If you were to pose the question of why unauthorized downloading is so pervasive many answers would probably refer to the prevalence of convenient, unrestrictive file locker services. This wouldn’t be wrong—file lockers clearly provide the infrastructure that people need to go about their unauthorized downloading activities. Opposition to file locker services tends to focus on their role as enablers and facilitators of unauthorized downloading, and in some cases, their tendency to turn a blind eye to the illegal exchanges that are obviously happening on their websites. read more
You’re a touring artist performing in small-capacity clubs. You’re a registered writer with ASCAP, and you want to receive your live performance royalties for playing your songs in concert. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, up until this week, it wouldn’t have been possible unless you met the rather restrictive criteria to be included in ASCAP’s monitoring sample, which determines who gets paid what for live performances.
Prior to the announcement of their new OnStage program earlier this week, ASCAP only monitored “all songs performed in the 200 top-grossing concert tours, as well as selected other major live performance venues, covering headliners and opening acts” and “live symphonic and recital concerts,” according to their website. As a result of this practice, smaller acts found it impossible to seek royalty payments for their live performances unless they were openers on a large, monitored tour.
Last month, singer-songwriter James Taylor joined the long line of legacy acts that have sued their former record labels for withholding royalty payments, among other financial oversights. According to a 2007 audit, Warner Bros. Records underpaid Taylor by nearly $1,700,000 between the years of 2004 and 2007.
This kind of financial dispute is hardly new. The Temptations and Sister Sledge filed similar complaints (against Warner and Universal Music Group, respectively) earlier this year. The debate about whether artists should receive compensation as a “sale” or “license” for digital downloads has also garnered attention as a result of Eminem’s audit of his former label, Aftermath Records, wherein he argued that he should have been paid his licensing royalty rate of 50 percent — instead of his sales royalty rate of 12 percent — for digital downloads in the early days of iTunes.
When Jarrod Bramson of the indie-folk band The Solvents discovered that someone named Aron Lyrd was passing off Solvents songs as his own and selling them on iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon, he was understandably frustrated. As Bramson explained on his website:
“I joined a website called sonicbids.com because I wanted to submit an application to Bumbershoot. I was looking around the site, checking out other services they had to offer. I came across this company that helps artists submit their music to television and movie producers. I was interested so I started looking a little deeper. I noticed that at the bottom of their page, there are comments from artists that have submitted. For some reason or another, I noticed this guy, Aron Lyrd. His profile picture was him in a ninja suit with some nunchucks!
…..he just made me laugh for some reason. I had to check out his music…
…so I click on the featured song “orange ambition” on his E.P.K.(electronic press kit) and… MYSONGCAMEON!!!”
Upon further investigation, Bramson realized this nunchaku-bearing, big-talking musician was an amalgam of no less than five fairly distinct and acclaimed bands; all of the music Lyrd was selling appeared to be other people’s sound recordings with the song titles and artist data changed. Bramson contacted the digital retailers to try to have his appropriated songs removed from Lyrd’s catalog with mixed success. As of this week, CDBaby and iTunes have both yanked the infringing tracks, but they remain available for purchase at Amazon.
Say you’re a college radio DJ, and you play a cover of The Velvet Underground’s 1966 classic “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” performed by electro-art-pop duo YACHT. You might be surprised to learn that Lou Reed (the songwriter) gets paid when that song is broadcast, but YACHT, the performer, does not.
Unlike most countries, where performer, sound recording owner, songwriter, and publisher all get paid when a song is played on over-the-air radio, in the US, only the songwriter and publisher are compensated. You heard right: no matter how many times a song gets played on the radio, performing artists don’t get a dime. By contrast, internet radio — from Pandora to Sirius/XM and all the webcasters in-between — pays everybody: labels, performing artists, publishers and songwriters. (For more info on how this all works, check out our Public Performance Right fact sheet.)
This glitch in US law doesn’t just impact the Biebers and Britneys of the world. It also means that hard-working independent artists who are more likely to get played on college and noncommercial radio than corporate stations are missing out on a potential revenue stream.
Ian Rogers is CEO of Topspin, host of This Week In Music, father, husband and life-long record collector / music fan. Unlike Yahoo!’s former CEO, he actually holds a degree in Computer Science but dropped out of graduate school in 1995 to go on tour with Beastie Boys. Ian’s previous company, Mediacode, was acquired by Yahoo! in 2003 and he worked at Winamp parent, Nullsoft, when it was acquired by AOL in May of 1999. read more
The history of the MP3 is one of technological innovation, consumer demand and all-too-persistent litigation, often against those very consumers who embraced the format in the heady post-Napster days. The story of this resilient digital audio file has been recounted many times — from the recording industry’s early wars of attrition to the MP3s role in the filesharing explosion to the bloggers who help curate an oversaturated music marketplace.
What doesn’t garner as much discussion is how the MP3 format — celebrated, reviled or somewhere in-between — has come to define the digital music experience, both for millions of listeners, and for those who help drive discovery. At one point, not so long ago, music bloggers sat near the top of the curatorial heap, using MP3s to help create overnight stars out of teenage indie rockers. Others highlighted niche genres and aural nuggets from decades past.
Marcy Rauer Wagman’s amazing career has spanned all corners of the music industry. As a teenager, she was a nationally known recording artist with her band High Treason and toured throughout the United States, opening for artists such as Santana, Chicago, Jefferson Airplane, Miles Davis, Van Morrison and many others. She later went on to work as a studio singer and vocal arranger, as well as a hitmaking songwriter, publisher, producer, and jingle-writer.
As an educator and author, Marcy has worked to impart her comprehensive knowledge of the music industry to the next generation; her recent e-book Rock Your College is a comprehensive guide to the music industry for college students and music industry entrepreneurs. Today, Marcy is an entertainment, media and technology attorney and the Managing Partner of her firm Wagman Dickman, LLC. She represents a large range of industry clients, including recording artists, publishers, songwriters, producers, recording studio owners, artist managers, as well as media and technology professionals.
As part of our Future of Music Coalition Summer of Love profile series, we recently sat down with Marcy and asked her a few questions:
Last week, Russian punk rock art collective Pussy Riot was sentenced to two years of correctional labor colony for their guerrilla art performance five months ago in the Temple of Christ the Savior in Moscow. This judgement — for a 45-second unplugged performance mostly consisting of chanting and dancing in front of the church’s altar — seems to be absurdly cruel. Moreover, considering there is no criminal law that these feminist artists have broken. read more
[This post co-authored by FMC Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman]
August in DC is traditionally a slow month. Election seasons are even slower. This year seems a little different, at least concerning an issue that could directly impact musicians. Within a span of six weeks, members of the House of Representatives on both sides of the aisle have introduced new legislation that aims to establish a more level playing field for radio royalties. read more