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

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

The Copyright Games

It is big dollars to an artist when they sell their copyrights to a business entity to administer. For example. Downtown Music Publishing will have paid Nikki Sixx some dollars to acquire his Motley Crue song catalogue.

Deals like these are meant to be a partnership between publisher and artist where both benefit. The Publisher forks out some cash as an incentive and then aims to recoup that investment by licensing the songs to commercials, movie/tv placements, gaming or some other outlet that requires music. The publisher keeps a portion of the income and then charges an administration fee on the rest.

But, these days, publishers and record labels have amassed a lot of copyrights and when they have business models based on holding these copyrights, you have a copyright system that benefits a corporation more than an artist. So that gives them power in negotiations.

And is YouTube really that bad to the recording industry. Read the Guardian article about how the existing power players believe YouTube is “anti-artist”.

So can someone tell me how these existing power players find  a hardware maker called Apple as “artist-friendly” and how those same people find a music service like Spotify and Pandora as “anti-artist”. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Most artists (old and majority of new) want the 1980’s pay structure, the signing bonus, the $20 CD, even though it cost the label, $1 to make. But these same people love free gmail, free Facebook, free something else. And yet they still scream to be paid like it’s the 80’s. As the Guardian article states;

“Although many have a conflicted relationship with YouTube, there is a generational conflict dividing the field. Those in the “old” music industry want to keep things the way they always were, nailing down copyright in every way possible. Yet around them a “new” business is emerging – prescient and whip-smart artists, managers, labels and media organisations – who see YouTube as a facilitator of a creative renaissance rather than a death sentence.”

Is the system perfect?

Of course not, however neither was the music eco-system when the record labels controlled it and due to lobbying the labels had a government granted monopoly on it. But would the artist prefer. Napster like piracy that offered $0 into the eco-system or a platform that offers millions. And when you combine this platform with other streaming platforms and other ways to monetise music, you get to see different income streams. Because the people have spoken and they don’t want overpriced CD’s.

“With all the major label contracts coming up for renegotiation it makes absolute sense [to attack it]. These are huge businesses run by intelligent people and as much as it’s a mud-slinging exercise at the moment, I am hopeful they will reach a middle ground where artists are being [properly] remunerated and YouTube continues to grow its platform and its offerings to artists. YouTube has given us and many independent artists an audience and an opportunity to build a brand. That’s allowed us to exercise a business that goes far beyond what’s on YouTube.”

And with all of these deals being made, the companies holding the copyrights want the Government to step in and change the royalty rates because the artist is getting screwed and not them. So, on one side you have Music publishers like ASCAP and BMI, along with their “stars” arguing that streaming has led to a reduction in songwriters’ income. Lucky the Justice Department of the US declined their request.

“And in a move that has caused widespread worry throughout the music publishing world — the side of the business that deals with the lucrative copyrights for songwriting — the government has also said that, according to its interpretation of the consent decrees, the music agencies must change a major aspect of how they license music. The agencies must now adopt a policy known as “100 percent licensing,” which means that any party who controls part of a composition can issue a license for the whole thing. In the case of major pop hits, which tend to have many songwriters, there can sometimes be a dozen or more parties involved.”

And now the business model based these publishers have based on a government granted monopoly by extending copyright laws is threatened by another government decision. But hey, “artist friendly” Apple is putting in their own request to increase the royalties because if that does happen, it will kill off all of Apple’s competitors like Spotify and Pandora. And then Apple will have a business model based on another government granted monopoly.

Seriously to see how fucked up copyright is, the fact that a politician needed to settle with Rude Music, the company owned by Frank Sullivan from Survivor for $25,000 because of “copyright infringement” is a joke. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used “Eye of the Tiger” during a rally. And this is somehow copyright infringement because Rude Music believes he should have asked for permission. The truth is, Frank Sullivan doesn’t agree with views of the politician and wants the populace vote.

And Queen has joined a long list of artists to send cease and desist letters to Donald Trump because even though his campaign does the right thing and pays a licensing fee to the publishers to use songs in their catalogue, if the artist disagrees with the views of the politicians they believe they have a power to stop it. All in the name of being liked.

