Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Master Of Scalpers

The Forbes article.

It’s a fucked up world when Metallica scalps it’s own tickets. 88,000 Metallica tickets went to a reseller before they were even offered to the fans/public.

And for one simple reason.

More profits.

They believe that the market value of a Metallica ticket is considerably higher than the selling value. Well if they believe the tickets are worth more, put up the price. People will either pay it or they won’t pay it. The Rolling Stones did that 5 or so years ago and guess what, a week before the shows, the tickets got dramatically reduced so the venue fills up.

Metallica is an organization today, however before it became one, its fan base was built on their fan centric connections, like tape trading and allowing fans to film their shows.

Would Metallica (the band) have known about the shady practice of scalping their own tickets?

Maybe.

The truth is, the act is always in control.

I’m sure the band will do a press release blaming Ticketmaster, but the truth is Ticketmaster does what Metallica wants.

From a band point of view, it’s a good thing that concert tickets are selling, but is it worth ripping your fans off when thousands of tickets are sold in the first minute to StubHub, which then put the tickets up at a higher price.

Wouldn’t you want your fans to have first dig at these tickets?

The again, once upon a time people liked to buy tickets 6 to 8 months in advance, but these days people also like to buy tickets a few weeks before the gig because life is unpredictable. It’s a big reason why StubHub has grown into a huge business.

The demand for tickets is insane. Just look at the numbers Metallica is doing in Europe.

And if Metallica is doing it, they are all doing it. The Gunners, Jovi, AC/DC and any touring act who has a rabid fan base.

Why should someone else get the profits when the band can?

And are the people who are buying the StubHub tickets real fans, the ones who will support the band through the hard times?

Other articles portray these people who pay top dollar at StubHub as people who have dollars to burn and they want to say they went to the show, take a selfie of being there and move on to the next band because it’s the cool thing to do. And they normally buy very close to the show.

For me, I haven’t been to a Metallica show since the St Anger tour. The prices then were excessive, and at that point in time I put it down to our Australian dollar being very weak compared to the US dollar.

And I watched a great energetic show but I still remember Lars not playing any of the double kick bits from the St Anger songs and Kirk being sloppy and very improv in his leads, which didn’t work for me.

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

Copyright And Hell

When I was writing this post I was listening to “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath, so “Copyright And Hell” felt right for a title. Because when you start to get into the Copyright World, it’s hell.

So here we go on another post about Copyright absurdity in the music business. If I start including the art world, the photography world and so forth, I’ll never be able to finish a post.

YouTube has finally changed its content claim system, which now puts onus on the copyright holder to prove which section of the video broke Copyright laws.

In case you didn’t know, Copyright claimants had it all in their favour and they used this power to censor YouTube videos.

If you want to know what kind of a mess it became, a video of bird calls and white noise had takedown notices sent to it. Other videos that used 5 seconds or less of music as part of a news story or comedy routine (which is fair use) got taken down.

And every one wants a piece of the pie.

Here’s a lawsuit from a Christian rapper who claims that Kate Perry stole his beat. Yep, people are claiming beats as copyrightable. I guess when you move into a pop world which is all about beats and vocals and no music, suddenly everyone who creates a beat (either using a live drummer or samples) has a case.

Even insurers are caught in the crossfire. A rapper took out an insurance policy which covered any liabilities related to their professional music career. The rapper was involved in a copyright dispute which incurred costs. He asked the insurance company to pay, and the insurance company said no, accusing the rapper of withholding important information when purchasing his insurance policy. And now the rapper is suing the insurance company for not paying. And both will have spent more dollars fighting each other than paying the bill.

But each time I do these posts, there is a story about Copyright which defies the logic of fantasy fiction.

The issue that Taylor Swift has with a competitor manager buying out her old label is old news today. But two weeks ago and for a 48 hour period it blew up in my Google Alert Copyright feed.

It just goes to show how quickly content becomes irrelevant in the internet age. So when you spend 12 months perfecting that album, remember that it could be hot for a week or two and then crickets.

So, an artist writes a song, records it and they release it as DIY and they own the publishing and the masters.

