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

Def Leppard And The Digital World

There is a Def Leppard story that did the rounds at the start of August. Almost four weeks later, it’s forgotten. That’s how fast people move on. If you are an artist and you spend 12 plus months on an album, just be mindful that it could be forgotten within a month, especially if it’s not part of a cultural movement or crossed over into the mainstream.

Anyway, back to the Def Leppard article.

No one can forget how big Def Leppard was from 1983 to 1994. Huge. Even their sound was huge with multi-layered vocals and instrumentation.

Like all the 80’s heroes, they had a bit of a back lash in the 90’s and maybe alienated some of their fan base with their 90’s sounding “Slang” album. But like all great bands from the 80’s they had a renaissance. I wrote a while back about how I believe piracy made Twisted Sister relevant again from 2000 and onwards and that viewpoint is still held for Def Leppard.

It’s actually even more relevant for Def Leppard, because the band refuses to have their 80’s output on digital services due to a payment dispute with the record label. The label (Universal) wants to pay the band a royalty based on a sale, whereas the band wants the licensing royalty payment which is much higher. The band even found it easier to create their own forgeries (re-recording some of their classics) easier than dealing with the record label.

This leads to an interesting position.

If you cannot purchase the Def Leppard 80’s output legally or stream it legally (apart from the few forgeries the band did themselves and the live releases), what should people do?

Well in this case, they obtain the music illegally (provided they haven’t purchased a legal physical copy)?

In other posts, I have mentioned how bands survive by replenishing their fan base with younger fans. It’s the reason why bands like Ratt and Dokken haven’t really gone well in the 2000’s compared to Crue, Leppard and Jovi. Well, it turns out that Def Leppard is doing a pretty fantastic job at doing just that.

“In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fuelled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”
Vivian Campbell

While the band is on the road, it works and their popularity is as big (maybe even bigger) as their 80’s popularity. The band is also a heavy user of YouTube, even though the site is the punching bag for the RIAA and the record labels. As YouTube recently said, they pay $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S. If it’s true or not, we will never know until we see proper financials from both YouTube and the labels. But if it is true, Def Leppard would be getting that cut themselves, and I haven’t heard of them taking YouTube to task over their payments. Even Metallica who controls their own copyrights don’t take YouTube to task. Both bands are heavy users of the platform, constantly putting up new content. But if you believe the RIAA and the record labels, YouTube is evil and due to its high volume of users, the payments are not enough.

But in Def Leppard’s case, you could say that YouTube is seen as a more likely driver of new fans than pirate torrent sites. Because all the research shows that YouTube has a user base made up of young people. They are also fostering a true connection with fans again which for a lot of artists who made it in the 80’s is a frightening prospect.

This model will not work for every band. In this case, each creator needs to look at the problem and find a solution that works for them. Eventually Def Leppard’s music will come to streaming services as the band will not be able to tour. But it will be on their terms and their terms only. Like AC/DC and Metallica. They signed their own streaming deal themselves and it’s got nothing to do with the record label.

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

How the Labels and the RIAA Rob Creators?

YouTube tells the world that the service pays more in the U.S for Ad-Supported Streaming than other services like Spotify and Pandora. YouTube points out that they pay about $3 per 1000 ad-supported streams in the U.S.

The record labels via their lobby group RIAA disagree with YouTube’s math

Cary Sherman, the RIAA head honcho had this to say on the matter;

“About 400 digital services have been licensed around the world, many with ad-supported features. Comparatively, YouTube pays music creators far less than those services on both a per-stream and per-user basis, and nowhere near the $3 per thousand streams in the U.S. that Lyor (YouTube) claims.”

Okay so if the RIAA is going to dispute the math put out by YouTube, then what is their math.

How much do they get from YouTube per 1000 streams?

The record labels and the publishing/licensing companies are the first to get paid. And nowhere in this debate have these organisations mentioned what they get. I know I have seen thousands of news articles showing what the artists or the song writers get from YouTube streams in their bank account, but the artists are the last to be paid, once the labels and publishing companies take their cuts.

If the record labels via the RIAA want to be taken serious they need to be transparent.

Instead they counter the math from streaming services with fluff. Yes, that same thing found in people’s belly buttons.