To close out my rant, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation sums up my copyright argument in one nice paragraph.

And on it goes. Again and again, large content owners seem to think that the only way to fight unauthorized media consumption is to expand copyright. But more copyright won’t change users’ behavior. What it will do is chill innovation and free expression online. The way to bring in more paying customers isn’t to write new law; it’s to build a better product and get it to more customers at the right price.

 

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

Albums

Is the album format really over?

The old way of spending half a year recording an album, then going on a marketing/promotion tour before its release, so you could have massive first week sales just doesn’t work anymore.

Protest The Hero were in my face for six months, with their “Pacific Myth” Subscription via Bandcamp. One song was released each month. It was brilliant. We (the fans) focused on each song for a month. We talked about each song and then when the conversation was over, we got hit with another one.

On top of that, we also got a video each month that covered the “Volition” fan funded album cycle. Further to that, we got drum through videos, food cooking videos and guitar tabs for the songs.

The band should keep at it. Not stop. Release a jam cover song here and there, write a stock standard metal song in the vein of Metallica’s “Black” album, put some demo’s out there of a work in progress, release a live recording and so forth. The band could be doing all of the above, while they now promote the vinyl/EP release of “Pacific Myth”.

Which brings me to the album.

I am really forming the view that the album is purely for the record label. It’s the only way the labels know, how to get an artist to sign away their copyrights to them, so the label could reap the benefits for hundreds of years after. In other words its a pure cash grab for the label.

The new way is to be making new music constantly and releasing it. But it wont happen because there is always a view that each release needs to be monetized to maximum.

But for an artist, how does the album cycle work.

They will release the album. It might even chart. A month later no one apart from the hard-core fans care about it. We move on. And that year the artist spent refining those twelve tracks, only got them four weeks’ worth of attention.

So what now.

They might go on tour and the album might come back into the conversation.

Is anyone talking about the new album from Three Doors Down, four weeks after it was released?

The answer is NO.

But people are still talking about Five Finger Death Punch. “Got Your Six” is still selling units and it’s getting streamed. “Dystopia” from Megadeth is still in the conversation, four months after it was released. “Immortalized” from Disturbed is still selling on the back of “The Sound Of Silence”.

For some bands, the album works and for others it doesn’t.

But, what is clear, is the game has changed.

Artists need to be making music constantly. Artists are musician’s first, business people next.

So what is the purpose of the album?

The album is for the hard-core fans. If an artist doesn’t have a track that converts people, they will need to go back and keep on writing. Because for an artist to survive, they must always be gaining new fans while they keep their existing fans.

And the MTV world of global superstars is gone. Over.

No one dominates like the times of old. Chaos is the world we have right now. Previously magazines like Hit Parader, Circus, RIP, Metal Edge, Faces would tell us what was important. Then those magazines sold their pages to PR companies controlled by the labels and the fans ignored them.

Now we are overwhelmed with content and there is no worldwide ranking to tell us what to tune in or out off. Hell, I don’t even know when new music is coming out from my favourite artists, until it hits my Spotify new releases. And that’s not always on release date. Tremonti is a perfect example. The new album “Dust” has been out since April 29, however it is being withheld from Spotify.

Why?

I pay my monthly fee and for some reason, I’m being punished for it by the artists I’m trying to support. Talk about treating fans like shit.

But YouTube who pays much less has fan uploads of the album and pirate sites who pay nothing have a torrent up.

So chances of getting traction are slimmer. It’s a level playing field.

Good is no longer good enough, not if you want to get ahead.

Remember when Dokken broke up and we had Lynch Mob and Don Dokken albums. They were good and it’s debatable if they were great, because great is such a subjective word. But in the end, the albums of both bands had a lot of crap in them.

Which brings me to the question?

10 to 12 tracks packaged in an album every 2 years vs 4 songs in an EP every 3 months.

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

Scott (Stealing) Ian

Piracy, Copyright Infringement, Plagiarism, Website Blocking, Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and on and on it goes.

Why would anyone create music?

