Let me be honest. The Trichordist has succeeded in raising awareness of artists rights issues in the digital world not because we are particularly gifted. The secret to our success is that those arrayed against us, particularly those allied with the digital music services, keep serving up our talking points on a silver platter. I’m not sure if this is arrogance, hubris or sheer ineptitude but it keeps happening.
Case in point is the so-called Open Music Initiative (OMI). While this seemed to me to be a carefully crafted PR response to the songwriter class-action lawsuits, I couldn’t just come out and say that.
Fortunately the participants in the OMI made the connection for me. NPR and their local affiliate WBUR are participants in the Open Music Initiative and they published this super helpful article on their website:
So this is just what we suspected it to be all along, cynical counter-programming to burnish the public image of an industry that has been the target of a host of class-action lawsuits. Largely because these companies blatantly violated a host of federal laws by failing to license and pay songwriters. And BTW I’m not just talking about copyright law here. If I was a Spotify shareholder I would take a close look at those Spotify financial statements. (What are the EU rules for reporting contingent liabilities like potential lawsuits?)
Actually counter-programming is too nice of a term. If the WBUR article is any indication, expect the OMI to propagate falsehoods and propaganda that mislead the public and potential songwriter class members as to the nature of their rights. Look at this whopper by Berklee’s Panos Panay:
“It’s one of the few industries that I know where you can use something and it’s OK to not really know who to pay,” he said with a laugh. “Well we don’t think that that should be acceptable.”
Actually it’s not ok to use a song without knowing who to pay. The law is very clear on this matter, hence the class action lawsuits. This statement has the potential to mislead putative class members, specifically by making them think that their rights have not been violated. This is a very troubling statement since Spotify is somehow sponsoring this initiative.
Of course this could also be sheer ignorance on the part of Panay. He may really think that you can use music without “knowing who to pay.” As we demonstrated last summer Berklee’s academic scholarship on copyright and music licensing is quite shoddy:
This may explain why a Berklee College of Music student pays $43k a year but typically earns less than a high school graduate after attending. That’s right attending Berklee College is negatively correlated with future earnings!
More on Berklee statistics here:
If Berklee College, NPR, WBUR and Spotify are truly serious about streaming transparency first order of business should be publishing a list of the “unmatched,” unpaid and unlicensed songs. They won’t. Because this is an elaborate corporate smokescreen.