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Hey Lazz

Sad, but it's no more than expected.

While business models have also evolved and the industry has been shaken to the point it is a shadow of it's former self it perhaps time songwriters really put pressure on governments to treat illegal downloads as theft, and about time artists and songwriters put pressure on their professional bodies to take a stand regarding streamed audio pricing forcing YouTube to do a fairer deal or go illegal. Just now they seem to think they have the music business over a barrel... probably because they do.

Pretty soon songwriters will have so little income they will simply have to quit the industry and look for employment elsewhere... let's face that is already happening... but I'm thinking across the board. Sad.

Cheers

John

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Gents...

Other than "YouTube", I'm not familiar with any of the European music industry players mentioned in the article. However, I consider the pitched and contentious battle over the revenue to be gleaned from artistic productions of any kind to be a depressingly familiar and tiresome capitalistic conundrum, and largely a catfight between equally greedy entities.

Contrary to popular opinion that says the music industry scours the planet tirelessly looking for the next, fresh, young talents, I believe that the cost of managing such a gargantuan search party is actually prohibitive and way too time-consuming for greedy execs. I believe the music industry barons make musical hits out of creating a scarcity of product, not unlike the diamond industry. In other words, if the marketing forces that promote "new talent" focus more or less exclusively on only a few artists that they can mould, make-over and manage in a cost-efficient way, then only those few artists will ever truly have a chance of becoming "hit-making" performers. That's the reason for all the hyperbole that's generated for the few superstars who rake in such massive profits for the labels. If you repeat something often enough, people will believe it. So-and-so is a "musical genius", another so-and-so is "authentic, the Real McCoy", and yet another so-and-so is "redefining the genre", “stretching the boundaries”, a “real crowd-pleaser”, and so on, and on, and on... They tell us who and what we should listen to, and because we so often attribute success and quality of product to an association with a famous, well-known producer of that product (the larger, most visible music labels, in this case), we believe and buy accordingly.

I regularly purchase downloaded music from new artists whom I find exciting off of music sites all over the Internet, like CD Baby and others. I think people will pay what they believe the music they listen to is worth, without help from anonymous "taste-makers", critics, and whoever else sets themselves up to be the so-called experts. The optimal medium and the great leveling ground for the distribution of musical works at this time in history is the Internet. Just as musicians of old roamed the land "playing for their supper", we also have the same opportunity to profit from our creations; only the landscape has changed from dirt to cyberspace.

All we have to do is come down off of our unrealistic expectations of overnight success and multi-million dollar contracts, work on our craft, bypass the giant, monopolistic record companies and calmly push our little boats into the great and diverse musical streams of the Internet. We’ll find our audience without all this…this other stuff. And if we happen to find out that we can’t support ourselves that way, then it’s time re-assess our career options, you know? Take up brick-laying, or veterinary medicine, or making kites for kids…

bluage

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tiresome capitalistic conundrum, and largely a catfight between equally greedy entities.

Either you are mistaking me for someone else or it's about time I began to feel insulted.

.

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Either you are mistaking me for someone else or it's about time I began to feel insulted.

.

Hello, "Lazz"...

Well, you got me squinting on that one! I'm not sure I understand your reply. Come again, would you?

bluage

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Hey bluage

I think his point is that he is a working songwriter and runs a record label, and by your definition that makes him doubly greedy. I have some sympathies with "this is the way it is, get used to it" idea, but at the same time I am angered by the general public perception that somehow things have worked out that music is not valued, nor are musicians, nor songwriters and none of the above are due fair recompense.

I'll get into it a little, but I'm not getting at you.. either of you. There are a lot of misconceptions about the music industry, generally provided by sound bites, famous cases and of course our ever self-justifying illegal downloaders. What you say may be true to some extent of some of the very biggest companies, but most labels are not huge, nor are their artists, publishers etc. Yes there are greedy individuals, but be careful of daubing everyone with the same brush or damning an entire industry because of it.

I understand that from the outside these issues seem to be argued by highly successful artists and large corporations, but that is the tip of the iceberg. The visible part of the equation. Most professional writers and performers and indeed publishers and labels are busy trying to scratch a living. I don't see how it is greedy... though I can see how it can appear that way.

I think it's fair to expect fair recompense for performing a good job. If you came up with an earth shattering invention... lets say holographic tv... and you had no money to make it... along comes a company that says they'll front the cash and give you their contacts... is it fair that they both should expect a percentage when it comes to sales? Would you expect a set fee, say $1000 from the company for the idea?

