David Lowery in The New York Times | Defining and Demanding a Musician’s Fair Shake in the Internet Age

The New York Times business reporter Ben Sisario profiles David Lowery on the artists rights in the Copyfight. Maybe advocacy is the new radio?

The issue has become hot as technology companies like Pandora and Google have replaced major record labels as the villains of choice for industry critics. Recently, Thom Yorke of Radiohead caused a stir by removing some of his music from Spotify and saying that the service would hurt new artists.

To his detractors, Mr. Lowery is a divisive ranter who pines for a lost, pre-Internet economy. But his knowledge of legal and technological minutiae — he is a lecturer at the University of Georgia’s music business program — make his arguments hard to dismiss.

“He’s telling his personal story and standing up to the big corporations who claim to support songwriters, even as they work to undermine our rights behind the scenes,” said Paul Williams, the songwriter and president of Ascap. “He hasn’t flinched, and I think that’s given courage to other artists.”


@SFmusicTech Take Note – The 13 Most Insidious, Pervasive Lies of the Modern Music Industry… | Digital Music News

One of the most succinct and accurate assessments of the modern music business. As digital music hopefuls head to Nor Cal for @SFMusicTech the attendees should be aware that this conference has promoted many if not all of these “13 Most Insidious, Pervasive Lies of the Modern Music Industry.”

The list covers everything from “T-shirts & Touring” to “The Long Tail”  and from “Kickstarter” to “Streaming.”

Lie #1: Great music will naturally find its audience.
Lie #2: Artists will thrive off of ‘Long Tail,’ niche content.
Lie #3: The death of the major label will make it easier for artists to succeed.
Lie #4: There will be a death of the major label.
Lie #5: Digital formats will produce far greater revenues than physical.
Lie #6: “The real money’s in touring”
Lie #7: There’s an emerging middle class artist.
Lie #8: Kickstarter can and will build careers.
Lie #9: Spotify is your friend.
Lie #10: Google and YouTube are your friends.
Lie #11: If Pandora could just lower royalties, they could then survive, and really help all the artists out there.
Lie #12: T-Shirts!
Lie #13: ‘Streaming is the future…’

Here’s one in detail…

Lie #10: Google and YouTube are your friends.

The Lie: Google and YouTube have anything but their own profit-maximization goals in mind.

The Truth: This is business, not altruism, not matter how it gets spun. And, the interests of Google and rights owners are diabolically opposed and will continue to be so. Which also means that anything that is DMCA-compliant is ultimately great for Google, and fantastially bad for content owners.

So if you want exposure, go to YouTube. If you want a paycheck, find it somewhere else.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about this story at Digital Music News is that we didn’t write it. As we’ve stated repeatedly more and more people can see the truth as plain as day that musicians are not empowered by the internet as much as they have been more exploited by it.

A very basic refresher is in order to all of these businesses who are using music as the basis of their business models online: NO MUSIC = NO BUSINESS.


Record Labels Invest $4.5 Billion Annually In Artists… Pirates, $0… Any Questions?

So record labels invest in the careers of artists about $4.5 Billion annually in A&R and Marketing. Meanwhile, there are 200,000 infringing sites exploiting artists work and paying them nothing that we can see from the looks of the Google transparency report.

To be precise at the time of the writing of this post there are 281,340 infringing sites on the report with the #1 offender having received over 7.5 Million DMCA takedown notices! Seriously, 7.5 Million… and Google can’t determine that this is a site “dedicated or primarily used for infringement.” Wow.


Now look, we don’t always like record labels, but when we do, it’s because they are actually paying artists and investing capital into developing careers (hello Trent Reznor returning to a major label). Ninety percent of new releases financed by labels don’t recoup or break even, but the bands still gain the marketing and PR benefit from the labels investment after the deal ends (hello Thom Yorke and Radiohead).


Any wrong doing should be unacceptable. We’ve heard far to many stories of artists being exploited by record labels, publishers, managers, booking agents, concert promoters and a wide range of those offering services from radio promotion to independent PR and marketing. If anything, the internet has added to this list a whole new group of opportunists including the ad tech industry, pirate sites, cyber lockers and more.

