considered by the rest of the business. Fans were expected to listen to the radio and buy records and bands were expected to make records and tour to promote them. And that was about all the thought either were given. But the audience was where all the money came from and the bands were where all the music came from.

So true. The audience/fans are what makes music money but they never had a say or were not even considered in any discussion when it comes to music. And Albini’s comments highlight the viewpoints the record label suits had. Fans were expected to pay. So what a shock they all got when Napster showed them what fans really want. So now we are living in an audience driven distribution system, albeit the record labels are trying very very hard to get it back to a record label driven distribution system.

Fans can find the music they like and develop direct relationships with the bands.

The world and social media allows it to happen. Hell, I don’t even understand why artists would want to do interviews for magazines or websites or radios. With social media, artists can control the narrative themselves. That’s better than a stupid magazine. Artists can tour places they never could have done before.

A couple of years ago my band mounted a tour of eastern Europe. We played all the hot spots: the Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, we made it as far as Istanbul, Turkey. It was a magical experience, playing in front of audiences who were relatively unjaded by the routine of touring bands and we were welcomed like friends. We played to full houses at the same size venues as the rest of Europe. The same sizes as we would play here in Australia. And the audiences seem equivocally familiar with our music. The key difference being that most of the places have literally never sold a single record. Essentially 100% of our exposure had been through informal means over the internet or hand-to-hand.

Iron Maiden toured Central America and places like Costa Rica to sold out audiences and they never sold a recorded album there. Same deal with India and other Asian countries.

There is great public good by letting creative material lapse into the public ownership. The copyright law has been modified so extensively in the past decades that now this essentially never happens, creating absurdities whenever copyright is invoked. There’s a huge body of work that is not legally in the public domain, though its rights holder, authors and creators have died or disappeared as businesses. And this material, from a legal standpoint now removed from our culture – nobody may copy it or re-release it because it’s still subject to copyright.

I guess the problems with music are still there and with the lobby groups preaching stronger copyrights and jail times on par with murder and drug trafficking, it could get worse. Seen the memo on the war against drugs. Enforcement is losing.

Standard
Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

The Unforgiving Black

You can have riffs in songs that sound similar and the song can still be original. You can also have riffs in songs that sound similar and still have successful careers in music without suing each other into litigation hell.

Case in point; “Woman From Tokyo,” from Deep Purple which curiously has the same riff as Joe Walsh’s “Meadows,” from “The Smoker You Drink…”

Both songs were released the very same year, although there were no plagiarism lawsuits and both artists had/went on to have very successful careers.

So it’s a sad state of affairs when it comes to music and copyright these days. The metal and hard rock community has been sensible about it, but I am pretty sure that if another metal or rock artists broke through to the mainstream, there would be a long list of plagiarism cases filed.

Plagiarism cases have become big business that artists are settling with other artists/songwriters. It’s better to pay them off and give them a credit, than fight it in the courts. But all of these cases and settlements create a dangerous viewpoint. It assumes that the work of the earlier artist is so original and free from influence of the music the songwriter might have listened to.

Hell, if you are a streaming convert, who wrote the songs is not even mentioned. The people who consume music don’t even care who wrote the songs.

Elvis Presley didn’t even write a single song that he performed. Who is more known? His songwriters or Elvis?

The fact that the term “plagiarism” is used in music is pretty sad.

If a person was writing an essay or a non-fiction book, they would list all of the works that influenced their new work via the bibliography. The people who wrote those influential works would not get any extra money or a credit on the front cover for writing the essay/book.

If the person was seen to use words from a writer that he/she didn’t mention or attribute via the bibliography, then that person will be called out for plagiarism. The end result leads to the essay/book being altered to reflect a new addition to the Bibliography.

If you have read “The Talent Code” by Dan Coyle, you will note at the end of his book, he has a pretty extensive list of works he used to create his book. So imagine the front cover of the book if all of the past writers who inspired and formed the ideas in “The Talent Code” got an authorship credit and compensation.

But when it comes to music, money rules, so it’s pretty obvious why a word associated with literature is being distorted and made to fit some warped view in music. But then again, the record labels with the RIAA control the narrative, and they have done a brilliant job selling their propaganda. But know it’s them on the back foot, as lawyers are suing the labels who hold the copyrights.

If people want to use the term plagiarism in music then each song should be set up like a written book and have something like a Bibliography which we can call “Musicography”. Unless this happens, how can they call it plagiarism.

