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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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Once Upon A Time In The Recording Industry

Once upon a time, the labels ruled the kingdom unchallenged. Transparency was a dirty word as the labels’ hid from their artists how much money came in and how much money they are entitled to, while at the same time, they charged the consumers high prices.

As time went on, there was talk of unrest over the high prices charged. Talks of revolution started to happen in colleges and universities. Then from out of nowhere, a young, revolutionary upstart called Napster rose up in defiance. It wasn’t long until the people adopted Napster as their means to access the vast archives of the labels and what seemed like overnight, the history of the world’s musical output was at the fingertips of the people. Sharing became prominent. Scarcity was replaced by abundance and cultures flourished. Countries and cities that had no recording industry suddenly had thriving musical scenes.

Napster showed the powerful labels how the people of the world really want to consume their product. Tunes were free and previously overpriced albums with few good tracks became unlocked for the masses to share and enjoy. And the labels had lost control because they did not give the people what they wanted.

But the labels didn’t take this defiance too lightly.

There was no way the labels would step down from their thrones and give away their position of power. There was no way the labels would allow the people to dictate terms to them. Along with Messer’s Ulrich and others, the labels went to war against the people. It was bloody and messy. Relationships strained and the labels, artists and industry would never be the same. The law played its dirty green hand and showed the world that it was never about the law but about the people who had the capacity to pay. Copyright infringers got punishments more severe than murderers and drug dealers.

With a lot of money at stake, the labels had their friends in the High Courts of the Lands pass motions to restrict Napster. But it was too late. The cultural movement Napster started would not be put to rest. A fire was lit and the people responded in the millions as they flocked to AudioGalaxy, Kazaa and Limewire. The labels responded to these uprisings via the courts.

Then from the ashes of defiance, in the country of Valhalla, “the one who has stood defiantly” set sail into “The Pirate Bay”. The sharing of culture and the expansion of the public domain became a new belief system. Political parties formed with the same ideology.

In between the nuclear litigation against the defiant entities, the record labels screamed black and blue to the politicians to pass laws to protect their bottom lines. The politicians always responded by writing laws. But the people now had a powerful voice. With the rise of the Internet, demonstrations went from the streets into the cyber age.

Then an offer came from a technology company and a man called Steve Jobs. The iPod needed a digital store and Steve Jobs dragged the record labels into the digital world. EMI had the foresight and signed first, while Sony and Universal held out until the last-minute. But the labels wanted digital rights on each mp3 and suddenly, people who legally purchased music were punished. DRM actually restricted what people could do with music they purchased legally. One label even put DRM onto legally purchased CD’s and infected the computers of the users.

While the record labels tried to protect their business models with laws and DRM, musicians started to be business people, investing in start-ups and what not. And then they signed their souls to the corporation for a pay-day while the people changed from ownership to listens.

Artists and the labels had to reset their goals. Instead of trying to get people to purchase their product, their main goal became to get someone to listen. But the industry still wants sales, especially first week sales. And that’s the problem with the industry. Not Spotify, not piracy. So much money is spent on marketing that fails to deliver anything worth paying attention to.

If the artist (along with their record label) can’t get the consumer on their side, they’re doomed. The recording industry is living proof of an industry that had to change the way they offer their music to suit what the consumers wanted. It started with iTunes and then it went to streaming. However there are labels and acts who believe otherwise, still embracing the old model instead of embracing the new.

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A to Z of Making It, Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories, Piracy

The New Music Labels

There are a lot of discussions happening around the film industry.

For example, would the new Star Wars movie be better served as a HBO/AMC/NETFLIX/etc TV Series?

Instead of a two-hour movie for Episode 7, would it serve the Star Wars story line better if it followed the Game Of Thrones formula and produced ten 1 hour episodes.

Two hours vs Ten Hours.

What would the customers want?

In relation to music, Napster pretty much showed the recording industry what customers want. More single songs than a slab of songs.

It’s pretty obvious that CD’s are not making a comeback. Yes, they are still selling, however so is vinyl. Both niche markets for the time being. The majority of the listeners have moved to streaming services, digital downloads, YouTube or P2P downloading. Whatever the method used to consume music, access is the key word.

Do we want to watch a movie in our home theatres or do we want to put up with dirty Cinema’s, people talking and deciding that the movie experience was the perfect time for them to have a Subway Roll, Satay Chicken from the Thai restaurant next door or some other kind of lunch/dinner.

What people want is instant access. But the content providers would rather sell 5 movie tickets ONCE to my family than get a percentage cut from a monthly license fee from a streaming service over and over and over and over again.

The content providers would rather sell my family ONE Blu-Ray/DVD than get a percentage cut from a monthly license fee from a streaming service over and over and over and over again.