So yes, any wrong doing against artists and creators should be unacceptable, even if it happens online.

So here’s some quick notes from the report published by the IFPI:

* Record companies’ total investment in A&R and marketing tops US$4.5 billion annually according to IFPI’s Investing in Music report

* Labels have maintained A&R spending at US$2.7 billion, representing 16 per cent of global recorded music revenues, despite the economic recession

* US$1 million to break a new artist in major markets

* More than 70 per cent of unsigned artists would like a recording contract according to two new surveys

Record companies remain the primary investors in artists, maintaining A&R spend despite declining overall revenues in recent years. Labels spent US$2.7 billion in 2011, only marginally down on 2008 (US$2.8 billion), despite an overall decline of 16 per cent in the trade value of the industry globally over the same period. Revenues invested in A&R increased from 15 to 16 per cent of industry turnover between 2008 and 2011.

Music companies invest a greater proportion of their global revenues in A&R than most other sectors do in research and development (R&D). Comparisons show music industry investment exceeding that of industries including software and computing (9.6%) and the pharmaceutical and biotech sector (15.3%). The comparisons are based on the European Commission’s 2011 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard.

Two new surveys, conducted in the UK and Germany in 2012, show more than 70 per cent of unsigned acts want a record deal, with marketing leading the perceived benefits of record company support.

Ok, then you have this… those who pay nothing, invest nothing, and pocket everything for themselves… this is the future you want? When artists complain about tiny payments from Spotify it’s important to note the reason why they can get away with paying so little, is because of all of those who pay nothing at all.

200kinfringingsitesAnd most of this is financed by Fortune 500 Companies flowing money through online ad networks like Google and others. The situation has even gained the attention of The White House, although we’ll see what good it does.

So if you want to get paid, focus on removing the bad actors from the marketplace and restoring fairness. Our hope has always been that the internet would in fact create a new middle class of professional musicians, by the means of their own choice. Unfortunately what we’ve seen is just more exploitation.

DMN : 7 Reasons Why Artists Should Skip a BitTorrent ‘Media Partnership’

Worth repeating here from Digital Music News by Helienne Lindvall.

Lately, BitTorrent, Inc. has made a concerted effort to appear “legit”, courting both artists and their managers.  It’s even managed to become a “tech partner” of the UK Music Managers Forum.  But is partnering with BitTorrent – and its uTorrent client – really a good idea for artists?


BitTorrent, “Not Designed For Piracy”… Really? Seriously? 99% Infringing…

Bit Torrent creator Bram Cohen is either one of the most misinformed people on earth, or one of the most intellectually dishonest… and here’s why… Remember this one?

BitTorrent: Bram Cohen Says ‘I commit digital piracy’?

I build systems to disseminate information, commit digital piracy, synthesize drugs, maintain untrusted contacts, purchase anonymously, and secure machines and homes. I release my code and writings freely, and publish all of my ideas early to make them unpatentable.

Uhmmmm…. So why this is surprising?

Only 0.3% of files on BitTorrent confirmed to be legal | Ars Technica

This report echoes similar results out of Princeton that were published earlier this year. Though the top categories were slightly different—Princeton found that movies and TV were the most popular, while music fell behind games/software, pornography, and unclassifiable files—that study found that all of the movie, TV, and music content being shared was indeed infringing.

Overall, Princeton said that 99 percent of the content on BitTorrent was illegal.

Oh and that Princeton Study…

BitTorrent census: about 99% of files copyright infringing | Ars Technica

It has never been a secret that the majority of files being shared over BitTorrent are movies and music that are likely being shared illegally.

But wait there’s more…

Census of Files Available via BitTorrent

Overall, we classified ten of the 1021 files, or approximately 1%, as likely non-infringing, This result should be interpreted with caution, as we may have missed some non-infringing files, and our sample is of files available, not files actually downloaded.

Still, the result suggests strongly that copyright infringement is widespread among BitTorrent users.

