A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

I Guess People In The Recording Business Don’t Like Change

The History channel morphed from running historical documentaries to scripted TV shows and unscripted reality shows. Home Box Office morphed from running licensed movies to creating its own content and renaming itself HBO.

Newspapers ran long form stories that people wanted to read. Then the goal shifted to profit-seeking click bait and we got news tainted by money and political agendas from the owner of the news outlet. In the end, the papers got rich by selling advertisements and re-printing PR stories. And the people stopped buying newspapers and took to the internet for their news. The urban boundaries of the traditional newspaper suddenly couldn’t compete with the worldwide boundaries of the internet.

Change is constant, because we get bored easily. The internet connected billions of people and almost 20 years later we take it for granted, the same way we take electricity for granted. We expect it to work all the time and god forbid if we have downtime.

Great buildings of yesteryear are being torn down as cities constantly reinvent themselves. Hell, my hometown is in the midst of converting from an industrial steel city into an innovation hub. So why should music be chained to the ways of the old.

Steve Albini published his 1993 essay “The Problem with Music”. You can find it at this link.

Here is a brief summary of the figures found in it;

These figures are representative of amounts that appear in record contracts daily. There’s no need to skew the figures to make the scenario look bad, since real-life examples more than abound. Income is underlined, expenses are not.

  • Advance: $250,000
  • Manager’s cut: $37,500
  • Legal fees: $10,000
  • Recording Budget: $150,000
  • Producer’s advance: $50,000
  • Studio fee: $52,500
  • Drum, Amp, Mic and Phase “Doctors”: $3,000
  • Recording tape: $8,000
  • Equipment rental: $5,000
  • Cartage and Transportation: $5,000
  • Lodgings while in studio: $10,000
  • Catering: $3,000
  • Mastering: $10,000
  • Tape copies, reference CD’s, shipping tapes, misc expenses: $2,000
  • Video budget: $30,000
  • Cameras: $8,000
  • Crew: $5,000
  • Processing and transfers: $3,000
  • Offline: $2,000
  • Online editing: $3,000
  • Catering: $1,000
  • Stage and construction: $3,000
  • Copies, couriers, transportation: $2,000
  • Director’s fee: $3,000
  • Album Artwork: $5,000
  • Promotional photo shoot and duplication: $2,000
  • Band fund: $15,000
  • New fancy professional drum kit: $5,000
  • New fancy professional guitars (2): $3,000
  • New fancy professional guitar amp rigs (2): $4,000
  • New fancy potato-shaped bass guitar: $1,000
  • New fancy rack of lights bass amp: $1,000
  • Rehearsal space rental: $500
  • Big blowout party for their friends: $500
  • Tour expense (5 weeks): $50,875
  • Bus: $25,000
  • Crew (3): $7,500
  • Food and per diems: $7,875
  • Fuel: $3,000
  • Consumable supplies: $3,500
  • Wardrobe: $1,000
  • Promotion: $3,000
  • Tour gross income: $50,000
  • Agent’s cut: $7,500
  • Manager’s cut: $7,500
  • Merchandising advance: $20,000
  • Manager’s cut: $3,000
  • Lawyer’s fee: $1,000
  • Publishing advance: $20,000
  • Manager’s cut: $3,000
  • Lawyer’s fee: $1,000
  • Record sales: 250,000 @ $12 = $3,000,000 gross retail revenue Royalty (13% of 90% of retail): $351,000
  • less advance: $250,000
  • Producer’s points: (3% less $50,000 advance) $40,000
  • Promotional budget: $25,000
  • Recoupable buyout from previous label: $50,000
  • Net royalty: (-$14,000)
  • Record company income:
  • Record wholesale price $6,50 x 250,000 = $1,625,000 gross income Artist Royalties: $351,000
  • Deficit from royalties: $14,000
  • Manufacturing, packaging and distribution @ $2.20 per record: $550,000
  • Gross profit: $710,000

 THE BALANCE SHEET

 This is how much each player got paid at the end of the game.

  • Record company: $710,000
  • Producer: $90,000
  • Manager: $51,000
  • Studio: $52,500
  • Previous label: $50,000
  • Agent: $7,500
  • Lawyer: $12,000
  • Band member net income each: $4,031.25

The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month.

The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never “recouped,” the band will have no leverage, and will oblige.

The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won’t have earned any royalties from their t-shirts yet. Maybe the t-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys.

So you wonder why artists are still in debt to their label. Yeah they might have recorded and they might have toured, but they really didn’t make anything. So if you are an artist today, what era would you rather be in.

But Steve Albini didn’t stop there. 21 years later, Albini did a presentation about music at an event. You can read the whole presentation here.

Here is a summary;

I hear from some of my colleagues that these are rough times: that the internet has cut the legs off the music scene and that pretty soon nobody will be making music anymore because there’s no money in it. Virtually every place where music is written about, there is some version of this troubling perspective. People who used to make a nice income from royalties, they’ve seen the royalties dry up. And people who used to make a living selling records are having trouble selling downloads as substitute for records, and they no longer make records.

It’s worthwhile to remember from where we’ve come. From where this bitchiness originates. In the 1970s through the 1990s, the period in which I was most active in bands in the music scene – let’s call this the pre-internet era. The music industry was essentially the record industry, in that records and radio were the venues through which people learned of music and principally experienced it. They were joined by MTV and videos in the 80s and 90s, but the principle relationship people had with music was as sound recordings. There was a booming band scene and all bands aspired to getting recorded, as a mark of legitimacy.

