Posts Tagged ‘BMI’

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The History of Music Media Postscript: The Future

April 8, 2010

 

Behold! The future of music! Um... keytars... I guess...

Senores y senoras: nosotros tenemos mas influencia.

The music industry is dead. After numerous attempts to kill the industry, it has finally happened.

It took turning music into an infinite good to finally do it. And while that may have cut it deeply, it was the self-inflicted wounds that finished it off.

The endless abuse of the very artists it was supposed to cultivate and protect. Locking musicians into expensive, constraining contracts. An intentionally faulty royalty scheme that keeps artists separated from their money. An entire amalgamation of inept management, vindictive legal battles, rent-seeking that serves to keep ASCAP, BMI, the PRS, the RIAA, etc. rolling in money and a perverse (and thoroughly broken) trickle-down effect that only benefits the top 5%.

As much as the record labels and their accompanying dollar-sniffing dogs would like to return to the rapacious days of the $19 CD and its money-printing ability, it’s just never going to happen. So they force it, suing 14-year-old kids and 80-year-old grandmothers. They send out bills to Mom & Pop stores, cop shops, charities, animal shelters, the Girl Scouts, etc. They browbeat or seduce your elected officials into legislating your rights away and otherwise throw all their energy into tipping the playing field back in the direction of their gaping and insatiable maw.

Perhaps it's too subtle...

Take a quick look at the “business plan” of the performance right groups. They send out bill after bill for bogus “public” performance fees (“public” meaning heard by more than one person). This is nothing more than mass mailing. Spam.

Their methodology is no different from the guy at the bar that asks each passing lady if the like anal sex. Yeah, he’ll take a lot of abuse but sooner or later, he’ll get lucky. And to him, it’s worth the damage to his reputation.

Same thing here. They’ll demand money from anybody and everybody, hoping for a 5% return or whatever. If the public can’t shame them in to stopping or the courts refuse to make them stop, they’ll keep hopping from patron to patron, hoping to get lucky.

They waste their time, money and effort on fighting a battle they have already lost, rather than finding new and better ways to help their artists promote themselves or work within the “constraints” of the digital age.

As long as music is an infinite good (and that’s for the rest of forever, folks), it is self-defeating to thrown your energy into clicking your heels and wishing for 1991.

There are thousands of bands giving away thousands of songs every day, having realized that it’s better to get their music in your ears and their name on your tongues than to bemoan every “lost” sale or play penny-ante royalty poker with the major labels and their legal friends.

Thanks Chain Music Store! I never would have found Dinowalrus without your invaluable flaunting of mainstream artists!

Despite what everyone may be hearing from spoiled rotten artists like Garth Brooks and Bono, there has never been a better time than now to be a musician. No matter how small you are, you can get heard.

In the old brick-and-mortar + mainstream radio world, would you or I ever heard of the bands like Dinowalrus, Micro Titanic, Grave Babies, Whitey, Human People, etc.? If they even made their way into the local Musicland, they likely would have been in and out within days, thanks to sales of $0.

Here’s a message for those who still doubt and fear to cast your pearls before thieving swine. A message for every musician out there who thinks that piracy will deprive them of a livelihood. A message for those who think that the only way to self-sufficiency is through the same routes that have been obliterated by a flood of new options.

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

You can’t sell your music? Well, maybe your product is no good. Maybe you’re not spending enough time promoting it. Maybe you’ve self-imposed a premium on your time and effort that no small amount of money will satisfy.

How can you NOT get your product out?

Case in fucking point: I bought Whitey’s new album from Amazon at 4 am. It took about 5 minutes from beginning to end. By the time I left for work at 4:15, I had it cued up on my mp3 player. And you want to tell me that we should go back to plastic discs? That I should have to wait to whenever it’s convenient for the local music shoppe to open its doors and then, hopefully, have whatever it is I’m looking for?

