Copyright, Music, My Stories, Treating Fans Like Shit

Vinyl and CD’s

How misleading can the labels and the RIAA be?

You’ve seen the headlines about vinyl sales surpassing CD sales.

And how vinyl sales brought in $232.1 million and CDs brought in $129.9 million.

But the report also mentions that Physical Album Sales including vinyl is at 27.9 million units and that vinyl on its own has moved just 8.2 million units.

So the other 19.7 units are CD sales. I guess vinyl hasn’t surpassed CD’s in sales, but it has surpassed it in revenue, which the headlines fail to mention.

$232.1 million divided by 8.2 million units is $28 per vinyl record. Which sounds about right on average.

$129.9 million divided by 19.7 million units is $6.60 per CD, which also sounds right.

What’s your preference?

I don’t really have one anymore, except the price being right. I will not pay more than $20 for a vinyl record unless it’s included in a deluxe box set. Then again, I’m happy paying less than $20 for a Family Streaming account.

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Music, My Stories, Treating Fans Like Shit

Import

When I started to buy records in the 80’s, I purchased a lot of records with “IMPORT” stickers and paid a premium for them.

So what did an IMPORT mean back in the day?

An album comes out in the U.S or in the U.K or in other parts of Europe first or Japan. And it gets some traction in those countries, but the Australian Release Window is months away or it doesn’t even exist at all. Since I was a consumer of UK and US Metal and Rock mags, I read the reviews and interviews of the album and the artist and I am interested in getting their music.

The only way to get it into Australia is via an IMPORT.

An import release would have a tariff between $20 to $50 added to the normal price.

So the album that would normally cost $20 to buy if it had a normal release window, would cost between $40 to $90 to get it into the country.

The debut solo album from John Sykes called “Out Of My Tree” released in 1995, was available to buy in Australia but it had a big IMPORT sticker and a price of $80 at Utopia Records.

Most of the record shops made a killing by charging extra for the IMPORT and so did the distributors.

Everyone was making money except the artist.

And the fan got the bill.

In the 90’s, most of the hard rock music I was after was not available in Australia as the overseas label didn’t organise a worldwide distribution deal.

But I wanted em and via IMPORTS, it was the only way I could get em.

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

Hallowed Copyright

Remember that whole “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “The Nomad” suit filed by retired band manager Barry McKay against Iron Maiden and Steve Harris.

Remember how McKay stated it is all about intellectual property rights and how these IP rights need to be protected from blatant copying while the other side stated that music is all about inspiration and influences and that McKay never actually wrote anything and is a serial litigant.

Well, these IP rights that McKay was championing for protection, all revolve around a fee to be paid. If you haven’t read the stories, you can read em at Loudwire or Blabbermouth.

Remember when any rights to intellectual property ceased when the creator died (provided they still had a right at the time of death). Well, the corporations who held the copyrights to a lot of these works pushed really hard to get laws changed in the 70’s to last the life of the artist plus another 70 years, so what we have now is people who really contribute nothing to culture, locking up culture for a generation and getting paid in the process.

But there was a side in the Government who actually cared about culture, the public domain and were against Government granted monopolies, so they put in a clause that allowed the actual creators to get their rights back after 35 years. But, the labels and the publishing companies who control the rights don’t want to let go of the works as it diminishes their power.

Remember John Waite, from The Babys, Bad English and his work as a solo artist. Well, he wanted his songs back, Universal Music Group said “No”, your works are created under a “works for hire agreement”, John Waite said, “no chance in hell are the songs created under a works for hire agreement” and off to court they went.

So how did it all come to this?

You need to remember that any aspiring artist, had/have/has no bargaining power when for negotiating and signing contracts. If they wanted to get their music out there (pre internet), they more or less had to give away their copyright in their works as part of the contract to get their music out there and monetised.

Then, when an artistic work turns out to be a “hit,” the majority of the royalties goes to the organisation who holds the rights to the works rather than to the artist who created them.

But this “ownership of copyright” by the organisation was meant to be limited. And if the artists wished, they could reclaim their rights. Some artists used the threat of “termination rights” as a tool to negotiate higher royalty rates and advance payments.

But as artists grew popular and they realised they could make some money, they created loan out companies, which is basically a business entity used by the entertainment and sports industries in the US, in which the creator is the ’employee’ whose services are loaned out by the corporate body. The corporation is used as a means to reduce their personal liability, protect their assets and exploit taxation advantages.

And the courts have determined that any rights granted to the labels from the loan out company cannot be terminated, only the rights granted by the actual creator themselves.

For example, John Waite created a loan out company called Heavy Waite Inc. So if he signed a contract to give his copyrights to a label via the loan out company, these rights cannot be terminated. Only the rights that John Waite himself gave up.

