David Lowery: Here’s how Pandora is destroying musicians | Salon

David Lowery has become both beloved and notorious over the last year as one of the musicians most critical of the ways musicians are paid in the digital era. The Camper van Beethoven and Cracker singer brings an artist’s rage and a quant’s detached rigor to his analysis of the music business.

He’s currently fired up about a federal lawsuit filed in New York in which several record labels have sued Pandora (and before that, Sirius FM) for neglecting to pay royalties for songs recorded before Feb. 15, 1972. Here’s how Billboard summarizes the suit: “The labels say both digital music services take advantage of a copyright loophole, since the master recording for copyright wasn’t created federally until 1972. … But the labels claim that their master recordings are protected by individual state copyright laws and therefore deserve royalty payments.”

Lowery thinks the loophole provides a way for Pandora to simply not pay older musicians for their work — while profiting from it themselves. The case could get bigger and change in strange ways, with broad implications.


Call to Action: Don’t Let ICANN Give Our “Dot Music” Domain Names To Tech Giants, Hedge Funds and Shady Brokers.


 Some of the groups and companies vying for the .music gTLD.   That is, the people that will be selling you http://www.YourBandName.music back to you at possibly exorbitant prices. 

Let’s take a trip to the near future. It is August 2015 and the new .music  top level domain names (gTLD) have just launched.

Now, hypothetically let’s say you have a moderately successful  indie rock band named Leland Stanford’s Octopus.  Your band has  been around since 2005 and you’ve developed a loyal global following.   Yes I know , it’s a funny name for a band but perhaps you and your bandmates were particularly interested in California-based 19th century railroad monopolies, corrupt politicians and robber barons. And why not?  Leland Stanford like many railroad tycoons and robber barons of the 19th century had a hipster beard and a sort of devil-may-care longish hairstyle. You could do worse for band name inspiration.

Now for 10 years you’ve had http://www.lelandstanfordsoctopus.com as your main domain name, but with the launch of the new “dot music” domains like most bands you decide you want to migrate to the new .music gTLD.   The only problem?   The board of ICANN gave the rights to administer  the .music domain to a for-profit consortium formed by Google, Amazon and Cerberus capital.  Never mind that none of us ever voted for the members of ICANN and it’s not clear how they have amassed such awesome power with so little oversight or transparency.  With no real accountability to the public much less to your band, ICANN members simply let the close friendships and revolving door between ICANN and companies like Google  influence their decision. Thus they rewarded their cronies with the rights to the .music domain (and probably more of the dozens that these tycoons want to control).

And of course what will give the .music domain any value is not the consortium–it will be the artists and musicians who brand the gTLD by migrating to it.

Now in order to make it appear not to be a forced collectivization of hundreds of thousands of artists’ intellectual property rights for the benefit of some of the richest corporations on earth, there was a “sunrise” phase in which artists who had spent the thousands of dollars to trademark their names  and hundred more to register them with the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) could get their domain name for a nominal fee.  However like most bands Leland Stanford’s Octopus didn’t have the money nor the wherewithal to trademark their name and register it internationally.  Now their domain name along with tens of thousands of artist’s domain names have been snapped up by mysterious brokers registered in places like Malta, Belize, Gibraltar and Panama City.

A mysterious former “Canadian pharmacy” promoter turned cybersquatting domain name broker is holding  www.lelandstanfordsoctopus.music and is asking $2,200 dollars for the domain name.  Of course you are outraged.  Having to buy back your own domain name from anonymous brokers?

So what are you gonna do?   Rationally, the cheapest thing to do is just to simply pay the shady broker (and indirectly Amazon, Google and Cerberus) to get your intellectual property back.  And soon, because next year it may not be the same price.

Far fetched?  Nope we’ve seen this sort of abusive cybersquatting happen with far less valuable and potent domain names while the registrars, governments and ICANN stand idly by.   It surely will happen with .music unless we have a group running .music that is truly on the side of artists and performers and empowered to decide that a band gets to control its own domain name with a .music gTLD.  If we are not vigilant this could be the choice facing many artists.


Here’s the problems the way I see it:

The .music gTLD should be owned by at least a neutral party with real knowledge of the business.  It shouldn’t favor record labels over artists (especially after labels sold artists down the river on streaming, trading low royalties for equity in these companies).  But most importantly  this valuable bit of virtual real estate should not be handed to  Silicon Valley and Wall Street.  And not just because they are the 1% of the 1% and have the cronies to get control of yet more Internet real estate.

Google and Amazon have shown their true colors and have no cred with creators.  Google actually funds ad sponsored piracy and uses their monopoly power to cram down deal terms on indie labels.  Amazon routinely jams up authors and uses indie record stores as unpaid showrooms with predatory pricing designed to drive mom and pop record stores out of existence.

Giving these people control over the .music domain would just be increasing their domination of the music business.  Google is already facing an antitrust complaint in Europe from indie labels.  UMG controls over 40% of the recorded music market no one in their right mind would give them exclusive control over the dot music domain.  So why would someone even consider giving Google  dot music when  YouTube has a virtual monopoly in online video (with much of it is illegally uploaded)?

