IMMF Is Not MMF: But are they even worse?

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 2.56.51 AM

The International Music Managers Forum is the parent organization which nominally oversees the Music Manager Forum affiliates in various countries around the world.  Last week we broke a story that a whistleblower indicated the Music Managers Forum in the UK along with its sister organization Featured Artist Coalition are taking money from Google and Spotify.  We have since had a second source corroborate this.

This is important because MMF and FAC have been  strong advocates for Spotify and its low paying ad supported free tier. Further many artists feel betrayed that MMF/FAC hosted a series of “informational” meetings with Spotify while apparently taking money from Spotify.   It’s not a good look for the (formerly) well respected institutions.

Naturally  in the wake of this revelation we received communications indicating that certain members of the IMMF were not happy with this news, and seemed to want to distance themselves from the MMF.

Fair enough.  So we looked into the IMMF to see what they are about.  What we found is just as ugly:

1) The IMMF is a member of  Copyright 4 Creativity. Other members include the artist-hostile-anti-copyright-Google-funded EFF as well as the CCIA and CDT.

2) The Executive Coordinator of  Copyright 4 Creativity is Clara De Cook.  She also appears to be the lobbyist for Google in the EU.

3) The IMMF is a signatory to the Copyright 4 Creativity manifesto which contains this clause:

“Ensure Monopoly Rights are Regulated in the Online Environment: Limitations and exceptions act to counter-balance the lack of competition that is created by the granting of monopoly rights in copyright law. In order to protect creativity and innovation we must ensure that these monopoly rights are also regulated in the online environment.”

Sounds okay right?  No one likes big monopoly corporations!

Uh… except that’s not the kind of  monopoly they are talking about.  They are talking about YOUR individual rights as a monopoly!! Specifically your copyright “monopoly” over your songs and sound recordings, which is the same kind of “monopoly” you have over your guitar, your car, your house or your body, not an anti-competitive monopoly.   “Regulating” means taking away your right to decide how your sound recordings and songs are exploited in the online environment and at what price.   Implicit is the government would somehow set the rates and uses.

What could possibly go wrong?  The big internet companies would never out lobby and out spend us in Washington and force us to take rates we’d never agree to in a free market!  That would never happen!  Right?  (See Pandora Media.)

4)  The Copyright 4 Creativity Manifesto which is endorsed by the IMMF  contains cute little graphics like this cartoon:

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 3.40.48 AM

This is some real intelligent thoughtful stuff here.   Next manifesto maybe they should try using only decade old internet memes.  And BTW the last frame to be accurate should read:

“Lawsuits! When the artist figures out the manager stole his copyrights”

Not cool at all.  But it’s really no surprise.  Sleazy managers ripping off artists? Again?

Same as it ever was.

 

 

Spotify Windows App Store Subscriptions, Now with Added Misleading Advertising

thetrichordist:

If Spotify finds the App Store deal so unethical, there’s an easy solution: Pull down the Spotify App from the App Store. They can leave any time.

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

You’ll remember that The Verge ran the leak of Spotify’s agreement with Sony Music.  Now The Verge is running a story about subscriptions to the Spotify app from Apple’s App Store:

Spotify is trying to raise awareness around the fact that it’s cheaper to subscribe on the web instead of through Apple’s App Store. The leading subscription music service plans to email iPhone customers the below note encouraging them, if they haven’t already, to start paying at Spotify.com and save a few dollars. “In case you didn’t know, the normal Premium price is only $9.99, but Apple charges 30 percent on all payments made through iTunes,” the email blast reads. “You can get the exact same Spotify for only $9.99/month, and it’s super simple.”

Here’s the actual emails:

Spotify Attachment-1.0

Quick–based on what you just read, who sets the price for the Spotify subscription through the App Store?  Apple or Spotify?

I bet you…

View original 484 more words

The MMF’s Google Problem

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

David Lowery’s recent post on the Trichordist reveals the disclosure by an apparent whistleblower that the Music Managers Forum and to some extent the Feature Artist Coalition have each been taking undisclosed money from Google and Spotify.  (Given the context, I assume the whistleblower is referring to the MMF chapter in the UK.)  Why is this important?  Because when confronted with the artist rights grass roots movement that Lowery personifies, we can expect Google to do what they always do–try to co-opt it one way or another.