I think both sides are capable of being greedy, or wanting more control. Is that any different than a salesman getting a commission? You wanting a raise from your boss? Should songwriters expect to go unpaid, or for that matter to simply hand over their songs for free and go work as a waiter? Years of investment, years of training and a lot of hardship... for nothing? Simply put, it's people's livelihoods we are talking. By far the majority are already failing to scrape a living. An equivalent here is a building union agreeing with 3rd party to rent out all houses built by it's members for 5 cents a month.. you can imagine what that would do to the housing market. After years of making home improvements, paying bills and getting in debt you find your own house is now worth 5 dollars... would you be pleased? I doubt it.

it's a fact that the industry is changing and being reshaped... in a way that the large companies are the only ones making money, primarily as a result of ditching staff and finding new ways to get their money from the public, leaving writers and artists in the dust. But lets be clear, that is pretty well only the big companies... the great accomplishment of the illegal downloads market... it has successfully made the artist unimportant and in the name of public greed and a deluded notion of self-righteousness it is quite content to hand over millions to streaming sites putting to the torch the idea that it was about anything other than self-serving greed.

I'm NOT saying this to attack you bluage, far from it. It just struck a nerve. It's a discussion seeking to explore the topic and any anger I have is directed at the illegal downloaders, the music industry as a whole, and to be honest the general public for standing by and watching it happen, not at you personally. Am I offended? No, but I do disagree with your blanket statement about greed :P.

Moving on, there are taste makers... and unfortunately the masses seem quite content to be spoon fed. People may tell us what to listen to, but ultimately that is up to the individual to decide what to do. We are told what to eat, what to drink, what to buy for our car, what to wear... we may resent it but en masse we still do it... this should be different why?

Don't get me wrong... I try to be independent of mind, and have my own little rebellion against taste makers, but it's a fact of life that will require a sea change on a whole lot of topics.

We have a few label owners as members and staff. personally I would like to see more of this debated, but not as some kind of witch hunt. We are in dangerous times for the industry and being prepared, exchanging ideas, cooperation are all vital... or there will be no real industry left.

Imagine all Tv becomes like your local amateur dramatic society productions... part-timers. I'm not saying all Am-Dram is bad far from it, but across the board the production standards and the talent is somewhat less than most TV shows... because that is exactly the equivalent territory the music industry is heading for... after all, if you are going out to work every day that doesn't let you have time to hone your skills, to practice the profession... the pursuit of excellence... gone.

Peace, sorry if I got a bit ranty :)

John

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Hello, "Lazz"...

Well, you got me squinting on that one! I'm not sure I understand your reply. Come again, would you?

bluage

Don't worry about it, blu.

No big deal at all.

I do completely understand you had no intent for insult - honestly I do - but in my flippant style rendered ambiguous by my rejection of the 'orrible emoticon, as John quickly spotted, I chose to take it personally purely for effect and provocation.

By posting the link I was just passing along some news about the battles over royalty.

My hope in responding to your opinion of it was to suggest with levity dry as martini that the story could more properly be seen as about us little guys getting shafted by the heroic innovations of new media in which the monopoly of big guys already maintains a vested pecuniary interest such that whichever way the juice ends up getting squeezed the flow will stay largely unidirectional. And their current business model only works most effectively with the lowest of usage royalties - i.e. by giving us little guys at the end of the line even less.

Our influence on these outcomes – other than through representations from stakeholders ‘professional organizations – is pretty much zilch/zip/nada. Me and others like me, we have little realistic choice other than play these cards as they are being dealt and try to read the game ahead as best we can. So I have to tell you, as long as it helps raise a smile, about this wild Charles Bronson fantasy which my tiny mind conjures more and more whenever I'm handed yet more unctuous platitudes from the book of nouveau-teknik doctrines that John encapsulated so perfectly as ""this is the way it is, get used to it". This movie sees me screaming "F*ck you!" at the offenders while rendering the hardest kick I can possibly muster to their tenderest most personal parts so that I can finally stand over them gloating with my reflection of their own mantra: "This is the way it is, punk. Get used to it".

On the one hand there are self-serving myths about how the music world turns.

On the other hand there are front-line realities.

But do either of them make me greedy ?

Moi ?

I mean, here I am doing my thing to high standards and fighting to get paid my due like loads of others in the same soggy boat. And we're all bailing out like crazy and trying to paddle out of the way while the good ship force majeure steams full speed ahead down upon us. Bound to sink us for sure.

Come down off my unrealistic expectations of overnight success and multi-million dollar contracts ?

Good grief man, these ideas are part of the aforementioned mythic perspective only, not the reality.