They fluff the conversation about a value gap, talking on and on about how YouTube has billions of users and the amount of traffic they generate should equate to higher payments and because it doesn’t, there is a value gap.

They fluff the conversation about DMCA Safe Harbor provisions being a rigged system and how politicians need to create laws to protect the business model of the record labels and in the process destroy innovation on the internet.

Basically, these organisations are doing the same thing they have always done. Lying and scheming to keep their creative accounting in-house and away from the actual people that made these organisations rich. The creators.

Think about it for a second. The streaming services via their own blog mention how much they pay the copyright holder. The very next day, the RIAA or the Record Labels quickly counter it, but they never mention how much they do get?

So the headline of the next article should be “How the labels and the RIAA rob creators?”

 

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

Outside The Conversation

Are the organisations like the record labels and the publishers doing their best for artists in the long term or are they just focused on the short term profits?

Customers of music showed the recording industry what choice brings to the conversation and the record labels ignored it. It wasn’t until a hardware company created iTunes and then a techie created a streaming service that customers started to get what they want.

Are the record labels and their lobby groups seeking useful outcomes in their fight against piracy or just short term wins?

Seriously, legislation to protect copyright and make the terms longer does not foster creativity. It only gives the current players a longer government granted monopoly.

What about how the record labels keep all the streaming licensing monies and give nothing back to the artists?

Some of the bigger artists might get a fee however the record labels are in this powerful bargaining position because of all the artists, not just the few. Then again, most people want the music of the few.

Is the record label policy of other people losing and them winning a good policy for artists and music in general?

It seems the record labels like to win. To them it’s a battle to get control back of things they lost. And they will do it through the courts and with legislation designed to protect their business model.

And if the record labels get control over the distribution chain and the recording industry goes back to the gatekeeper model of the past, do artists believe they will better off?

It’s easy to fall in love with the ideal of record labels getting artists to sign fair and equitable deals. Of course, that’s not how it works. And if there’s one organisation that hasn’t learned from past mistakes it’s the record labels and their lobby groups.

Instead of following a path that leads to better standards/outcomes for artists in the long term they seek a litigious path that only benefits them in the short term.

And what we have here is tribal identity at full force. Artists are emotional and they react to what is going on in a complicated world. In this case, the tribal identity set up by the record labels aligns itself with a downward spiral of selfish, short term actions. Fans are also emotional. Some attach themselves to the artist/creator point of view while others read wide and make their own choices.

And that’s the disconnect the industry is facing. Choice for fans to decide and make their own decisions and the power to demonstrate what they believe something should be worth.

No one wants to go deep anymore and unpack the facts. They’re too busy building out their identity online.

Trust me when I say this, there are fans who don’t pay for recorded music because they don’t believe they should, however these same fans have no problem coughing up $200 plus dollars for a concert ticket for a larger act and these same fans have no problems coughing up $20 to $70 for independent acts. It’s their choice how they choose to interact with music.

And then there are the fans who have large LP and CD collections, who don’t pay for music anymore, but still pay for concert tickets and what not.

And then there are fans like me who have large LP and CD collections and decided that streaming is the way forward. So I pay for a family account and I have no problems forking out cash for a concert ticket.

And then there are fans who have large LP and CD collections and have decided that purchasing physical is what they want to do. And these fans also have no problem paying for a concert ticket.

Life is fluid and we need to make choices every day.

This is the world we’ve arrived in. We’re dying for entertainment. The recording industry has never been more powerful. There’s all this crap about piracy, streaming rates and the techies taking over. But the techies make tools, not stories or music.

Life is a struggle for everyone, not just creators.

And our leaders have their own agenda while corporations pollute the conversation with their lobby dollars.

Why do you think they pay no tax and white collar crime corrupt bankers avoid jail?

Someone always thinks the rules don’t apply to them. If you listen to the recording industry, they would tell you that the techies believe that rules don’t apply to them. But hang on a second, if the techies are doing it their way, didn’t that used to be the ethos of the musician. To do it their way. So what went wrong? The techies have become the new rock stars. And they built it all themselves.

