Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

The “Respect Act” Does Nothing For The Artists But Everything For The RIAA and SoundExchange

I have been doing some reading on the “Respect Act” that is being pushed by SoundExchange the performance rights organization in the US that collects royalties. So the 1976 Copyright Act, made sound recordings from 1972 and after covered leaving all pre-1972 sound recordings in legal no mans land. Proponents for these recordings have suggested that one way forward is to retroactively say that all pre-1972 sound recordings are under federal copyright law.

BUT….

The RIAA has battled tooth and nail against this. Here are the reasons why;

Did you know that the copyright under state laws lasts so much longer. So in turn the record labels get to keep the copyright for a longer period. So the Record Labels and the RIAA like this.

Did you know that the copyright under state laws does not have any termination rights. The Record labels and the RIAA like this. In the 1976 Copyright Act, the original creator is allowed to take back their copyrights for all recordings released in 1978 and after. The Record Labels and the RIAA don’t like this and this is one of the main reasons why the RIAA has battled hard to not put PRE-1972 Recordings under FEDERAL COPYRIGHT.

Did you know that the copyright under state laws does not have a public performance right. That means that there are no necessary licenses for the streaming of such works. And it has been accepted in this way for over 40 years. And the “RESPECT Act” would only extend the performance rights part of the state laws to pre-1972 sound recordings, while leaving everything else about those works uncovered by federal copyright law. So the RIAA with SoundExchange is putting only the parts of copyright law that it likes on pre-1972 sound recordings, while keeping the remainder under state laws.

Yep it sure sounds like some RESPECT for the artists. This is from the press release;

“Project72 kicks off with an open letter, signed by more than 70 recording artists, calling on digital radio to treat all sound recordings equally and to “pay for all the music they play.”

I like how they emphasise the “pay for all the music they play.” So who will actually get paid? History has dictated that it will not be the artist.

I remember reading a statement from Roger McGuinn that he made before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on July 11, 2000. And yes he is a supporter of “Project 72”.

Hello, my name is Roger McGuinn. My experience in the music business began in 1960 with my recording of “Tonight In Person” on RCA Records. I played guitar and banjo for the folk group the “Limeliters.” I subsequently recorded two albums with the folk group the “Chad Mitchell Trio.” I toured and recorded with Bobby Darin and was the musical director of Judy Collins’ third album. In each of those situations I was not a royalty artist, but a musician for hire.

My first position as a royalty artist came in 1964 when I signed a recording contract with Columbia Records as the leader of the folk-rock band the “Byrds.” During my tenure with the Byrds I recorded over fifteen albums. In most cases a modest advance against royalties was all the money I received for my participation in these recording projects.

In 1973 my work with the Byrds ended. I embarked on a solo recording career on Columbia Records, and recorded five albums. The only money I’ve received for these albums was the modest advance paid prior to each recording.

In 1977 I recorded three albums for Capitol Records in the group “McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman.” Even though the song “Don’t You Write Her Off” was a top 40 hit, the only money I received from Capitol Records was in the form of a modest advance.

In 1989 I recorded a solo CD, “Back from Rio”, for Arista Records. This CD sold approximately 500,000 copies worldwide, and aside from a modest advance, I have received no royalties from that project.

The same is true of my 1996 recording of “Live From Mars” for Hollywood Records. In all cases the publicity generated by having recordings available and promoted on radio created an audience for my live performances. My performing work is how I make my living. Even though I’ve recorded over twenty-five records, I cannot support my family on record royalties alone.

In a Ultimate Classic Rock interview, Roger McGuinn mentioned the following;

“In my case, I recorded ‘So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ with Chris Hillman and the Byrds. Chris and I wrote it in ’67 and it was on our ‘Younger Than Yesterday’ album that came out that year. Then Patti Smith covered it in the ‘70s and Tom Petty covered it in the mid-‘80s and they both get paid royalties for performance but the Byrds don’t. It doesn’t seem fair.”

The RESPECT Act would still not change the part about getting paid royalties from the cover versions that people made of the song and the unfortunate part is that most of the royalties paid for digital streaming would go to the record labels who only paid him a small advance.