But if the artist signs a deal, writes a song, spends the money advanced to them to record it and then spends more money of the advance to release and market it, well the label owns the master recording for a very long time and the artist still has their publishing rights as the songwriter.

If the songs make no money, the label wouldn’t care much about them, but they still wouldn’t let go of the masters easily, just in case those songs make millions later.

However if the songs make millions, then the label has a good income stream and they would fight tooth and nail to keep those masters. Which is ridiculous, especially when Universal kept it secret that a fire at one of their storage facilities wiped out the Masters of some of the greatest albums. And the back up Masters Universal made got placed in the same facility, next to the original Masters. In other words, the labels don’t care about the Masters, because if they did, they wouldn’t have burned like that.

In relation to Big Machine (Swift’s Old label), 80% of its income came from Taylor Swift’s catalogue of songs. So it’s selling point to any buyer is that catalogue.

So what say does the creator have about who buys their most profitable work, the songs which made them popular?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney got a buyout back in the day before the owner of their songs ended up changing hands so many times that eventually Michael Jackson (realizing how the recording business works) purchased them.

Well if you are a creator and you sign a basic deal, you basically have no say whatsoever in who owns the master copyrights to your songs. However if you had the negotiating power, you can add these terms into your contracts. But in most cases it’s stacked against the artist.

The best advice is to build your brand so it’s strong enough to negotiate in your favour, so you own your masters and your publishing when the label comes calling.

But everyone is tempted by money and the patience and discipline is hard to maintain.

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

Spotify

It always happens, when the saviour, the good one, the one with actual good intentions, the one who is trying to bring balance ends up being like the ones that came before it.  

How much more privacy can people give up, when every time we deal with a corporate entity online, we end up sacrificing our personal details to gain access?

Deal with Facebook, you give them access to everything. Deal with Apple and their store, same thing happens. Same with Amazon, Google, Snapchat and so on. Basically any organisation you deal with online will take some personal detail. Which is okay if you want to transact with them but then those personal details will then be sold and given to third parties for years on end making those organizations billions from our data and habits.

The Verge has a story about pre-saving albums on Spotify and when this happens the labels get access to our emails and any other permission which they request. Sony wants a lot, while Universal and Warner Music Group want less, but all of them involve getting permissions to users private playlists, date of births and what not.

It’s not illegal what Spotify and the labels are doing, however it doesn’t mean it’s right. If anyone should be given data on Spotify users, it’s the artists themselves. They are the ones creating the songs, forming the connections with the audience and bringing money in to Spotify and the labels. Then again, the city the listeners are from and how many listens have come from each city should be enough data for any artist to plan what comes next.

If you are an independent artist with a core audience, there is a high chance you would be all over this kind of data because you know its key to your career to satisfy and grow this audience. Obviously a larger artist would care about this data but wouldn’t have the time to deal with it because their enablers will be keeping them busy. If the artist is making money, they are also making money.

And the issue isn’t because private data is being shared. The issue here is that the labels want to control it and make changes to it as they see fit.

But the firing line just doesn’t stop for Spotify. Pitchfork has a story about how Spotify settled a few infringement cases privately and nothing will be disclosed about those settlements. It’s the same subterfuge employed by the labels, but hey, when you give the labels a stake in your business, what do you expect would happen.

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

Gaming The Charts and Losing The Masters

Any person involved within the recording industry and the music industry overall, is looking to make money from the hard work of an artist. Especially an artist who has tunes which make some coin.

And the record labels, well they are even looking at making money in any way they can for doing even less then what they did before.

I’m not sure if people have realised, but depending on the artist, there is a high chance that you might have purchased a concert ticket which included a free download of the most recent album of the artist. You see, artists and the labels alike, still think the charts matter and that a platinum record hanging up on someone’s wall is super important.

Bon Jovi and Metallica are two artists that come to mind quickly who have done ticket/album bundles.

And concert promoters don’t like these bundles. The fan is unable to say no, and since the price of the concert ticket looks to be the same, they are thinking free album.

But ticket pricing is a tough gig. If the price is too low, the show sells out and the scalpers along with the reselling market make the money because of the demand.