These days the pop stars become brands and puppets to the corporations. Otherwise there is a high chance they are left off the playlist. At least there are metal and rock creators doing it their way. Outside of the conversation they are building something, going against the grain.

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

Short Term

Thinking short term is hurting us. Every leader in charge thinks about the now and never about what’s around the bend. The majority of people in charge of corporations only care about the now. What is our bottom line looking like? There is no care about their environmental footprint or employee well-being.

Record labels are the same. They focus so much on first week sales and charts as they believe it brings in an instant payday, without understanding that the payday they are really earning is from music created 30 plus years ago and it just percolated, slowly rising to the top.

Have you heard of the record labels starting to employ artists as employees and offer them retirement plans? 

Of course not. That’s long term thinking. 

So Disney is pulling its catalogue of movies from Netflix in 2019. As a Netflix user, I say who cares. I never started subscribing to Netflix because they had Disney movies. I started subscribing because I wanted Netflix Originals. And with the addition of a comic book company with a cult like following, Netflix is looking at creating its own shared universe. It’s positive and long term thinking.

How often do we hear that people have no reason to pirate from the movie studios and record labels, as their catalogues are available online legally?

Amnesia seems to be the order of the day for the labels and studios because the online legal alternatives are fragmented. And as long as fragmentation exists, the pirate sites will be numero uno for content consumption. Same deal for music that’s available on Tidal or Apple and not on Spotify and vice versa. It’s ridiculous. So are consumers meant to have three streaming subscriptions for music and another ten streaming subscriptions for movies/TV. I don’t think so.

Consumers don’t want to have a dozen or so subscriptions. Just look at the cable TV industry. Too many subscriptions are expensive and not manageable, especially when these streaming sites are competing with illegal streaming sites who offer everything on the same site. Illegal streaming sites also show the content industries what kind of supply consumers want. At the moment, the content industries are focusing on the payday right now which means limiting the supply instead of the payday in the long term which means to open the supply and get more people to subscribe.

So what would Spotify do if Universal, Sony and Warner pulled their music from the service and started up their own service like Disney?

I don’t think it will happen. The revenues the three majors are getting from streaming licensing deals and royalty payments is insane. They would be crazy to leave Spotify. But if they do, Spotify is in trouble as it has no original content.

Have you seen the revenue numbers from Warner Bros lately?

Streaming grew by almost 60% from $227 million to $360 million. Downloads bring in $88 million, down from $121 million. Forget about vinyl, CD’s and cassettes. They are niche items that collectors would buy, however they will not sustain the business.

Overall income from recorded music grew by 13% to $770 million and it happened on the backs of listening instead of selling. Consumption in the 2000’s is all about access.

So if Spotify doesn’t pay, how did Warner accumulate $360 million dollars in streaming fees? All of those artists who sold their rights to corporations are losing out big time. The corporations who hold the rights are making a lot on streaming. 

The rich are getting richer. Meanwhile, we have clueless sites reporting how legacy artists need to hit the road to keep an income as they have no monies coming in from streaming. Well, these legacy artists need to get with the times. Get their fans to stream instead of buy and the corporation that has your rights will get paid royalties. And if you have a good deal with the corporation that holds your rights, you will get paid as well. If you don’t have a good deal, you will get squat. The game is rigged in the record labels and publishers favour. They are making a tonne.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The internet was supposed to level the playing field, give us all a chance. Instead we have monoliths who control 70% of the marketplace. And the powerful always abuse their position. Look no further than the scandals.

In Australia, we have our largest bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, involved in money-laundering. The deputy commissioner of the Australian Tax Office was covering up the multi-million tax fraud of his children. Politicians are resigning because they developed amnesia and forgot they are dual nationals, which is a breach of the Constitution. And still no word if they get to keep the money they fraudulently earned or they need to pay it back. All short term thinking.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Copyright Lawsuits 

Ed Sheeran writes songs and they become popular. Then he gets hit with lawsuit after lawsuit because his songs are making money and the family members of a departed artist, or the business entity that owns the copyright of an artist who is departed or is not creating anything worthwhile anymore wants a cut. 