Want evidence?  If you’ve had a look at the Public Citizen report “Mission Creep-y“, Google’s technique of buying their way into issues or industries and increasing their dominance in their ownership and influence through control of resources should come as no surprise.  The venerable good government group provides extensive documentation of Google’s massive investment in indirect lobbying through funding a host…

View original 883 more words

A Declaration of Principles for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet

Originally written and posted in 2012, here again for your July 4th weekend…


 

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.

1. FAIR AND ETHICAL LABOR PRACTICES: RESPECT WORKERS’ RIGHTS
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 the economic benefits of a few big companies should be valued over the labor rights of many. This problem is what drives workers to organize to protect their labor and demand fair compensation. Not only are artist rights protected by the US Constitution, artist rights are also internationally recognized as human rights protected by many international treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, however, there are those who seek to capture the value of artist rights profit only for themselves by systematically violating these rights for commercial gain.

A free and open internet works best without overbearing regulation, but it will not work at all without protection for fundamental rights of working people.

2. CONSENT IS THE FOUNDATION OF CIVILIZATION: RESPECT ARTISTS’ INTEGRITY
Your right to swing your fist stops at the end of my nose. Your rights end where mine begin.

Rights secured by the Constitution are intended to protect the individual from hostile majority forces and the tyranny of the mob, particularly the corporate mob. This is especially true regarding copyright, which is itself a vehicle of the right of free expression for individuals, and protected by the Constitution.

Everyone understands the value of individual privacy in the digital age. The essence of the artist’s control over the integrity of their work is not that different. Individual consent should be required for a corporation to profit from taking any creative work (just like individual consent is required for taking personal information) because the creative work goes to the artist’s personhood. Protecting an individual’s right to their personhood and the protection of their free expression are building blocks in the foundation of civilization.

3. PROTECT INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: DON’T TRIVIALIZE CENSORSHIP
Freedom of speech requires freedom of expression. Copyright protects free expression. Together, they ensure a robust marketplace of ideas that advances truth, knowledge, and culture.

Let’s get this straight. Censorship is intolerable. You don’t have to look very far to see artists being censored by governments — there are many historical examples . No one understands this more than the scores of individual artists, musicians, painters, writers, poets, filmmakers and creators of all disciplines who have actually (and literally) have been persecuted, disappeared or assassinated for their views all over the world. Sadly, many confuse the actual freedom of expression with the mistaken idea that preventing the illegal exploitation of that very expression is the same thing. It’s not.

The copying and distribution of those expressions without the creators permission is simply exploitation without consent or compensation. Would you think that a car thief is being censored when they are prosecuted for stealing your car or a bank robber is being censored when they are prosecuted for stealing your money? Don’t trivialize “censorship”.

4. FAIR COMPENSATION: IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DON’T BUY IT
In any value chain where the individual creator’s work is exploited, the creator must be compensated.

Most fair and reasonable people embrace “Fair Trade” products to support and encourage fair compensation of labor. Unions have fought long hard-won battles for the protection of labor rights. As a society we recognize the individual’s right to fair compensation of labor as a fundamental cornerstone to an ethical and healthy society. The internet is inhabited by as many different varied participants as the physical world, and the respect for human labor should not be devalued simply because technology makes it possible to be unethical.

It’s very simple–the answer if you don’t like an artist’s work is not to steal it–just don’t buy it. They’ll get the message.

5. MUTUAL RESPECT: IT’S ABOUT GETTING IT RIGHT, NOT GETTING AWAY WITH IT
Mutual respect for the diversity of all online citizens is the cornerstone of a healthy and robust community.

The mutual respect granted by intellectual property rights allows individual creators the freedom to determine what permissions they wish to grant and at what price. No one has to pay that price, but the creator is entitled to set it. Denying these freedoms to creators because the mob or a public company wants to overrun a musician, author, illustrator or photographer violates the very protections against mob rule that the Constitution is intended to secure. Sadly, this is largely how individual rights are viewed today by some online corporate interests.

6. PARASITIC EXPLOITATION IS NOT INNOVATION: FREE AND OPEN SHOULD BE FAIR AND HONEST
The illegal exploitation of individuals for commercial gain is not innovation, it is techno-thuggery and cyberbullying.