Fast forward to 2012…

Keen On… Bram Cohen: Has BitTorrent Killed The Music Industry?

His denial was categorical. Not only did Bram deny any role in shrinking the sale of recorded music, but he actually disputed that the music industry is in decline, claiming “data” showed it to be in a quite healthy state.

Well Bram, you might want to look at this, and this

and… as another #SFMusicTech begins BitTorrent is one of the lead sponsors… To be fair, SFMusicTech get’s to run it’s event and do business with whom it chooses. Unfortunately musicians are not given the same choice of having their work “torrented.” So how about a little honesty?

This conversation is really just about consent and compensation. Two very simple fundamental principles that pretty much everyone can agree are the foundations of not just ethical business practices, but also the basis for a fair and just society.


Music Tech Policy explores the question, “Can 5 Billion Ads Served a Month Be Wrong”:
MTP : BitTorrent Profits from Piracy By Serving Ads To UTorrent Client

ADWEEK : “Ad Industry Takes Major Step to Fight Online Piracy”… Again…

Stop me, oh uh, stop me, if you think you’ve heard this one before…

The advertising industry took a major step Thursday in fighting rogue websites that steal copyrighted material and sell counterfeit goods. To cut off the financial support that keeps rogue sites alive, the nation’s two major ad industry associations recommended agencies and marketers take steps to keep brands’ ads off those sites.

While the debate remains contentious, there has been universal agreement that the key to shutting down rogue websites was to cut off the money that keeps them alive.

Recognizing advertising was the first line of attack, GroupM last year became the first ad shop to adopt a comprehensive anti-piracy policy, compiling last summer an updatable black list of some 2,000 websites that are cut off from ads from blue-chip clients like Ford, AT&T, Unilever and Dell.


So the above is from May 3, 2013… and here’s an insightful article below from the advertising trade publication CLICKZ.COM on April 18, 2011… Yes, 2011…

What is the purpose of me bringing this up? To raise awareness and perhaps ask publicly that those involved in this industry become better corporate citizens. If you are running one of those exchanges or networks and feel that it’s only a “transparency” issue, please consider that you are funding not only these websites but organized criminal organizations that run them.

This is not a victimless crime, but instead one that is affecting musicians, programmers, artists, designers – and businesses of all sizes.

As an industry, here are some suggestions of what we can do:

1. Ensure every network that you work with has a no-warez/piracy/torrent policy. Ask around about the networks that do support this. Even if they claim that your ads aren’t going on there, be aware that many of these networks aren’t honest.

2. Put pressure on exchanges that you work with to ensure no network that has this type of inventory is on that exchange. If a few agencies call the exchanges and make it clear they won’t buy media until they are assured these sites are completely off the exchange, then maybe those in charge will consider it a serious issue.

3. Refuse to pay networks that you discover violate this policy and show your advertisements on those sites. Make it clear that you find this behavior not only illegal, but unacceptable for your agency, network, or product.



Why I Was Banned From Speaking At San Francisco Music Tech #SFMUSICTECH

this photo says it all

“This says It all”

I was supposed to speak at the SF Music Tech Summit Feb 19th 2013.   A few days before my scheduled appearance I received a call from  SF Music Tech and Fututre of Music Coalition co-founder Brian Zisk explaining that I would not be allowed to speak because I tweeted/blogged the above picture with the following caption “this says it all.”   Further he noted that “certain sponsors” would not “appreciate” me speaking at this event.

I love the hypocrisy of the Silicon Valley. They are all for free speech until they aren’t.

The fundamental American right is Free Speech. SF Music Tech (and Silicon Valley in general) do not really respect this right. Especially when it begins to interfere with their bottom line.

So what do you say we just end the charade? SF Music Tech Summit is biased against creators/musicians and their rights. It’s a pro-tech industry event.  It’s held in the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco.  Because it is a giant Kabuki.

Three times a year  you find Tech Industry “entrepreneurs” who’ve never turned a profit “debate” un-elected artists rights advocates who as it turns out work for opaque 501C  foundations and organizations  that are funded by technology companies like Google.