If Copyright terms remained how they were originally, this would not be a problem. First, the creator had a 14 year monopoly, with a chance to renew for another 14 years for a total of 28 years. However, once the creator died, all of their works became public property, free to be used by any other artist/creator to create derivative versions. So if the creator passed away during a term, the works ceased to be under copyright and went straight into the public domain.

How do you think the British 60’s invasion happened?

Copyright maximalists and corporations would like you to believe because of strong copyright laws giving the creator an incentive to create works in a vacuum and free from any sort of influence. However, it happened because of the blues songs in the public domain which Keith Richards, John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and many others used to create new works. In some cases, similar works.

But then the Copyright laws started changing. On the backs of lobby dollars from the corporations the laws changed to last for the life of the creator and then the laws changed again to last for the life of the creator plus 70 years after the death of the creator.

So who is copyright benefiting once the person who is meant to have the monopoly (the creator) to create works has passed on?

The corporations and estates who control the copyrights of long-dead artists. That’s who.

And because of these non-creative entities controlling copyrights, inspiration is now interpreted as infringement. Music and culture worked because people write songs inspired by past heroes. When I heard “Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch, I went back and listened to “The Ultimate Sin” from Ozzy Osbourne. When I heard “Kingmaker” from Megadeth, I went back and listened to “Children Of The Grave” from Black Sabbath.

It’s these inspirations from the past that keeps the past relevant.

However due to copyright lawsuits, labels are now even asking the artists to give them a list of songs that might have been used as inspiration, so they could check the possibility of future copyright infringement claims.

So how is this good for music and music creation.

And what about music created by AI machines. Does that fall under copyright or is that copyright free?

And YouTube is still a punching bag when it comes to payments. 

While the labels and publishers took over 3 years to negotiate with Spotify about operating in the U.S, YouTube became the destination for people seeking out music. And while the recording industry patted themselves on the back when they got a percentage stake in Spotify and allowed it to operate in the U.S, YouTube was busying doing what the recording industry should have been doing.

Spreading the love of music to the masses.

So of course, the millions the recording industry gets in licensing isn’t enough and via their lobby group, the recording industry needs to get more in ad supported royalty payments. The musicians are also screaming for a change however it’s their copyright owner that has let them down.

But is YouTube really such a problem

Its popularity is overtaken by Spotify for music alone.

Give people what they want and watch it grow. I still reckon Spotify is priced too high. It’s the same price as Netflix and Netflix spends millions on creating its own content and licensing content. Music production is in the thousands and for DIY artists it’s in the hundreds. But a music streaming service charges the same price as a video streaming service. Ridiculous. But that’s the greed of the labels and the publishing companies.

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

In The Courts Of The Streaming King

Legal streaming music is hurting. 

Streaming companies need to license music from the legacy players for a substantial fee and then pay royalties to these organizations when the songs are listened/viewed. And these organizations keep the bulk of these payments and pay cents to the artists they represent. 

Netflix has no problem growing its subscriber base and making profits, however it has its own content, which earned it over 90 Emmy nominations. And it’s monthly fees are identical to music subscription services, even though it costs a lot more to create a TV show or a movie than a song/album.

I don’t know what Spotify, YouTube and even Apple are waiting for. They need to get into finding their own artists and get them creating some kick ass tunes. While that will take years to come to fruition, investors of these companies want results now. There is no room in the investor mindset about profits 10 years from now. 

Recently Spotify has been hit with two more lawsuits about unpaid royalties. For a company that has licensing agreements in place with the record labels and performance rights organizations, they are still blamed for not doing enough in ensuring they have all the correct details of who wrote what song. The fact that the labels licensed songs to Spotify and didn’t have the song writer details properly recorded is totally okay to the song writer. Because to them, it’s Spotify’s fault. 

Spotify should just remove the music from latest complainers from the service and seek compensation from the label, because in the end, it was the label who took the licensing money and gave Spotify access to the songs in question. 

Or Spotify should seriously consider shutting up shop in the U.S. 

And the labels/publisher’s believe people will just return to purchasing physical music. 

They won’t. 

There was a reason why Napster was popular and close to 20 years later, the mega corporations who get rich off government granted monopolies still haven’t figured it out. 

