Shawn Reynaldo: DJ Sets Are Going Online—But Is Anyone Getting Paid? (Pitchfork)
A look at the perilous economics of electronic music during the coronavirus pandemic.
The monetization aspect is particularly important, as Twitch already has an established tipping culture. Although it’s primarily a gaming platform, musicians have increasingly started testing it out, hoping that viewers will pay to subscribe to their channel or tip them directly. Artist and tech researcher Mat Dryhurst has referred to this practice as “e-busking,” as it represents a new paradigm in which performers will have to earn a living by virtually singing for their supper, over and over again.
When DJs play their records on various livestream platforms, the people who made those records aren’t necessarily being compensated properly, if at all. As music technology journalist Cherie Hu recently reported, the question of rights and licensing in regard to livestreams is a legal minefield. In theory, any DJ who’s doing a livestream should be licensing each and every track they play ahead of time, a process that could take weeks, even for music industry professionals. Given most DJs’ lack of expertise (and interest) in the finer points of copyright law, it’s no surprise that their compliance is practically nonexistent.
Barring a major revamp of licensing requirements, along with significant improvements in both music recognition software and song reporting to relevant rights organizations, it’s hard to imagine widespread improvement in terms of livestream-related royalty payments. DJs themselves have little incentive to entangle themselves in legal minutiae, and the artists whose records are being played aren’t likely to kick up a fuss over payments that might not add up to much anyway. Still, when some DJ livestream events are bringing in tens of thousands of dollars, even for a good cause, it does raise questions about the ethics of capitalizing on artists’ work without their permission.
During the first ReConnect event, which drew 8.5 million viewers, 79 percent of all of the tracks played were identified. In theory, this should have generated thousands of dollars in royalties, but due to the lack of proper licensing infrastructure around livestreaming, the collective payments from the broadcast may only add up to mere pennies.
New platforms and an increased focus on accurate reporting are steps in the right direction, but the immediate economic outlook for livestreaming DJs and the artists whose music they play isn’t promising. People are tuning in—and donating money—but that hasn’t yet translated into anything resembling a reliable source of income for artists. “But for now,” says Plastician, “it’s the closest thing to a new revenue stream I’m going to have.”
Cory Doctorow: A Lever Without a Fulcrum Is Just a Stick (Locus)
The fact that the company can’t reproduce your book without your permission doesn’t mean much if the only way to get your book into the public’s hands is through that company, or one of a small handful of companies with identical negotiating positions. None of the Big Five publishers will let you keep your ebook rights, and increasingly they won’t let you split your commonwealth and US rights, or retain your audio rights, or even opt out of binding arbitration in your contract, meaning that all disputes you have with them need to be settled not in court, but in a private arbitration system where they pay the judge who decides whether you’ve been wronged by them.
In that monopolistic world, beefing up the author’s monopoly isn’t just useless – it’s counterproductive. You can extend the scope or duration of copyright all you like, but if those new rights are useful to the firms that monopolize the sector, they will simply acquire them as a condition of doing business with them, and add the rights to their arsenals, strengthening their market dominance.
This is one of the most interesting-to-me things I’ve ever heard.
All kinds of songs get stuck in your head. Famous pop tunes from when you were a kid, album cuts you’ve listened to over and over again. And then there’s a category of memorable songs—the ones that we all just kind of know. Songs that somehow, without anyone’s permission, sneak their way into the collective unconscious and are now just lingering there for eternity. There’s one song that best exemplifies this phenomenon— “Who Let The Dogs Out” by the Baha Men.
Noah Yoo: How Artist Imposters and Fake Songs Sneak Onto Streaming Services (Pitchfork)
Ultimately, the problem at hand is greater than the risk of lost royalties. The prevalence of leaks on established streaming services has a significant impact on an artist’s sense of ownership over their life’s work. The lines become blurred as to whether something actually “exists” in an artist’s canon if they never gave permission for it to be released. So while diehards might feel a thrill, circumventing the system and listening to unreleased songs by their favorite musicians, the leaks ultimately hurt those same artists.
Sarah Jeong: Internet Radio Copyright Is Bad and Dumb: A Comprehensive Explainer (VICE)
Pandora dominates this dismal, depressing, unpromising market completely, and it will continue to do so until Congress fixes the pre-1972 sound recordings issue. The next time you have a fleeting thought about how internet radio sucks, and could be better—well, now you know what’s to blame. It’s copyright. (You can always blame copyright).
Tim Wu: How the Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz—and Us (The New Yorker)
Today, prosecutors feel they have license to treat leakers of information like crime lords or terrorists. In an age when our frontiers are digital, the criminal system threatens something intangible but incredibly valuable. It threatens youthful vigor, difference in outlook, the freedom to break some rules and not be condemned or ruined for the rest of your life. Swartz was a passionate eccentric who could have been one of the great innovators and creators of our future. Now we will never know.
