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

The World We Live In

I am over it.

I am over people like APRA/AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle calling on the Australian Parliament to offer legislative support to members of the creative industries.

I know from my own experiences APRA has been negligent for accepting dual song writing registrations on songs that I wrote and registered with them over ten years ago. They had the balls to call me up to ask me if I am okay with their negligence for accepting dual registrations and if I’m not okay with it, they can offer mediation to me to sort it out with the other party at a cost to be paid by me.

Yep, that sure sounds like a lot of support and respect from APRA/AMCOS towards the artists it is meant to represent. The truth of the matter is this.

Small time musicians don’t mean crap to these large organisations. All we do is generate a lot of money for them by playing live and by using our hard-earned monies to promote ourselves and get our songs on radio. Yep, APRA as a publishing and collection association collect those radio royalties (that we as artists worker our backsides off to get on radio) and those live returns from Club owners on our behalf.

They then hold the pool of monies for as long as they can before paying anything out to the artists based on a formula that no one can make sense off. That way APRA can double dip on the pool of money. They do that by earning interest on the large pool first and then they take out their admin fee.

So I am sick and tired at corporate entities that put out crap saying they are concerned about the artists. The music business and the movie business have consistently opted for legislation to combat piracy and when it comes to innovation they are continually dragged kicking and screaming into it.

The major record labels in the U.S killed off the 20 million strong membership of Grooveshark as it wasn’t legit enough for the record labels. Well guess what happened the next day. It was cloned and made available for users to stream music on.

Can we also make the distinction between the recording industry and the music industry?

They are two different categories. The recording industry is part of the music industry. The music industry at a high level also contains the live industry, the merchandise industry, the publishing companies, the collection agencies, the local clubs, etc..

So when I see people saying that the music industry cannot compete with piracy, it is totally a clueless and dumb statement to make.

I don’t see the live industry complaining because of piracy. I don’t see the merchandise industry complaining because of piracy.

Piracy is a recording industry problem. Actually I still find it hard to hear when people in the recording industry still complain about competing with piracy or pirates. People just don’t get it. The recording industry (and by default they acts on their roster) are competing against other products for fans/customers. It has been proven time and time again that if the customer sees value in the offering, they will pay for it.

There is a lot of money in the industry right now. “Blurred Lines” is just one song and it took in over 17 million dollars since 2013.

When it comes to music, I stream via Spotify for free and I buy physical CD’s from Amazon in the U.S or from the band direct. I never got into paying $1.29 or $2.19 for a digital mp3 of the song. However I do have a lot of mp3’s. When you buy pre-release albums from bands directly or via a fan funding campaign, you always get an mp3 version of the album. Amazon offers Auto-Rip and then there is the CD’s I purchased which I rip and put on my iPhone.

While ripping a CD is acceptable to an MP3 file is acceptable in the recording industry, the DVD I purchase is not allowed to be format shifted to an AVI file.

Torrentfreak is a website that I got to regularly to keep up to date on the latest issues around Copyright issues. So it’s no surprise to see that the MPAA is putting their hands in foreign policies. In this case, it was lobbying hard the UK Cameron government to not legalize DVD ripping. However the lobbying efforts didn’t pay off and the private copying exceptions became law in October last year.

Speaking of the MPAA, they are sure doing their best to keep their business model flourishing. Thanks to the Sony email hacks, the world know has official proof that the MPAA are offering grants to academics to write pro-copyright papers that can be used to influence future copyright policies.

As the article points this is nothing new for the MPAA.

Last November we revealed that the MPAA had donated over a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University in support of its piracy research program. Thus far the Carnegie Mellon team has published a few papers. Among other things the researchers found that the Megaupload shutdown worked, that piracy mostly hurts revenues, and that censoring search engine results can diminish piracy. As expected, these results are now used by the MPAA as a lobbying tool to sway politicians and influence public policy.

So how is Brett Cottle from APRA/AMCOS or those stooges at Village Roadshow any different to the MPAA? All of these organisations profit from the creative works of others however they contribute nothing creatively.

In the end if copyright becomes too extreme, creativity will die.