In the 70s and 80s most bands went through their entire lifecycle without so much as a note of their music recorded. But recording was a rare and expensive enterprise, so it wasn’t common. Even your demo tape required considerable investment. So when I started playing in bands in the 70s and 80s most bands went through their entire lifecycle without so much as a note of their music ever being recorded.

The key point here is the artists who played music for their whole lives, wrote songs and never had anything officially recorded. All because the gatekeepers of the day didn’t see them worthy. Today, everyone can record and release their music. If it gets heard, is another story, but you have a chance to record and build a musical legacy.

Radio stations were enormously influential. Radio was the only place to hear music from any people and record companies paid dearly to influence them. Direct payola had been made illegal but this was a trivial workaround. Record pluggers acting as programming consultants were the middlemen. They paid radio stations for access to their programmers and conducted meetings where new records were promoted.

CBS told Journey to change their style and become more radio friendly otherwise they would no deal in place.

The most significant bit of tailoring was an accounting trick called recouping costs. The costs of making a record wasn’t borne by the record label, except initially. Those costs were recouped or taken out of the income the band might otherwise run as royalties. The same was true of all those promo copies, posters, radio pluggers and payola men, producers, publicists, tour support, 8×10 glossies, shipping, freight – basically anything that could be associated with a specific band or record was ultimately paid for by the band, not by the record label.

As the label shifted from vinyl to CD as the dominant format, the labels could easily sell the CD as a convenient, compact, trouble-free way to listen to music. The profit margin exploded and the money got stupid. Retails costs of a CD was half again or double more than an LP but the manufacturing, shipping and storage costs were a tiny fraction. The labels even used vinyl’s legacy as a tool to increase this profit margin by charging bands for unique packaging, despite the fact that CD packaging was designed to be standardised.

21 years later and Albini is still pointing out the record label creative accounting. And these creative accounting practices have been in place since the 1930’s and they are still in place today. The whole world changes, wars happen, we put man on the moon and the recording label contracts having changed a bit.

You may have noticed that in my description of the mass market music scene and the industry as it was pre-internet I made little mention of the audience or the bands. Those two ends of the spectrum were hardly considered by the rest of the business. Fans were expected to listen to the radio and buy records and bands were expected to make records and tour to promote them. And that was about all the thought either were given. But the audience was where all the money came from and the bands were where all the music came from.

So true. The audience/fans are what makes music money but they never had a say or were not even considered in any discussion when it comes to music. And Albini’s comments highlight the viewpoints the record label suits had. Fans were expected to pay. So what a shock they all got when Napster showed them what fans really want. So now we are living in an audience driven distribution system, albeit the record labels are trying very very hard to get it back to a record label driven distribution system.

Fans can find the music they like and develop direct relationships with the bands.

The world and social media allows it to happen. Hell, I don’t even understand why artists would want to do interviews for magazines or websites or radios. With social media, artists can control the narrative themselves. That’s better than a stupid magazine. Artists can tour places they never could have done before.

A couple of years ago my band mounted a tour of eastern Europe. We played all the hot spots: the Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, we made it as far as Istanbul, Turkey. It was a magical experience, playing in front of audiences who were relatively unjaded by the routine of touring bands and we were welcomed like friends. We played to full houses at the same size venues as the rest of Europe. The same sizes as we would play here in Australia. And the audiences seem equivocally familiar with our music. The key difference being that most of the places have literally never sold a single record. Essentially 100% of our exposure had been through informal means over the internet or hand-to-hand.

Iron Maiden toured Central America and places like Costa Rica to sold out audiences and they never sold a recorded album there. Same deal with India and other Asian countries.

There is great public good by letting creative material lapse into the public ownership. The copyright law has been modified so extensively in the past decades that now this essentially never happens, creating absurdities whenever copyright is invoked. There’s a huge body of work that is not legally in the public domain, though its rights holder, authors and creators have died or disappeared as businesses. And this material, from a legal standpoint now removed from our culture – nobody may copy it or re-release it because it’s still subject to copyright.

I guess the problems with music are still there and with the lobby groups preaching stronger copyrights and jail times on par with murder and drug trafficking, it could get worse. Seen the memo on the war against drugs. Enforcement is losing.

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

Copyright Fakery And Abuses

Fake news is nothing new to the world. It’s been around for a long time.

It’s become a problem now because the people/organisations who invented it, had the tables turned and fake news was/is used against them. That’s right, the media outlets who put fake news out in the world based on PR companies and Ad companies sponsorships, had the tables turned against them. The recent U.S election is a perfect example of how powerful fake news can be.

The recording and movie industries along with their associations/lobby/bribery groups in the RIAA/MPAA have been the largest perpetrators of fake news in the world. When billions of dollars are involved, these industries employ some of the most creative writers in the business to basically creating fictional works of fakery. And people believe it.

Let’s start with a few good ones.

  • Home Taping Is Killing Music And It’s Illegal
  • Copy a CD and get a criminal record
  • Piracy: It’s a crime
  • Piracy kills artists.

In other words, if the consumers of music don’t pay for every instance of music, how can musical artists or movies ever make a living?

