Technologists in Silicon Valley love to tell artists we need to update our business model.
This is hilarious since each of my businesses have been profitable for decades. Stunning when you look at just how unprofitable these Silicon Valley Companies actually are. Twitter for instance lost $645 million dollars last year. Jaw dropping when you consider that their total revenues were $646 million dollars. They spent 2 dollars for every 1 dollar of revenue. And if you look at their losses they are accelerating.
Never wanting to lose an opportunity to be bizarrely two-faced, Google is sending around a little graphic today to all you GMail users implying that stopping SOPA in January of 2012 actually enabled creativity to continue to thrive on the Web. Never mind that nothing in SOPA could have stopped you or me or any other would-be creator from uploading our works, ideas, or captured events to the Web; that’s just pesky reality.
But Google isn’t satisfied just to effect public policy in its own interests, it also wants to behave like the abusive and negligent father, who creepily shows up with a smile and a hug when his kid wins an award or becomes famous.
After all, this week isn’t just the anniversary of SOPA Blackout Day, it’s also the week Google received its 100 millionth takedown notice from recording artists who would rather not have their works exploited without permission or compensation. So, the whole, “we protected creativity together” message just kinda makes the skin crawl. Y’know?
“We effed up,” lyrics annotation supersite Rap Genius admitted this week after its SEO cheating was revealed. They sure did. And there’s good reason to believe this isn’t just a gaffe for the cartoonish startup posse: a Google eff up could haunt them forever—but no one search should have all that power.
Rap Genius will never be safe on the internet again, because as far as they’re concerned, Google is the internet. The search engine functions like public infrastructure, a road that takes anyone who wants to look up lyrics to the internet lyrics store, but it thinks like any Walmart of Exxon. It has its own secret rules, its own private penalties, and its own willingness to harm any company that dares make it look stupid. The Rap Genius co-creators must have known what they were getting themselves into: an inordinately complex game of Mouse Trap with the devil that’s finally snapped back.
There’s a post on a tech blog from 2009 following The Pirate Bay guilty verdict titled “Paul McCartney’s Confused About The Pirate Bay” that truly illustrates how many internet consultants and tech blogger’s appear feel about musicians. The comments responding to Sir Paul McCartney speaking about the Pirate Bay verdict show just how much these people don’t seem to understand musicians.
- artists are easily confused about the internet and technology
- artists don’t know what’s best for them (let the “consultant” help you!)
- artists can get paid, but as long as its not via a “government mandated tax” ie, copyright (!?)
- artists shouldn’t be able to live off of one song (royalties), ie you must sing for your supper every night
- artists only ever made money from major label deals (which also seems to contradict labels don’t pay)
- the pirate bay (and the like) is just a tool for promotion that rewards artists who embrace it
- the pirate bay verdict of guilty was/is unfair
In the post Paul McCartney is accused of being confused about a verdict that sentenced four men to jail for operating a business that illegally distributed artists work, without compensation to the artists themselves. The Pirate Bay is a tool of exploitation against artists and Paul McCartney was not confused about this fact.
Let’s get a few things straight.
Piracy is NOT Promotion.
Exploitation is NOT Innovation.
Copyright is NOT Censorship.
In any value chain where the creators work is monetized, the creator should have the right to consent and the ability negotiate compensation. In a true free market either party can walk away if an agreement can not be reached. The Pirate Bay, however was and is an illegally operating business that does not respect the rights of individual artists.
We also find it interesting that the suggestions most frequently given to musicians to “get paid” in the internet era are actually all the same ways artists historically have gotten paid prior to the internet.
Here’s a brief recap of what these so called “business experts” and “internet technology consultants” see as the “new” models for artist compensation… Ready, set, go!
- Touring… existed BEFORE the internet
– Merchandise (T-Shirts)… existed BEFORE the internet
– Film/Sync Licensing… existed BEFORE the internet
– Sponsorships/Endorsements… existed BEFORE the internet
In conclusion, it appears that it is the tech bloggers and internet consultants who are confused about musicians, the internet and piracy. Musicians on the other hand seem to be very clear about these issues.
When it comes to issues of artists rights, we’d rather be with Paul McCartney.
Musician turned digital music executive [Tim Quirk] hits the wrong note with artists and composers over rights and royalties.
It’s perhaps not surprising that someone working for a digital music service is telling artists not to worry their pretty little heads about getting paid properly, but what may surprise some people is that Quirk is – or at least used to be – an artist himself.
Sure, many online music service executives claim to be musicians in order to convince artists that they’re on their side, despite them driving down royalties. Tim Westergren, the head of Pandora, has used that argument, claiming he cares about musicians while going to Congress to try to reduce songwriters’ royalty rates from next-to-nothing, to even less than that.
Back in 2009, he [Quirk] was raging against the major label system, but now that he works for a corporation that reported more than $50bn in revenue last year – more than three times the $16.5bn revenue of the entire global recorded music industry in 2012 – he appears to think musicians should now simply accept whatever scraps his company chooses to throw their way.
During the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), critics of the legislation portrayed its process of identifying foreign black market domains and then blocking them from gaining easy profits from, and access to, the US online audience, as “censorship” — full stop.