For example, Avenged Sevenfold’s “Shepherd Of Fire” would have the following musicography listing;

  • Mustaine, D and Friedman, M 1997, “Trust”, Cryptic Writings.

Megadeth’s “Hanger 18” would have the following musicography listing;

  • Hetfield J, Mustaine D, Ulrich L and Burton C 1983, “The Call Of Ktulu”, Ride The Lightning

If Coldplay had a musicography listing then Joe Satriani would have been okay with it. Maybe not.

If Led Zeppelin or even The Beatles had a musicography listing then it would all be okay, wouldn’t it. Maybe not, because the laws and rules on the copyright of sheet music, to the copyright on sound recordings, to who holds the copyrights while the creator is alive, to who holds the copyrights when the creator is dead, to mechanical royalties from broadcasts, to streaming rates, to licensing rates and to so many other uses of music are a mess.

Here is a work I created quickly for this post, based on  the lyrics from “The Unforgiving” and “Fade To Black” from Metallica.

Let’s call the song, “The Unforgiving Black”.

Deprived of all our thoughts
We are drifting apart
Emptiness in our hearts
Learning to live to their rules

What is felt and what is known
Only the end can set us free
And we struggle on
Chained to the whipping post

Things not what they used to be
So quickly we are subdued
To the point of agony
Until there’s nothing left
Never had a chance to shine
As the darkness grows
More and more are getting lost within
The unforgiving black

We have served master our whole lives
Trying to please them all
Our dedication became slavery
And bitterness is all we know

We battled constantly
A fight we couldn’t win
Until we no longer cared
And lost the will to live

Yesterday is gone
It’s like it never existed
And we are unable to see
What might have been if we tried
Never had a chance to shine
As the darkness grows
More and more are getting lost within
The unforgiving black

  • Hetfield J, Hammet K, Ulrich L and Burton C 1983, “Fade To Black”, Ride The Lightning
  • Heftield J and Ulrich L, 1991, “The Unforgiven”, Metallica

Is it plagiarism?

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

The Big Money In Streaming Licensing Deals

Everyone is blaming Spotify for bringing in windowed exclusives. But in reality it’s not their fault.

Spotify is a service, that provides music to users. It was created by techies because the record labels didn’t have the clout to do what was required for their artists and the vast copyrights they hold. But for Spotify to work, it needed access to the vast libraries of copyrights the record labels hold. And this is how Spotify as a service will cease to work unless they move in and start creating their own content and developing their own artists. Like how Netflix has, like how HBO went from licensing movies from the movie studios to creating their own content.

And Spotify now has owners that are interested only in making money. Hell, the record labels even have a stake in Spotify, so Daniel Ek is at the mercy of these owners, who are all waiting for Spotify to go public so they could rake in billions for their millions investments.

But the record labels control the story and Spotify is portrayed as the baddie, while the faceless record labels hide behind the artists who decry Spotify and other streaming services. The record labels have done such a great job with their fake news story about streaming rates killing music, but they forget that the numbers don’t lie. Maybe they can explain why did their revenue go up to double digits and it’s back to those billions of the CD era?

But it’s the record labels who are not paying back to artists and songwriters the cash they are flush with.

For those that don’t know, Spotify and Universal Music Group (UMG) have come up with a new licensing agreement which forced Spotify to restrict new albums from Universal artists to the premium service for a two weeks as a minimum. So what about the artists who withhold their music from streaming services for a month. That could mean a six-week gap for the free tier ad-supported users of Spotify. Take a guess as to what that means. Piracy will be back with a vengeance. But then, the record labels via the RIAA will just scream and lobby hard for laws to change and stricter enforcement to happen. You can do more time in prison for a copyright offence then an actual crime.

Daniel Ek should have told Universal to go and shove it. The only streaming options for Universal would be Tidal, Pandora and Apple Music. Let’s see how far they would have gone with that.

Then Daniel Ek, should have gone after the big artists and made deals with them exclusively, cutting out the record label in the process. Yeah, I know contracts play a part, but the labels are nothing without the ARTISTS. It’s the artists that make the record labels money and not the other way around. And if the artists all challenge the status quo, then different outcomes would happen. But all of these are difficult conversations to be had and no one wants to lose out on any money.

Every artist should be suing their label for negligence and unpaid wages. How can a label not be seen as negligent by restricting access to music?

Research continues to show that people don’t like to be told how to do things. But the labels believe they know what people want.