Thank you for the sincere suggestion, but I can assure you that all who stand toiling honestly in amongst the actual arts landscape have long had our eyes wide open.

Time to re-assess my career options ?

Thanks again - but I already hold down two other gigs right now.

(Funnily enough, both of those jobs also involve occasionally being patronised - wouldn't you just know it ?)

Hope that helps both to contextualise my one-liner and also explain how, if a person really wanted to, it wouldn’t be too hard to construe aspects of your position as an ill-informed affront.

Just sayin’…. as the kids today regularly offer as talismanic all-purpose excuse - we are all ordinary regular Songstuff mates here, so I don't actually necessarily fully subscribe to that pont of view.

Yours in sincere good humour,

Lazz.

.

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Howdy, fellers...

Lazz, in retrospect I can see how my generalization about the "big labels" could incite a challenge to that generalization by a label owner, although I was only speaking of the so-called "major players" like Sony, EMI, Warner, and Universal. Recently I read (and I'm sorry I don't remember the source) that these 'big four" control about seventy per-cent of the global music market, and about 80% of the United States market. But since I didn't list them in my intial response, that makes what I wrote a generalization.

John, I received your response with interest and enthusiasm, but I'm not sure precisely what you were reacting to most fervently in my intial response, so I'm gonna ask you for a little clarification, if you don't mind. You indicated that the pitch of your response was not necessarily directed at me personally, and I accept that. Nonetheless, it's obvious that what I wrote induced a potent reaction regardless of who, or what, you were directing it at. So, I'm interested in knowing where and how my words provoked you.

What I thought I was saying in my intital response was that us composers / songwriters could bypass some of the most common problems (creative, financial, and promotional) associated with the largest and most propserous music producers by seeking out our own outputs for our creations, which I believe is where the Internet could be most serviceable. Obviously, I didn't get that across as clearly as I wanted to.

"I am angered by the general public perception that somehow things have worked out that music is not valued, nor are musicians, nor songwriters and none of the above are due fair recompense."

Would you tell me what it was in my response that summoned this feedback from you? I'm not aware of how anything that I wrote could have suggested disregard for music, musicians or their right to "fair recompense".

Just for the record, I certainly don't approve of illegal downloading.

"Should songwriters expect to go unpaid, or for that matter to simply hand over their songs for free and go work as a waiter? Years of investment, years of training and a lot of hardship... for nothing? Simply put, it's people's livelihoods we are talking."

Certainly not! Was there something I wrote that suggested my advocacy for that idea?

Let's keep this going. I'm looking at this discussion mostly as a way to learn how to present my written ideas in a fashion that appears less subjective, and more clarified.

bluage, beholden

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although I was only speaking of the so-called "major players" like Sony, EMI, Warner, and Universal.

AHA !!

This seems to confirm my early suspicion that you failed to read or comprehend the story.

This is NOT about a "largely a catfight between equally greedy entities".

This is about songwriters' struggle with the dominant forces.

So I believe you misread the real roll-call of combatants and chose instead to go with the play-book of myth.

You are right that the 'majors' dominate the music marketplace. It's the nature of their enterprise. Their wider networks of corporate relationships involve them in an enormous bunch of other stuff as well which is worthwhile if not essential to be aware of. The structure and imperatives of international monopoly capitalism have quite naturally driven them to assume an interest in the new-media delivery systems. From their point of view, you know it makes sense, it adds up. So there is no real scrap between the majors and speculative technical innovations like Spotify or MOG or TDC or YouTube. The majors are comfy corporate bedfellows with each of them.

It is the associations representing songwriters which have been engaging with the pressures from these combined forces.

That's where the fight is.

Much more David and Goliath than "equally greedy entities", I think.

Was there something I wrote that suggested my advocacy for that idea?

Yes - if I may - perhaps the general nuance of tone which appeared to uncritically reiterate the essence of ideological mantras re the internet as saviour delivered with the swagger of 'serve-you right' insouciance like this:

All we have to do is come down off of our unrealistic expectations of overnight success and multi-million dollar contracts, work on our craft, bypass the giant, monopolistic record companies and calmly push our little boats into the great and diverse musical streams of the Internet. We’ll find our audience without all this…this other stuff. And if we happen to find out that we can’t support ourselves that way, then it’s time re-assess our career options, you know? Take up brick-laying, or veterinary medicine, or making kites for kids…

I think you express yourself very ably - but what you had to say wasn't really much anything to do with the issues in the story to which I linked.

.

