Mellencamp Character Assassination. The New Republic Bravely Stands Up For Corporations and Criminal Groups That Exploit Artists.

I’m sort of delighted by this. I mean I went to a very liberal college and there’s a certain kind elitist and dim knee jerk liberal I really dislike.  Dorm room revolutionaries who end up unwittingly doing the work of the man.  The kind that end up blogging for The New Republic.

Recently John Cougar Mellancamp wrote a piece in which he criticized the music business.  In particular he criticized them and his fellow artists  for not standing up to  large corporations like Google who have monetized illegal file-sharing by selling advertising against illegal download search results and also by providing advertising directly to file infringing sites.

The New Republic-always the class act-decided to respond with a character assassination piece.   They sent the remarkably ignorant Lydia DePillis (on twitter @lydiadepillis)  a 3 year real estate journalism veteran to “School” the 40 year music business veteran John  Mellencamp on the history and future of the music business.  It’s freaking hilarious.  Not only does this “professional” journalist not understand that  the main point is that Mellencamp is criticizing the music business for not protecting artists she wanders completely off topic and makes historical claims that have no basis in fact. Further she incorrectly disputes Mellencamp’s facts.

I’m just gonna give you one example.  The 3 year journalism veteran claims that search engines don’t make money off the searches for illegal downloads.   it took exactly 3.2 seconds for me to disprove this…

That is Google advertising against a set of infringing links.

Also she then dismisses and mocks Mellencamp’s correct claim that Google makes plenty of money serving ads on sites that it knows are infringing.

Here is Google’s Doubleclick serving an ad for Jeep on the that same site   A site that Google’s own transparency report ranks as the 24th most copyright infringing site in the world.  Isn’t knowingly providing money to an illegal enterprise a RICO predicate?

It is sad but not surprising to see The New Republic standing up for the right of giant corporations and criminal groups to make money by exploiting artists songs.  The New Republic has totally lost it’s way.  They are now for the big corporations and against the little guy.

If The New Republic has any journalistic integrity left it  needs to correct the falsehoods in this article.  Further they should apologize to Mellencamp for the nasty tone of this article.  I’m sure they won’t but it’s worth a try.   Maybe tweeting at the author will work better @lydiadepillis .

9 thoughts on “Mellencamp Character Assassination. The New Republic Bravely Stands Up For Corporations and Criminal Groups That Exploit Artists.

  1. Hi,

    Whatever you may think of my response to Mr. Mellencamp’s piece, it wasn’t character assassination — that would imply that I made comments about his character, which I didn’t.

    On the point you dispute: That’s a misreading of my argument. I wrote that the search engine doesn’t profit when the songs are *downloaded,* not when the search engine turns up links to the sites. And it’s not illegal for a website hosting pirated content to place ads elsewhere.

    If you’ve got other examples of inaccuracies, I’d love to hear them.



    1. First of all. You misunderstand the basic premise of his piece. He’s calling out the music business for standing idly by while artists are getting ripped off. He’s calling out the record labels, bmi, ascap, the RIAA agents and even other artists. He’s calling out everyone who already made their money for standing idly by. This is who this is directed at. He says it very clearly:

      “I’m confounded by the apathy of those who have participated in music-related successes”

      Who knows he may even agree with you about your comment that the business has wasted valuable resources and energy doing dumb things like suing downloaders. But you seem to willfully not want to understand what he is saying. You seem determined to paint him as luddite no matter what is said. Indeed you “respond” to this statement with this?

      “This would imply that the entertainment business has never before adapted to new platforms for distributing music and movies. And yet, FM radio, tape recorders, and the Walkman all forced the music industry to change.”

      I’m sorry but your response makes no sense. you guys aren’t even on the same planet. This goes on and on.

      When mellencamp says

      “Right after radio was invented, they played music and sold advertising. Then it dawned on some: ‘Hey, they’re playing our music, and they’re selling advertising on our backs; we should get paid.’ So performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI were established with the express intention of protecting the intellectual property of artists who create it… They turned new delivery systems into multi-billion dollar businesses. That was progress.”

      You say

      “Here’s what they also did: Having tried and failed to keep their artists from playing on the radio in the 1920s, record companies came up with high-fidelity technology that just sounded better, and allowed them to keep selling records. Real progress comes from innovation, not squashing anything that threatens your cash cow.”

      Okay journalism 101. Check to see what BMI and ASCAP are. You know that BMI and ASCAP are not record labels right? Do you know what they are? mostly what they do is register songs and collect the royalties for the songwriters. They don’t have performers. Here you again miss the fundamental point mellencamp is pointing out to BMI and ASCAP that in the past the pro actively figured out how get the new technology in this case radio to share royalties with songwriters. Mellencamp is politely calling out BMI and ASCAP.

      Also I’d like to see your sources on record labels trying to get their performers to not play on the radio. There is an excellent book on this period called “Selling Sounds” by David Suisman. If you really want to understand the beginning of radio and recorded music you should start here.There may have been a record label or two that didn’t want performers playing ont he radio. it’s entirely possible, but my understanding is that generally record labels saw radio as promotion for their product. but in the 1920’s record labels were a tiny tiny part of the music business, they had no power and generally didn’t have exclusive contracts with artists. They couldn’t really tell artists what and where to play. Music Publishers sheet music and the rights to the songs were the dominant part of the music business.