These words of wisdom ignore independent research about the power of free music in helping musicians to be discovered in the first instance. The biggest enemy of any artist is NOT BEING DISCOVERED. Once they are discovered, they can then go on and make all kinds of money via the more friendly artist profit outlets in concerts and merchandise. But the RIAA has done such a good job at spreading fake news about Copyright, that many swallow the industry’s words of wisdom whole.

Ed Sheeran is a mega seller in today’s current musical market. I have written about him before on these pages. He began his career without a record label and promoted himself instead.

“Beyond writing the songs, Sheeran also wrote his own rules about how to sell them. Like so many others, he had set off for London as a teenager, singing on street corners and in pubs. But he didn’t knock on record company doors or wait to be discovered. Instead, he began marketing his own stuff, releasing his music himself on websites until — inevitably — a record label came calling. He had already earned half a million from his independent sales, putting the music out himself.”
CBS Article

The labels came knocking after Sheeran had built up a following. And how did Sheeran build up the following?

“It was file sharing. I know that’s a bad thing to say, because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file sharing, but illegal fire sharing was what made me. It was students in England going to university, sharing my songs with each other.”
CBS Article

But the labels and the RIAA want stricter enforcement for piracy and longer prison terms and bigger fines for illegal file sharers.

Because copyright has been hijacked by these Corporate entities for the last 70 years, we have situations that makes the mind boggle. Like how a band in 2017, might not be able to use a song that dates back the mid 1900’s, whose creator is believed to be dead and was passed down for generations orally. Here’s what the Yahoo article has to say on the matter;

“A Gwich’in love song, passed down for generations through oral tradition, has become a copyright roadblock for the Hummingbirds — preventing them from releasing their latest album “One Weekend” in June for months. The song Goodbye Shaanyuu is one of the tracks on the album. It’s a folk song from Fort Yukon, Alaska that dates back to the mid-1900s. But the record company dealing with the band is holding off the official release of the album, says Mumford, until the band solves a copyright issue with the song — which was written by a Gwich’in woman named Annie Cadzow, who is believed to be dead.”

This is the Copyright mess that corporations have created. Even though a corporation could hold the rights to this song, because it makes no money, it is forgotten. And now there is a band that wants to bring it back and they have to go through hell to release. The article further states;

The band has three options:

1) Find Annie Cadzow — or her family members — and get permission to use the song in their album.

2) Find out if Cadzow has died more than 50 years ago, which puts the song into the public domain. Or

3) Just release the song in hopes that no one will come forward and sue, but this is a non-option for the band out of respect for Cadzow and Gwich’in history.

The band is working with researchers in Alaska who are helping track down Cadzow’s only living daughter who’s said to be in her late 80s.

But the bassist for the band Bob Mumford believes that the song known today doesn’t sound nothing like the original song as lyrics were added and melodies got altered. So how does this sit with current copyright law that assumes that all works are so original and if there are any similarities it’s time to sue.

As the article further states;

“Folk music was widely believed to be “national treasure” — or owned by everybody. Until the idea of copyright came along. The practice of exerting copyright is actually pretty easy. The person that transcribes the oral performance, exerts ownership on it. So whoever makes the recording has copyright on it.”

And that person would have a monopoly on their creation for a certain period of time and then that work would become part of the public domain for other people to use and build upon without any restrictions.

And once upon a time it was like that. But then people had money, they purchased sound systems and vinyl records. Recorded music was suddenly monetised. Which led to many artists complaints about record label creative accounting. And it’s still going on.

The Carpenters are taking Universal Music Group and A&M records to court over the monies paid to them from digital sources. As the Variety article states;

“The Carpenters contend that accountants they hired to examine the record label books found multiple errors and that the defendants rejected the claim of royalties. He is seeking compensatory damages of at least $2 million. Among other things, according to the lawsuit, the record labels “improperly classified” revenue from digital downloads of Carpenters’ music as sales of records as opposed to licensing revenue — short-changing them from a higher royalty rate.

The lawsuit also claims that the defendants undercounted digital downloads and that they applied an incorrect base price to the sales of CDs. The lawsuit notes that the lawsuit is similar to litigation involving the recordings of Eminem in which the defendants were several affiliates of UMG. Ultimately, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that digital downloads were a licensing of master recordings rather than a sale of records.”

The labels do what they want to artists who make them millions and then the labels scream loudly to politicians to get laws passed to protect their business models.

So what about songwriters, who write songs for other artists?

As the labels get flush with cash from streaming licensing and royalty fees, they have failed to pass it on to the people who matter. But due to creative fakery of news, the Songwriters lobby group believes that the streaming services are to blame and they should pay more, with the hope that those extra payments are filtered down to the songwriters.

“We should get compensated every time someone streams a song”
David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)

But wait a minute, some publishers already have their own deals with the streaming companies to compensate the songwriters, so why is there a need to force streaming companies to pay more. Spotify is barely profitable and in order to please the NMPA, a $20 million settlement was announced recently.

As the NY Times article states;

“Spotify will pay publishers between $16 million and $25 million in royalties that are already owed but unpaid — the exact amount, these people said, is still undetermined — as well as a $5 million penalty. In exchange, the publishers will refrain from filing copyright infringement claims against Spotify. The settlement concerns mechanical licensing rights, which refer to a copyright holder’s control over the ability to reproduce a musical work. The rule goes back to the days of player-piano rolls, but in the digital era mechanical rights have joined the tangle of licensing deals that streaming services need to operate legally.”