We see many companies on the internet illegally exploiting the work, labor, innovation and creations of others simply because they can get away with it. We’re often told that innovation requires the unauthorized exploitation of creators in some kind of technological determinism that rejects the innovation of creators because it“scales”. That is just another way of using “convenience” as an excuse for theft. Any business that requires the illegal exploitation of individuals to be profitable is not a business but rather is a parasitic engine of oppression.

7. SUSTAINABLE INNOVATION SOLVES PROBLEMS: FAIR NOT FAKE
Sustainable innovation is best represented by solving problems, not creating them by adding intentional opaque layers of obfuscation.

The organized and deliberate complexity of some online ad networks, pirate site operations, and other businesses creates an impenetrable black box to protect illicit money flows and give the participants plausible deniability. Then we are told to “follow the money” through advertising networks, down a rabbit hole to a maze followed by another rabbit hole. That’s not innovation. It is old school wire fraud. This should not be a badge of honor for the online community but rather a point of embarrassment that the Internet—one of the greatest technological achievements of all time–is trivialized by making it nothing more than a safe house for many illegitimate businesses profiting at the expense of honest citizens.

8. COMMON GOALS, BEST PRACTICES AND SOLUTIONS:
There are centuries of mutual ground between creators, commerce and rights holders. Let’s not throw this away.

Let’s not set a goal of building a large database for clearances of all copyrights and do nothing until it is operational. That solution almost guarantees that there won’t be many new works to put in that database. Such a database has never existed and is incredibly complex. A transparent rights clearinghouse is a possible solution, but the lack of one it is definitely not an excuse for bad behavior.


 

Millennials vs the Punk Rock Generation: APM’s Marketplace accidentally illustrates absurdity

Someone has to say this. Might as well be me.

Punk Rock Generation: We rebelled by protesting wars, dictatorships, apartheid, government corruption, the military industrial complex, polluting corporations, the christian right,  the draft, nuclear power, the slaughter of sea mammals, and even other punk rockers.  We were at times tear gassed and beaten by police (See Dead Kennedys Wilmington CA).

Millennials:   We rebel by not paying for stuff.  We want bean bag chairs at work.

I was listening to a story about a pirate streaming service on APM’s Marketplace yesterday and I was surprised that the following statement about “millennials” not paying for stuff went un-mocked:

This is a pretty common sentiment for people born anytime after, say, the early 80s. Millennial Michael Krynski is 29. Here’s how he sums it up: “We’re like the Napster Generation. We just expect things to be available (free) online. Everything we’re looking for.”

Krynski runs a blog all about how to stream content for free. Most of his readers are under 30, and he says, “They have money, but they don’t want to give money to companies that are still in this old school distribution model.”

Old school distributions model?  You mean paying?  Cause illegal and legal streams are all distributed the same way.  You know that right?  You do understand how the internet works?

So what you’re really saying is:  Millennial rebellion is rooted in some pseudo moralistic justification of theft based on which businesses use the discredited web 2.0 “freemium” business models?

That’s where you take a stand?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

(Personally I don’t buy this crap. I don’t believe there is a “millennial” generation with a different set of values than any previous generation.  Every generation has it’s selfish lazy assholes who are willing to justify any sort of behavior by claiming to speak for their generation.  And every twenty years or so marketers invent a new generation so they can pitch their consultancies, books, analytics and speaking tours.  But since the media seems determined to cram this current fiction down our throats we might as well have some fun with it by following the fiction to it’s logical conclusion.)

 

Save the Date, July 8 at @thecsusa in Austin: Panel on the New Grassroots, #irespectmusic and the Fair Play Fair Pay Act

image

NOTE TIME CHANGE:

The Copyright Society of the USA Texas Chapter and the Austin Bar Association Entertainment & Sports Law Section have are co-sponsoring a panel with Chris Castle and Austin manager Ray Flowers with this title that pretty much sums it up:

“We’re Not Going To Take It”

The New Grass Roots,
#irespectmusic, and
The Fair Play Fair Pay Act

Wednesday, July 8 2015

12:00 pm-1:30pm

Jackson Walker L.L.P.

100 Congress Avenue, Suite 1100
Austin, TX

This event is particularly timely given the expanding campaign to get artist pay for radio play.  Don’t forget to join 13,000 of your friends and sign the #irespectmusic petition at IRespectMusic.org!  If you’re in Austin, follow IRespectMusic Austin @irmaustin and online at www.irespectmusicaustin.org.

