The internet-fueled debate about the pros and cons of Spotify went another round last week, with contributions by David Byrne, Dave Allen, Jay Frank, Bob Lefsetz and Fast Company. I read them all, as I’ve done with the previous public debates about whether Spotify is a good or bad thing for musicians. As an indie record label owner and a long-time advocate for musicians, I care deeply about these debates and, more importantly, about ensuring musicians and songwriters are fairly compensated for their work.
Today, I posted a long-ish thought piece about this on Music Think Tank. Instead of focusing on the arguments about the fraction-of-a-penny rate per play, the article suggests some other changes to these music services that might make a substantive difference for musicians, songwriters and fans.
[…] Casey Rae, deputy director of the musicians advocacy group The Future of Music Coalition, said he’s all for new approaches that pay artists directly rather than funneling money into the “black hole” of major-record-label accounting. But he was still skeptical of Rdio’s offer, which he saw as mainly a public relations effort.
He argued that there’s a finite number of fans an artist can deliver to Rdio, so there’s only so much an artist can hope to make from the new system. But those customers can deliver far more in value to the service than Rdio will ever pay to the artist who recruited them, Rae-Hunter said. read more
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.
In 2007, I was invited to McGill University to guest lecture at a cross-disciplinary class taught by producer Sandy Pearlman. Since the graduate students had been tasked with designing a workable new music-related business model for their final project, I decided to put together a presentation that focused on the back end of the music business model: if and how performers, songwriters and labels were each compensated when their music was either streamed or downloaded. read more
If you follow debates about music, technology and how artists earn a living, you probably caught this post from David Lowery (Camper Van Beethoven; Cracker). Lowery’s lengthy missive was in response to a blog post by a 21 year-old NPR intern, Emily White, who talked about how she never really paid for music, but nonetheless has 11,000 songs in her iTunes library. read more
Universal Music Group’s pending $1.9 billion bid for the recorded-music business of EMI Group has some rival record labels, consumer groups and artists singing the blues in the nation’s capital.
The consolidation of musical talent under one corporate roof — Lady Gaga and Katy Perry would be represented, along with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other artists — would give the company control of more than 43 percent of the American recorded music pie…
…Criticisms of the deal also strike a chord with musicians. read more
Kristin Thomson is a community organizer, social policy researcher, entrepreneur and musician. She is co-owner of Simple Machines, an independent record label, which released over seventy records and CDs from 1991-1998. She also played guitar in the band Tsunami, which released four albums from 1991-1997 and toured extensively. In 2001, Kristin graduated with a Masters in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. She has been with the Future of Music Coalition since 2001 and has overseen project management, research and event programming, including Future of Music Policy Summits from 2002-2007. She currently lives near Philadelphia with her husband Bryan Dilworth, a concert promoter, and their son, where she also plays guitar in the lady-powered band, Ken. read more