Another person forgoes the crapshoot of a 9-to-5 for the steady paycheck of a musician.

Message #2:

LOSE YOUR INFLATED SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT.

Since when did becoming a musician become a path to financial freedom? Did your parents ever sit you down and implore you to form a band? “Drop out of college and form a band, son. You’ll be set for life.”

Don’t look to us for sympathy if doing the thing you love has failed to put steaks in the freezer (or veggieburgers or whatever) and a late-model vehicle in the driveway. Many of us don’t even get the chance to do what we really want to. At least you’ll have a few albums or singles out and some gigs under your belt. You went out, got sweaty and drunk and played music for people. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Whatever artistic line you take, whether it’s music, painting, writing, stand-up, etc. is never guaranteed to repay your time and effort. If it does, you’re one of the truly blessed. If not, well, at least you spent some time doing what you loved.

Don’t go down that path. Don’t follow your predecessors in their jaundiced thinking. Their fever dreams of a few hit singles financing their retirements. That a copyright and 12 minutes of music should allow them to want for nothing. It’s sickening to think that your “art” should be used as leverage, as a weapon, against small businesses, charities, animal shelters, etc. If you’re currently riding this diseased gravy train, please, for everyone’s sake: get the fuck off.

Major Labels: It’s too late to adapt. If you hadn’t been so busy squeezing every cent out of music buyers for the last 40 years, you might still have some goodwill left. And it’s not just the fans you’ve been fucking. It’s also a majority of your artists.

The RIAA: If the only trick you have up your sleeve is “We’ll see you in court,” well… there’s just really no hope for you. You assholes don’t even pretend you want to adapt. Fuck you.

ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, the PRS, etc.: The only thing the digital age has done for you is given you the opportunity to attach yourself like remora to any passing revenue stream. Unfortunately, you tend to kill off every stream with your overenthusiastic sucking. You’re nothing but parasites. Spam generators. Aggressive panhandlers.

Good riddance to you all. Musicians don’t need you. Customers never did. You’re as essential and pleasant as a vestigial tail.

-CLT

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The Stabbing Knife Vol. 1 – ASCAP

July 21, 2009

Roberto_jpg

Time to unpack the stabbing knife. Kids: don’t read any further than this unless a.) you really want to, or b.) no one’s stopping you.

Pity the poor music industry. Or don’t. Any group that claims to speak out for “poor artists” at press conferences while sending packs of lawyers out the back door doesn’t deserve your pity. Contempt, perhaps. But not pity.

Having long ago run out of sane ideas on how to maintain their wealth, ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Performers) has decided that everyone, everywhere should be forced to pay in perpetuity for listening to music. It’s just not enough to buy the album these days.

First, a little rundown on their targets. A rogue’s gallery of copyright violators and pirates of every shade. Here’s who ASCAP is billing now:

Anyone who embeds video on their website.
So pretty much everyone at every blog site and everyone everywhere else. Specifically, this goes after YouTube, which is a bit of a stretch, especially considering YouTube has already agreed to pay them $1.6 million for hosting the videos. Now ASCAP would like to collect again. And again. And again.

The town of New Milford, CT.
ASCAP would like $280 because the town center “sometimes has music playing.” The city council voted to ignore the billing, tabling it indefinitely. BMI and SESAC responded by increasing the amount of their claims to $3,000 and $1,500.

Everyone who owns a cellphone.
Well, maybe not everybody. Not if you’ve never purchased a ringtone featuring a popular artist. ASCAP is claiming that your cellphone, while doing its job of alerting you to an incoming call, is performing publicly and thus subject to royalty charges. Better put that phone on vibrate. Those easily excited can just set it to mute.

Hosts of open mic nights.
ASCAP and BMI have hit owners of small coffeeshops and bars with bills ranging from $350 to $6000 to cover “performance royalties.” Some have had to shut the open mic nights down, thus cutting off several fledgling artists from finding a venue in which to perform. Others have tried to get their acts to sign waivers stating that they will only perform original material. ASCAP has ignored these.