The record labels via the RIAA have screamed black and blue that piracy is decimating the business. They fought tooth and nail against every digital service and start-up. Yet year after year, it was digital music that was making a fortune for them, because all digital monies are pure profit. There are no manufacturing costs (like vinyl and CD’s), there are no warehousing and distribution costs and there is no breakage.

Remember Napster. It showed the recording industry what the majority of customers want. Access to cherry pick the song they want and access to listen to whatever they want. 17 years later, you can say that what Napster started has almost become a reality. The only outlier is that people still want to download mp3’s for free.

Which brings me to Scott Ian!

Can someone please explain to him what stealing really means because he is making metal heads look stupid and uninformed?

Downloading a copy of an mp3 is not stealing because the mp3 is still up on the web for streaming, purchase or downloading. If anything, it is copyright infringement.

But the question that he fails to ask is why are fans of Anthrax downloading their music illegally?

Is it because;

  • They download music and have no intention to pay for anything, not even a concert ticket of the said artist?
  • They download music because they have no other way to get it?
  • They download music because they have no other way to get it and they will purchase the CD eventually and even a concert ticket
  • They download music because they don’t want to pay Apple to download it, but they want it on their phone, and have every intention to purchase a concert ticket when Anthrax hits their town?

I can go on and on with different types of viewpoints of fans.

The value of music was originally inflated, because we, the customers had to buy an album worth of songs for the three, maybe five good songs. The hard-core super fans will always purchase, however the rest will do what they want to do, when they want to do.

As a collector, I still pick up CD’s of bands when they are super cheap like $5, years after the album was released and after I’ve streamed the album to death. And they are still in the plastic wrapping which I am sure once I have joined the afterlife, my heirs will commit them to a second-hand store or just toss them. The value of music is different from person to person.

But how many artists can safely say they know who their hard-core fans are.

I bet you there are always fans who purchase deluxe bundles, every time the said artist releases an album.

Is that buyer information getting filtered back to the artist?

It’s these fans, Scott Ian should be caring about. Are they getting any bonus offer, a loyalty card, a discount to a concert or a simple personalised thank you that makes the fan feel special for supporting the artists with every release?

Imagine the fan getting a hand written letter sent to their address that thanks them for purchasing the last four super deluxe bundles of the said band, and here is a bonus mp3 album for you to download plus a special VIP pass for their upcoming concert.

Instead, the fans are made to feel like criminals, for streaming an album instead of buying,  for cherry picking a few songs instead of paying for all of them or for downloading the album illegally.

That’s not the way it’s done anymore.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Forgetfulness

It’s funny how artists or their backers/support team forget about things they did in the past.

Like Metallica’s manager, Peter Mensch forgetting how Metallica became the poster child for the RIAA’s fight against all things digital/internet related and then 17 years later, complaining that an internet video service is the devil because he doesn’t get paid. Seriously, Mensch believes that the artists he represents earn millions upon millions each year because of their CD sales and that their fan bases have grown exponentially because of CD sales.

Here is a little secret Mr Mensch.

The fan bases of the acts you manage have grown because of piracy and services like YouTube. The more people who have access to a band’s music = a higher chance of a return on merchandise, concert tickets or other special offers.

I suppose that Mensch has forgotten that Metallica’s fan base in the 80’s grew because of tape trading and bootlegging. My first Metallica experience was via a blank TDK Cassette tape that I gave to my cousin, so he could copy “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning” on it. The first actual album I purchased from Metallica was “..And Justice For All”. It wasn’t until 1990 that I had the cash to purchase ‘Ride The Lightning”, Master of Puppets” and “Kill Em All”.

I bet you that Metallica’s recent box set release of their first two albums would be snapped up by fans who got into the band in the 2000’s via piracy and don’t really own any of their music. I have no intention to buy them. I already have “Kill Em All” and “Ride The Lightning” on CD and LP. The bonus stuff is not really convincing for me to purchase the albums again. I am pretty sure there are a lot of Metallica fans from the 80’s who would have the same view set as me.

Mensch Comments Article

Next in line in the world of “I don’t remember what I said in the past” is Nikki Sixx.

For the record, I believe that Motley Crue’s best artistic statement came with the Motley Crue album. It had class and so far removed from the cliched rock that died when Grunge exploded.