Breaking: Source Claims Spotify & Google Fund “Independent” Music Managers Forum and Featured Artist Coalition

Image courtesy Digital Music News.  See full DMN story here.

Music Managers Forum and its sister organization The Featured Artist Coalition are two UK based organizations that purport to advocate for managers and artists. These two organizations have in the past done some excellent work for artists.   But over the last few years they seem to have become the PR mouthpiece for Spotify and to a lesser extent YouTube.   One can confirm this judgement by going to the MMF website and searching “Spotify.”   Some sample search returns:

“MMF and FAC Welcome Spotify Artists As A Big Step Forward”

“Recommended Reading: Spotify’s Financial Viability and Pernicious Fallacies (Op-Ed)”

“MMF event: Get the most from Spotify”

“Love Spotify?”

We were particularly concerned when they posted this piece which at times matches word for word press releases and comments from Spotify flacks.   It also carefully creates the false impression that Taylor Swift withheld her album from Spotify, but irrationally DID NOT withhold her album from YouTube.   (Swift DID withhold her album from YouTube and other free streaming platforms, she did not single out Spotify.)  But mostly it was shocking to see an organization like MMF/FAC  come out against an individual’s right to choose where their work appears and under what conditions. Instead MMF/FAC came out  in favor of a streaming corporation’s “right” to have everyones music.  I guess this is the UK version of “corporations are people.”  Very odd.

Well, now we know why.

We have a high level source that is willing  to confirm our long held suspicion that Spotify and Google are funding the Music Manager Forum and its dependency the UK’s Featured Artist Coalition.  According to our source Spotify’s contribution is significant, ongoing  “and quite a lot of money at that.”

This is very important because neither MMF nor FAC have sufficiently disclosed the financial support, yet have presented and continued to present events on Spotify and streaming AS IF THEY ARE NEUTRAL OBSERVERS.  Last year MMF and FAC sponsored a round of public forums on Spotify in the US.  They did another round this last month.   On the flyer for last years events (see above) there is no mention that MMF and FAC are taking money from Spotify and Google.

While this non-disclosure and fake partiality is a problem,  what really concerns us is that Spotify and YouTube appear to be setting the agenda now.   Below is the official agenda of the Music Managers Forum.  Like most artists I am in agreement with virtually every point.   Except #4: “No windowing”.  A “no windowing” policy would hurt artists and help only two companies, Spotify and YouTube.    Let me explain.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 12.42.55 PM

“Windowing” can be used in many different contexts.   Windowing can mean that an album is only available for sale and not streamable for a certain period of time.  Windowing may mean that an album or song might be available exclusively on one service but not others.  It may mean it’s only available behind a paywall.   Regardless of what is meant by windowing, they are all important monetization and promotional tools for artists.    For instance my last Cracker album Berkeley to Bakersfield was a two disc set, with the second disc being a country disc.  Cracker “windowed” this album in two different ways:

1) Since we are not normally considered a country act we gave Rolling Stone Country the exclusive right to stream a track from the country disc for a month in advance of the album release.   In exchange we were prominently featured on the website and gained valuable exposure in the country music world.

2) Similarly in exchange for prominent positioning (ie advertising), we allowed Amazon an exclusive “window” to stream/sell the album 1 week early.

Both of these in-kind trades are widely used by cash poor independent artists who can’t afford to put up cash for advertising.  This important promotional tool would likely fall afoul of a “no windowing” policy. Meanwhile  Apple and Amazon do not seem to have a problem with this kind of windowing, however Spotify and YouTube actively try to restrict this practice.   Spotify has been especially vocal on the topic.   It is not unreasonable to assume that this agenda item is there to please MMF’s and FAC’s  financial backers.

But we don’t have to speculate, MMF and FAC could easily explain how this agenda item got there. For instance were the 4,000 artists that are members of the Featured Artist Coalition allowed to vote on this item?  Were they even consulted?   How about the rank and file managera in the MMF? Were they consulted?  How exactly did this come about?   And why is the Featured Artist Coalition now run by a former city banker not a featured artist?

Has MMF/FAC become just another in a long line of fake artist advocacy groups secretly funded by technology companies?

Why .002 is Greater than .001 and Why 90 Days is Better than Forever…

There’s been a lot of talk and understandable dissent surrounding Apple’s free tier payment of the reported .002 per play during each consumers 90 day free trial period. We now live in a world of lessor evils.