If it’s not clear I’m talking about you, Future of Music Coalition and Cash Music.  Sorry guys/gals you had your chance to do the right thing and  speak out publicly against me being banned and you didn’t.  That makes you at best quislings and at worst shills.

SF Music Tech and Brian Zisk have every right to do whatever they want with their #SFMUSICTECH summit but I just ask them to stop pretending it reperesents anything other than the technologists that wish to exploit artists.

Have a good SF Music Tech.  I’ll be off touring the UK.

Two Sincere Questions for The Future Of Music Coalition #SFMUSICTECH

We notice that Future of Music Coalition has submitted testimony to congress asking that they “represent” artists in the Copyright Reform process begun by Congress.

So since they’ve  volunteered to represent us.  We feel it only fair that they answer these two questions:

1. Who selects your advocacy positions?  
AFM, AFTRA, NARAS, Nashville Songwriters Assn, and ASCAP all have democratically elected boards who set the organizations’ positions.  Do you have members who vote for leadership?  If not, who is making those decisions?

2. Who funds your organization?
Google is listed as your first sponsor of your primary event.

How much money do you get from Google?  Do you think you should be taking funding from a source many artists believe to be opposed to their interests?

FOMC Spondors

How Musicians Are (Not) Making Money, and who is… @SFMusicTech w/ East Bay Ray

SF Music Tech is always a great place to get the temperature of the current ideology and trends relating to music and technology. Brian Zisk does a great job of creating an environment for the tech community to explore it’s relationship to music and musicians.

Respect Musicians Choices. Musicians need to get Paid.

Artists should have creative control over their work, their careers and they should be paid fairly. We couldn’t agree more. This sentiment was echoed by Emily White of Whitesmith Entertainment on one panel and was ofter heard repeated during the day. Whenever there was a “shout out” to give props to musicians it was almost always met with universal applause from the audience regardless of the panel topic.

During the day the mantra of how artists deserved respect and payment was heard over and over. Everyone loves musicians. Musicians need to be paid. But some struggled to truly accept this as a universal concept that extended to businesses operating on the internet as well.

We’ve all heard the stories of musicians being exploited by record labels, music publishers, band managers, booking agents, etc. These tales are almost universally met with disgust, as they should be. But when artist exploitation takes the form corporate profiteering on the internet the tech community often recoils into a bit of selective reasoning and double standards.

So let us say this loud and clear about people throwing stones inside of glass houses… any wrong doing of illegally exploiting musicians for corporate profiteering should be unacceptable even it is happening on the internet.

How Musicians Are (Not) Making Money

Kristin Thompson from the Future OF Music Coalition noted that even though there may be many new revenue streams available to musicians, many of them only pay “micro pennies.” The consensus was clear and perhaps best summed up by Incubus manager Steve Rennie who essentially said, “eventually this should all work it self out where musicians can earn professional careers again, but the timing might just be really bad for this generation of musicians, and that’s the luck of the draw in life.” We actually don’t find that to be encouraging.

The irony and the disconnect didn’t take long to surface when East Bay Ray from the Dead Kennedy’s pointed out how exactly musicians don’t get paid from corporately funded music piracy sites when he showed a screenshot from mp3skull providing free downloads of his bands music financed by 1-800 Flowers and Alaska Airlines.

Willful Blindness

Of course those who believe in the exploitation of musicians for the profit of internet businesses had no problem rapidly resorting to name calling when it would be a lot more productive to acknowledge the problem as a detriment to the livelihood of musicians, and seek to work towards a cooperative solution to help musicians get paid.

What about Transparency, Being Open and More Human?

Ray went on to note how the negative effects of these sites create an environment that allows companies like YouTube to operate as an opaque black box. Using the best publicly available information he quickly calculated that YouTube’s 35% payment to artists (versus Itunes and Spotify’s 70%) could be a contributing factor to the 45% decline in professional musicians in the last decade. By Ray’s calculations (here at Digital Music News) the numbers may create a loss of 12,000 middle class musicians.

