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Old 03-22-2008, 07:56 PM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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NYT Op-Ed Cuts to the Web Matter

An Op-Ed by Billy Bragg in Saturday's NY Times discusses online music, but its message reverberates for e-books too. It describes the hole online musicians find themselves in, a hole dug by the corporations and the consumers, that leaves them at the mercy of others who just don't seem to see the need to pay them for their work. At its heart is this important point:

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If young musicians are to have a chance of enjoying a fruitful career, then we need to establish the principle of artistsĺ rights throughout the Internet Ś and we need to do it now.
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Old 03-22-2008, 08:32 PM   #2
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It's quite a conundrum, as a young musician, you can only make money if lots of people listen to your music, but lots of people are only going to start listening to your music if you give it away for free, and more than that, actually spend money on promoting it...hence the existence of record labels. But digital content makes it seem increasingly unlikely that record labels are going to be able to recoup their investment in musicians.
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Old 03-22-2008, 08:50 PM   #3
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Steve, Billy makes an excellent point when he states :

'The claim that sites such as MySpace and Bebo are doing us a favor by promoting our work is disingenuous.'

These types of sites have grown at an enormous rate over the last couple of years and have done so by conveniently forgetting that one of the reasons they exist at all is because of the content they offer to members - content provided by someone else, gratis. I must admit it's a nice business model, especially for the likes of Michael Birch - steal someone else's material make a profit from it, then develop amnesia and sell it again as part of the business and make oodles of ready cash. Billy's right to ask if Birch will be returning some of his gotten gains back to the artists who helped make him his fortune.

One thing that did disappoint me about Billy's talk with Birch was this :

'In our discussions, we largely ignored the elephant in the room: the issue of whether he ought to consider paying some kind of royalties to the artists.'

Sounds like Billy wanted to stay on Birch's good side. Maybe he's worried that Birch won't pay him for any future consulting fees. Very 'diplomatic' on Billy's part, but a bit disingenuous and self-serving methinks. I always though Billy had a bit more 'bottle' than that - or maybe like most of us he realises that he needs to put more money away for his pension.

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Old 03-22-2008, 08:55 PM   #4
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Indeed, Google's business model is also based on grand, organized, theft on an immense scale. They are NOT a "search engine". They in fact copy content, store it on their own servers, monetize it without compensation to the original authors, and then auction it off.

MySpace, YouTube and the ilk were simply the next natural step once Google was rewarded rather than punished for their wholesale piracy.
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Old 03-22-2008, 09:12 PM   #5
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I'm not concerned about the record companies: They can actually continue to make money... it just means a change to their old business model, they'll have to evolve, or die.

I think finding a way to get others to accept Bragg's idea of an "artist's bill of rights" would go a long way to making improvements happen. But how, when corporations see musicians as cannon fodder, and consumers are too selfish to care if someone else makes a living off their work? Obviously Bragg doesn't know how to do it, or he would have said something in his meeting with Birch.

So the question becomes: Who will everyone listen to? Who can get the message across? And what, exactly, do they need to say?
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Old 03-26-2008, 11:23 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
It's quite a conundrum, as a young musician, you can only make money if lots of people listen to your music, but lots of people are only going to start listening to your music if you give it away for free, and more than that, actually spend money on promoting it...hence the existence of record labels. But digital content makes it seem increasingly unlikely that record labels are going to be able to recoup their investment in musicians.
Musicians nowaday makes money in other ways. Mostly concerts and selling things at concerts. Yes, maybe it will be impossible to make an extreme amount of money (like Madonna or other big artists) in the future but I do not see that as a lose.
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Old 03-26-2008, 11:25 PM   #7
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Musicians nowaday makes money in other ways. Mostly concerts and selling things at concerts. Yes, maybe it will be impossible to make an extreme amount of money (like Madonna or other big artists) in the future but I do not see that as a lose.
That's fine for performing musicians, what about composers?
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Old 03-26-2008, 11:30 PM   #8
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That's fine for performing musicians, what about composers?
You mean who writes music that is not performed anywhere? If it is performed then they get income in connection with that.
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Old 03-26-2008, 11:37 PM   #9
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Would they? Are you saying that in the future the only music that will get produced is music that has to be performed before a concert audience?
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Old 03-26-2008, 11:39 PM   #10
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Would they? Are you saying that in the future the only music that will get produced is music that has to be performed before a concert audience?
Or maybe somebody will invent a new business model!
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Old 03-27-2008, 12:13 AM   #11
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In Japan artists have already written off getting money from their recordings. Sure there is a trickle from the overseas sales (very little) and a bit more from airplay plus (for composers only) a trifle more from sheet music and live performance. A yen or two from karaoke. The groups make all of their money from live performances and selling merchandise. They use the free distribution of their music as a drawing card.