Did you also know that George Holding, the American Representative that is bringing in the legislation used to work for a law firm called Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton that is well-known for its intellectual property practice. Sure sounds like a lot of RESPECT for the artists.

Did you also that John Conyer, the American Representative that is also supporting the legislation was involved in a copyright controversy when he opposed a bill that would make federally funded research freely available to the public. Conyers was influenced by publishing houses who contributed significant money to him.

Did you also know that Mark Farner, of Grand Funk Railroad would still not get a cent from his pre-1972 songs because after a dispute with the band’s manager over his $350 a week employee payments, he had to give up all the rights to the music.

I am all for artists getting paid. BUT in this case they are being used. They will not see a cent of these monies.

Another great article on the subject.

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The War Between Streaming and Black Box Revenue – Will The Record Labels Kill The Streaming Star?

The public has voted. It prefers streaming. The war is over. Case Closed. Maybe not.

Spotify pays millions to copyright holders. Now unless the artist is a DIY artist who controls their own copyright, most of the copyright holders are the major labels. So if the major labels are getting the millions each year for the blanket license to access their catalogues, where is that money going.

There is a term doing the round, called “Black Box Revenue.” This is the name given to income that the record labels collect that cannot be directly tracked to the recordings of a specific artist.

To put it all into context, streaming services pay the labels and upfront fee to access their catalogues. In addition, they then pay the labels royalties for each stream.

In time, this streaming system will be challenged by artists, much the same way the mp3 sales system was challenged by Eminem and other artists like Whitesnake, Rob Zombie and the band White Zombie.

In all of these cases, the artists said that their record label violated their contracts by counting a digital download as a sale instead of a licensing. Most artists get a royalty of 10 percent for the sale of a CD, minus a lot of deductions, while licenses pay a royalty of 50 percent and in most cases are not subject to any deductions.

When the same thing happens to the labels streaming revenue, the long-term viability of streaming services will be less than certain.

The main part of streaming that the critics and the record labels fail to understand is that it is a tool that is in place now, to PROVIDE REVENUE STREAMS later.

Of course the record labels and the executives in charge are all about the NOW, and a lot of their label rosters are designed for the NOW, so they don’t have time to allow things to grow. Spotify is growing in users, however the company still hasn’t made a profit after so many years in operation. The streaming system employed by the record labels that I mentioned above doesn’t allow it to make a profit.

Spotify wants to reduce piracy to ZERO. At the moment the critics of Spotify like Thom Yorke are complaining that it simply doesn’t pay enough. The truth is, creators have always been ripped off. However, if a song is great and it gets some traction, expect it to pay well.

Daft Punk passed 100 million downloads. The $700,000 that comes with that in streaming payments is enough for a band to live off, however artists see very little of the dollars paid to the record labels for the right to stream their content.

However with YouTube dominating in music, why do people need Spotify? Actually, Thom Yorke has no issues with YouTube, an unofficial streaming platform which is interesting. So I am thinking that Thom Yorke’s issue is with the record labels stake in Spotify.

Personally, I am quite content to listen to three songs on Spotify and get an ad break. I have no interest in paying for a package even if Spotify caps the limit of free songs I can listen to in a month. I will just move to YouTube when that happens, or to my iTunes library or to my physical collection of LP’s and CD’s.

What about the songwriters who write the songs? How do they get paid in the streaming age. It’s simple. They get paid, the same way everyone else gets paid that provides a service. Songwriters need to stop being greedy. What they need to do is hand in the song, get paid the agreed monies and off they go, writing more songs for artists. If a songwriter gets paid $1000 for each song they hand in, then they know they need to write 50 songs in order to earn $50,000. If one of the songs gets traction and gets 100 million streams, the songwriters should be using that as a piece of promotion and up their song writing fee. It’s simple business practices.

It is a revolution that we are experiencing.

Musicians can still make a living. Is it harder now compared to the past? My answer is NO. Musicians always had to work hard to get somewhere, that part hasn’t changed and it will never change.

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