This is like giving the fox control of the domain name .chickens.

This is just completely wrong and almost guarantees that the only artists who will use the .music gTLD will be those who don’t know any better until it is too late.

Please let ICANN know how you feel.  Be firm but polite.  Please write Akram Atallah  at  akram.atallah@icann.org

My letter is below.

To: Fadi Chehadé, ICANN President and CEO and Akram Atallah, President, Global Domains Division, ICANN


I’m writing to oppose your handing off control of the .music domain to any tech giant especially Google or Amazon (or both of them).  I am a songwriter and founder of the band’s Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven.   I also teach the economics and finance of the music business at the Terry School of Business at the University of Georgia.  I have spent many years studying the effects of the dominance of massive tech companies on the music industry as a whole as well as individual performers and songwriters.  Regulators not unlike yourselves have allowed theses companies to extract monopsony pricing and unjustified rents from artists. Giving these same companies control over the .music gTLD would essentially hand these enormous companies valuable intellectual property that rightfully belongs to the artists.  They would then be in a position to sell artists their own intellectual property back to them.  

After a review of the ICANN leadership, it is obvious that none of you have any real world experience in the music business.  After reviewing my resume, you should come to the conclusion that I have no experience with what you do.  Fair enough. 

 However when it comes to your decision as to who should control the .music gTLD, you are injecting yourselves into my business and you appear to be doing so in a way that increases the domination of already dominant companies like Google and Amazon.  Because you have chosen to do this, I must point out to you how ill qualified ICANN is to take such decisions.  I mean this with respect and with the full knowledge of how sensitive tech people are about their expertise.  While my criticism may sound insulting to those who carefully guard their turf and titles, it is not intended to be. 

However, the insults likely will come from far and wide if you hand over the .music domain to people who are culturally like yourselves but are largely despised by huge swaths of the professional creators as well as the larger music industry.  Why?  Amazon has made no bones about using it’s power to exact monopsony pricing from authors and recording artists.  What will happen when they control our most valuable domains?  In the case of Google, many of us believe that Google continues to  directly profiting from piracy—a crime—on a massive scale through its Adsense and Doubleclick operations. Google has also shown a willingness to use its online video monopoly to extract monopsony pricing from independent labels for its proposed YouTube music streaming service.   Further Google should be disqualified simply because they have demonstrated a willingness to do business with criminals.

 FACT:  Google paid a half a billion dollar fine to avoid CRIMINAL prosecution by the US Department of Justice  for assisting criminal groups in selling drugs in the United States.  

Google, Amazon and a host of other big tech companies lack the bona fides to control an asset as key to the music business as .music.  If you allow them to own it, you will be participating in just another Internet farce.  I for one will do everything I can to see to it that no self-respecting artist uses the .music gTLD.

The registrar for the new gTLD .music should have a record of treating artists fairly and should not be simply extracting further rents from artists by selling them back their own intellectual property at inflated prices. 


If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally?

Trichordist Editor:

Food for thought on this Labor Day. A decade of lies from Silicon Valley just don’t add up to more opportunity for musicians.

Originally posted on The Trichordist:

We keep hearing from web/tech gurus about how empowered artists are in the internet age, but yet, the numbers just don’t add up. It’s also ironic that tech bloggers like to promote the idea of  “touring and t-shirts” as a solution to the difficulties musicians are having online. But it really sounds to us, more like an admission that there is no money for artists online in the Exploitation Economy to develop new and sustainable professional creative careers.

This is why, an ethical internet for all citizens is so important. Sometimes, the facts are just so simple…

Ted Cohen: Breaking Through The Noise | | midemblogmidemblog

“The Internet was supposed to be the ultimate leveler, great music would be able to find its audience, the ‘big label’ gatekeepers would no longer control access to the masses.

It hasn’t exactly played out that way. According to my friend, Tommy Silverman/Tommy Boy…

View original 918 more words

This is What Monopoly Looks Like When You Round Up to Zero: Google Play’s Tone Deaf Advertising Campaign “25 Million songs for the price of an album”

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

Google PlayYouTube’s Director of Artist Relations Vivian Lewit appeared on a SXSW panel this year moderated by Tom Silverman.  I asked the panel a simple question from the audience as did a couple other audience members.  My question was how much per stream does your service pay to artists?  YouTube’s Ms. Lewit was the only one who dodged the question, but after a couple follow ups she confirmed it was less than a penny.  Given the NDA culture surrounding Google, I was amazed to get that much out of her in a public forum.

Now I understand why.

In case you were wondering why IMPALA filed a complaint with the European Commission on Google’s monopolist tactics in licensing the new YouTube service, the Google Play messaging says it all.  It’s a horrible deal for everyone except Google, just like YouTube.  But the real reason its not a bad deal for Google…

View original 451 more words

4 Million DMCA Notices Don’t Stop the Google Piracy Machine: How Google Drives Traffic to Pirate Sites Through Google Alerts

Trichordist Editor:

The hits just keep un comin’…

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

Google news alerts are emails sent to you by Google through the data analysis of its monopoly search engine.  Yes, the all seeing Google knows a lot of stuff and they are happy to share it with you so you can share it with others.  Google will send you a link that matches your news alert and will always have social media sharing links to Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter.  (I can’t imagine Google adding the Facebook and Twitter links without some kind of compensation, probably cold hard cash.)