You can see what a mess Copyright has become, when mechanical rights that go back to the player piano rolls are still discussed about today. And Spotify is just one streaming services. There are others that will need to do these kind of extortion deals and suddenly the NMPA is loaded up with cash in the hundreds of millions. All because the labels, the publishers and their lobby groups don’t pass on the monies earned to the people who actually create.

“I am thrilled that through this agreement, both independent and major publishers and songwriters will be able to get what is owed to them.”
David M. Israelite

I don’t know about anyone else, but what we have is a world of mega associations/corporations and labels living large off the value that music creates without really compensating those creators. Because as we have seen all around the world, these organisations like to accumulate and live the high life, but they don’t want to pay those monies in full to the people who really earn it.

If you don’t believe me, check out this article, over at Torrentfreak, where the Greek organisation in charge of collecting and paying artists royalties, was found to have serious financial irregularities where their operating expenses outstretched it’s income, creating an 11.3 million Euro deficit, while during the same period, the CEO, GM, PR and Secretary pocketed 5 million Euro’s.

As the Torrentfreak article states;

“By Dec. 31st 2014, the undistributed royalties to members and rights holders amounted to 42.5 million euros, and have still not been awarded to members. The nature of a significant portion of this collected revenue of approximately 36.8 million euros has not been possible to assess, because collection invoices weren’t correlated to specific revenues in AEPI’s IT system.”

So next time you read a piece of news about stronger Copyright’s needed to compensate artists, remember the fakery involved in that piece of news and how people who contribute nothing to culture and music, live a jet setter lifestyle on the backs of the artists.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Piracy Incorporated

The Pirate Bay (TPB) is going to turn 14 years this year.

From its inception, it was a facilitator, spreading the disruption caused by Napster years earlier to even larger audiences. It showed the entertainment industries how they needed to change. But they didn’t change and it took companies like Netflix and Spotify to make this happen. And they did it by using the same technology made famous by The Pirate Bay. But while Netflix realised that money is in producing your own content, Spotify and other streaming providers have not. Licensing content from someone is not a satisfactory business model. Just ask HBO, formerly known as Home Box Office. Their early business model was all licensed content and they lost money year after year, while the movie studios got richer. It wasn’t until HBO went into original content, that they started making some serious cash. As soon as Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Pandora realise that they need to enter the recording business to produce their own content, the music industry will change and disrupt even more.

TPB had to stand strong against the pressure put on it by the MPAA and the RIAA and their sister organisations throughout the world. It has stood firm against government officials (loaded up in lobbyist dollars) trying to prosecute it. It was taken down, raided and it still survives. And it keeps on innovating even when court orders become the new normal, requesting ISP’s to block the web address or domain registries to deny any applications for TPB domains. Even in it’s home country of Sweden, court appeals and cases are still ongoing. Google was even pressured to alter (in my view censor) its search algorithm, so TPB doesn’t come up.

But TPB is still alive. It has become a vessel for people to access content they normally wouldn’t have access too. In the process, it has made the world a better place.

Metal music in general has grown to all corners of the world. Suddenly, every country has a metal scene and the larger metal bands that have the means to tour are suddenly hitting markets they’ve never hit before.

The high rates of software piracy in Eastern Europe caused an IT skills explosion.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, once told Bill Gates that digital pirating helped his nation build a budding software industry.
REUTERS Article on Eastern European Piracy

The high rates of music creation software piracy led to the electronic dance explosion coming out of Europe.

In the process, artists have gained decent followings. However, while bands in the past had followings, it was assumed that every single follower had purchased recorded music and that the band had made money. But that was not the case in the past and it still isn’t today.

I had music recorded on cassette tapes and video tapes to begin with.

  •  If the radio played a song I liked, I recorded it on cassette. I did this by pressing record every time a song started or was about to start and if I dug the tune, I kept the recording going. If I didn’t dig it, I stopped the recording and rewinded the tape to the last song, so I can start again. The rewinding part was easy when the tape was new, but when you started to record after a previously recorded song, you had to rewind to that point in time. The same process was carried out with video tapes. I was explaining this to my kids and they didn’t look amazed at all by my rewinding abilities.
  • I had friends of my brothers who had dubbed music on a cassette from someone else who copied it from someone else who copied it. So on some occasions the music I got was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. It sure sounds like mp3 downloading to me.
  • My brothers had one friend who purchased a lot of music, but he wouldn’t let no-one copy it. I remember one time I borrowed the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire and “Blow My Fuse” from Kix from him, without asking or telling him. He reckons I stole it. What kind of thief am I, when I returned the borrowed goods?

So what can artists learn from The Pirate Bay?

The Pirate Bay spread via word of mouth. It didn’t embark on a scorched earth marketing policy. For an artist there is no better marketing strategy than word of mouth. That is how virality works. With social media, it can spread even faster. But you need to be able to follow it up, quickly and with quality.