      Next you say this:

      “According to the recording industry’s own numbers, the sector grew from $132 billion in revenues in 2005 to $168 billion in 2010. The record labels’ revenues from digital music grew 5 percent in 2010 and another 8 percent in 2011. Somebody’s making money here.”

      No you quote this from “The Sky Is Rising” industry lobbying report which was written by Mike Masnick of Techdirt on behalf of Google. This report has been seriously debunked and no one who isn’t related to masnick takes this report seriously. It has serious distortions and problems with facts. For instance the only way Masnick get’s these numbers is by including Ipod and musical instrument sales in his report. If you take these out revenues fall.

      I really don’t have enough time to go through every one of your factual and historical inaccuracies. You’re the one being paid to be a journalist. I say that if you want to write about the music business you should get your “facts” from someplace other than TechDirt or Cory Doctrow. The New Republic is a nationally respected magazine and you have certain journalist responsibilities as a result.

      So let’s move onto character assassination.

      It absolutely was character assassination. Your very premise is that he doesn’t understand the internet or the music business.which means after 40 years in the music business and the last twenty years running a web based business (all bands are web based) he must be an idiot. you reconfirm that opinion in your tone. And tone matters. If you did a little research you would understand that mellencamp has always been a pretty hands on artist and definitely is in charge of his business. He is one of the artists that very much understands the details of the music business.

      Now it’s pretty cocky for a journalist with 3 years experience and Zero experience in the music business to go up against someone with 40 years experience and at least twenty running a web based business to tell them that they don’t understand the past or history of the music business.

      Technically at the very moment the person downloads the file the search engine is not profiting so in a way you are technically correct but the click before that when they searched for that link on the search engine the search engine did profit. As demonstrated by the first illustration. Google accepted money to place that imesh ad against that particular set of key words. What you are engaging in is a Moral kludge. which is a form of amorality. I can’t help you with that.

      Secondly I think you must be fairly technically illiterate. I don’t mean that as an insult. It’s actually quite common in your business. Many “tech writers’ have never written or debugged any code. They have only ever operated web enable appliances as consumers. Never built a website, tried to make money on a web based business. So I don’t necessarily expect you would have understood the second screenshot. But It would have been nice.

      Let me explain: The second screenshot shows the served code for the dillandau page. Using a tool called Firebug you can see the exact code that caused that jeep ad to be placed on that page. scan it for “Doubleclick”. That’s how that Jeep ad gets there. If you didn’t know Doubleclick is owned by google. So in this case and in many many other cases This search engine is serving ads onto an illegal filesharing site against illegal links. And is hence profiting directly from piracy.

      I know a lot about how this shit works. There are terabytes of data cataloguing who is advertising against what and with which ad network. Mellencamp and I are not wrong about this and there exists a lot of data to back it up.

      Also I should point out that Google is also aware of this being a piracy site because it’s listed as #24 in their DMCA transparency report.

      Personally if I was a tech journalist trying to distinguish myself in the field. I wouldn’t constantly parrot the same old tired attacks on artists that point out the fundamental unfairness. Why? cause the field is crowded and we’ve all heard it before. Distinguish yourself. If I was you I’d look for something different to write about. You know out of the 75,000 albums or so that are released a year, less than 1% are released by major labels. The rest are released by artists, or very small independents. If you really wanted to be a great journalist you should go out and see what the 99% of the record labels really think about piracy and illegal exploitation at the hands of rich assholes like Kim Dotcom and corporations like Doubleclick. Give voice to the little guy not to the giant tech corporation. That’s the grand tradition of american journalism. Fighting for the underdog.

      good luck.

  2. Her statements about “taking servers down” and identifying content also show an astounding ignorance of the technological issues. Mellencamp can be forgiven his overly broadbrush statements about technology – his job is to make music – but she can’t.

  3. Where does a small band of internet anarchists get off with savaging artists who stand up for their rights. And why are they so willing to overlook the fact that criminals operate unauthorized file sharing sites and lay claim to someone else’s work for profit?

    These cyber terrorists bathe their comments with personal attacks, yet never mention the hundreds-of-millions dollars scammed by crooks at the expense of artists. That fact alone deprives you the right to righteously attack working people. Your agenda is self-serving, you just don’t want to pay and pretend you are modern revolutionaries.

  4. “And it’s not illegal for a website hosting pirated content to place ads elsewhere.”

    I don’t think we’re even talking about that, but now that you mention it I can begin to understand your disconnect with ( personal attack deleted ). Would your publication run an ad for Pirate Bay?

    If you’re going to talk about unauthorized file sharing, you can’t leave out the fact that people are profiting from it to the tune of a billion dollars a year from advertising, subscriptions and upgrades. It is a criminal business, not a lifestyle.

  5. Mellencamp is talking about the ostracized, abused and exploited musicians like me. Bravo for him and for The Trichordist. We still have hope, that the law of the jungle is going to end. We still have hope that the spoiled and clueless revolutionaries are going to have an epiphany and realize that fighting for justice, fairness and the rights of musicians it’s a good cause.

    1. Agreed, and you may enjoy this:

      “What would I say to the people that are sitting in front of their computers–believing in revolution–I would tell them that they are subjects or victims of false consciousness, that they’re wrong— that they’re believing in something that doesn’t really exist–that they’re dupes–they’re exploited, particularly those that give away their labor for free so that young men in Silicone Valley can become infinitely rich.” – Andrew Keen

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