Here are three things that we may want to keep in mind…

One:

Eliminating the Unlimited Free, Ad-Supported, On-Demand Access to Music is Job #1. Apple Music and Tidal are both positive steps in that direction.

Two:

.002 is DOUBLE .001 which is what Spotify is paying on it’s ad-supported free tier (see chart below). Yes, we’d love Apple to pay the full ride. Yes, Apple can afford to pay the full ride. Yes, we support any action that influences Apple to pay the full ride – but as a compromise we could be doing worse, and in fact we have been for over five years since the Spotify launch.

Three:

90 Days is Limited. Ad-Supported is forever. This is the big problem. Even if  Spotify was limiting their ad-supported free tier to 90 Days, Apple is still paying DOUBLE. But the real problem is that Spotify is FREE FOREVER. It’s time to keep the eye on the prize here.

Three Steps to a Sustainable Digital Music Ecosystem:

1) Eliminate the Unlimited Free, Ad-Supported, On-Demand Access to Music

2) Windowing

3) Tiered Pricing, based on Access and Consumer Value Proposition

That’s really it. It’s not really any harder than this and we can already see these models working for the Film and TV businesses.

 


 

Streaming Is the Future, Spotify Is Not. Let’s talk Solutions.

 

Why Spotify is not Netflix (But Maybe It Should Be)

 

Why Digital Exec’s ARPU is Bad Math and also Bad Philosophy for Artists.

New Study Explains Why YouTube is Always at the Top of Google Search Results

Originally posted on MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY:

For years now–since Imeem days at least–I’ve been wondering why it is that the top videos in Google search results were always from YouTube (or from Vevo through YouTube).  Like many others, including…let’s see…Senator Mike Lee and the European Commission for starters…I just assumed that Google was stacking the deck to favor YouTube, its wholly owned subsidiary.

According to Brad Stone writing in Bloomberg, a newly released study by Tim Wu (“Is Google Degrading Search?  Consumer Harm from Universal Search”) explains the phenomenon and further backs Google into an antitrust corner.  The study’s thesis is that “Google is able to leverage its dominance in search to gain customers for [Google’s competing] content.  This yield’s serious concerns if the internal content is inferior to organic search results.”  Brad Stone reported:

Google is facing a new high-profile adversary in the roiling fight over whether its monolithic search engine violates antitrust law: Columbia…

View original 271 more words

David Discusses NPR’s Membership in the MIC Coalition with Adam Ragusea on The Current

One Of These Things Is Not Like the Others

We’ve taken National Public Radio to task for joining the “MIC Coalition” (or as we call it the “McCoalition”), a group of megacorporations and lobbying groups formed to oppose the Fair Play Fair Pay Act.  Here’s all the logos of the McCoaltion members (Amazon has dropped out already):

mccoaltion - Amazon

As soon as we saw that NPR was a member, there was something about NPR’s membership in this group of some of the biggest corporations in the world that just felt bad.  Thanks to Adam Ragusea’s interview with David, we can articulate that bad feeling much better.

In his introduction to the episode, Adam asks the question, “Should musicians finally be paid for radio play?  Should public radio stand in the way?…I too find it very weird that I find myself on the opposite side of NPR on a big issue.”

But the really insightful part of Adam’s lead in to David’s interview is the way he contrasted for-profit radio and non-profit radio.  This is, of course, the main distinction between NPR and every other corporate member of the McCoalition (and really every member unless you want to say that somehow trade associations comprised of for-profit corporations are like NPR–we’ll leave that argument to someone like Michael Petricone).

Adam says that a non-profit ought to have a different organizational duty of loyalty–instead of the for-profit’s duty to shareholders:

At least the way I figure it, [a non-profit’s] loyalty should be to your institution’s mission, not to the institution itself….And yet I often see public media institutions, mostly in little ways, doing things that serve the institution over its mission.

And that right there is an eloquent statement of what sticks in the craw about NPR’s membership in the McCoalition.  We’ve always believed–and are more convinced than ever–that NPR’s membership in the McCoalition was more the product of the suits in the lobbying department and not the journalists working in the news and music areas.

Have a listen to the show–Adam’s lead in to David’s interview starts around 20:20, but listen to the rest of it, too.  We really appreciate Adam giving David a platform to have a dialog about the issues.