  • Volbeat got traction in the U.S in 2012 on the backs of a song they released in 2008. This in turn started to bring attention to their previous albums. Success comes later in today’s world. In some cases, much later.
  • This is very different to say, Galactic Cowboys. Back in the late eighties, Geffen Records signed them to a deal and just kept on pushing the band onto the public with a pretty high-profile marketing campaign. The marketing budget was huge, the recording budget was huge, but the public just didn’t take to them. There was no word of mouth. No one spoke about them and when you brought them up in a conversation, it was a “who”. In saying that, I thought the band was innovative and excellent.

The Pirate Bay’s user base is growing and replenishing.

  • For the thousands that stop using the service, another thousand start using the service.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Metallica, another thousand started listening to Metallica.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Ratt, another 10 started to listen to em.

You do the math as why certain things get bigger or remain bigger, while other things reduce in scale.

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

Enter Night, Exit Copyright

It’s funny how the billionaire music collectives wanted to meet with President Elect Donald Trump straight after the election. Did they ask for the meeting to work out ways to help the songwriters they represent get more money?

Of course not.

The music lobby groups and organisations backed Hillary Clinton with bribes and voices. It was pretty clear they wanted another Clinton in power. Actually if Hillary won, the U.S would have been ruled by two families (Bush and Clinton) for 20 plus years.

The two main performing rights organizations (PROs) in the industry are the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). These special interest groups collectively represent over one million songwriters, composers, and music publishers and control the rights to approximately 90 percent of all musical compositions. Originally formed to protect music artists and producers by facilitating licensing deals between them and entities that play their music for the public, such as radio stations and restaurants, ASCAP and BMI have swiftly mutated into a government-recognized (and government-created) monopoly.
Jillian Lane Wyant – American Thinker

In other words, a government granted private monopoly really interferes with the rights of the artists and destroys the public domain. But these organisations have done a wonderful job of spinning their stories, all in an attempt to protect the billions they get for really doing nothing.

So how much is the global music copyright business worth?

It’s an important question because since Napster, the only press we seem to hear is about declining CD/mp3 revenues and how those streaming billions still end up as cents to the songwriters. What seems to be selectively missed is the value of copyright.

The international record label lobby group is telling the world, the music business is worth $15 billion. However, Spotify’s Director of Economic, Will Page, has performed his own analysis and global revenues generated by music copyright in 2015 is at $24.37bn.

Who do you believe?

A record label amount shrouded in secrecy, smoke and mirrors or a report from a service that offers music, and based on statistical data models.

The $24.37bn figure is made up of $13.975 billion to the record labels, $8.257 to the performing rights organisations and $2.139 billion to publishers via direct licensing. It doesn’t even include the multi-billion dollar live industry.

So if 70% of the $24 billion was paid to artists, then $16.8 billion would be in the hands of artists. However, 90 to 95% of the monies earned from copyright goes to the Labels and the Copyright monopolies and the end result is pennies for the actual songwriters.

And if you believe the crap the labels push to their loyal news outlets about the costs of breaking an artist, then the labels are actually losing money. But, the labels and the publishers still have their sky-high towers, with their staff flying private, while 99% of the artists they hold copyrights for, fly economy or don’t even have the funds to pay for a flight let alone tour.

And think about how much power the Publishing side of music has. $10.397 billion is not small change and it’s in the hands of people who contribute nothing to music and culture.

Because it’s not the entertainment industry or the music industry; it’s the copyright industry, plain and simple. And they don’t safeguard their rights or their copyright; they safeguard their monopolies, clarified as their copyright monopoly.
TORRENT FREAK ARTICLE

Because if the copyright industry did care about the artists, why would they go to court against the artist in a bid to prevent the artist from terminating the copyright agreements.

Case in point is Duran Duran.

All they wanted was to end a longstanding contract that gave a music publishing company permission to exploit their work. Because artists who control and own the copyrights to their own catalogues, especially a catalogue full of hits, can negotiate their own streaming licensing rates and so forth. Motley Crue and Metallica are two such artists who own their copyrights and can negotiate better rates.

But in the end, Copyright laws that are designed to benefit the songwriters have been washed in waters polluted with other contract laws and what we have is a mess designed to safeguard the monopolies of the copyright industry. Because in the U.S, Copyright law specifies that artists can reclaim their copyrights after 35 years. So Duran Duran issued a termination notice to their label for their copyrights.

“What artist would ever want to sign to a company like Sony/ATV as this is how they treat songwriters with whom they have enjoyed tremendous success for many years? We issued termination notices for our copyrights in the US believing it simply a formality. After all, it’s the law in America. Sony/ATV has earned a tremendous amount of money from us over the years. Working to find a way to do us out of our rights feels like the ugly and old-fashioned face of imperialist, corporate greed. I thought the acceptability of this type of treatment of artists was long gone – but it seems I was wrong. Sony/ATV’s conduct has left a bitter taste with us for sure, and I know that other artists in similar positions will be as outraged and saddened as we are. We are hopeful this judgment will not be allowed to stand.”
Simon LeBon

If the copyright industry did care about the artists, then why would they lobby governments to write laws that kept on changing the expiry of copyright terms from 14 years to 28 years to “on death of the artist” to “death plus 70 years” and in some countries it is now “death plus 90 years” . It’s all about safeguarding their monopolies and nothing to do with protecting artists.