The labels are delusional if they think the public would just take out a premium streaming offering, because of windowed releases. It will not happen, the same way, analog phones are not going to happen. Once we move on, we move on. There is no going back. Anyone remember MySpace or Yahoo or even Netscape.

There’s no doubt that ad-supported free tier will end. The labels would make sure of that in the next round of licensing deals in a few years time.

But for an artist, fans these days, don’t want to pay high rates for recorded music. They want the history of music for a low price. They would rather pay for the experience of the show. And in all of these boardroom deals between techies and record labels, it’s the artists who don’t control the rights to their music that get burned. And for some reason, Rush’s “The Big Money” comes to mind.

Big money make a million dreams
Big money spin big deals

Standard
Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Recording Industry Marketed As The Music Industry.. More Recording Industry Fakery…

There is a big difference between the music industry and the recording industry, but the way the record labels and the RIAA tell the story, they are the same. But the truth is; the music industry is very different to the recording industry.

The Music Industry is everything, like recording (vinyl, CD’s and mp3’s fall under this), streaming, licensing, touring, merchandise, publishing, musical instruments (sellers, manufacturers and buyers), music hardware, music software, video production and many more.

People might have come across the RIAA name, a lobby/bribery association whose sole purpose is to fight for the major record labels in Washington. RIAA stands for the Recording Industry Association of America. Notice how there is no music term in their name.

But the RIAA have a lot of creative writers who write fake news. Like these headlines;

It’s important to note a few important things here;

  • The Recording Industry is a section of the “music industry.”
  • The Recording Industry is in the business of making money from music recordings.
  • The Recording Industry is not the Music Industry.
  • The Recording Industry likes to sell and market itself as the Music Industry.

So next time you read a story about the music industry, make sure it’s not a piece of fakery about the recording business.

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

Copyright Fakery And Abuses

Fake news is nothing new to the world. It’s been around for a long time.

It’s become a problem now because the people/organisations who invented it, had the tables turned and fake news was/is used against them. That’s right, the media outlets who put fake news out in the world based on PR companies and Ad companies sponsorships, had the tables turned against them. The recent U.S election is a perfect example of how powerful fake news can be.

The recording and movie industries along with their associations/lobby/bribery groups in the RIAA/MPAA have been the largest perpetrators of fake news in the world. When billions of dollars are involved, these industries employ some of the most creative writers in the business to basically creating fictional works of fakery. And people believe it.

Let’s start with a few good ones.

  • Home Taping Is Killing Music And It’s Illegal
  • Copy a CD and get a criminal record
  • Piracy: It’s a crime
  • Piracy kills artists.

In other words, if the consumers of music don’t pay for every instance of music, how can musical artists or movies ever make a living?

These words of wisdom ignore independent research about the power of free music in helping musicians to be discovered in the first instance. The biggest enemy of any artist is NOT BEING DISCOVERED. Once they are discovered, they can then go on and make all kinds of money via the more friendly artist profit outlets in concerts and merchandise. But the RIAA has done such a good job at spreading fake news about Copyright, that many swallow the industry’s words of wisdom whole.

Ed Sheeran is a mega seller in today’s current musical market. I have written about him before on these pages. He began his career without a record label and promoted himself instead.

“Beyond writing the songs, Sheeran also wrote his own rules about how to sell them. Like so many others, he had set off for London as a teenager, singing on street corners and in pubs. But he didn’t knock on record company doors or wait to be discovered. Instead, he began marketing his own stuff, releasing his music himself on websites until — inevitably — a record label came calling. He had already earned half a million from his independent sales, putting the music out himself.”
CBS Article

The labels came knocking after Sheeran had built up a following. And how did Sheeran build up the following?

“It was file sharing. I know that’s a bad thing to say, because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file sharing, but illegal fire sharing was what made me. It was students in England going to university, sharing my songs with each other.”
CBS Article

But the labels and the RIAA want stricter enforcement for piracy and longer prison terms and bigger fines for illegal file sharers.