Here’s an incredibly arrogant and ignorant quote on the subject:

Vince Candilora, ASCAP’s vice president for licensing, says the fees are set at a “very good rate,” adding, “What gives anyone the right to use someone else’s property, even though they’re not making money on it? I can guarantee you the phone company’s going to charge you whether you’re making money or not.”

So… a band playing a cover song is like the phone service? Always on? Multiple lines? Phone companies bill for services provided. You’re charging the bar owner for what exactly? The music played? The instruments provided? The soundsystem? What exactly are you providing in exchange for this money?

Related: a nightclub owner in Vail, CO paid $40,000 to ASCAP because a band played 10 cover songs during its appearance. A real bargain, considering ASCAP originally wanted $30,000 per song.

Anybody who sings Happy Birthday.
Over 1% of the total money collected by ASCAP comes from this one song, arguably the most popular song ever. And that copyright claim they collect on may be completely bogus. But who needs facts and research when threats and intimidation will accomplish more in less time?

Bitches better have my money...

Bitches better have my money...

The Girl Scouts of America.
We can debate the propriety and taste of teaching the little cookie-pushers the Macarena, but really… threatening the Girl Scouts? A bunch of 8-year old girls who are now afraid to dance and sing… I hope you’re happy. Perhaps the lawyers will stop by and kill their pets while they’re away at camp.

In all fairness, ASCAP dropped the campaign to wring money out of a beloved American institution. But only after the public shaming. And what the fuck? Who greenlighted this action? If anything highlights the antagonistic entitlement these jackasses feel, this does.

And that just covers some recent stupidity from America. Here’s a very brief rundown on what’s going on in the rest of the world:

These actions mark performance rights groups as true bullies, never willing to go head-to-head with a comparable foe, but rather beat up on charities, small businesses and little girls.

You’d think that an industry so strained for cash would want to have as many people as possible exposed to their product. Apparently it would be easier for them if one person paid royalties over and over again via this business model:

  • Buy CD. ($10-15)
  • Play CD at work. (Pay public performance royalties.)
  • Play CD on car ride home with windows down and stereo up. (Performance royalties.)
  • Throw a little house party. Get new CD pumpin’. (More performance royalties.)
  • Sing a little of the CD in the shower the next morning. Whoops. Left the door open. (Performance royalties.)
  • Etc.

ASCAP continues its push, getting into bed with Congress (although, let’s face it, our representatives have all the self-restraint and self-respect as any “Girl Gone Wild”) in an effort to collect additional performance fees anytime a song gets played on the radio. This hypocritical gouging is covered in a delightful ironic sauce, as ASCAP and the RIAA have both been in hot water for paying the radio stations to play their music.

Awwww... a rescue shelter! Look at that dog with three legs! He's trying to jump. Awww... Anyway. Pay the fuck up.

Awwww... a rescue shelter! Look at that dog with three legs! He's trying to jump! Adorable... Anyway. Pay the fuck up.

Now the shoe is on the other litigious foot, and their favorite promotional vehicle has now become a sacrificial cash cow.

All that ASCAP will do is ensure that they and their lawyers get paid. Some of the top 5% of their stable of artists will get some trickledown (think U2, Rolling Stones, etc.) Those slightly below this threshold may see some tiny residuals. And everyone else gets jackshit. Nothing but fewer places to play and promote their music.

I haven’t sent one out for awhile but I think the time has come:

Fuck you, ASCAP. Fuck your ignorance, your false sense of entitlement and your abusive tactics. Fuck you just like you’re fucking 95% of the artists on your roster.

Stick it to the man. Play your music loud. Invite your friends over and play all the music you can. Promote your favorite bands. Embed their videos everywhere. Support your local cover band. Donate to your favorite charities. Buy Girl Scout cookies.

-CLT