There is no academic evidence that proves longer copyrights leads to greater rewards or provides incentive for the creator. It’s not like the 19 year old James Hetfield said to himself, “gee, lucky copyright lasts for 70 years after I die, so I have an incentive to write “Hit The Lights” and create music”. No songwriter thinks of copyright when they sit down to write a song or to create anything worthwhile. They do it because of a need to be creative.

Remember a few years ago when Larrikin Music (a publisher) purchased to the rights to an old 50’s folk song (where the creator had died a long time ago) and then sued the songwriters of the band Men At Work for an 11 note flute sequence that sounded similar to their own flute solo in their 1980’s hit “Down Under”. Yep, that’s just one of many copyright abuses happening in the world.

However the biggest one is the “Blurred Lines” trial. Suddenly Marvin Gaye and his songs are so original. The lawyers on behalf of Gaye’s estate are spinning the story of how Gaye created in a vacuum and without any influence from artists that Gaye might have heard. And suddenly anyone who writes a song that sounds similar or has a funk/R&B feel, is copying Marvin Gaye.

Once upon a time, in 1790, the law for copyright was the creator had to register the work and they got a 14 year monopoly. They then had an option to renew for an additional 14 years for a maximum copyright of 28 years. And Copyright was never about making sure that content creators get paid. Copyright is about forcing works into the public domain so that everyone can use them. Fast forward to pre-1976, the law for copyright was 28 years (with proper registration), then another 28 years (with renewal registration) for a maximum copyright of 56 years. After that, the work entered the public domain. If the creator failed to renew at the 28-years, the work fell into public domain earlier.

Did anyone hear about the country songwriter in the 50’s who wrote songs and then sold them on to other artists for a small amount. Those other artists would then pass the songs off as their own and in some cases, those artists would end up hitting it big on a song they didn’t write. As the Knoxnews story states;

Arthur Q. Smith’s name doesn’t show up in country music history books too often, because Q, as his friends called him, sold his biggest songs outright for $25, $15 or even less. Sometimes he sold them just for the price of his bar tab. Q was a man of extraordinary talent, but also an alcoholic of legendary proportions. For years, his children only heard tales of his drunkenness from his colleagues; his accomplishments were simply well-known secrets among musicians.

An average weekly pay check in 1946 was approximately $50, and probably less in Knoxville, so $25 was a considerable pay check. Royalties were generally small unless a song was a big hit, and the pay trickled in slowly.

You see, Q didn’t just sell the song he wrote to one artist, he sold it many times to different artists, who then registered their version of the song with the Copyright office as their own composition. In effect, the same song was registered many times with many different writers, but never with the person who actually wrote it. Looks like a copyright mess to me.

And what about Orphan Works.

“These are works that are not available any more, and where it simply is not possible to find the copyright holder to seek out a license. Of course, this problem is almost entirely self-created. It’s the result of a forced switch from a system that required registration to get a copyright, to one where everything is automatically covered by copyright. Combine that with ever-expanding copyright terms and you have a recipe for a world in which the vast majority of works become “orphaned” while just a tiny few have any legitimate reason to remain under copyright protection. Millions of books, millions of photographs and hundreds of thousands of films are now considered orphaned works — unable to be either used or licensed — with many simply fading away.”

But if you listen to the copyright monopoly and their lobby groups, the world needs longer copyright terms and stronger enforcement. And yes, in order to protect the corporation, that’s exactly what Copyright needs, however in order to protect the artist, no, it’s exactly what they don’t need.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Using Our Influences

From the 50’s onwards, the Copyright industry morphed into large corporate entities. These corporations got laws passed which gave them a powerful monopoly instead of the artist. Laws which changed when copyright expires had the intention to purely to benefit the record labels and no one else. But in order to hide what the true intent of the law was, the labels sold it as a benefit for the heirs of the artist.

So what we have happening right now are lawsuits orchestrated by the heirs of the artists along with their serpent eyed lawyers. And then we have judges and juries deciding how music is created. And suddenly, the music of the departed artist is showcased as being so original and without influence that anything which came after had copied the departed artists’ music.

However, one thing cannot be disputed, all music is a sum of our influences. There is not a single musician alive who creates music without hearing any music whatsoever before. But in 2016, to be influenced by what you have heard in the past is reclassified as “plagiarism”.

Led Zeppelin built a career on copying blues and folk standards while Metallica built their career by copying their NWOBM influences and many others. Oasis built a career on copying from “The Beatles”. The Beatles built a career on copying from blues and rock standards that by the 60’s had become copyright free.

Bon Jovi built a career because Desmond Child re-used songs he already wrote for Bonnie Tyler and others. Then when Jovi had hits, they went to town, re-writing their hits. Seriously, if you look at their catalogue, “Living On A Prayer” has been rewritten for every album that came after “Slippery When Wet.” “New Jersey” had “Born To Be My Baby”. “Keep The Faith” had the title track. “Crush” had “It’s My Life”. “Have A Nice Day” had the title track. “Bounce” had the title track. “The Circle” had “We Weren’t Born To Follow”.

Five Finger Death Punch – “Lift Me Up” has a vocal melody in the verses similar to “The Ultimate Sin” from Ozzy Osbourne. A lot of people call it theft, I call it influence. Imitation is a form of flattery. The song is getting the plays. People are paying attention and that is what artists want. It is not about sales anymore, it is about listening. Are people listening to your music?