Because copyright has been hijacked by these Corporate entities for the last 70 years, we have situations that makes the mind boggle. Like how a band in 2017, might not be able to use a song that dates back the mid 1900’s, whose creator is believed to be dead and was passed down for generations orally. Here’s what the Yahoo article has to say on the matter;

“A Gwich’in love song, passed down for generations through oral tradition, has become a copyright roadblock for the Hummingbirds — preventing them from releasing their latest album “One Weekend” in June for months. The song Goodbye Shaanyuu is one of the tracks on the album. It’s a folk song from Fort Yukon, Alaska that dates back to the mid-1900s. But the record company dealing with the band is holding off the official release of the album, says Mumford, until the band solves a copyright issue with the song — which was written by a Gwich’in woman named Annie Cadzow, who is believed to be dead.”

This is the Copyright mess that corporations have created. Even though a corporation could hold the rights to this song, because it makes no money, it is forgotten. And now there is a band that wants to bring it back and they have to go through hell to release. The article further states;

The band has three options:

1) Find Annie Cadzow — or her family members — and get permission to use the song in their album.

2) Find out if Cadzow has died more than 50 years ago, which puts the song into the public domain. Or

3) Just release the song in hopes that no one will come forward and sue, but this is a non-option for the band out of respect for Cadzow and Gwich’in history.

The band is working with researchers in Alaska who are helping track down Cadzow’s only living daughter who’s said to be in her late 80s.

But the bassist for the band Bob Mumford believes that the song known today doesn’t sound nothing like the original song as lyrics were added and melodies got altered. So how does this sit with current copyright law that assumes that all works are so original and if there are any similarities it’s time to sue.

As the article further states;

“Folk music was widely believed to be “national treasure” — or owned by everybody. Until the idea of copyright came along. The practice of exerting copyright is actually pretty easy. The person that transcribes the oral performance, exerts ownership on it. So whoever makes the recording has copyright on it.”

And that person would have a monopoly on their creation for a certain period of time and then that work would become part of the public domain for other people to use and build upon without any restrictions.

And once upon a time it was like that. But then people had money, they purchased sound systems and vinyl records. Recorded music was suddenly monetised. Which led to many artists complaints about record label creative accounting. And it’s still going on.

The Carpenters are taking Universal Music Group and A&M records to court over the monies paid to them from digital sources. As the Variety article states;

“The Carpenters contend that accountants they hired to examine the record label books found multiple errors and that the defendants rejected the claim of royalties. He is seeking compensatory damages of at least $2 million. Among other things, according to the lawsuit, the record labels “improperly classified” revenue from digital downloads of Carpenters’ music as sales of records as opposed to licensing revenue — short-changing them from a higher royalty rate.

The lawsuit also claims that the defendants undercounted digital downloads and that they applied an incorrect base price to the sales of CDs. The lawsuit notes that the lawsuit is similar to litigation involving the recordings of Eminem in which the defendants were several affiliates of UMG. Ultimately, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that digital downloads were a licensing of master recordings rather than a sale of records.”

The labels do what they want to artists who make them millions and then the labels scream loudly to politicians to get laws passed to protect their business models.

So what about songwriters, who write songs for other artists?

As the labels get flush with cash from streaming licensing and royalty fees, they have failed to pass it on to the people who matter. But due to creative fakery of news, the Songwriters lobby group believes that the streaming services are to blame and they should pay more, with the hope that those extra payments are filtered down to the songwriters.

“We should get compensated every time someone streams a song”
David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)

But wait a minute, some publishers already have their own deals with the streaming companies to compensate the songwriters, so why is there a need to force streaming companies to pay more. Spotify is barely profitable and in order to please the NMPA, a $20 million settlement was announced recently.

As the NY Times article states;

“Spotify will pay publishers between $16 million and $25 million in royalties that are already owed but unpaid — the exact amount, these people said, is still undetermined — as well as a $5 million penalty. In exchange, the publishers will refrain from filing copyright infringement claims against Spotify. The settlement concerns mechanical licensing rights, which refer to a copyright holder’s control over the ability to reproduce a musical work. The rule goes back to the days of player-piano rolls, but in the digital era mechanical rights have joined the tangle of licensing deals that streaming services need to operate legally.”

You can see what a mess Copyright has become, when mechanical rights that go back to the player piano rolls are still discussed about today. And Spotify is just one streaming services. There are others that will need to do these kind of extortion deals and suddenly the NMPA is loaded up with cash in the hundreds of millions. All because the labels, the publishers and their lobby groups don’t pass on the monies earned to the people who actually create.

“I am thrilled that through this agreement, both independent and major publishers and songwriters will be able to get what is owed to them.”
David M. Israelite

I don’t know about anyone else, but what we have is a world of mega associations/corporations and labels living large off the value that music creates without really compensating those creators. Because as we have seen all around the world, these organisations like to accumulate and live the high life, but they don’t want to pay those monies in full to the people who really earn it.

