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

Under My Copyright

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

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

So I started with something close to home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Paid

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

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

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

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

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

And Spotify should be worried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening Habits

It’s a tough crazy world.

Artists spend their blood, sweat and tears into their new product and no one seems to be paying attention.

How can they, with all the music coming out.

For 2019, I listened to 5,783 different songs on Spotify. To put that number into context that is roughly 16 different songs, each day, for 365 days. In the old vinyl LP days of 8 songs each, this would be two albums every day of different artists.

Streaming allows this diverse listening experience and for the fan, this is a good thing.

It’s also a good solution compared to peer to peer downloading. But people complain about the payments they receive, however there is no denying that streaming services have put some serious money back into the recording industry.

Prior to Spotify, the recording labels got nothing. And it’s a shame that those same labels don’t funnel those monies back to their artists. Because if wasn’t for the artists, the recording labels would not be in the position of power to negotiate anything. And if it wasn’t for the artists forming connections with people, then the labels would have no business model.

If you take streaming services out of the industry, people will not start buying CD’s again en masse.

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

The Power Of The Record Labels

It’s 1992.

Hard rock bands are becoming too generic and soulless, especially the newer breed from 1989 and onwards. The fans are looking for something new, but they still have their taste buds all over the hard rock/metal distorted cream.

Meanwhile, the labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre, while they start dropping hard rock bands left, right and centre. Not only could the labels make an artist famous, they could also make an artist destitute. And back then, without the money and power of the label behind an artist, an artist would go unnoticed.

The power the record labels had to kill careers or to destroy styles of music.

So the artist would sign a deal and get a small royalty payment from the label. Today the artists would still sign a deal because they see the label as their ticket to riches, but instead the artists are now complaining of the low royalty payment of streaming services, but it is still the label keeping the lion share.

In other words, you give to get.

You give your rights to the label in order to get a chance at fame and riches. And there’s no use yelling at streaming services. They are not record labels, they are technology companies, using music to influence culture and grow their brand. Once their brand is big enough, they will do away with music.

Because seriously, which company wants to pay billions in licensing and be constantly in the courts?  

HBO paid billions in licensing, until it got to a stage where it was unfeasible and they had to start creating their own content. Netflix at first had only licensed content. And like HBO they saw that it was unfeasible, so they started investing in creating their own, and slowly doing away with the licensing.

Now, more than any time in modern recording history, an artist can do it themselves. They can record cheaply, distribute and get paid. So artists should build their own leverage and then they can decide what is next.

But we have lived in a world where the labels have controlled the narrative for way too long and MTV made everyone think that if they learnt how to play an instrument they will be rich and famous. The majority still hold this view and the minority that don’t, are the ones making it.

People talk up Record Day sales like they matter, when only the label is winning, while digital distribution can offer an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board. Nowadays it’s about reaching as many people as possible and eventually the money will flow in if you do it right. That should have been the role of the labels but instead it’s up to the techies.

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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.

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

Stranger Things And Netflix

I’m late in watching S3. But once I started I couldn’t turn it off until I finished it. Like a good LP from back in the day.

The Duffer Brothers are like rock stars. Three albums (seasons) in and people are still tuning in.

And their label, Netflix, refused to play the same old “ad-supported, release in dribs and drabs game”, so they created a new game that looked a lot like the recorded long players game from the music business.

Release everything on one day like an LP and see what sticks and for how long. People hate waiting and TV guide viewing is finished. For those who lived through the 80s, the TV guide was the most popular magazine going around.

If it’s good, people will still be tuning in months later. If it’s not good, don’t worry, Netflix will have another different show out in a week.

And isn’t it funny how the recorded music business has become a hits business, with artists expected to release a track each week like the old traditional TV show game, while the TV shows on streaming services are getting released like an album, all at once.

And that was Napster’s magic. Get the tracks we want without paying for the overpriced CD we didn’t want.

And I don’t want the days of the video shop to return. They didn’t always have what I wanted because someone else rented it and if I did get it a few days or weeks later, the tape had been chewed. And if I didn’t return the movie in time, well there was this thing called late fees. So as soon as people got the option to buy the product at a reasonable price, the video rental store became challenged. Then came peer to peer downloads and suddenly the video rental store is really challenged.

Don’t believe those stories that piracy hurts creators?

It’s the best time to be a creator right now as streaming services, cable channels and traditional TV outlets are all throwing money to get content. Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney and Apple are all vying for people’s subscriptions.

And it happened because of peer to peer downloading. It made people realize it’s time to change the way they do things.

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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.

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