It’s pretty fucking stupid if you ask me, but nothing surprises me when lawyers get involved and try to get these termination suits booted on technicalities.

And check out this article for some insight on copyrights from the one and only Desmond Child. Here is the snippet in case you don’t click on the link;

Have you retained your copyrights?

Well, tragically, I fell into some lean times in the late ’90s. I had moved to Miami – we’d fled LA after the [1992] earthquake and we were picking up the pieces.

At that time I got an offer for my catalogue, and I sold my song writing and publishing share to Polygram [now Universal Music Group] – and it was a mistake. I retained my song writing performance rights, and that’s how I know how big a mistake it was, and how much I sold myself short. They made their money back x 20.

I was pressured by people around me to sell. Especially my father, who had grown up in the depression. When I told him the amount, he said, ‘Grab the money, you’ll write other songs, grab the money.’

Also, my lawyers told me, ‘Don’t worry, you get your songs back after 35 years,’ but that’s not true. You don’t get them back for the whole world, you get them back for the US only. And you don’t get your songs back for the versions that made them hits, you only get them back for the new versions – versions made after you sold.

When I found out those two things, it was like two buckets of ice water being poured over me.

The people doing the deal for me were so keen to get their percentages that they didn’t explain these things to me. Had I known, I wouldn’t have signed the deal and I would have been in a much better financial position.

And that my friends is how far Copyright has evolved, where people who create nothing of value get paid and everyone is trying their best to lead the artists astray so they can get paid.

It has nothing to do with intellectual property rights or an incentive to create.

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

How Much Should Streaming Services Pay?

A lot of people hate Corey Taylor, but I’m not one of em. I enjoy the music he creates, more with Stone Sour than Slipknot and he has a point of view, a stance, which he shares with the world.

In an interview with the Irish Times which Blabbermouth grabbed and ran with a few months ago, Taylor was asked if SLIPKNOT could live just on royalties from listens.

He said, no they couldn’t survive at the current rates but if the streaming services paid the same publishing rate as radio stations than they could.

In Australia that equates to about $6 per song (for the main cities), as regional cities have a lower fee and then there are separate fees paid for when the song is played, like prime time hours or graveyard hours. In some cases the artists pay to get themselves played and they don’t even know it as it’s charged back to them by the label via miscellaneous expenses.

Also the $6 fee is paid just to the songwriters not the recording act. Since Taylor writes his own songs, he is okay in that department as he would get the payment.

But streaming services charge us $9.99 per month to access a catalogue of music. The math doesn’t work and suddenly piracy looks more appealing of that fee goes up.

Taylor doesn’t have a problem with streaming services for what they are trying to do, but he has a problem with them, when they spend millions of dollars on buildings and then more millions on decking out those buildings for offices and then more millions on flying private and more millions on wages while the artists who bring people to their service are not experiencing the same share of those millions.

But hang on a second, the label he’s signed deals with also spend millions of dollars meant for the artists on the same thing.

Steve Miller said something similar about the recording industry and the RNR Hall Of Fame people at his RNR HoF induction, how they take so much money from the artists and they don’t compensate the artist fairly.

The problem that I have as a fan of music is this;

Artists on a label sell their masters to the record labels for a fee. They are compensated at that point in time. Some for a lot more if they are successful and others for peanuts because they didn’t know any better.

The labels are aware of this power they have and since they are offering the cash, they want a return on investment. So the label benefits in this streaming era because they hold the masters.

Get your masters back like Motley and Metallica and suddenly you will benefit as well.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Aerosmith and Kramer and Grammys

Joey Kramer files a lawsuit.

He had a few injuries last year, Aerosmith got a temporary drummer to fill in and once Kramer was ready to let the music do the talking (I know bad joke), the rest of those Aero boys were thinking, maybe not so fast, hombre.

They tell him, “You need to audition for your role” and when the Aero team said, “you are not up to standard”, Kramer’s replacement, John Douglas, played the rest of the “Deuces Are Wild” shows for 2019 and Douglas’s payment came out of the absent member’s cut.

Like it or not, each band has an agreement in place which outlines these things. Kramer’s issues are with the “moving targets of these made-up standards” in the bad agreement.

For Aerosmith it’s business as usual with their lawyer written response, but as a fan I would be questioning why Aerosmith would like to be involved and even play at the Grammys.

You wanna know what happens in that organization. Click here and read the Guardian article.

The Grammys organization brought in a lady called Deborah Dugan as boss, after their former boss Neil Portnow stepped down unexpectedly, which the article states, could have been due to raping a female recording artist.