If you don’t believe me, check out this article, over at Torrentfreak, where the Greek organisation in charge of collecting and paying artists royalties, was found to have serious financial irregularities where their operating expenses outstretched it’s income, creating an 11.3 million Euro deficit, while during the same period, the CEO, GM, PR and Secretary pocketed 5 million Euro’s.

As the Torrentfreak article states;

“By Dec. 31st 2014, the undistributed royalties to members and rights holders amounted to 42.5 million euros, and have still not been awarded to members. The nature of a significant portion of this collected revenue of approximately 36.8 million euros has not been possible to assess, because collection invoices weren’t correlated to specific revenues in AEPI’s IT system.”

So next time you read a piece of news about stronger Copyright’s needed to compensate artists, remember the fakery involved in that piece of news and how people who contribute nothing to culture and music, live a jet setter lifestyle on the backs of the artists.

Standard
Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Piracy Incorporated

The Pirate Bay (TPB) is going to turn 14 years this year.

From its inception, it was a facilitator, spreading the disruption caused by Napster years earlier to even larger audiences. It showed the entertainment industries how they needed to change. But they didn’t change and it took companies like Netflix and Spotify to make this happen. And they did it by using the same technology made famous by The Pirate Bay. But while Netflix realised that money is in producing your own content, Spotify and other streaming providers have not. Licensing content from someone is not a satisfactory business model. Just ask HBO, formerly known as Home Box Office. Their early business model was all licensed content and they lost money year after year, while the movie studios got richer. It wasn’t until HBO went into original content, that they started making some serious cash. As soon as Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Pandora realise that they need to enter the recording business to produce their own content, the music industry will change and disrupt even more.

TPB had to stand strong against the pressure put on it by the MPAA and the RIAA and their sister organisations throughout the world. It has stood firm against government officials (loaded up in lobbyist dollars) trying to prosecute it. It was taken down, raided and it still survives. And it keeps on innovating even when court orders become the new normal, requesting ISP’s to block the web address or domain registries to deny any applications for TPB domains. Even in it’s home country of Sweden, court appeals and cases are still ongoing. Google was even pressured to alter (in my view censor) its search algorithm, so TPB doesn’t come up.

But TPB is still alive. It has become a vessel for people to access content they normally wouldn’t have access too. In the process, it has made the world a better place.

Metal music in general has grown to all corners of the world. Suddenly, every country has a metal scene and the larger metal bands that have the means to tour are suddenly hitting markets they’ve never hit before.

The high rates of software piracy in Eastern Europe caused an IT skills explosion.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, once told Bill Gates that digital pirating helped his nation build a budding software industry.
REUTERS Article on Eastern European Piracy

The high rates of music creation software piracy led to the electronic dance explosion coming out of Europe.

In the process, artists have gained decent followings. However, while bands in the past had followings, it was assumed that every single follower had purchased recorded music and that the band had made money. But that was not the case in the past and it still isn’t today.

I had music recorded on cassette tapes and video tapes to begin with.

  •  If the radio played a song I liked, I recorded it on cassette. I did this by pressing record every time a song started or was about to start and if I dug the tune, I kept the recording going. If I didn’t dig it, I stopped the recording and rewinded the tape to the last song, so I can start again. The rewinding part was easy when the tape was new, but when you started to record after a previously recorded song, you had to rewind to that point in time. The same process was carried out with video tapes. I was explaining this to my kids and they didn’t look amazed at all by my rewinding abilities.
  • I had friends of my brothers who had dubbed music on a cassette from someone else who copied it from someone else who copied it. So on some occasions the music I got was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. It sure sounds like mp3 downloading to me.
  • My brothers had one friend who purchased a lot of music, but he wouldn’t let no-one copy it. I remember one time I borrowed the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire and “Blow My Fuse” from Kix from him, without asking or telling him. He reckons I stole it. What kind of thief am I, when I returned the borrowed goods?

So what can artists learn from The Pirate Bay?

The Pirate Bay spread via word of mouth. It didn’t embark on a scorched earth marketing policy. For an artist there is no better marketing strategy than word of mouth. That is how virality works. With social media, it can spread even faster. But you need to be able to follow it up, quickly and with quality.