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Hey blu

It wasn't that your comments were insulting, or that your comments were being viewed in isolation... I was commenting after reading your comments within the context laid out by the article.

Like Lazz I believed your comments were based upon the urban myths put forward about the music industry, primarily by illegal downloaders... which is where that whole shebang came in in my comments. The whole set of arguments put forward by them has completely skewed public perception of the industry leaving the public ill-informed with a view which is used as a convenient argument by many people as a reason to rebel against the music business.

That for me is the backdrop of this article, as it is the panic caused within the industry that has put pressure on collection societies to make such paltry arrangements with streaming sites, affected songwriter negotiations with labels etc.. (as direct sales income has gone done labels have shifted to making money from live performance and merchandise sales... this has left songwriters out in the cold with no income as their royalties deals often contain no consideration from merchandise and not enough from live concerts...)

So my comments were born from frustration that still, even amongst musicians and writers, the same arguments hold sway, while at the same time this article underlines the rapid decline and oh so pending doom...

Cheers

John

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I think you express yourself very ably - but what you had to say wasn't really much anything to do with the issues in the story to which I linked.

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Hello blu,

I guess the garden must belong to you, but are the graduations yours or those of your children?

they are spending less time searching and more time promoting a much smaller pool of musical "product".

If it’s safe to presume that ‘they’ refers to ‘labels’, it has been a truth for a long time that they don’t ‘search’ at all much anymore. Traditional mythical A&R is long gone. They largely favour introductions through networks of established industry contacts. And their sales resources get slung behind whatever project shows signs of creating a return. The mud-pie process still rules: i.e. a handful of projects are slung against the wall and whichever achieves the greatest adherence gets more of the push than the others. Way back when I was once trying to deal with Island, for example, I witnessed how, when there was a release by a top band of the time called ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’, everything else on their desk just fell by the wayside and was ignored to death.

So you’re right: they focus on a small pool.

But they always have – their priorities are strictly governed by numbers.

You’re right, too, about the sheer volume of music. The availability and distribution of bedroom technologies means that these days anyone can produce music product – so everyone does, pretty much, to the extent that regular distributors and retailers, predominantly now turned to dust, instead of looking at 300 releases per week, were having to deal with 3,000. The numbers today must be even greater. I’ve lost count.

But whether this then makes the terrain “less cost-effective for the music marketers and distributor” turns out to be quite a moot point.

Chris Anderson’s theory of the Long Tail, for example, an established article of faith amongst the techno-savants, claims that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of 'hits' and that the future of e-business is selling less of more – because the digital world makes it cost-effective to do so.

However - Will Page, Chief Economist for the UK’s royalty collections agency the MCPS-PRS Alliance, together with colleague Gary Eggleton and MBlox founder Andrew Bud, from an analysis of real digital music sales data gathered over 12 months from a catalogue of 13m songs, discovered that 85% of the albums available on-line still failed to sell one single copy and that approximately 80% of sales revenue came from just 52,000 tracks – the ‘hits’ which power the industry – a mere 0.4% of the total number of tracks available.

So the marketing, promotion and distribution resources, following our established business mud-pie principles, quite naturally retains its sensibly narrow focus on those few bits of stuff that are generating good numbers and kicking back profits.

But how does that effect whether payment is made for use of a songwriter’s work?

To be continued….

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But how does that effect whether payment is made for use of a songwriter’s work?

To be continued….

Well, we still need the performing rights organizations to look after that part of process -- BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, and whoever else is out there providing the same service.

By the way, the graduates are nieces and nephews. The garden is my Father's.

bluage

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Well, we still need the performing rights organizations to look after that part of process -- BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, and whoever else is out there providing the same service.

And so we're pretty much full circle back to where we started with the linked article.

PRS-MCPS is the UK performing rights organisation, while GEMA does the job in Germany and KODA in Denmark.

For CDs, the songwriters royalty is known as ‘mechanicals’ and has to be dealt with upfront before you can manufacture the product.

(Unless you are one of the controlling ‘big-boys’ who are allowed to pay mechanicals only on units sold – or if you own your own pressing plant and can get away with cheating on form filing)

For non-physical product like MP3s in the digital universe, accounting and control becomes murkier and more open to abuse – especially where business models like the flat-fee subscription for unlimited downloads (TDC’s ‘all-you-can-eat’ set-up, for instance) aren’t ready to pay anything until they are convinced they can turn a profit – which makes a lot of sense from their point of view, but gives the song creators short shrift.