Thank god in heavy metal and hard rock some common sense is prevailing when we hear similarities between songs. So far we haven’t had the court cases like “Blurred Lines” or the out of court settlements between Sam Smith and Tom Petty for the “Stay With Me” and “I Won’t Back Down” vocal similarities or the other out of court settlement between the song writing committee for Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and The Gap Band’s 1970s funk hit “Oops Upside Your Head.”

Music survives because the creators are constantly borrowing, sharing, and reacting to the different connections the 12 notes in the musical scale offer.

“The Ultimate Sin” is a forgotten song in Ozzy’s solo career (even though Jake E.Lee does perform it with Red Dragon Cartel) and it was good to hear part of the vocal melody get resurrected by Five Finger Death Punch in “Life Me Up”. Yes, they are similar for those small sections and if anything fair use is the order of the day.

Hell, we all know that Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album “Hail To The King” references a lot of great metal albums from the past. What about Kingdom Come’s “Get In On” and it’s references to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. As I have always said, music is derivative.

It’s getting ridiculous how everyone is slapping copyright lawsuits on everything and the reason why that is occurring is that corporations own the copyrights. Hell, even George Clinton who has been sampled by every hip hop artist known, is fighting Bridgeport Music (a publishing company) to get his rights back. Basically at this point in time, George Clinton has NO royalty rights.

Yep, the person who copyright is designed to protect and the person who actually created the music has NO royalty rights to his music. And of course, in case you didn’t know Bridgeport Music was also one of the plaintiffs in the “Blurred Lines” copyright case.

But hey, Bridgeport Music, like APRA/AMCOS would lead you to believe that they are pushing copyright agendas for the artists and that stronger copyright is needed to combat piracy. On the other side of the fence you have a housewife from the fifties who wrote the lyrics for a song called “G.I. Blues” which was later turned into a hit song for Elvis Presley who is not credited as a songwriter because she didn’t pay the $25 copyright fee back in the sixties.

But, wait, according to the corporations who own the copyrights, the world needs longer copyright terms and stronger enforcement rights.

That’s the world we live in.

Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Who Made APRA/AMCOS Gods On Piracy?

What kind of world do we live in where a royalties collection agency that has a business model based on copyright thinks that it has a right to have a say about what kind of legislation should be written. Talk about business model protectionism. Talk about a conflict of interest.

APRA/AMCOS which is a royalties collection agency in Australia is asking the government for harsher and stricter laws for people who download music. And they asked sent emails out to artists that have songs registered with them asking us to make sure our voice is heard. Basically it was a call to arms to toe the same line as them. Well, I don’t want people who download music to be litigated. I don’t want the government to write laws to protect crap business models. Because the truth of the matter is this. The APRA/AMCOS business model is based on copyright.

Now with streaming winning on all fronts and the purchases of MP3’s and CD’s drying up, APRA/AMCOS is financially challenged. And they don’t know what to do. So they hijack the Copyright debate. Copyright was always about getting works into the public domain after a reasonable period of time. And organisations like APRA/AMCOS have twisted the debate to make it all about money.

If the music world embraced what Napster offered back in 1999 well, a different conversation would be happening right now. But they didn’t and music piracy just kept on growing.

But online music piracy is declining. The war is over. Streaming has won. Each year more and more people take up legal streaming services. The money pie to split up will only get bigger as the services get bigger. It’s simple economics. But the corporations of old don’t look towards the future. They look towards RIGHT NOW. How do they get paid right now?

Spotify says music piracy in Australia is on the way down. The corporations that have business models based on copyright say the opposite. What is known is that hard-core pirates will always remain. And that is nothing new. They have always remained. Even in the pre-Napster days people pirated.

Artists say that Spotify and Pandora don’t give them a fair share of money. Spotify says they do pay the rightsholders. In 99% of cases the rightsholders are the record labels and the publishing corporations. And it those entities that are not filtering the money back to the artists.

Seen any record label scream up and down that Spotify is not paying.

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

A Note To APRA AMCOS and Andrew Harris – It’s A Brave New World. Deal With It.

We live in a far better world when it comes to the consumption of entertainment products. As much as the RIAA, the Performing Rights Organisations and the labels still use the smokescreen piracy argument, we are as a matter of fact living in a post piracy world.

