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

In The Court Of The Copyright King

The original intent of Copyright was to give the creator of the work a 14 year monopoly to monetise their work, without it being copied. In turn this would give the creator an incentive to create more works, especially if a work proved to be valuable. Once the term expired (the creator did have the option to renew for another 14 years), the work would fall into the public domain and people would be free to build on it and use it. It’s how Rock and Roll came to be, by reusing blues music in the public domain.

But not all works are valuable. Right now, there are over 30 million songs on streaming services that have no commercial value nor have they being heard. There are millions of books written which hold no commercial value whatsoever and films/tv shows made which no one cares about.

Myspace lost over 50 million songs when it accidently wiped or threw away (depending on who you believe) their servers which held the songs and they had no back up. No one even cared at this cultural loss except archivists.

The issues we have happening today in Copyright are all due to the movie studios, record labels and book publishers. Up until 1998, they had gotten so many laws passed in the name of protecting creators, but in reality, it was to protect their business models. They knew that if they didn’t hold the works of others, they would be challenged to survive.

During this time, they also sold the story that an idea is like real property (aka, intellectual property) and that if someone else comes up with a similar idea, they have stolen your property. So they kept pushing this line and they kept on saying that copyright needs stricter enforcement and longer terms.

And people believed it. But back then when these organisations held the power and creators were still alive, it was all good. But suddenly, creators started dying and their copyrights got passed on to their heirs and suddenly the labels are getting sued.

And now, these organisations are ignoring the law and have no interest in retuning the copyrights back to the creators, because in the recording business, the labels know that the more valuable copyrights they hold, the more power they have at the bargaining table.

A member from The New York Dolls’, Southside Johnny and Paul Collins are taking Sony Music to court, while John Waite and Joe Ely are taking UMG to court, all because the labels are not doing what the law says they should do.

After 35 years, creators have the right to take back their copyrights, as long as they serve the labels with a Notice Of Termination. In these cases, the creators have done everything right, but the labels are still saying NO.

Sony has alleged that the music created by “The New York Dolls” was under a “work for hire” agreement, which the band has challenged.

One thing is certain here, the labels don’t want a precedent set, in case they lose, so they will settle out of court, in the same way they settled out of court for Don Henley, Tom Scholz, David Coverdale, Eminem and many others before that.

And then they will repeat the “works made for hire” cycle again, when another artist who has created valuable art wants to reclaim their copyrights. And off to court they will go, just to settle out of court. Ridiculous, isn’t it.

Creators should have the same rage at cases like these as they do about Spotify’s appeal to the Copyright Royalty Board’s rates increase.

Here is a Billboard article, outlining the rage of songwriters against Spotify, but nothing against the labels for not returning the rights of songs to the creators.

In the letter, the following is mentioned;

“Our fight is for all songwriters: those struggling to build their career, those in the middle class and those few who have reached your Secret Genius level.”

 Umm, sorry, but you guys don’t fight for all songwriters. And you don’t fight for me. A letter written by a marketing person from the Publishers or Labels is proof of that.

The majority of songwriters who are struggling to build their career haven’t made any coin, although they wished they did. So this class of songwriters wouldn’t benefit in any way from the royalty rate increase. And their works will not suddenly become huge, just because the royalty pool was increased.

The middle class if they own their copyrights would see some dollars come their way however the majority of monies would still go to the organisations who hold the copyrights and the artists they hold who represent the 1% of the recording business and have value in their works. And the songwriters will still get pennies because of their shitty deals with the labels and publishers.

And what about the takedown mess happening in the name of Copyright. YouTube cops the blame, however the blame also lives with the organisations sending down takedown requests without doing their investigations to see if the takedown is legit.

Lionsgate took issue with YouTuber AngryJoeShow giving “Hellboy” a bad review, so they took down his video by making a copyright claim (claiming that they own the video). This also means that Lionsgate will receive all the revenue earned by the video. It sounds like Copyright as Censorship for me.

Previously, a YouTuber called “The FatRat” went to war against a Colombian music company after the company claimed a tune which TheFatRat created as theirs. The FatRat issues were solved when YouTube decided to investigate and saw it as a bunch of B.S and removed the claim.

There are issues from YouTube’s side of things as well, as they just take the copyright claims from others as being true, and then when the YouTuber appeals, the organisation which sent the copyright claim has the power to decide whether to grant the appeal of the claim it originally made. To me, this is all B.S. and putting power in the hands of organizations without any due process.

A company representing Disney, made a claim on a Darth Vader video put up by a YouTube channel called “StarWarsTheory”. The channel created a fan film about Darth Vader with all the necessary approvals from Lucasfilm to do it and monetise it. Eventually the claim was lifted by Lucasfilm themselves, who told Disney, this isn’t cool. Even Warner Music Group via their publishing arm Warner/Chappell, put in a claim over the music in the fan film, which they said has notes similar to “The Imperial March”.

And the problem is not just YouTube’s problem. Instagram took down a video by will.i.am because someone sent a copyright claim on it.