And if the album outsold “Dr Feelgood”, Nikki Sixx would be talking a different talk. Hell, maybe Vince Neil would never have returned to the band.

Instead, the album is seen as a failure because it’s didn’t out sell previous Crue efforts in a commercial sense.

And Nikki Sixx is distancing himself from it.

I’m with Mick Mars and Tommy Lee on this. The 1994, “Mötley Crüe” album never got a fair shake. Anyone who used to buy the metal and rock magazines like Metal Edge would have read Nikki Sixx talking about how great it was to have John Corabi in the band and how Corabi plays guitar and writes great lyrics. 22 years later, John Corabi can’t write lyrics. At least Corabi didn’t bite and took the high road.

The thing is, Motley Crue was never going to work with a different singer apart from Vince Neil because the Crue had no Angus Young or Eddie Van Halen in there. That’s why it worked for AC/DC and Van Halen. Both of those bands had another centerpiece to the band apart from the lead singer. As much as Nikki Sixx thought he was bigger than Vince Neil, the truth is, back in 1994 he wasn’t. Today, its a different story and he can credit Allen Kovac for re-inventing him.

Anyway,time to click play on the unfocused 1994 Motley Crue album.

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

There Is A Reason Why Copyright Terms Are Very Long

There is a reason why Copyright terms are very long.

Yep, older recordings are outselling newer recordings. So instead of those older recordings being in the public domain as they should have been, they are locked up for terms that seem like they will never end.

So what does this tell us about people and music consumption?

We don’t mind purchasing music, especially music recorded a long time ago which has shown itself as enduring and forever. Hell in twenty years’ time, don’t be surprised if “Hail To The King” and “The Blackening” are outselling all before them. But in 20 years’ time, who would benefit from those catalogue sales.

Would Robb Flynn from Machine Head (or the rest of the guys that played and performed on the album) benefit from those catalogue sales?

Same deal for Avenged Sevenfold.

“Hamlet” by Shakespeare is the biggest seller when it comes to books. The book was written in the 16th century, in the public domain for centuries after that and people still could make money from it. So is the public domain such a bad thing.

Would Hamlet be as popular today if it was locked away under copyright protectionist practices.

Think of all of the people who have made money from longer Copyright terms.

  • Lawyers (from all of the lawsuits)
  • Record Labels (from signing artists to one-sided contracts)
  • Publishing/Licensing Agencies (set up by the record labels, so they could double dip)
  • Collection Agencies (set up the record labels, so they could triple dip)

Each song I write has two separate copyrights. One for the sound recording and the other for the musical work.

If I sign a record deal, the label will licence the rights to exploit the ‘sound recording’ copyright from me (and then own it for a long time) and the publisher (an agency set up the label) will take care of my ‘musical work’ copyrights. Who benefits from this arrangement in the long run?

If I write a song with other people, I would need to put a contract in place that agrees on the percentage splits.

If I write a song and I have a session musician or just a friend who comes in to play an instrument, I would need to have an agreement in place (via writing, which means lawyers) about what payment they will get for playing on the song and how does that transfer over to royalty payments down the line on the sound recording.

Because Copyright Laws are written to suit the interests of the Corporations who licence (in other words, own) copyrights, we live in a world where copyright is a mess.

A court decided that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams are guilty of copyright infringement for their hit song “Blurred Lines,” because of a “feel”. The court ordered the duo to pay $7.4 million to the estate of Marvin Gaye.

Yes, that’s right, the children of Marvin Gaye, who have contributed nothing to the musical industry have a secure pension fund set up because copyright terms changed to include another 70 years after death. The Corporations give them a bone, while they take in the gold.

The bigger the song, expect the lawsuit to come.

Even when people do get clearances to use the music of another artist, they still get sued. The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft negotiated a cost to use a sample from the Rolling Stones ““The Last Time” for “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. The Stones sued after, when the song became a hit, because the sample that was cleared was the song.

In the end, Copyright is important for a creator, however the current mess that is known as Copyright, benefits the Corporation, otherwise known as the Record Labels, the Movie Studios, the Publishing and Collection Agencies and of course, the Lawyers more than the creator.

