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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Music industry's tactics go too far

Posted Thursday, February 18, 2010, at 11:06 AM

Those of us who pay close attention to the music industry -- and record companies plus performance rights agencies in particular -- have reason for concern with its seeming obsession about controlling music over the Internet.

I have no problem with record (side note: Why are they still called "record"?) companies making a reasonable profit. Note the word "reasonable."

But some of the music industry's heavy-handed tactics are beginning to go too far.

Examples:

* Record companies are attempting to have Congress pass a bill which would require radio stations to pay artist royalties for songs played over the air. They claim all countries except a few dictatorships already require this. How ironic: Comparing one of our freedoms to communism.

*Thousands of over-the-air radio stations and many net-only operations which web stream (as opposed to over-the-air broadcasting) are appealing a ruling which would require paying royalties equalling a ridiculously-high amount of their profits.

*An official of Warner Music Group -- one of the largest music companies -- says his firm will pull his artists' songs from free, ad-supported, on-demand Internet music services such as last.fm. The firm prefers services such as Rhapsody, where users must pay $12.99 to $14.99 per month (that's $156 to $180 per year, folks) just to listen.

What possible difference should it make whether the money comes from advertisers or users -- unless the record industry's trying to create a mindset of "pay for everything you hear" among listeners?

Now consider another aspect: The days of radio as a source of music in its current form may be limited as in-car computers and online audio streams become the preferred form of mobile "reception."

So: Is the music industry attempting to take advantage of many lawmakers' lack of knowledge or interest in the music business to legally gain total control of music on the Internet in America? And, in the process, gain the control they've never had over radio -- and create an environment in which the ability to listen to music for free disappears?

Those record executives need to consider their actions more closely.

Musicians can replicate a studio environment today with a laptop computer. As a result, London's famed Abbey Road Studios -- a still cutting-edge operation and the home of The Beatles' recording sessions, among many other groups' -- is for sale and, so far, no buyer's been found.

In these days when technology is available to anyone, do artists really need contracts with record companies? All radio has to do to avoid paying royalties is play songs by unsigned artists who can distribute their own work by simply posting MP3 files for download.

Music companies' survival may lie in treating consumers like valued customers and over-the-air/online music sources as partners -- and allowing free listening to continue. But alienating the very consumers needed for survival is NOT the way to remain a viable business.


Comments
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I'd wondered what they were thinking-other than trying to stay alive.

There's even a magazine called Dirty Linen that supports the artists that don't fit with the big companies or the radio stations that sound the same everywhere.

The people behind the publication decided there was a market out there for music made by individuals for niche audiences.

This music came from live performances,home-grown studios or "Mom-and-Pop" recording companies overshadowed by the rest.

Their sound has gone directly from musician to listener with no middleman.

Now,that kind of environment is taking over.

It makes specific types of music more accessible today than they were even in the days of Motown or Muscle Shoals.

When web comics pull ahead of King Features,Marvel or DC,when a YouTube and its ilk outdistances the networks,Disney,MGM,Warner,Fox,Paramount,Dreamworks,Sony and Weinstein and even games are part of collaborations between creators and consumers,the former channels for entertainment are going to have to become partners in the new system or attempt to squelch it.

As the new set-up is less vulnerable to censorship or commercial exploitation,I can see which choice "the suits" might want to make.

But,we may have the power to thwart these obsolete masters.

A new generation might discover better product than they ever could have imagined while those of us who can recall humbler,more creative times can see old classics preserved and new masterpieces emerge in unprecedented numbers.

IF the companies have creativity of their own,they'll find a way to join the new wave instead of hampering it.

If not,they may attempt to sting their successor when they can't re-invent themselves enough to survive in a changed environment.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 12:08 PM

David, I was shocked to learn of this bill. I thought that record companies and artists were already getting a cut for every record played. I can remember that as far back as the '50s DJ's had to keep a log of songs played and when they were played. I was under the impression that the purpose among other things was so the radio station would know how much they owed for the rights to play the records.

-- Posted by leeiii on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 12:43 PM

What is amazing is that people even listen to the crap that plays on the radio, period. I flip between 99.7 and Free Beer and Hotwings in the mornings during my commute. If it is uninteresting or an advertisement is on, I'll search through to see what else I can find. I can hear the same 3 songs played on 107.5 at least twice in an hour long drive.

One would think that Lady Gaga is the only person in the history of the world who has ever come out with an album. It seems that her record label has a monopoly on radio stations. It is only a matter of time before I hear a collaboration between herself and Tim McGraw. At that point, I will exit the nearest off-ramp and drive into oncoming traffic. Also, it kills me that they refer to her as being futuristically stylish. She dresses like a nutjob. If the average person in this country EVER starts dressing like that, we deserve to be overrun by Muslim extremists.