The user decides what he or she likes. The user decides how they will tell their friends about what the like. In most cases, it is via social media. And the recording industry is scared of this. It is scared because a social media account has more reach than their marketing efforts. They are scared because the audience is connected to one another and that they are out of the loop.

So when I read an opinion piece from an APRA representative that is all fluff and without any fact, it upsets me. It upsets me because it is misleading. It upsets me because as an APRA AMCOS member, that this line of thinking is the best that they could come up with. Seriously Andrew Harris needs to get his head out of the lies and really take a look at the world. You would expect that a person with a title of Principal Analyst at APRA AMCOS would actually do some analysis.

His whole piece is misleading. From the start to the end.

What streaming services like Spotify have shown is that people that did pirate and paid nothing for the content are now actually contributing to the recording business through the free-ad supported Spotify. It is putting money there where previously it didn’t exist.

There will always be people that will upload and download pirated content in the same way that people bootlegged copyright recordings in the pre-Internet days. Hell, the whole rock and roll movement that swept over the Communist Eastern Bloc in the Sixties’ was from bootlegged recordings.

Furthermore, Napster showed the recording business what music customers want. And 15 years later there still isn’t a legal version of what Napster created. If people want to download mp3’s for free, then allow them to do so legally. If the ads on the pirate sites generated so much money, then why doesn’t the recording industry cater to suit. Instead you get the recording industry with their larger acts locking up their content to capitalise on first week sales because that is still their mentality.

Seriously, since when did copyright infringement become such a dangerous crime to warrant monitoring and surveillance of people’s on line behaviours because the recording industry along with the movie industry are insistent that the privacy of people and their digital footprint needs to be stored and monitored in the name of protecting profits.

The truth is that the recording industry has not delivered on all of the demands of customers.

There are still customers that want to download high quality mp3’s for free. Cater to that market with free advertising and you will see more money enter the record labels pockets.

There are still customers that want to download uncompressed FLAC audio files for free. Cater to that market with free advertising and you will see more money enter the pockets of the record labels. I don’t know how much the artist will end up getting but one thing that is certain, is that the record labels are all cashed up.

And it is possible to compete with free. Free to air TV networks have competed for over 70 years.

Does that mean that sales of a physical product are gone? My answer is NO because fans of bands will always want that special unique deluxe package. The part that some labels like Rat Pak or artists like Coheed and Cambria get and other labels or artists don’t get is that the deluxe package in 2014 is more than a CD with a DVD. Those days are long gone.

In relation to APRA all you need to do is cast your mind back to 2008 when APRA supported an aggressive new copyright law in New Zealand including punishment of persons accused but not proven to be infringing copyright. This position was opposed by artists and APRA members but hey they still thought it was a good idea.

The thing with Andrew Harris and APRA AMCOS is that they get paid when they collect monies on behalf of the songwriters. And the thing is, even though streaming pays the rights holders which in most cases are the Record Labels, where does APRA AMCOS fit in all of this.

The AMCOS arm collects and distributes mechanical royalties for the reproduction of musical works in CD’s, music videos, DVD’s and digital downloads to name a few. So if people are streaming music, what does AMCOS collect? This is from APRA’s sustainability report published in October 2013.

Nowadays, new media accounts for almost 50% of AMCOS revenue, with licensing revenue from digital downloads totalling $26.7m in 2012/13. Revenue from subscription and ad-funded services more than doubled during the year, however, to $1.2m, and most of the world’s major players in that space – including Spotify, Google, Rdio and Deezer –now operate in Australia and NZ.

By comparison, traditional mechanical royalties from the sale of physical product accounted for only $10.5m of AMCOS revenue during 2012/13 – a decline of some $4m over the year – and a figure that is expected to decline further in the immediate future.

And that is the crux of the argument from APRA AMCOS which has been the same argument from the record labels for a long time. Still focused on what they get paid right now without any thought as to what a future with a hundred million paying streaming subscribers could bring to its business. Still focused on CD sales right now instead of a future with a billion subscribers who download mp3’s for free on ad supported legal websites.

It’s a brave new world out there and it is a shame that organisations that make their money from artists/songwriters are not doing their best to push innovation and in turn make more money for their members.