  • Volbeat got traction in the U.S in 2012 on the backs of a song they released in 2008. This in turn started to bring attention to their previous albums. Success comes later in today’s world. In some cases, much later.
  • This is very different to say, Galactic Cowboys. Back in the late eighties, Geffen Records signed them to a deal and just kept on pushing the band onto the public with a pretty high-profile marketing campaign. The marketing budget was huge, the recording budget was huge, but the public just didn’t take to them. There was no word of mouth. No one spoke about them and when you brought them up in a conversation, it was a “who”. In saying that, I thought the band was innovative and excellent.

The Pirate Bay’s user base is growing and replenishing.

  • For the thousands that stop using the service, another thousand start using the service.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Metallica, another thousand started listening to Metallica.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Ratt, another 10 started to listen to em.

You do the math as why certain things get bigger or remain bigger, while other things reduce in scale.

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

Enter Night, Exit Copyright

It’s funny how the billionaire music collectives wanted to meet with President Elect Donald Trump straight after the election. Did they ask for the meeting to work out ways to help the songwriters they represent get more money?

Of course not.

The music lobby groups and organisations backed Hillary Clinton with bribes and voices. It was pretty clear they wanted another Clinton in power. Actually if Hillary won, the U.S would have been ruled by two families (Bush and Clinton) for 20 plus years.

The two main performing rights organizations (PROs) in the industry are the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). These special interest groups collectively represent over one million songwriters, composers, and music publishers and control the rights to approximately 90 percent of all musical compositions. Originally formed to protect music artists and producers by facilitating licensing deals between them and entities that play their music for the public, such as radio stations and restaurants, ASCAP and BMI have swiftly mutated into a government-recognized (and government-created) monopoly.
Jillian Lane Wyant – American Thinker

In other words, a government granted private monopoly really interferes with the rights of the artists and destroys the public domain. But these organisations have done a wonderful job of spinning their stories, all in an attempt to protect the billions they get for really doing nothing.

So how much is the global music copyright business worth?

It’s an important question because since Napster, the only press we seem to hear is about declining CD/mp3 revenues and how those streaming billions still end up as cents to the songwriters. What seems to be selectively missed is the value of copyright.

The international record label lobby group is telling the world, the music business is worth $15 billion. However, Spotify’s Director of Economic, Will Page, has performed his own analysis and global revenues generated by music copyright in 2015 is at $24.37bn.

Who do you believe?

A record label amount shrouded in secrecy, smoke and mirrors or a report from a service that offers music, and based on statistical data models.

The $24.37bn figure is made up of $13.975 billion to the record labels, $8.257 to the performing rights organisations and $2.139 billion to publishers via direct licensing. It doesn’t even include the multi-billion dollar live industry.

So if 70% of the $24 billion was paid to artists, then $16.8 billion would be in the hands of artists. However, 90 to 95% of the monies earned from copyright goes to the Labels and the Copyright monopolies and the end result is pennies for the actual songwriters.

And if you believe the crap the labels push to their loyal news outlets about the costs of breaking an artist, then the labels are actually losing money. But, the labels and the publishers still have their sky-high towers, with their staff flying private, while 99% of the artists they hold copyrights for, fly economy or don’t even have the funds to pay for a flight let alone tour.

And think about how much power the Publishing side of music has. $10.397 billion is not small change and it’s in the hands of people who contribute nothing to music and culture.

Because it’s not the entertainment industry or the music industry; it’s the copyright industry, plain and simple. And they don’t safeguard their rights or their copyright; they safeguard their monopolies, clarified as their copyright monopoly.
TORRENT FREAK ARTICLE

Because if the copyright industry did care about the artists, why would they go to court against the artist in a bid to prevent the artist from terminating the copyright agreements.

Case in point is Duran Duran.

All they wanted was to end a longstanding contract that gave a music publishing company permission to exploit their work. Because artists who control and own the copyrights to their own catalogues, especially a catalogue full of hits, can negotiate their own streaming licensing rates and so forth. Motley Crue and Metallica are two such artists who own their copyrights and can negotiate better rates.

But in the end, Copyright laws that are designed to benefit the songwriters have been washed in waters polluted with other contract laws and what we have is a mess designed to safeguard the monopolies of the copyright industry. Because in the U.S, Copyright law specifies that artists can reclaim their copyrights after 35 years. So Duran Duran issued a termination notice to their label for their copyrights.