Mark Richardson: I’ve been ripping a bunch of old CDs…
So then I looked to see about downloading it from Amazon, and they are selling downloads for $9.49. This is an album recorded 60 years ago. Most likely, everyone involved with it has been dead for a long time. Billie Holiday has been dead for 53 years. It was recorded live, cheaply. If the total cost of recording it was $200 I’d be amazed. And here we are 60 years later and I’m expected to pay $9.49 for digital files.
The flood comes and it doesn't matter if the water is right or wrong - you get in the boat, you stack sandbags, you climb on the roof and wait for a helicopter, and sometime later the water is calm and the world looks different.
Julian Sanchez: Protectionism Against the Past (or: Why are Copyright Terms so Long?)
Here’s an alternative hypothesis: Insanely long copyright terms are how the culture industries avoid competing with their own back catalogs. Imagine that we still had a copyright term that maxed out at 28 years, the regime the first Americans lived under. The shorter term wouldn’t in itself have much effect on output or incentives to create. But it would mean that, today, every book, song, image, and movie produced before 1984 was freely available to anyone with an Internet connection. Under those conditions, would we be anywhere near as willing to pay a premium for the latest release?
Andy Baio: Criminal Creativity: Untangling Cover Song Licensing on YouTube (Waxy.org)
There are millions of cover songs on YouTube, with around 12,000 new covers uploaded in the last 24 hours. Until recently, all but a sliver were illegal, considered infringement under current copyright law. Nearly all were non-commercial, created out of love by fans of the source material, with no negative impact on the market value of the original. This is creativity criminalized, quite possibly the most popular creative act that's against the law.
‘No amount of lawsuits or legal threats will change the fact that this behavior is considered normal — I'd wager the vast majority of people under 25 see nothing wrong with non-commercial sharing and remixing, or think it's legal already.’
David Goldberg reviews ‘Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling’ by Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola for the Honolulu Weekly, using pieces of interviews with local musicians — noise artist and netlabel head Dominic Amorin (Uvovu), hip-hop producer TKO, and myself (as Lapwing) — as a lens into the book.
In spite of the potential for people being ignorant or abusive with what he writes, Marco writes because ”I’m freely expressing my ideas in public, which helps me clarify my thoughts, enhance and alter my views, and improve my writing over time. I think I’m getting the better end of the deal.”
Marc Weidenbaum — Despite the Downturn: An Answer Album
I may never get around to listening to this, but the idea is fantastic.
"An article in the May 2010 issue of the magazine The Atlantic critiqued the current generation of young music fans for rampant copyright violation. In a small irony, the illustration used to decorate the article interpolated a detail of a preexisting work that appears to not yet be in the public domain. This notice isn’t intended as a criticism of the illustrator — quite the contrary; the illustration is excellent — but instead of the theoretical foundation of the article, which suggests a clear line between right and wrong where there is, in fact, significant ambiguity. I forwarded Traum’s image, and article it accompanied, to various musicians and asked them if they would record a piece of music that took Traum’s picture literally: use it as a score.”
paidContent: Why The Music Industry Isn’t Suing Mashup Star ‘Girl Talk’
"So why hasn’t Gillis been hauled in front of a judge by the music industry? Probably because he’s the most unappealing defendant imaginable. Gillis would be a ready-made hero for copyright reformers; if he were sued, he’d have some of the best copyright lawyers in the country knocking on his door asking to take his case for free."
Balkinization: Copyright: The Elephant in the Middle of Glee
"The fictional high school chorus at the center of Fox’s Glee has a huge problem — nearly a million dollars in potential legal liability. For a show that regularly tackles thorny issues like teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse, it’s surprising that a million dollars worth of lawbreaking would go unmentioned."
This is a very interesting look at the frequency with which this show (that I have never seen) addresses copyright issues without actually addressing copyright issues. And it's dead-on about the potential for a television show or other media of this popularity to effect social change in the realm of copyright perception.
Times Labs Blog: Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing?
"The most immediate revelation, of course, is that at some point next year revenues from gigs payable to artists will for the first time overtake revenues accrued by labels from sales of recorded music."
Ars Technica: 750,000 lost jobs? The dodgy digits behind the war on piracy
How the two astronomical numbers most often thrown out by the intellectual property lobby are utterly bogus. Interesting: "When someone torrents a $12 album that they would have otherwise purchased, the record industry loses $12, to be sure. But that doesn't mean that $12 has magically vanished from the economy. On the contrary: someone has gotten the value of the album and still has $12 to spend somewhere else."
New York Magazine: Trent Reznor and Saul Williams Discuss Their New Collaboration, Mourn OiNK
Trent was an Oink user and regrets its disappearance. The Reznor-Williams collaboration, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!, a mind-boggling fusion of genres," will be released for free on the internet. "Ghetto gothic?"
AI Drake just set an impossible legal trap for Google
Google has to make some big decisions about fair use, YouTube, and building AI tools of its own.
YouTube only continues to exist because of a delicate dance that keeps rightsholders happy and the music industry paid, but the future of Google itself is a bet on an expansive interpretation of copyright law that every creative industry from music to movies to news hates and will fight to the death. Because it is death: generative AI tools promise to completely upend the market for almost all commodity creative work, and these companies are not required to sit back and let it happen.