The Elephant In The Room

Some would like to argue that the revenue these sites are generating is inconsequential. These people seem to have difficulty understanding that if brand sponsored piracy can support 200,000 infringing domians that Google is tracking in it’s transparency report, then there is clearly enough there that musicians should be getting paid.

The real point is that there appears to be plenty of money being made online from the distribution of music, it’s just that the money is not being “shared” with musicians.


Any honest conversation about compensation to musicians has to address the single largest detriment to the revenue of artists at any level, which are the ad network financed music piracy sites. Ignoring these sites leaves out the most critical variable in evaluating fair and ethical compensation models when over 200,000 sites pay nothing at all to musicians with unlimited access to illegally free inventory. These sites profit from exploiting musicians and paying the musicians nothing.

Any legally licensed, legitimate music tech start up also has to acknowledge that mass scale, enterprise level, commercial infringement of music does NOT create a better environment for innovative entrepreneurs but rather a much more difficult one.

The truth is, there is no new professional middle class of musicians. The grand experiment of the digital utopia has been a massive failure for musicans and everyone at SF Music Tech now knows it. The soft back peddling by most on old hard line positions shows clearly that the reality for professional musicians has gotten worse, not better.

One of the most overheard phrases of the conference was, “we have to do better to get musicians paid.” Indeed, as we have noted here the truth is self evident, if the Internet is working for musicians, why aren’t more musicians working professionally? Not everyone aspires to work a day job, make music as a hobby and allow internet corporations to profit from their labor, illegally.

“Here we are, stuck with all these people who want music for free,” said Dave Allen, founding member of Gang of Four and interactive strategist at the branding agency North. “We have to find a way for musicians to make a living.”

If the tech and internet community are truly interested in getting musicians paid wouldn’t it make sense to start where money is already being made?

Artists Rights Watch – Monday Feb 25, 2013

A Weekly Review of Artists Rights, Copyright and Technology News for Creators from Around The Web.

* For Music Industry, a Story of Two Googles

…as long as the search side of Google causes friction with the music industry, its other side — the one that is trying to compete with Apple, Amazon and every other digital music service out there — will face some rough patches.

* New tune at SF MusicTech Summit

The freewheeling era of file sharing, it appears, is slowly coming to a close as artists begin to assert their rights and tech companies consider business alliances with the creators they once flagrantly ignored.

“Here we are, stuck with all these people who want music for free,” said Dave Allen, founding member of Gang of Four and interactive strategist at the branding agency North. “We have to find a way for musicians to make a living.”

* SF MusicTech: Dead Kennedys’ East Bay Ray Lashes Out at Internet “Pimps”

“There’s opportunists on the Internet that have taken advantage of the artists,” he said, at one point calling them “pimps.” The slim royalties from streaming services, coupled with the proliferation of free MP3s online, meant the music industry was “selling a free ride on a carnival horse, but they’re starving the carnival horse.”

* Recap SF Music Tech Summit XII 2013

* Content economics, part 1: advertising

TV is still the monster, the elephant: for all the talk of cord-cutting, Americans have clearly voted that, given the choice, they’d much rather have cable TV than broadband internet.

And for web-based publishers, the situation is much, much worse even than this chart makes it look.

* The Misplaced Zeal of Aaron Swartz

The late activist’s efforts helped put power and public sympathy into the hands of corporations at the expense of artists, musicians, and the people.

Past and present facilitators of digital piracy like Napster, Audiogalaxy, Grokster, Megaupload, and The Pirate Bay are not misunderstood beacons of freedom of speech. They are digital black-market distributors who never asked artists’ permission to feature their works or paid creators a penny, and whose owners took money for themselves via venture-capital funding, subscription fees, or advertising revenue.

* The Pirate Bay Is Actually Suing Someone for Trademark Infringement…
* I’m East Bay Ray. And I Think YouTube Has Forced 12,000 Musicians Out of Work…
* Spotify, Pandora & Google Have a New Problem: The New York Times…

* Writing or speaking about streaming music screwing artists? Read these articles first
* Harlem Shake tops Billboard Hot 100 chart thanks to YouTube streams

* Big Music Says Google Isn’t Cracking Down on Pirate Sites, After All

“We have found no evidence that Google’s policy has had a demonstrable impact on demoting sites with large amounts of piracy.”