“What artist would ever want to sign to a company like Sony/ATV as this is how they treat songwriters with whom they have enjoyed tremendous success for many years? We issued termination notices for our copyrights in the US believing it simply a formality. After all, it’s the law in America. Sony/ATV has earned a tremendous amount of money from us over the years. Working to find a way to do us out of our rights feels like the ugly and old-fashioned face of imperialist, corporate greed. I thought the acceptability of this type of treatment of artists was long gone – but it seems I was wrong. Sony/ATV’s conduct has left a bitter taste with us for sure, and I know that other artists in similar positions will be as outraged and saddened as we are. We are hopeful this judgment will not be allowed to stand.”
Simon LeBon

If the copyright industry did care about the artists, then why would they lobby governments to write laws that kept on changing the expiry of copyright terms from 14 years to 28 years to “on death of the artist” to “death plus 70 years” and in some countries it is now “death plus 90 years” . It’s all about safeguarding their monopolies and nothing to do with protecting artists.

There is no academic evidence that proves longer copyrights leads to greater rewards or provides incentive for the creator. It’s not like the 19 year old James Hetfield said to himself, “gee, lucky copyright lasts for 70 years after I die, so I have an incentive to write “Hit The Lights” and create music”. No songwriter thinks of copyright when they sit down to write a song or to create anything worthwhile. They do it because of a need to be creative.

Remember a few years ago when Larrikin Music (a publisher) purchased to the rights to an old 50’s folk song (where the creator had died a long time ago) and then sued the songwriters of the band Men At Work for an 11 note flute sequence that sounded similar to their own flute solo in their 1980’s hit “Down Under”. Yep, that’s just one of many copyright abuses happening in the world.

However the biggest one is the “Blurred Lines” trial. Suddenly Marvin Gaye and his songs are so original. The lawyers on behalf of Gaye’s estate are spinning the story of how Gaye created in a vacuum and without any influence from artists that Gaye might have heard. And suddenly anyone who writes a song that sounds similar or has a funk/R&B feel, is copying Marvin Gaye.

Once upon a time, in 1790, the law for copyright was the creator had to register the work and they got a 14 year monopoly. They then had an option to renew for an additional 14 years for a maximum copyright of 28 years. And Copyright was never about making sure that content creators get paid. Copyright is about forcing works into the public domain so that everyone can use them. Fast forward to pre-1976, the law for copyright was 28 years (with proper registration), then another 28 years (with renewal registration) for a maximum copyright of 56 years. After that, the work entered the public domain. If the creator failed to renew at the 28-years, the work fell into public domain earlier.

Did anyone hear about the country songwriter in the 50’s who wrote songs and then sold them on to other artists for a small amount. Those other artists would then pass the songs off as their own and in some cases, those artists would end up hitting it big on a song they didn’t write. As the Knoxnews story states;

Arthur Q. Smith’s name doesn’t show up in country music history books too often, because Q, as his friends called him, sold his biggest songs outright for $25, $15 or even less. Sometimes he sold them just for the price of his bar tab. Q was a man of extraordinary talent, but also an alcoholic of legendary proportions. For years, his children only heard tales of his drunkenness from his colleagues; his accomplishments were simply well-known secrets among musicians.

An average weekly pay check in 1946 was approximately $50, and probably less in Knoxville, so $25 was a considerable pay check. Royalties were generally small unless a song was a big hit, and the pay trickled in slowly.

You see, Q didn’t just sell the song he wrote to one artist, he sold it many times to different artists, who then registered their version of the song with the Copyright office as their own composition. In effect, the same song was registered many times with many different writers, but never with the person who actually wrote it. Looks like a copyright mess to me.

And what about Orphan Works.

“These are works that are not available any more, and where it simply is not possible to find the copyright holder to seek out a license. Of course, this problem is almost entirely self-created. It’s the result of a forced switch from a system that required registration to get a copyright, to one where everything is automatically covered by copyright. Combine that with ever-expanding copyright terms and you have a recipe for a world in which the vast majority of works become “orphaned” while just a tiny few have any legitimate reason to remain under copyright protection. Millions of books, millions of photographs and hundreds of thousands of films are now considered orphaned works — unable to be either used or licensed — with many simply fading away.”

But if you listen to the copyright monopoly and their lobby groups, the world needs longer copyright terms and stronger enforcement. And yes, in order to protect the corporation, that’s exactly what Copyright needs, however in order to protect the artist, no, it’s exactly what they don’t need.

Standard