And speaking of music not on services, here are a few more albums I tried to listen to recently that I couldn’t find on Spotify. Is it Spotify’s fault or the labels fault or the artists fault? 

David Coverdale

His three solo albums “White Snake”, “Northwinds” and “Into The Light” are not on Spotify Australia. 

Beckett

The band that Maiden borrowed from is not on Spotify, albeit two songs on a British prog album collection.

Adrenaline Mob

After listening to their new album, “We The People”, I wanted to listen to the debut album “Omerta” and found it’s not on Spotify Australia. Another great decision by record labels from denying paying customers music.

Kansas

Their albums with Steve Morse on guitar are not on Spotify, Australia. I have “Power” and “In The Spirt Of Things” on LP, however I was at work and I wanted to listen to the albums.

Scorpions

There is a lot of Scorpions music missing from Spotify Australia. “In Trance”, “Take By Force”, “Tokyo Tapes”, “Lovedrive”, “Animal Magnetism”, “Blackout”, “Love At First Sting” and “Savage Amusement” are all missing. Their 90’s output looks a bit hit and miss as well, however I don’t know all of those albums enough to comment if they are all there.

Frankie Miller

His 1982 album “Standing On The Edge” is not on Spotify and it’s one of my favourites. A few songs appeared in Thunder Alley, the movie about a farm boy who wanted to be a rock star but needed to work on the farm. So he goes to watch his ex-bands gig and their guitarist is passed out, so he grabs the guitar and plays.

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

Streaming and Distribution 

I believe that it’s an excellent time (on the current state of the music scene). I feel that there’s so much out there for people to pick from and choose from its phenomenal. I mean and guitar playing is at such a high level right now. I mean these younger generations are just taking it to a point where you know it’s beginning to explore places that people have never gone before, it’s just fascinating. And the music itself too, you can pick a genre and find so much great music in every genre. People are just pushing the envelope in all directions, so I think it’s very gratifying and satisfying. It’s a little challenging to pick through I mean from this thing back in the day when I was growing up there’s like a half a dozen or 10 big giant great bands that are super groups you know. Now it’s like there are thousands of bands. Picking through everything is hard. It’s stressful trying to find all the right music you know.
George Lynch 

Today, noise reigns supreme. For the ones who have financial backing, they surround us with their nuclear blast marketing. And in most cases people ignore them.

But it’s still a good time for an artist to get their product out. Actually it’s the best time.

For the record labels, they are still trying to get control over the distribution chain after losing it to Napster and other peer to peer file sharing programs. At the moment, technology companies have it and if the labels kill the streaming grape vine, they hope to bring the distribution chain under the record labels. 

Streaming has three main players. Spotify, Google and Apple.

Spotify is losing money each year and relies on investments. The record labels owe a piece of it but they are not investing in it. YouTube is owned by Google (well their parent company) and the record labels hate Google, blaming it for all of their ills. The “take it or leave it” deal with YouTube is not what the labels want, so they lobby hard to get laws passed which can cripple Google. Apple uses music to push sales of wares. However, even Apple is going to the table to get a lower payment rate back to the labels.

Going back to Spotify.

Since it has money woes and it cannot make a profit, it’s offering payola terms back to the record labels to have their music chucked into playlists for a fee. Because taking in money from users and advertisers is not enough to make money in music if you don’t have your own popular content bringing in money. And the labels are getting paid handsomely twice from each streaming provider.

  • Spotify pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • YouTube pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Pandora pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Apple pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Tidal pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.

I think you get the drift. Maybe that’s why Spotify is paying producers to be fake artists and play popular songs on piano for people to listen to.

And to top it off, the record labels are still using the 100 year old rule of geo restrictions when it comes to streaming. So music available in the U.S doesn’t necessarily equate to being available in Australia. Here is a quick list of albums I tried to call up in the last two weeks on Spotify Australia which are not available;

  • Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know, released in 2009
  • Stryper – Murder By Pride, released in 2009
  • Three Days Grace – Life Starts Now, released in 2009
  • Night Ranger – Midnight Madness, released in 1983
  • Europe – Europe, released in 1983
  • Helix – No Rest For The Wicked, released in 1983

Isn’t it nice how record labels treat legitimate paying customers?

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