* Spotify pushing labels to lower costs, open up free service to phones

Spotify, the popular music subscription service, is due to meet in the coming weeks with its major counterparts in the record industry to renew their licensing agreements. The Verge has learned that managers at Spotify are expected to ask for substantial price breaks from the music labels as well as the rights to extend its free pricing tier to mobile devices.

* Smokey the Bear Fuels Piracy’s Fire?
* Google Wants to Pass the Buck on Piracy, but Keep Theirs?

Any progress in severing piracy’s blood supply is a certainly a good thing BUT for Google to claim the company is working to “block funding” of pirate sites–while simultaneously profiting from them–seems more than a tad disingenuous. What about blocking access to funding via their AdSense accounts on YouTube and Blogger? Why focus on Visa and Mastercard when one’s own house is in such disarray?

* The vine should suffer, not the artist.

* The Limits of Copyright
* Copyright Maximalism

The misapplication tends to be especially apparent in the comments section of TCM, where the strangest things are brought up as examples of what would happen if we let up the good fight against copyright. The fact that they strangely failed to materialise over the 300 years or so that copyright had been in existence prior to 2000 (when it tended to be enforced a good deal better) doesn’t throw those who would put forward such theories.

* Congressman Says He’ll Propose Ban On 3D-Printable Gun Magazines

* Google looks to Cut Funds to Illegal Sites
* Google’s Copyright War Rages On

In private, the creative industries argue that Google’s supposed favoured status began in Number 10.

David Cameron’s former director of strategy, Steve Hilton, is married to Rachel Whetstone, head of communications at Google. It handed Ms Whetstone a “hotline” to Number 10, opponents argue. Although the couple now live in California, that hotline is “still hot”, says one source. “But it doesn’t matter anyway, because the damage is done.”

The close relationship between Number 10 and the top brass at Google’s Mountain View headquarters has become the framework for all subsequent discussion, critics say. It was emblematic when, nearly a year ago, Downing Street was apparently so in tune with Google’s thinking that the company’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, and the Chancellor, George Osborne, published a joint leader in The Financial Times.

* A Declaration of the Interdependence of Cyberspace

You allege that government has had no role in the Internet, and for this reason it has no claim to the Internet today, but this accusation is founded on nothing more than ignorance and superstition. Government labs and government-funded research programs gave birth to the Internet’s essential technologies, and government policies continue to guide the development of important Internet innovations today.

* Stop pretending cyberspace exists – Treating the Internet as a mythical country makes us dumber

If you’re not convinced by now that the very notion of cyberspace is silly, try substituting “fax” or “telephone” or “telegraph” for “cyber” in words and sentences. The results will be comical. “Activists denounced government criminal surveillance policies for colonizing Fax Space.” “Should Telephone Space be commercialized?” Again, the point is not that telecommunications should not be structured and governed in the public interest, but rather that the debate about the public interest is not well served by the Land of Oz metaphor.

* ‘Liquid Democrazy’: Pirate Party Sinks amid Chaos and Bickering

The Pirate Party has been too busy tearing itself apart, with members fighting leaders, who are bickering among themselves and antagonizing the members too. In just the last two days, party leaders for the states of Baden-Württemberg and Brandenburg have stepped down, citing the negative climate. “The atmosphere is so poisonous, there’s hardly any constructive work taking place anymore,” says Udo Vetter

* Former File-Sharing Site Admin Fined 6.4 Million Euros
* Google Refuses to Index Huge Streaming Movie Portal Homepage

* US to crack down on intellectual property theft

The 141-page document refers to China at least 188 times. Russia is mentioned 45 times, and India is also mentioned.Those cases cited mostly involved employees stealing trade secrets on the job rather than cyber-attacks. US corporate victims of the theft included General Motors, Ford, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Motorola, Boeing and Cargill.