If the price is too high, then the show is at risk of not selling out and the money lost is carried by the promoter who is taking the risk. And when it comes to bundles, the labels just want the promoters to add extra dollars to the tickets. But, if the promoters thought the tickets would sell for $5 more, the tickets would be sold at that price.

So the $5 album charge comes out as a tax against the show takings. If you are like Bon Jovi and you get 20,000 people to your show, the show’s takings will need to pay $100K to the record label. Do 30 shows in the tour with the same numbers and that’s $3 million, the record labels get and as a byproduct the artist gets a platinum record on their wall.

And the label didn’t spend a cent on marketing but still made a cool $3 million in album sales, because of the hard work done by others on the road.

So if the money comes out of the concert takings, who is actually paying for the albums. Basically, the cost is absorbed by the artists , who are actually buying their own albums.

There is a great blog post over at Bob Lefsetz about it.

Then you have the pop artists who have all agreed to have T-Shirt and Album bundles, beanie and album bundles and so forth. If you don’t, believe me, check out the story over at the NY Times.

Gaming the system, are they….

The article states that from the 39 album releases that went to number 1 with a bullet last year, half of them had a concert ticket or clothing bundle attached to the sale. One artist, sold album bundles with key chains, hats and tickets. Another artist had the album bundled with energy drinks.

Bon Jovi is also mentioned in the story, about how their 12 month old album returned to the top of the charts in 2018 because of a concert ticket/album bundle and how the following week it more or less disappeared from the charts.

And maybe if the record labels cared about keeping the masters of some of the best music safe instead of gaming the system, the masters of some of the most popular recordings wouldn’t be lost.

Universal Music didn’t care enough to keep the masters of the recordings safe, and they got destroyed in a fire. I suppose the New York Times article, “The Day The Music Burned” sums it all up.

And talk about a cover up.

The fire happened in 2008 and finally, we are getting to hear about the lost Vault recordings. Even the acts weren’t aware. Acts like Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow and Eminem.

From reading the articles, it looks like any artist who released on Geffen Records, has no original masters, unless the artist had never handed the master tapes over to the label or took the masters back at a particular point in time. When you look at hard rock and heavy metal, we are talking about big artists like Guns N Roses, Whitesnake and Aerosmith who had released career defining albums on Geffen. Add to that list acts like Y&T, Pride and Glory, Blue Murder, Black N Blue, Galactic Cowboys, Asia, Coverdale/Page, Nelson, Salty Dog, Tesla, Sammy Hagar, Tyketto and Junkyard.

So are all the remastered editions coming out recently, really remastered from the original source tapes. Because Universal hasn’t come clean on what has been lost. And when artists were questioned on Twitter by their fans, if their masters were safe, they either answered “no” or “I don’t know”.

But hey, piracy is still the issue.

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

The Labels Say Infringement Is The Issue. Maybe Not.

The labels still focus on infringement and see that as a big issue. Stream ripping sites are getting a lot of attention right now, especially in Australia.

But the shitty way the labels treat the artists who created valuable art “which is worth something” is not an issue to the labels.

Years ago, the labels went to court against artists like Eminem, David Coverdale and Don Henley concerning digital royalties. The labels always paid low royalties on sales of music CDs and vinyl. However, “licensing” music (once upon a time licensing was for movies or commercials only), offered a higher payout to the artist.

The question the artists wanted to know was how is iTunes treated?

The labels said iTunes is a “sale” like a CD sale and the artist is paid the lower royalty rate.

The artists countered that iTunes is a “license,” like for a commercial, as the labels need to license their music to the tech service for the tech service to sell it. This in turn means the artists are meant to be paid the higher royalty rate of up to to 50%.

In the U.S the labels won at the district court level, while the artists won at the appeals court level.

Now this “sales vs license” scenario was relevant up to about 2011 as newer contracts the labels drew up afterwards avoided this problem. Basically, everything is a sale to the labels even the streams from streaming service all so the labels could rip off artists a little bit more.