But as soon as she came in, the Grammy board got rid of her because she didn’t play ball. But how didn’t she play ball. The Grammys chairman asked her to re-employ his mate Portnow as a $750K consultant after he left and after the rape allegations. She played ball and did.

Entertainment lawyer Joel Katz, who acts as the academy lawyer also made sexual advancements towards Dugan, Katz also has a private plane purchased from the monies the Academy earns on behalf of the artists and their TV deal and also represent various board members in a conflict of interest.

Dugan also mentions about the corruption in the voting. Basically a first group called the “voting pool” selects artists. Then the nomination committee which also has current artists on the committee who could be up for awards shortlist the “voting pool” list with their own additions. And the Grammys board further corrupts the nominations with what they think is needed.

Basically that Grammy award you might have on your mantle piece; how valuable does it feel when you know that the ex CEO raped an artist, the legal counsel is a sexual predator who lives rich, ripping off the artists who bring in the money to the organization and that the nomination process is corrupted.

As veterans, Aerosmith have a chance to make a stand here.

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

Public Domain 2020

The post over at Duke University.

The purpose of copyright is to promote creativity. And it does so by providing creators a limited monopoly to distribute their works with the aim to make money.

The limited time for works was 28 years and if the creator renewed they would get another 28 years and if they didn’t renew, then the works would end up in the Public Domain. All up 56 years was the term.

But not all works made money so 98% of them would end up in the Public Domain after 26 years.

What’s the point in renewing if it’s worth nothing?

Having copyright terms that last 70 years after the death of the creator does not promote creativity.

It promotes money for lawyers because of the heirs who sue or it make money for the corporations who control the rights.

It also promotes laziness from the creator who has no incentive to create anymore works. Certain artists tell us that they have no incentive to create new works and are quite happy to live off their past works which had public acceptance.

Works from 1924 will enter the US public domain and most of these works are already in the public domain in other parts of the world, which means anyone can use these works as raw material for their own creations, without fear of a lawsuit.

Prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1963 would have entered the public domain if Copyright was never extended to last for the life of the creator plus 70 years.

Works from 1963 like the songs from The Beatles’ albums “Please, Please Me” and “With The Beatles” or songs from The Beach Boys’ album “Surfin’ U.S.A” album’s would be in the Public Domain.

Imagine that.

All those works available to build new works, in the same way way The Beatles and The Beach Boys built their works on the blues music already in the Public Domain at that point in time.

But when we create works, we do not do it because of Copyright law. We do it because we need to create and we love to create.

Imagine if those terms existed past 1978. Works from 1991 which failed to get renewed would be in the Public Domain.

Imagine that.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Disruption

When something new happens, the organisations who don’t want to change at first ignore it, then they protest against it and eventually they accept it.

But it takes time.

Remember Kodak, who had a billion dollar business selling film for cameras, and didn’t really want to cannibalise those sales and by 2012, when all of their digital patents expired, they filed for bankruptcy, to emerge a few years later, a much leaner and smaller company.

Well, today, cinema complex owners are refusing to screen movies created by Netflix, because they believe Netflix cannibalises their business. Film festivals are refusing to consider Netflix films because the festival organisers don’t want to upset their main sponsors, which are the traditional movie studios and cinema organisations.

Read the story, about how “The Irishman” from Martin Scorsese, is being ostracised because Netflix picked up the financing when no movie studio wanted to do it, and gave Scorsese free reign to film it how he wants to. In the process, Scorsese, according to critic reviews has delivered a 5 out of 5 movie.

The cinema experience will not disappear, but if the film industry wants to run the cinema’s the same way it did back in the 50’s, then they will die a painful death the same way Kodak did.

Being flexible to change and being able to adapt is the key to survival.

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

The Labels Complain Again

It’s typical of the recording industry to complain about anything which benefits the consumer. They seem to forget that the profits they make is due to a relationship between the artist and the consumer. There is a zero relationship between the record label and the consumer. From the consumers point of view, the record label doesn’t even exist in their mindset.  

So the labels license their music to various streaming services for a fee and then pocket the majority of the multi-million fee instead of spreading it to the artists, because hey, why would the labels compensate the artists, since it’s the works of the artists that give them the negotiating power at the table.

Apple is considering putting a bundle together that incorporates Apple Music and Apple TV. More subscribing customers who normally wouldn’t subscribe to a music subscription would increase the pool of money. But then again, how many people would give up their Netflix and Spotify subscriptions for an Apple Entertainment bundle. We wouldn’t know because no one does their due diligence. For the record, I wouldn’t give up my Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime subscriptions for an Apple bundle.

So all of this is based on feelings. And somehow these feelings from the label executives that they will be ripped off are not based on any research or evidence.

