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, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Price Reset

All prices have a reset.

The live business greed at the moment is like the record label greed pre-Napster. Releasing albums with two to three good songs and charging too much for it.

If artists allow corporations to keep exploiting their fans in this way, there will be a backlash.

A price reset.

In the same way housing prices and share prices have a reset.

Even the recording business consumer prices have had a reset however the licensing fees the labels charge to services have increased exponentially.

On demand TV has had a price reset because of Netflix. There is a whole new generation who don’t even remember what Cable is.

Artists need to make money, there is no doubt, however just because they release new music it doesn’t mean they are not entitled to make money.

No one has a right to make money from music. Ed Sheeran gave his music away for free and played for free. It was only after Sheeran established his worth in the market that he was able to start making some money.

In other words, just because Ed Sheeran decided to write and produce music, it didn’t mean he had an entitlement to be paid from the start; he had to prove to people that he was worth paying for before people did so.

The internet distribution methods allows everyone to create. There are no gatekeepers. So anything an artist creates is competing with everything released today and in the past.

You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free.

Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

Francis Ford Coppola on answering a question about how a start up artist can make money in the current P2P 2011 climate.

It’s an old interview from 2011 but Coppola makes some relevant points especially the last line about disconnecting the idea of cinema (and in my view any art in general like music and books) with the idea of making a living or earning money.

And it’s hard for people because we’ve all grown up in an era that showcased the millions movies and bands made.

And there are always different ways around making money. You just need to put the hard work in.

Trent Reznor had some albums released for free on P2P and they proved popular. He released a super deluxe edition afterwards and people purchased this limited edition run and he grossed $700,000.

Amanda Palmer is the crowd funded hero.

Even Protest The Hero was surprised how large their fan base is when they went the crowd funded route after being dropped by their label. For the next release, they did a special Bandcamp release with a 6 month subscription for a song a month. They then released the songs in vinyl and people still purchased them.

I recently did a post about an R&B artist who uses Spotify listening data to organize tours and making some good coin around it.

So what are you waiting for.

You have the tools, it’s time to find the business model that fits.

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