Not sure if anyone noticed, but Def Leppard was also caught up in this dispute for years with their label, hence the reason why their music wasn’t on any streaming or digital service for a long time. Def Leppard even refuses to let their label license their music until they sorted out the payment issue.

And the big issue here is that the record labels really owe a lot of money to artists but they still put out lies that infringement is the biggest challenge they face while they go to court against the artists. But they still put out the propaganda that when they ask for longer copyright terms, it’s for the artists, when they ask for stream ripping sites to be taken down, it’s also for the artists. Basically everything the labels do is for the artists, except payments.

Furthermore, all the labels know that their power in the market is based on the content they hold. In this case, it’s the songs they hold on behalf of artists.

So the Copyright Act in the U.S gives creators the right to terminate a copyright grant they have given to a corporation after a 35-year period.

And of course there are a lot of artists who created works which ended up becoming very valuable, who want to reclaim their copyrights.

Basically artists who released music up to 1984 have put in claims to get their works back.

Then it will be 1985 releases and before you know it, the 1990s artists will want to their rights back. And if you grew up in this period, you know that there are a lot of great songs that make a lot of money, which the labels don’t want to lose control of and the artists who want to get those songs back under their control.

But the labels will not let it happen without a fight in the courts.

Universal Music Group (UMG) are going to court to dismiss the termination notices served against it. Sony is also trying the same tactic.

And they are using their own interpretation of the law which could bog down the proceedings for years while lawyers argue words in the Act and how they can be interpreted.

And the big thing the labels are sticking with is the “works for hire” principle which worked a treat for the movie studios.

Basically if an employee creates something as a work for hire, it means the employer is the owner of the work and the work can not be terminated. So the labels are basically saying that the artists are employees, which we all know is bullshit, because I am sure the artists didn’t get monies added to a pension fund or holiday pay and what not.

Also when the artist wrote that hit song, it wasn’t because they were an employee of the label, it was because they had an idea, either at band practice, or at soundcheck, or in their hotel room or bedroom.

But hey, I guess power corrupts and always wins. It’s time all of the artists started terminating their rights with the corporations.

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

In Copyright We Invest

Music makes money because people form their own unique connection to a melody, a riff, a beat or a lyric. It’s personal and each connection is different. As a by product of this connection, we spend money on music. And when the ‘we’ in the equation is over 200 million people worldwide, you sort of understand the volume of dollars in play.

And the organizations who hold the rights to popular songs benefit a lot from those songs. Next time you hear “Eye Of The Tiger” from Survivor, there is a pension fund around the world which benefits.

You see the Michigan Pension Funds have invested in a music publishing company called Concord Music which is advertised as “owning” a lot of copyrighted works (like close to 400,000 songs). And when those songs it “owns” are played, Concord gets paid the royalties and the state pension fund benefits. 

But, isn’t Copyright meant to benefit the creator and give them an incentive to create more art. As the article states;

The state initially invested $25 million in Concord Music, and as the investment team got more comfortable, put a total of $1.1 billion into the company. The market value of their investment today is $1.8 billion, representing $700 million in profit.  

If the pension fund made $700 million in profit, how much profit would Concord Music make as the holders/keepers of the Copyright and then how much would go to the creators. Hell the creators can’t even get their rights back under their own control, even though the law states they can after 30 years.

And while all of these dollars from music are going to organizations who contribute nothing to music, CD Baby (another organization) is teaming up with Audible Magic (another organization) to scan the audio artists put up, against its library of 30 million tracks. If the uploaded song matches another track or it has “potentially” copyright-infringing content based on a computer algorithm, then CD Baby can decline to upload the file.

I wonder if CD Baby and Audible Magic are aware that music fans like songs that sound similar to other songs. I can’t even start describing how many songs have an Em, C, G, D chord progression, with melodies which sound similar, so I’m not sure why CD Baby is wasting money they earn from artists to pay an IT company which is looking to be purchased by these kinds of organizations.

And you know that Copyright is out of control when the law suppresses online music teachers, who in most cases teach people for free.

Queue up Warner Music Group, who seem hellbent to takedown everything online and then like all of the other labels, when they are served with termination notices from the artists, they go to court to fight these notices.