I was talking to me kids about a movie called “Who’s Harry Crumb?” a few days ago. It got them excited to watch it. So i pulled up Netflix, searched for it and it is not there.

Bummer.

Did I got out and buy a copy of it?

Of course not. We just moved on to another movie, which in this case was “The Replacements”.

Same deal with music.

The best emails I get are the ones from Spotify when they tell me a certain album from the bands I follow is available for streaming;

In the last week, those emails have covered the following releases;

  • Survival by TesseracT
  • The Book Of Souls by Iron Maiden
  • Got Your Six by Five Finger Death Punch
  • Life, Love, Loss by Degreed
  • Here To Mars by Coheed and Cambria
  • Love, Fear and the Time Machine by Riverside

I remember the old days when we all rushed to the record store or to the cinema so we could purchase the latest music or watch the latest movie just to be part of the conversation. Why would I want those days back again.

Change is happening quicker than ever before.

We went from Napster to iTunes to YouTube to Spotify. We went from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter and back to Facebook. The major labels have withered down to three. The movie studios are doing the same.

Watch out for television to do the same. Funny thing to note, is that the channels leading the way, are channels that originally started off licensing movies from the Hollywood studios. HBO, AMC, Showtime and Netflix found out that original programming is where it’s at. Create a show that connects and watch it become part of the cultural conversation. Amazon is now involved and Apple is due to enter this market.

So what does this have to do with music and artists?

Expect Spotify to lead the way and start signing up artists because even though artists can cut a record without a major label or corporation behind them, they cannot be heard without the help of the label machine. There is a lot of money in music if you control the copyrights of artists you break through. Spotify can break an artist, they just need to start signing them and developing them.

It’s just a shame that the power players in music would rather spend their resources and monies to shut down illegal music websites through the Courts while websites controlled by terrorist like ISIS are allowed to operate. It’s a shame that the power players in music have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new digital world post Napster.

Especially when illegal music websites have allowed fans of certain styles of music to access bands they never could before. Metallica and Iron Maiden are two examples of illegal music websites growing their fan bases in countries where they sold no physical product.

So what did these bands do with that high rate of P2P piracy?

They toured those countries.

Being an artist is a business and making money in a business is hard.

The good thing for musicians today, is that all of the craziness that happened since Napster is all over. Musicians now know what the recording industry looks like and how it all hangs together within the music industry. In my view, the current ecosystem would remain stable for the next 50 years or so.

The big change that would happen is when technology companies like Spotify, Apple, Pandora, Google and Samsung get into signing and developing new artists. When these techies become like labels they will be powerful. Because of the data which they will have and control. Will the record labels then start to litigate against these techies.

Once these companies become like labels, expect them to enter the live arena as promoters. Apple and Spotify are both involved in the festivals scene.

Times they are a changing.

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

Apple

In order to lead you need to stay ahead of the game. In order to stay ahead you need to innovate/create.

Apple is one such company that is at the crossroads. The iTunes store is seeing a decrease in MP3 sales. Their first foray into streaming, iTunes radio never really took off.

The move into the streaming market dominated by Spotify and YouTube with the Beats acquisition is still at the starting gate and the birth of new products since the death of Steve Jobs has stagnated , however the iWatch is being hyped up by critics and bloggers as a savior.

But what people are failing to see is what Apple is doing behind the scenes. The acquisition of smaller companies into the Apple network forms a picture of a large corporation gearing up to control more of our daily lives.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. IT companies are billion dollar industries because of the data they harvest from us, the people. It is that data that provides a dashboard on how to market a product and to whom. And Apple are gearing up for a mammoth shake on the data front.

They have purchased Semetric, the U.K company behind Musicmetric. For those that don’t know, Musicmetric is a web service that analyses data on the internet around sales of music, P2P downloads, YouTube views, streams, social networks and sells that data to record labels, artists and others.

I saw Musicmetric as a great tool and it’s most valuable asset is that it looks at BitTorrent (p2P) downloads (both legal and illegal). It could tell an artist which countries and cities are illegally downloading their music.

To me, these are fans that can be monetised via live performances, provided the artist has the means to get there. For newer acts it tells them where their music is popular even though they don’t see that popularity translate into sales because in the end a fan base is a fan base. It has been proven that at some time down the line these fans will commit financially to the artist.

Which is a shame because I cant see how Musicmetric will stick around as a standalone service anymore.

Apple has gained a key in-house tool that it can use to track  sales and streams within iTunes alongside social networking stats. But the reason why Musicmetric worked is that it also included Spotify and YouTube activity into its dashboard, however the chances of those two entities remaining with Musicmetric (now that it is owned by Apple) seem to be slim.