Here’s an example:

Google Alert OK Go

This link goes to a site called myfreemp3.cc which takes you to this page:

OK Go Lyrics Link

In case you were wondering what myfreemp3.cc was all about, how would you know if this was a pirate site?  Or more precisely, how would Google know myfreemp3.cc was a pirate site?  It just looks sketchy, right?  But we all know that we can’t…

View original 299 more words

Copyright Stifles Innovation And Creativity! (Says The Internet): It Doesn’t; And Here’s Why | Nova.Edu

By Stephen Carlisle, Nova Southeastern University

If you read the internet, copyright, and especially long copyright terms are an unfathomable evil. In their eyes copyright “hinders learning, destroys our cultural legacy, hurts innovation and the general public, but most importantly it impedes filmmakers, artists, DJ’s and other content creators that need to be able to build upon the work of others to create new content”. 1 There are lots of dire pronouncements, with lots of invective and insults hurled, particularly at the Walt Disney Company (quote “responsible for one of the greatest thefts in world history”) 2. Yet as typical with such cyberspace broadsides, there is very little explanation of precisely how this suppression of innovation occurs.

That’s because copyright doesn’t suppress either creativity or innovation. And here’s why:


Principles for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet


As the Copyright Act remains under review we should keep in mind the principles that guide an ethical and sustainable internet economy for all stakeholders.

Originally posted on The Trichordist:

Technology may change but principles do not. A society that encourages the creative spirit is rare in history and worth defending. The internet and digital technology have opened up many new opportunities for artists, but it has also opened up new opportunities for those who wish to exploit those artists.

We offer for discussion a set of principles as a guide for companies and policy makers to keep in mind. It is our hope that these principles will help build a sustainable online creative ecosystem, one that benefits creators, innovators, and the general public alike.

A fair and ethical internet is built on the respect and protection of the rights of individuals to determine who benefits from their labor and creations.

Since the rise of digital utopians in the 1990s, we’ve unfortunately seen many very old arguments surface as to why…

View original 1,065 more words

Two Simple Facts about Technology and Piracy : iTunes Vs. YouTube


It’s about intent. Machines do what they are told to do by human beings, exploiting other human beings.

Originally posted on The Trichordist:

Fact number one.

Unlike Google’s YouTube, Apple’s Itunes Store does not have a piracy problem, nor does it have an unmanageable issue with DMCA notices. This is often explained that this is because Apple does not allow user generated content from just anyone, therefore there is a barrier to entry that prevents such issues. But this is simply just not true, anyone can upload an album of music to Itunes using any one of the third party aggregation services such as Tunecore or CDbaby. And yet, there are not (as far as we know) hundreds or thousands of DMCA notices and content take downs on Itunes per day, as there are on YouTube. So why is this? In a word, intent.

If Apple, Spotify, Amazon and virtually every other legal and licensed distributor of digital music can put into place, the checks and balances that are capable of managing these…

View original 372 more words

Full Post: You Can’t Have A Have A Healthy Market Economy Without Property Rights. Why Do So Many In Tech Blogosphere Want To Abolish Cyber Property Rights And Cripple The Cyber-Economy?

Originally posted on The Trichordist:

By David Lowery

Can you imagine the outrage if leading voices in Corporate America started advocating that we abolish all individual private property rights? Citizens could no longer own any property. All property would be collectivized. Citizens could no longer profit by creating and owning things. Further what if these same corporate voices used the justification that private property rights were hindering their ability to innovate?

We’d all laugh. Or man the barricades. This would never happen, right?

Well it is happening. This is exactly what many in the tech blogosphere are arguing we should do in the cyber-economy. These faux revolutionaries are arguing that Intellectual Property and the Internet are incompatible so in the name of “freedom” Intellectual Property must go. In the cyber economy ALL property is intellectual property. This means these folks are advocating for no private property in cyberspace. What does that sound like? Depending on…

View original 2,479 more words

How Copyright Encourages Creativity and Opportunity in Hollywood

Originally posted on The Trichordist:

We hear a lot from the copyleft and opponents of Artist’s Rights that copyright stifles creativity, but this is simply not true. We’re not going to go down the tired road of the arguments about remixing, which can be read in this excellent article at Copyhype titled, “Remix Without Romance.

The truth is, the best ecosystem for creativity is the one where all stakeholders are compensated. This is why in the early 90s sample clearance statutes were defined, and as a result we’ve seen some of the most innovative music, in the history of recorded music. This creativity has been achieved legally by creating fair and balanced policy. Historically, that is how policy evolves, such as it did with phonographs and radio — when both were getting off the ground, the law eventually recognized that artists have a right to be compensated, and both eventually flourished, also benefiting all…

View original 928 more words