The delivery or streaming models like YouTube and Spotify – which make more or less broadcast use of music – argue for some exemption because of their strategic promotional and marketing role (which the big labels are keen on supporting) and hence prefer an overall blanket annual lump sum – of which the labels are claiming the lion’s share, leaving even less for songwriters and their publishers.

And that’s where the argument is – as reported in the linked article.

The collection agencies wish for an arrangement which is arguably fairer - something more reasonably and practically related to revenue and growth – while the businesses naturally want to muscle them into getting as little as possible.

In the UK last year, the big stand-off was between YouTube and PRS. During this scrap, the majors (who all have vested interests in YouTube, remember) pulled highly popular stuff from YouTube because of the lack of an agreement between these parties and in doing so successfully painted PRS as the bad guy, the party-pooper out to spoil the fun of everyone in the YouTube generation. (Gee – even here at Songstuff – a site ostensibly about songwriting – there was strong anti-PRS sentiment.) PRS caved-in as a result and accepted a secret lump-sum deal.

Both KODA and GEMA, however, are standing their ground.

They want an equitable arrangement unfettered by non-disclosure agreements.

As a songwriter, I support them in this.

.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Pretty soon songwriters will have so little income they will simply have to quit the industry and look for employment elsewhere... let's face that is already happening... but I'm thinking across the board. Sad.

Sound Engineers too... Some of us have already crossed that bridge and are happily working for the military industrial complex at the moment...

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In the UK last year, the big stand-off was between YouTube and PRS. During this scrap, the majors (who all have vested interests in YouTube, remember) pulled highly popular stuff from YouTube because of the lack of an agreement between these parties and in doing so successfully painted PRS as the bad guy, the party-pooper out to spoil the fun of everyone in the YouTube generation. (Gee – even here at Songstuff – a site ostensibly about songwriting – there was strong anti-PRS sentiment.) PRS caved-in as a result and accepted a secret lump-sum deal.

One of the staunch opponents of the PRS being me as I recall.

I think in many ways the record industry has been hoisted on it's own petard by the downloading and streaming revolution. Back in the day, someone came up with the bright idea that when you buy a recording of a restricted work, you aren't actually purchasing the unit, you're purchasing a license to play that restricted work. Before the information revolution in the late 1990's this meant that a record company could charge people for the same product over and over again when their records were scratched, their tapes deoxidized or their CD's were marked, or when new formats became available. Now, if I own a copy of Floodlands by the Sisters of Mercy, and I have a license to use that product for non public performances, why should I not download or stream it? I've paid my license fee after all.

By rejecting that argument out of hand, by trying to have their cake and eat it, charging money for the license rather than the unit but still wanting monopoly control of the distribution media, the mainstream industry has played directly into the hands of all the would be Robin Hoods out there who quite correctly point out that they are rapacious corporate rogues. Rather than trying to set up reasonable deals in the first place, the collection agencies and mainstream labels have tried negative publicity campaigns and court proceedings. This accomplishes precisely nothing except to waste a lot of money and further discredit them in the eyes of a disgruntled public.

Of course we all know what happens when you squeeze the aristocracy. It's the workers who feel the pinch. The charges that the mainstream industry has panicked and defaulted to pumping out cheap, disposable mass appeal nonsense are also pretty difficult to disagree with. In the end, we all lose.

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  • 6 months later...

The role of the songwriter is the second most important role in the process of recording a hit record after the role of the vocalist, I remember the days when songwriters used to earn more than the performer but sadly now days that doesn't seem to be the case.

It's such a shame that it's turned out the way it has, and John you're right, songwriters will be forced to quit their work so they can move on and take up another job because they are unable to support their selfs with the money they get from songwriting

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  • 4 months later...

I write because it's my passion - not overly worried about the industry.

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  • 1 month later...
I remember the days when songwriters used to earn more than the performer but sadly now days that doesn't seem to be the case.

Sadly, when this was the case, the World's leading songwriters also paid themselves personal incomes equivalent to the GDP of a developing nation, certaimly enough money to solve the United Kingdom's social housing shortage or build a few dozen state of the art hospital wings.

Litterally, the hundred top earning songwriters from the 1960's, 70's and 80's could now launch their own manned space program.

Everyone who gets to sit on the throne seems to milk it for all it's worth. It's just sad for us songwriters that our shot at the throne ended ten to fifteen years ago.

My last royalty cheque, after getting a good few hours of radio airplay and into the tens of thousands of internet hits, was about enough to purchase a packet of cigarettes with, but I figured that even that was better than nothing at all. It also occurred to me that without youtube and similar sites, no one would even have heard any of my work. Youtube is a very powerful promotional tool and it's free to the end user.

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