Megadeth paid homage to Black Sabbath’s, “Children of the Grave” in their new song “Kingmaker”. Alter Bridge also paid homage to Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Revelation Mother Earth” in their song “Fortress”. Continuing on with Alter Bridge, the song “The Uninvited” has a strong resemblance to Tool’s “Schism”. And all of Tool’s songs have similarities in groove and feel to King Crimson. Motley Crue borrowed from Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” and Stevie Wright’s “Eve” for their song “S3”.

Do these odes to their influences make them unoriginal?

The history of metal and rock music occurred because of some serious copying. My favourite saying is that all “progress is derivative.” What I mean by this term, is that all the music we love is an amalgamation of music that has come before. In a lot of the cases, this amalgamation involved some serious copying.

It is a shame that we have a generation of people who have grown up with a belief that music is created in a vacuum and they decide that legal threats is the best way forward.

Songs are not created in vacuums. The fun and games for the listener is in pointing out the resemblance.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

What Is Democracy?

Wikipedia states that “democracy” originates from the Greek word dēmokratía which means “rule of the people” and it’s the opposite to the word aristokratia which means “rule of an elite”.

So how does “democracy” really work for us?

Every three to four years, we tick a box on election day, to elect a leader that has been pre-selected by the ruling elite. In Australia, the Prime Ministers the people have voted in have been thrown out by their own parties ruling elite half way into their terms.

So how does the rule of the people exist?

There is a great post from last year by Ilya Somin on democracy that I have kept in my inbox for a post like this.

Recent debates over the meaning of “one person, one vote” and the lessons of ancient Greek democracy for the modern world highlight an important truth about democracy: it can’t be democratic all the way down. Lincoln famously said that democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But before “the people” can govern anything, someone has to decide who counts as a member of the people, what powers they have, and what rules they will vote under. And that someone usually turns out to be a small group of elites.

Yep, democracy has elitism at its heart. Before people can vote, someone has to decide who the people will vote for and how and for which policies.

Before a democratic process can even begin to function, some nondemocratic process has to make the rules. And those rules will have a major impact on the choices available to “the people” once they finally begin to have a say.

While the majority of people don’t care about laws and how they are made, they should care about the elites massaging the laws to benefit them.

All of this brings me to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement which has been negotiated in secret. Corporations (a form of elitist’s) and their lobby groups (another form of elitist’s) have a seat at the table with the people voted in. The only time the people hears about the terms of the agreement are from leaked documents. And it’s a bad agreement that gives corporations the power to sue Governments, if the sovereign government passes laws that interfere with the corporation’s profits. It’s taking government granted monopolies into the world. If TPP goes through, it would be a government granted world monopoly.

What about Copyright?

Money and wealth are in control of it. The corporations have taken a monopoly granted to a creator and made it into a corporate monopoly that expires 70 to 90 years after the creator’s death. And these corporations are now trying to skew the copyright laws to benefit themselves.

I came across an interesting story about “This Is Spinal Tap”. I had that movie on VHS cassette. Due to video tape destruction and lending it out to people, I purchased the original tape 4 times and eventually got it on DVD.

Harry Shearer from “The Simpsons” fame was one of the main co-creators of “This Is Spinal Tap”. He also starred in it, as the bass player, Derek Smalls. Who can forget the image of Derek stuck in the pod during the concert, unable to get out due to a malfunction or when Derek was going through the airport screens with a cucumber wrapped in foil in his pants?

Shearer and the other creators are meant to get 40 percent of net receipts however he hasn’t been getting paid, so he served papers to Vivendi and StudioCanal for $125 million.

The movie is a classic and it’s hugely popular. The fictional band is also hugely popular. However;

Despite the film’s legacy and Spinal Tap’s enduring success as an actual band able to sell out arenas, Shearer’s company Century of Progress Productions alleges that the four lead creatives have received just $81 in merchandising income and $98 in musical sales income in the past three decades from the franchise.

Have a read of the Hollywood Reporter article for more detail, but it’s these two points that prove copyright is a corporation business.

  • Harry Shearer is NOT ALLOWED to reprise “Derek Smalls”, a character that he created and played due to threats from the studio.
  • Harry Shearer does not have the rights to the songs he wrote and co-wrote for the movie. In other words he cannot do anything to monetise his own songs. However, there is a termination provision in the Copyright Act that allows the creators to cancel the copyright grants to the corporation and regain their rights. However, 35 years needs to pass before it can happen, and the termination claims need to be in by a certain period.

There is a saying in I.T that whatever sticks around long enough will break eventually. Copyright is no different. It’s been around for a long time and due to laws passed to benefit corporations in the 60’s and 70’s, copyright in its current state, is buggy like you wouldn’t believe.

The fact that copyright has given rise to new jobs around “music forensics” is enough to make me break another guitar.

Read the article, even just for the following quote;

“is evidence of one truth about the world of music copyright: There can be a lot of money involved.”

And when there is money involved, the main recipient would do anything to keep that money fountain flowing.

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My Stories

Macedonia

I reckon if Yugoslavia stayed in-tact, it would be a European powerhouse today. It was well on its way before the civil war in the 90’s. Instead of one country, Europe now has Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia as separate countries. And none of them can ever come close to the power that Yugoslavia had as a country. As part of my European holiday, Macedonia was a place I visited and stayed in for 4 weeks. Afterwards, I did Barcelona and Mallorca in Spain, Marseille in France and the Cinque Terre Coast, the Amalfi Coast and Rome in Italy.