Another interesting piece I came across is Apple’s latest patent, which states that it will allow people to legally share music and videos with friends as long as those users have a license. As the Torrentfreak article points out;

While “legalized P2P sharing” may sound appealing, in theory it’s actually quite restrictive. The idea introduces a new layer of content protection which means that the files in question can only be played on “trusted client software.” This means that transferring files between devices is only possible if these support Apple’s licensing scheme. That’s actually a step backwards from the DRM-free music that’s sold in most stores today.

Interesting.

So what we have is a company that has purchased a data analytics company that tracks illegal P2P sharing activity as part of its dashboard and they have just been given a patent to legalize P2P sharing amongst its users provided they have a license.

But seriously, Napster came out close to 16 years ago. Yes, 16 is the number. That is close to 6000 days ago and the recording industries have done nothing to give the fans of music anything that remotely resembles Napster. Meanwhile, technology companies have done all of the innovating.

To me this is another attempt at control and restriction and that is a bad thing.

These new tools will most probably be packaged in with their Beats music service and if my reading between the lines is correct, Beats Music will also be a P2p protocol sharing service provided the user has a license which will probably come automatically with the purchase of an Apple product.

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Thoughts On Music

Good music feels like it was made just for you and in an era right now that has artists coming and going, that song connection is what forms a sense of devotion to an artist. So when a friend of mine said that people are less devoted to artists today and more open to the listening experience I was quick to disagree. Maybe in a pop context that is the case, however when it comes to metal and rock music, that devotion is real. Of course it has changed from the past. In the past, that devotion was fostered over the purchase of an album. Today it is fostered with each song.

Go on Spotify and you can see that “Now We Die” is a song that fans of Machine Head are gravitating too. It already has almost 1.2 million streams. “Halo” has 1.9 million streams and that is from an earlier album. For me the song that I gravitated to is “Ghost Will Haunt My Bones” because god damn, that past of mine just doesn’t seem to leave me be.

Music gives us identity and it expresses how we feel. Generations are defined through music.

The British Rock invasion in the Sixties defined a generation born just after WWII and a whole cultural shift began. Punk Music defined a generation in the U.K that was beset by unemployment and another cultural shift took place. That punk attitude merged with the British Rock invasion gave birth to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal then caught on in the Eighties and in the U.S it defined a generation disenfranchised by the conservative Reagan era. Metal music appealed because it was angry and people were looking for music that they could clench their fists too. Hard rock/heavy metal music was the gang that we all gravitated to.

Music was our patch, in the same way that bike clubs patch in members.

And so much debate is happening around music that really has nothing to do with music.

There is a section of artists who are arguing that they don’t get paid enough from streaming services. Then you have streaming services that are arguing that they have killed piracy. The $2 billion that Spotify has paid to the rights holders is not a number to be compared with how much money the rights holders would have made selling CDs. Spotify is comparing that number with how much money artists would have made from piracy. And as we all know piracy doesn’t pay artists a cent.

So music is going through another cultural shift and a whole new generation is being defined. The recording industry was disrupted by technologies and there are two ways to respond. See the change as a threat or see it as an opportunity. Unfortunately 15 years after Napster, the incumbents still think only in terms of loss and insist on thinking about the industry in the same way as before.

So while a subset of people are decrying the online world, millions and millions of others have decided to embrace it, believing a relationship with their fans is what it’s all about.

And you have different mindsets competing with each other. You have people who broke in the eighties, when we were all glued to MTV and then you have people who broke in the two thousands, in an era that is still defined by turmoil. The Eighties heroes are struggling to get people interested in their new music, so their dollars come from the live circuit where they play all the classics.

We all know the old game was about making a lot of noise. That huge marketing lead up could lead to a big first week in sales. And then the album dies from the news. The normal media outlets don’t care if people are listening to the latest Machine Head album or Vanishing Point.

The game today is that if you’re a musician you would start off in music and then end up doing a lot of different things that involve speaking tours, fan funded projects, book deals and so forth. The fans will keep you alive however you need to be a realist. Musical world domination is a long shot, while being a famous public figure in the internet age is more achievable.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

A Shutdown Equals New Technologies

On December 15, 1877 Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. This simple innovation would give rise to the Copyright Industries and the Recording Labels many years later. On December 10, 2014, the Pirate Bay went offline due to a police raid based on evidence gathered by the Copyright Industries. Meanwhile, P2P sharing has remained at the same levels before the The Pirate Bay shutdown.

Goes to show that the copyright industry really hasn’t learned nothing from the past fifteen years.

Napster came and challenged everything the recording labels and the copyright industry stood for. These industries had two options, embrace Napster or crush Napster. Napster was the sharing community cultural centre for people. If the industries embraced it, then they would have been at that centre. Instead they decided to crush it and Napster’s centralised server proved to be its Achilles heel.

What the Copyright industry failed to conceive was the post Napster generation who innovated even harder, and it is no coincidence that Bit Torrent and The Pirate Bay rose a few years after Napster and the cornerstone of their innovation was decentralisation.