It bothers me that representatives from Google or the EFF, Reddit, etc. are so quick to lump in the attempt to protect artists rights with the political censorship of China or Iran. It is entitlement of the privileged at its worst and demonstrates to me how desperate some people are to excuse freeloading by any means necessary. But, the wonders of technology simply do not excuse clear cases of exploitation.
Meanwhile Jay Frank calls David Byrne “bad at Math.“ Now while Jay is always careful to be right, if you look at the big picture it turns out he’s arguing over things like whether it takes 150 million Spotify spins or 75 million Spotify spins a year to reach minimum wage (and is that federal or state minimum wage, and which state Jay? ) . Does that really matter? Byrne’s points still stand. Either way it’s a fuckload and it’s not sustainable. Yes Jay, technically you’re right but It’s like a Larry David episode. You’re making my brain hurt and I AM A MATHEMATICIAN.
But here’s the real problem with these guys: I can’t take them seriously.
And it’s not because I don’t like what they write. It’s because there are just three of them.
If 6 is the number of The Beast. 3 is the number of the comedian.
“Dave Allen, Bob Lefsetz, and Daniel Ek walk into a bar”
If you want to be seen as a powerful, elite or even sinister force three is not a good number. Think about it. ”Three Stooges”, “Three Blind Mice”, “The Three Amigos”, “The Jonas Brothers” etc etc.
Four is much better. Four is a masculine world-changing number.
“The Fab Four” “The Fantastic Four” and of course “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
These guys will not be taken seriously until they add another horseman.
The pro-spotify-anti-artist-blogging business is no different from the boy band business. You need some variety among your bloggers for broadest appeal. And the more bloggers the better. They should really take a cue from some of the great boy bands of the past. As Bob Lefsetz might say “Work hard, be excellent, and add another member” ”The Four Horsemen of the Spotocalypse” is so much more serious sounding.
And they are almost there. They’ve got three great ingredients already!
Even if you discount the moral hazard involved with funding a study of yourself, the Google survey of Google’s involvement with piracy is a breathtaking document. I would suggest that the self-study rests on a number of core principles for Google’s business:
1. Nothing to See Here, Move Along: First and foremost is Google’s deep and abiding desire to deflect criticism in the press, avoid civil lawsuits and settle criminal investigations. It has both succeeded and failed at all three. The fact that a company tries to avoid these things is not special; the degree to which Google tries to manage them is quite special.
The self-study is itself an exercise in all three and supports the most important public perception that Google draws on daily to succeed in its consumer facing business: Sympathetic trust. To paraphrase an old California pol, you know all the bad they’ve done, but you like them anyway.
This magical thinking only lasts for so long. Whether its Eric Schmidt’s New York soundproof man-cave from which no scream can emerge, doing a favor for journalist Tom Brokaw by providing a private jet for a Silicon Valley speaking engagement with jet fuel subsidized by the American taxpayer, siphoning piles of data to the National Security Agency under circumstances the average citizen will probably never learn the details of, or paying a $500,000,000 fine for violating the Controlled Substances Act for indiscriminately promoting the sale of prescription drugs (e.g., to addicts and kids), the press and the public is starting to wake up to the game.
And not just the game, but the magnitude of the game. As a senior chief once said, sorry pal, the BS filter is full.
We’re not sure how The London School Of Economics (LSE) could get something so basic so wrong as to suggest that because a some contemporary major label and heritage artists may be making more money from live shows (arena concert grosses) that somehow basic artists rights are not important for protection.
The New Music Express reports that Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich get’s it right in response the the LSE’s shortsighted misunderstanding about artists revenue streams.
“T-shirts and tickets are nothing to do with ‘copyright and creation’, which is the supposed subject of this document.
I hope the government sees how ridiculous this document seems to people who make records.
The authors are ‘pro piracy’ and they wish to influence the UK government’s upcoming review of digital copyright law.
It appears that the LSE report would be suggesting that artists never should have been paid royalties from the distribution of recorded music because there have always been other ways to make money from music.
If one were to truly let this logic sink in, it would appear that the LSE is making a general argument against all copyright because the distribution of copyrighted works is only a loss leader to live performances, synchronization fees or endorsement deals. This is of course absurd on every level.
This lopsided logic from LSE seems to favor illegally operating internet corporations distributing music without consent or licenses. We know that there is a lot of money being made in the illegal distribution of music online and the LSE’s report seems aligned with the economic interests of those who knowingly exploit artists for profit.
We expect better from such a respected institution then to ignore the economic interests by companies and corporations that are profiting illegally from advertising supported music piracy.
Visit the top torrent search engines, and you’ll find ad calls from Yahoo, Google, Turn, Zedo, RocketFuel, AdRoll, CPX Interactive and others.
According to AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley, it’s an easy problem to fix, but ad companies are attracted by the revenue torrent sites can generate for them. Kelley said his company refuses to serve ads to torrent sites and other sites facilitating the distribution of pirated content. It’s easy to do technically, he said, but others refuse to do it.
“We want everyone to technically stop their customers from advertising on these sites, but there’s a financial incentive to keep doing so,” he said. “Companies that aren’t taking a stand against this are making a lot of money.”