“We’ve removed the video you posted at 9:55 am on January 26, 2019 because it included the following content: VIBRATIONS pt. 1 pt.2 by The Black Eye Peas,” reads the alleged Instagram email.”

But hang on a second, will.i.am formed The Black Eye Peas and wrote the song.

Who knows if it was a phishing scam or the corporate copyright holder sending takedown notices via bots. Just goes to show the ridiculousness of the world we live in.

And we still have the stupid legal fight between Twisted Sister/Universal Music and Australian politician Clive Palmer which is going to the courts in June.

We all know that Palmer’s “Australia Aint Gonna Cop It” is a rip off from “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. And we all know that Palmer enquired about using the music of Twisted Sister but when he heard the price, decided to do his own derivative version of the song.

And of course, Clive being the business man that refuses to pay for anything, including the wages of his workers, is saying that his melody is based on “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, a song which is out of copyright.

Jack White is also a Eurovision winner, without even writing a song for Eurovision. What he did do is write a song called “Seven Nation Army” and since the winning song “Toy” had sections which sounded similar to “Seven Nation Army”, Jack White has been added as a co-writer because his label took the writers of “Toy” to court.

Again, these kind of cases puts the idea out there that the notes order of “Seven Nation Army” are so original that only Jack White wrote a progression like that, free from influence.

AND FINALLY for all those people who still believe that the entertainment industry is getting killed by piracy, here is what you should read, The Sky Is Rising, which details how much new content is coming out.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

It’s Here and Then It’s Gone

My son wanted to play “Domino” from The Night Flight Orchestra. It is on their “Amber Galactic” album released a few years back.

He went to Spotify search, typed in the band name, when into their account, clicked on discography and couldn’t find the album. He went to his saved playlist of TNFO on his Spotify account and the album wasn’t there anymore. For reasons only known to the band and their label, the “Amber Galactic” album is not on Spotify Australia for Premium Subscribers to enjoy. It was here and then it was gone.

Even though I have purchased the CD, it’s basically remained in its plastic wrapping, and it’s a purchase made because I am a collector of bands I like, not because I want to play the CD and look at the artwork and lyrics. Hell, I don’t even know what the booklet looks like inside.

And the decision by artists to remove their music from Spotify or any other streaming service is wrong. It’s even more wrong when one streaming service has it and another doesn’t. What is even more wrong then all of the above, is that YouTube has the full album, and it pays less and torrent sites have it available for download in mp3 and FLAC, and they pay nothing.

But Spotify started in Sweden, by a Swede and here we have a Swedish band pulling their product from it. Even though the streaming company has turned the recording business around, they still are the punching bag for many.

And the loser here is the fan, who does the right thing, takes up the legal alternative, only to feel short changed or as my son said, ripped off.

Remember if the artist has no fans to connect with, they have nothing and the label has nothing.

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

The Way The World Works

Corporations lobby the Government to have their taxes lowered while banking titans rort the system, say sorry at a Royal Commission and all is forgiven.

Welcome to Australia or any democratic country for that matter which has become a plutocracy.

Read this Guardian article about donations from a lobby group called Village Roadshow to Australian political parties.

Put enough coin in the pockets of politicians and watch them vote YES for the laws the corporation wants even though said law is bad for the people who voted the politicians in.

In this case the laws are all around Copyright legislation and site blocking powers. Plus Village Roadshow is allowed along with other entertainment lobbyists to direct search engines to remove links to sites they don’t like and there is no due diligence done.

Village Roadshow is basically allowed to become an internet police force as they tell ISPs to take down sites at their choosing.

You can imagine the heads of Village Roadshow agreeing to take some losses now financially and reap the benefits later. No different to the drug cartels who will allow a shipment to be lost while many more slip through and millions come flooding in.

We will know in February 2019, how much Village Roadshow donated to the parties for the most recent legislation. And for those people who still don’t know what I’m talking about, this is basically a rich corporation trying to influence the passing of legislation to benefit their business model.

In saying all of the above, the public will also find out how much the internet providers and companies like Google would have donated to politicians for them to stop the legislation.

Again this is for their own business models to succeed. Once again the people who matter the most, the consumers of entertainment are nowhere in the conversation. Remember, if there is no connection between a consumer and art, there is no money.

What Village Roadshow and the entertainment industries want is a return to their business model which more or less began 100 years ago. Seriously if you want to look at organizations resistant to change, look no further than Village Roadshow.

And Politicians should be embarrassed as they failed the people who voted them in, for a selfie with the rich and famous.

At least one politician raised the concern or maybe he was paid by Google to raise the concern;
“As lawmakers, just because we might get a selfie with Richard Roxburgh — I love Rake as much as anyone else — or a political party gets a donation from a rights holder, does not mean that we should stop looking at how to make the types of reforms that balance the needs of creatives and the needs of producers versus the needs of consumers.”
Ed Husic – Labor MP

It’s hard work to balance the needs of creatives and producers versus the needs of consumers and no one right now likes hard work, so people go down the simple route of serving the needs of creatives and producers and screwing consumers.

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