Moreover, big name artists like Lady Gaga and Kanye West no longer have to possess talent to make it in the music industry. They sell an image, and a crazy/stupid image at that. They sing along with harmonizers. If you have a computer, you can make Gilbert Gottfried sound like Barry Manilow.

-- Posted by TubeSock on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 2:09 PM

I am a child of the '60s and I have purchased music in every format. I have always strongly felt it was my right as the owner of that 45 or CD that I had a right to do with it as I please. It is my paid for property. As long as I do not profit from my property, I feel I have a right to duplicate for my own use, duplicate to swap albums, load on to my MP3 player, forward via internet a song or album or send the music to the landfill as long as I don't receive payment for it. The music industry has forever tried to make it illegal to duplicate under the conditions above. It is not like the artists are starving or losing the farm. It all comes down to a major mindset in our country. Corporate greed...the music industry is not exempt. Why should a 14 track CD with only one or two decent songs be worth $14 to $18? It certainly does not cost even half that to produce. If things keep going as they have in the past, they will price themselves out of the music market and buyers will demand single song purchase. We are already seeing some music marketed this way.

-- Posted by chs61 on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 2:11 PM

"In these days when technology is available to anyone, do artists really need contracts with record companies?"

No, they don't.

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/2...

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 3:34 PM

"Do artists really need contracts with record companies?"

If an artist isn't willing to give away his or her work, how are they to be compensated when it's consumed by the public? Record labels provide an economy of scale that individual artists can't afford. Book authors and film makers wouldn't get paid if there weren't print publishers, film studios and distributors. Marketing, promotion, publicists, advertising and tour support all cost money and lots of it. If an artist is discovered on U-Tube and gets signed by a major label, he or she may get a signing bonus which is actually an advance against future unearned royalties. The label still has to cover the recording production costs and expenses listed above. A mega-selling artist provides enough income for the labels to sign unknowns and take a chance on them much like a book publisher or NFL team. If the signee is a bust the label eats the loss. I'm not aware of an artist's compensation for internet exposure being anywhere near what it would be as a major label artist.

As far as radio stations paying artists for air play; David, how long do you think a radio station would stay on the air if it only played unsigned artists? In reality musicians and most artists are being paid indirectly as a result of radio airplay of their product. It works like this. The record labels pay royalties into a trust fund set up by the musicians' union (AFofM). The amount of the royalty is based on the national chart position attained by the recording. If a musician or artist plays on a top ten hit he or she will earn well into six figures for playing on a single recording session. Of course a record won't become a top ten hit without radio airplay. Most all recording artists are members of the AFofM or they couldn't play the major concert venues which are all unionized.

Then there's the symbiotic relationship between radio and the record labels in which the artist benefits. Since the artist's biggest source of income is from touring he depends on radio airplay and station sponsorship to help sell tickets. When Cumulus Broadcasting got into concert promotion the artist was the ultimate beneficiary.

I believe songwriters, and artists who write their own material, are entitled to compensation for the consumption of their work the same way book authors or film makers are. The dilemma facing ASCAP, BMI and SESAC is how do you license a song for use on the internet if someone is using it for financial gain?

The bottom line is, intellectual property needs to be protected and the creator compensated if we're consuming his or her work for pleasure or for profit.

Good dicsussion.

-- Posted by Jerry Fox on Fri, Feb 19, 2010, at 12:15 AM

I am old school, I still buy CD's and do not have an MP3 player. I love all music and if they charge, then they charge. I have music on my DirecTV, Tapes, Radio and CD's.

As long as I can still buy a CD that I want then I am fine. I usually dig all of the tracks on the CD by a band so I have no worries.

I have a huge selection of CD's and tapes. Lady GaGa, Manson, Nelson, George Strait, Trisha, Eagles, Bon Jovi, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Barry White, Gladys Knight, Ozzy, Mariah and too many more to mention.

Point being, they have been charging for radio and TV (MTV, VH1, Fuse) for quite awhile and whatever the majority of the money makers want is what is going to happen. They do not ask what we want, just what they want to do. Hello, it is as simple as the dress code around here.

We might not like it but the majority of the voters that actually get to vote will have their say.

They write the rules as they need them to fit for their rules.

A lot of bands have tried to fight it, but have fallen short. No one can keep someone from copying/burning disks and taking them back. It has been going on since they invented tape recorders.

I know a lot of cats that recorded the radio when their favorite song was played on the radio.

As a side note, you can record a song on the DVR and save it to your comp. and then have it on your mp3 and for no charge.

Point being, no matter what happens, someone will find a loop hole.

-- Posted by UVilleGators on Sat, Feb 20, 2010, at 1:33 AM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.