But, I am sure the labels would still be pushing the same lines of needing stronger copyright.

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

Ahhh Copyright

Ahh, copyright, you never cease to amaze me and you never seem to be out of the news.

Did you know that in the year or 1999, the profit margins for the labels on music sales was between 4% and 7%, and in 2018, the music profit margins are between 15% and 20%. 

Read Sony’s financials and decide for yourself.

2018 financials.

1999 financials.

1999 is always talked about as that magical year in which record sales hit a peak, and the profit margins in music were less than what they are now.

Since that time, the labels have done nothing in the development of legal online platforms, like the streaming services which include Spotify, Deezer, Apple and YouTube, but they benefit greatly from these services in licensing fees and royalty payments. And their profit margins are better because their music manufacturing costs are lower. It doesn’t cost much to produce a WAV file compared to a vinyl record or a CD, especially, when other techies are developing tools for people to consume music. And the labels have this power because they hold the copyrights for valuable songs, which they refuse to give back to artists, even when the law states, they need to.

But the streaming services are their biggest payer, so the power is shifting from the catalogs to the distribution, as the labels are fearful of pulling their catalogs from their biggest payer.

In all this, stream ripping seems to be the biggest issue to the labels and money needs to be spent to kill this technology. For those who don’t know, stream ripping means creating an mp3 file illegally from playing a song on a legal streaming site. People who pay for streaming accounts, stream rip and people who pay for no content also stream rip.

According to the labels, stream ripping is the fault of everyone else except them. From the labels point of view, the streaming companies should be responsible for monitoring if content is being streamed and ripped at the same time, the ISP’s are to blame for allowing access to websites which provide the software to stream rip and the blame list just goes on and on.

Remember 20 years ago, Napster showed the world, what people would like to do with music and still to this day, no one has figured out a way to make money by giving the people the opportunity, to download music in a format they desire without any digital rights on the track.

Stream ripping is an opportunity to create a new revenue stream. These are users who would like to stream (have access to music) and also be able to take it with them as an mp3, just in case they choose to close their streaming account, which means that all of their content will be lost.

The label heads are probably thinking, why would people need to do this, but hey they do. Fans of music have their own unique way of connecting with music.

A statement always put out there by the labels is that fans of music who stream rip, don’t realise they are also ripping off artists. It’s pretty rich, coming from the labels who have ripped off artists since day dot, and even now, when artists ask for their copyrights back after 30 years, the labels are saying NO and off to court they go.

But hey, everyone else is to blame except the labels. They even want the Governments they bank roll to pass legislation so they can have access to the WHOIS data of websites, so they can track down online pirates.

Should a corporation have access to this kind of address book?

Well if you pay enough money as a lobbyist, anything is possible.

And I know I bash a lot of the labels and their lobby groups, however the techies and ISP’s are not free from blame here either.

ISP’s if they want, can block access to sites on their own accord or in secret agreements with Government institutions or via court orders. However, they also talk the same rhetoric that they have no control for the content their users access.

So should the ISP’s be known as the Online Censorship Police?

ISP’s in Australia and New Zealand, took it upon themselves to block access to sites which had footage of the Christchurch Massacre, which people didn’t really need to see in the first place, however by doing so, the ISP’s have declared that they can police the Internet if they want to, and they have now backed themselves into a corner. You could see the labels and movie studios saying, “well why can’t they block sites which provide access to music and movies, which are not legal sites.”

Anyway if that all fails, the lobby groups of the recording and movie industries want the governments to create laws giving more power to the copyright industries to filter the internet and block websites which they deem to be illegal.

These powers formed part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) acts which got canned after online protests. Obviously, money talks and the music/movie industries are bank rolling a lot of politicians to push their cause.

In Australia, blocking access to sites approved by a court order has led to more than 250,000 innocent sites being taken offline for a certain period of time.

The best solution to any copyright issues is to develop a legal alternative. If people want to share their content, why stop them, let them do it, in an environment you can monetize. If people want to stream rip, let them do it, in an environment you can monetize. From when I can remember, every single person had their own unique way of experiencing music.

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