But this post is about Macedonia.

The kingdom is ransacked, the jewels all taken back
“Clampdown” from The Clash

After the First and Second Balkan Wars booted the Ottoman Empire out of the Balkans, Tsarist Russia demanded that Macedonia be broken up into three parts as it didn’t want a Macedonian identity so close to its borders. Eventually, one part was given to Greece, one to Bulgaria and one to Serbia. Bulgaria was not happy with the spoils of war and went to war against its allies for a larger piece of Macedonia. But by then, all of the riches got taken to Istanbul.

And since then, the Macedonia that exists as a country today is known as The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia by some or Macedonia by others.

The country has a population of about 2 million. It’s hard to know the exact number because the last census was held in 2002 and back then some issues came about. The Albanian Macedonian’s either refused to participate, or complained that the line of questioning was too personal and their answers could be used for the wrong reasons in the future. And history in the Balkans has shown that old grudges and past wrongs always come back to haunt. Plus, the census took place after an Albanian Macedonian uprising was defeated.

The current government is the VMRO party. The party leader was the leader of Macedonia, however due to some tapes and questionable dealings, he is now just the “party leader” and another member of his party leads the country. Seriously, this doesn’t make sense to me at all. Surely the party leader is also the leader of the country. But this is the Balkans.

Brussels sends millions of Euro into the country. Roads are getting built and agriculture is prospering, however there is an uneasy feeling that a lot of Ministers and their underlings are pocketing a lot in the process. Euro inspectors are always questioning the lack of “work” compared to the monies/grants “given”. And the opposition party, SDS, is not really that much better. To add further complexity, people’s careers are tied to the ruling party. When the SDS party was in power, SDS supporters held all of the well-paying jobs. As soon as VMRO came in power, the SDS workers got sacked and replaced with VMRO supporters. This is a general Eastern European problem.

But putting Government politics aside, the country is unbelievable. The history and the places to see are very well worth it.

You have Struga and Ohrid, two cities on the shore of Lake Ohrid. In Ohrid, you will see excavations of a city from Ancient Rome and the Byzantine times. On the way to Sveti Naum, you will see a reconstructed city on water. Leaving Ohrid to Bitola, you will pass the rotten egg smell of the Kosel Volcano. Driving to the monastery of Sveti Jovan Bigorski, you take the winding mountain roads past Debar and are wowed by some unbelievable scenery.

In Bitola, you will see how strong the Ottoman influence was over the country and excavations in Bukovo unearthed the Ancient Rome settlement of Heraclea.

In Radozda and Kalista, you have the cave churches, created as a way to keep their Orthodox faith in hiding from the ruling powers of the era. Religion is big in Macedonia. There are so many churches for such a small land area, it’s not even funny. The city of Ohrid alone has a tourist book on sale that shows you the 365 churches around Ohrid for each day of the year. And that’s just one city. It goes to show how much power, religion has over the masses. And Macedonia has Orthodox Christians and Muslims, in other words a Balkan volcano ready to explode. But for the people of the area, let’s hope it remains dormant.

For expenses, one Australian dollar buys you 40 to 42 denari. One Euro buys you 60 to 62 denari. One American dollar buys you 55 to 57 denari. When you take into account that a 500ml bottle of alcohol costs 50 denari, a packet of cigarettes costs 68 denari and a kilo of tomatoes costs 40 denari, you can see how cheap it is to be there.

You cannot walk into a record shop and buy a CD of an artist. There are none. The ones that exists are all copies, downloaded by someone and put to CD. So downloading music illegally is huge. There is no Spotify or Apple Music or Amazon. Google Play exists, however it has no traction there and no one is going to pay for it, when the majority of Balkan artists are not even on it and for the English speaking artists, they are just a few clicks away on the pirate sites.

For an artist to sell CD’s, they have them at their concerts. When I got to Macedonia, the Ohrid Calling Festival was in progress. Al Di Meola was on the bill and the closer was Prodigy. From the stories I heard, 15,000 plus tickets were sold however that figure cannot be verified. But, there is money in live music and let’s hope the artists are fairly compensated by the promoters.

For Government meddling, a copyright dispute was brewing while we holidayed.

You see, in Macedonia, they had only one music copyright collection agency called ZAMP.

First, the Culture Ministry reduced the rate at which broadcasters had to pay ZAMP. Then the Culture Ministry granted a licence to a newly formed entity called SOKOM MAP. ZAMP believe it’s a ploy by the Government to get their hands on money meant for the artist so they banned the music of its 6,000 members from being broadcast in protest. Regardless of what ZAMP believes, I agree with what the Techdirt article states;

“ZAMP took a dispute over how much money it got to collect as the only collection group in the country and managed to reduce that amount of money to absolutely zero by banning that music from broadcasts entirely. Seems like a recipe for new legislation that will further neuter ZAMP, as one imagines the artists it represents will be screaming bloody murder any moment now.”

Nothing like Balkan politics in music. ZAMP had a monopoly and the Government decided to create another entity of its own and get some of that royalty money pie. And how is this helping the artists of Macedonia. It’s all about lining the pockets of people who contribute nothing to culture and music in general.

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