John Fogerty said something similar like “Get yourself a lawyer to look over the contract and then get yourself another lawyer to look over the contract and what the other lawyer said” after he was duped out of his Creedence songs;

For those that don’t know, I will let Wikipedia tell his story about being sued for copyright infringement because he copied himself;

John Fogerty was the lead singer of the popular rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1970, while part of the group, he wrote the song “Run Through the Jungle.” Fantasy Records, the record label to which Creedence Clearwater Revival was signed, eventually acquired the exclusive publishing rights to the song.

Creedence Clearwater Revival disbanded in 1972, and Fogerty began a solo career with another music label. In 1985, Fogerty published the song “The Old Man Down the Road”, which he released on Warner Bros. Records.

Fantasy sued Fogerty for copyright infringement, claiming that “The Old Man Down the Road” was essentially the music to “Run Through the Jungle” with new words.

So I end this post, the same way I started it; there is a reason why Copyright terms are very long.

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

In Copyright Corporations Trust

I have a Google Alert set up called “Copyright Music”. Each day, I get five to ten alerts about Copyright stories.

Let’s not kid ourselves about Copyright in 2015. It is a monopoly that is controlled by greedy corporations who contribute nothing of value to the public domain or to the music industry.

A lost Beatles concert film from February 1964 (51 years ago) has been stopped from getting released because Sony and Apple Corps (The Beatles label) took the film makers to court screaming copyright breaches.

The breach is due to the film containing eight songs out of twelve that are still under Copyright.

So who is Copyright benefiting here?

You need to remember that it was due to a lack of copyright on standard blues and folk classics that benefited the British Rock invasion in the Sixties and Seventies. I can tell you that between 1955 and 1975, no song recorded 51 years ago, in other words from 1904 to 1924 was still under copyright. And look at the music we got.

It is due to copyrights expiring that we have a song from the 19th-century by a little known guitarist called Francisco Tartego now known as “The ‘Nokia tune”.

Who knew back in the 19th century that when he wrote the song called “Gran Vals” would end up being one of the most-played songs in music history.

So what we have here is a situation where corporations who hold the copyrights to old songs, fighting tooth and nail to keep these copyrights. And these greedy corporations are changing laws to suit their business models.

Copyright exists to create incentives for artists to make new works. Extending the rights for recordings made in the 1970s and earlier doesn’t encourage new music. At best, it might generate some income for the small number of “oldies” labels and rights holders whose recordings still have commercial value.

There is no greater Copyright sin than the case against Men At Work. The band lost a court case in 2010 because a judge found that a 10 second flute riff in the 1981 song “Down Under” copied parts of a song called “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gumtree” from 1934.

As the article states;

“Kookaburra is a simple, four-bar tune. Men at Work were found liable for copying two of these bars. The Court found that this copying was sufficient to award Larrikin Music Publishing – the current owners of Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gumtree – 5% of Down Under’s royalties from 2002 onwards.”

The disconnect here is that people/company who didn’t even write the song “Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gumtree” suing the Men At Work writers almost 30 years after the release of their song and 67 years after the “Kookaburra” song was released.

So who is Copyright benefiting here?

Remember copyright is designed to promote creativity. The writer of the song has passed away. On death, all copyright used to cease and the works would fall into the Public Domain. It hasn’t been that way for at least 60 years.

Led Zeppelin who are no strangers to infringement lawsuits have another one on their hands, albeit 43 years later from when “Stairway To Heaven” was released.

Expect Metallica to cop a few lawsuits in the future once the copyrights to some obscure NWOBHM songs end up with Corporations. Just think of the songs “Welcome Home” and “Enter Sandman”. If i was Metallica Inc, I would be the ones purchasing the rights to the NWOBHM songs they copied otherwise a lawsuit will eventuate.

If you need further evidence about how important Copyright is to corporations (instead of artists) look no further than the donations these corporations give to politicians.

Since Copyright became a financial windfall for the Corporations that hold the rights to songs, we have those same corporate entities via their lobby groups donating to political parties in the name of Copyright.

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