When The Pirate Bay came to prominence people stopped developing because the site was good enough. Everyone became complacent. But now it is down and the same catch cry is heard across the world from developers.

“NEVER AGAIN”

Already the talk around the web is that these new P2P initiatives will protect privacy, free speech, encrypted trackers and block chain technology (Blocks in a block chain are ‘sealed’ with a cryptographic hash). The legacy of Napster will live on and so will the legacy of The Pirate Bay.

Because the funny thing here is that the recording industry had a chance to control digital music. In late 1993 two audiophile computer science students were fascinated by the code that shrunk huge sound files and they started testing compressed songs to see if they could spot the difference. In time, they could no longer tell the difference and that is when it was realised that CD’s could go online. This gave rise to the first mp3 website, the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA). The vision was that by putting songs online anyone could share their music online and potentially build an audience. Bands could upload and advertise their tunes, build their own pages, sell merchandise and, eventually, let people play tracks right from the site. Bands could choose whether to charge or give away their music, in order to build a following for live shows.

With all new technologies it didn’t take long for the record labels to notice. They recognized that the free flow of music would destroy their business. But they passed on the technology and in 1999 the music industry changed forever.

Napster showed the world  how easily one could share music. However, Napster did not last long, but it altered forever the way in which people consumed music and what they should pay.

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

The Changing Times and The Record Label Business Model of STEALING From The Artist.

I remember waiting in line for an in store appearance of the band Sepultura at Utopia Records back when Utopia Records were situated on Clarence Street, Sydney. It was the early nineties and the in-store had the classic Sepultura line up. My cousin at that time (who was a drummer) had a real bashed in snare skin for Igor to sign, I had a couple of CD’s and a poster and the others all had various forms of music (LP’s or CD’s or drumsticks or guitar cases and so forth).

Sepultura was cult like popular then. They sat in an area that satisfied a few different markets. You had the “betrayed” original Metallica fans. You had fans of the original “thrash” movement. You had fans of the “Death Metal” market. You had fans of the “Extreme Metal Market”. And you had fans of the new “Groove Metal” market. Shredders appreciated them.

I remember asking one of the Utopia guys who was doing line management outside the building, why so many people came to Utopia on a daily basis just for chit-chat. He replied that they come to buy CD’s and I disagreed with him. I told him that nobody wakes up in the morning and says to themselves I need to spend $30 on a CD. We wake up in the morning and we say to ourselves, we want to hear the new Sepultura album, the new Motley Crue album and we want to hear it right now. And in order to hear that song, we HAD to buy a CD or an LP. Because radio sure wouldn’t play it.

So a bit of talking goes back and forth and the Utopia dude goes on to tell me I have no idea what I am talking about as Utopia sell hundreds of thousands CD’s a year.

The recording industry failed to realize that it existed not to sell records or CDs but simply to find the fastest, easiest way to let fans hear the song we wanted to hear. If they realised that, then they would have invented the iPod and iTunes. Instead history shows that a company not even in the music industry, did that instead. And now Apple makes billions of dollars selling music. So going back to my Utopia example, they are nowhere near the force it was back in the early to mid nineties and I wouldn’t be surprised if it shuts its doors eventually (which I hope never happens \:::/).

Apple has been selling tracks at the iTunes store since 2003. Apps, books, movies and TV shows came after. Yet, no one complained about the accounting and to my knowledge no one has sued Apple for unpaid royalties. Artists may complain about Apple taking a 30% cut, however that was the deal.

YouTube and Spotify have been streaming songs from about 2006 and 2008 respectively. Of course there are others on the market as well that offer streaming services like Pandora, Google, Deezer and so on. However, one thing these companies have done is they pay. They honour their deal. Which is the reverse of what the record labels did.

You know, those record labels that got sued by artists for their accounting practices, claiming they’ve been screwed over by the label. You know those record labels famous for paying late or paying at all. You know those record labels for never honouring a deal. You know those record labels that threatened to derail your career and you end up settling for less than you deserve.

What pisses me off is that while people complain about Spotify stream payments and YouTube stream payments and Pandora royalties,  at least these techies are honest in their deals at this point in time. It just seems that the record labels who are the majority rights holders are not passing on the monies.

Because a deal is never a simple deal to the recording business. The labels don’t want simple. The labels don’t want royalties to be computerised because that would mean there is transparency and with transparency, profits would disappear. The major label business model is based on STEALING from the artist. That is why you have artists like Eminem, Dave Coverdale and others suing their labels for unpaid iTunes royalties. That is why you have artists suing their labels for unpaid monies due to creative accounting practices.

Believe me, if an CEO’s pay packet was suddenly short, he’d drop everything and do his best to get it right if the problem wasn’t immediately rectified. But if it’s the artist?

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