In the UK Prince recently gave away his latest CD as a free insert to a major newspaper. (This did result in many music stores dumping his entire catalog.)

In the US, some years ago, the Grateful Dead -- a wonderful touring band -- encouraged their fans to record their concerts and give them to others. Their fans -- called Dead Heads -- recorded almost every concert they performed.
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Old 03-27-2008, 01:20 AM   #12
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I'm interested in how people like Steve see composer's rights, because as has been pointed out, it's all very well coming up with ways to pay the people who perform the books you write, but we should probably work on paying the people who write them too.

My expectation is that we'll see more and more sales of ebooks, with or without DRM. We'll probably also see more upsets when people discover that the books they've temporarily licensed in some way are not actually theirs, which will hopefully lead to further pressure against DRM.

One thing to consider: photography used to be a hobby for rich people, then it was something many people did a little bit of and a few got paid for, and now it's just background noise for the most part. The people who get paid for taking photos are the ones who are add something special to the process. Either they're photojournalists who are on the spot or they're well connected (so they get photos of interesting things) or they're just plain good at marketing. All that as well as being capable photographers.

I think writing is going through a similar transition, and many publishers/authors sound at times very like some of the pro photographers I know who whine about new competitors with cheap digital gear kicking them around in the market, or worse still, selling at a lower price. Think about the dung-flinging between bloggers and bought media that we see. Novelists will probably suffer a similar fate - some writers at Baen are already involving their audience, and there are a lot of enthusiastic amateurs out there, some producing works of excellent quality. I predict that the next killer app will be a book-sharing board in the vein of flickr and smugmug, which will dramatically speed the filtering process that brings the good stuff to the top.
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Old 03-27-2008, 07:57 AM   #13
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I'm interested in how people like Steve see composer's rights, because as has been pointed out, it's all very well coming up with ways to pay the people who perform the books you write, but we should probably work on paying the people who write them too.
Somebody better pay the composers... a lot of musicians aren't worth spit without music someone else wrote for them...

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My expectation is...
Based on the discussions I've heard on this site and elsewhere, I'm afraid I think the future is going to be the Kindle system (with a better, next-next-generation device).
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Old 03-27-2008, 09:23 AM   #14
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In Japan artists have already written off getting money from their recordings. Sure there is a trickle from the overseas sales (very little) and a bit more from airplay plus (for composers only) a trifle more from sheet music and live performance. A yen or two from karaoke. The groups make all of their money from live performances and selling merchandise. They use the free distribution of their music as a drawing card.
Do you have any sources for that? I still see plenty of CDs sold in Japan and I didn't see much "free distribution" from more or less well known artists. Also iTunes Japan is apparently pretty successful.
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Old 03-27-2008, 06:42 PM   #15
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Who will everyone listen to? Who can get the message across? And what, exactly, do they need to say?
I'm guessing they will sound a lot like www.allofmp3.com and they will say something like "whatever content you want at a price you can afford". There might even be a "rent everything for a reasonable monthly fee" but Nokia seems to think it will go the other way - "this device has everything for not much more - but only for the life of the device".
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