Read the article.

Of course, the labels will sell the story that if they lose money, then it would have a flow on effect to the artist. But the labels haven’t been losing money for the last 5 years, so why aren’t the artists getting paid.

And artists bash up Spotify, but no one is speaking up about these bundles that Apple is proposing.

There is a blog post over at Seth’s Blog about ways to grow. It basically states that if you persist and get the word out, you will be the same. There will be no growth. This is the record label model, do what they have always done.

However to grow, they need to change something, like enter a new segment, earn trust or do work that matters to someone.

But it’s hard to grow and help the artists when the label executives are dragged kicking and screaming into a new segment.

Steve Jobs convinced EMI to sign on for $0.99 mp3 digital downloads and the rest came, only after years of negotiations. It took 3 years for Spotify to be licensed in the U.S. and during that time, YouTube became the unofficial streaming provider. And then again, they had to get a stake in the company in order to give the approval.

Artists really need to have a look at what they are signing away, because the label doesn’t care for you at all.

If they did, they would be proud to enter new market segments which could lead to more income. Instead they are scared to lose what they have, so they persist and do more of the same.

Complain.

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

The Power Of The Record Labels

It’s 1992.

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

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

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

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

In other words, you give to get.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greed

Greed threatens everything. The act of wanting more doesn’t work in a business built from emotions. People connect with music because it connects on an emotional level first. And not all connections are transactions. Sometimes it takes years for the music fan to spend money on an act.

So where are we at?

Years ago, in the land that introduced streaming, Swedish musicians sued the major labels Universal Music And Warner Music over streaming royalties. At the same time, major artists around the world also sued their labels over how they paid iTunes sales back to them. Eminem said it should be under the licensing rate (which is higher), while the labels argued that it should be under the sale rate (which is lower).

Then artists started filing “copyright termination” applications (which is legislated, that they are allowed to do so), however the record labels kept rejecting these applications and off to court the two parties went. Some artists won and others like Duran Duran lost. And some are still on going.

Because the labels don’t want to lose control of these rights as the more Copyrights they hold for popular songs, the more power they have at the negotiation table with the techies, so in return they get higher licensing fees, which they really keep to themselves. If the labels really cared about the artists, then they wouldn’t have put the masters of classic albums, plus the back-ups, in a tin shed with no climate control. And when it all went up in flames they employed subterfuge.

But when Napster came and the distribution gatekeeper got abolished, everyone said the major labels would fold. But instead they got more powerful because for any technological service to operate with music, they need to have a licensing agreement. YouTube has one, Apple has one, Spotify has one, Tidal has one, Pandora has one, Shazam has one and so on.

Which is a shame because of all the advances made, the major labels still operate with a business model rooted in the past. The majors still pay about 10% royalties to artists for digital income. The 10% average rate is based on the era’s when the record companies produced a physical product like vinyl or CD, stored it in a warehouse and then transported that product to a brick and mortar store. Of course at that time all of these steps in the process where accounted for.

However in the digital age, there is no need to even produce a physical product like a vinyl or CD, however the labels are still short changing their artists. If the streaming rates paid to the labels were so bad, trust me, the majors and the RIAA would be the first ones screaming theft.

Streaming services pay 70% of their revenues to music rights holders. How much of that money gets passed on to musicians depends on the terms of their contracts with labels.

If you are on a major label roster you should have followed the Def Leppard route. Due to the disagreements they were having on the digital payment terms with their label, they refused to let their label put their catalogue on digital services.

However, in order to cash in on the “Rock Of Ages” movie and the sudden interest in “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages”, they re-recorded these songs with the current band and released digital “forgeries” (as Def Lep called em) of these classics. But they did it on their own terms.

And when Def Leppard’s music finally hit streaming services, with the rate that they wanted, well there is no one really complaining about the rate?  

How did it get like this?

Once upon a time, the artists had the power. Read any bio from the 70’s and you’ll see how painful the artists were for the labels to deal with. And the artists never did what the label wanted. The label wanted hits, they wrote noise. The label wanted more like the last album, the artist went in a different direction. Then in the Eighties, the labels stole the power back through economics. With the rise in revenue due to the CD, it made the labels mega rich powerhouses. And MTV was also making artists into platinum starts. And the artists just fell in line. Because they couldn’t handle seeing an executive flying private on the monies earned from artists.

But artists today, can go it alone. Because it is the connection the fan has with the artist which is valuable.

And if more people are paying for a subscription service, then the overall pool of money grows. So if the artist is in control of their rights, then they will be paid forever. If they signed their rights away to the label, then the label will get paid forever and they will pay the artist some.

But there is always the temptation of promised millions right now to sign away your rights forever.

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