Friday, July 25, 2014

An Open Letter to The Music Industry: Quit Robbing Piggy Banks

And of course the open letter to David Lowery was received with diplomacy and serious consideration.  Not.

In his view the world is filled with "scofflaws" who are all stealing from the artists.  He says that rooms where this is not the case are "sasquatch sightings" and that people from "Alabama" are "like that".  He feels "threatened".


In other words the primary campaigner for fairness for artists is afraid to admit that there might be other possibilities.  Or so infatuated with the status that role has brought him he has become yet another anachronism who goes over the top and has yet to realize his credibility as a representative of recording artists is evaporating.

And that is a problem for the campaign to get artist equity in the brave new world of digital distribution.  Yes, there is a lot of ripoff going on.   Yes, copyright is being eviscerated.

Yet there is another story, a story where the same people who are appointed to collect fees are robbing piggy banks.  From the original mistakes made by the recording and publishing industry prosecuting housewives for making wedding videos to now there has been a noticeable reluctance to admit that there need to be changes, that scarcity is impossible and that the technical world will not roll backward.   Some of us have worked hard to find solutions and reconcile the need for payments for copyright material with the near impossible requests to stop piracy.   But these efforts will go on because piracy is wrong and it fuels even worse criminal activity.  In short, I do support those efforts and have even before Lowery became a champion.

But badgering small coffee house open mic nights where it is obvious to even the casual observer that they don't actually have the money to pay three collection agencies every year is bullying.   Should BMI/ASCAP/SESAC be threatening the coffee houses holding open mic nights?

There are at least two extremes and no one is asking an obvious question: what is the threshhold for payments vs money made and covers sung or is it simply 1k a year per collection agency if even one cover is sung? And if so, is that right?

There is an opportunity for the professional artists and publishers to do something smart, gracious and decent.   It is an opportunity to show the world they aren't cold hard greedy self-serving assholes determined only to preserve their own income sources at the cost of everyone else.   If they can't see this or figure out how to do it, then they deserve neither our help or our respect.   And let the pirates have them.   If they can't help the new talent, then they are of no value to music as an art, a craft or an industry.   Working "only with the best", telling others not to vote for "second raters", these are symptomatic of elitism, forgetting that once upon a time it was they who "played real good for free".



John Cowan said...

[...] they aren't cold hard greedy self-serving assholes determined only to preserve their own income sources at the cost of everyone else.

I fear that is exactly what they are. Even ASCAP, which is non-profit, gets 10% of an immense amount by robbing a lot of piggy banks.

Len Bullard said...

It may be the case. The response from Lowery at The Trichordist blog was paranoid and waaay over the top. Could be he's been fighting long enough to be more than sensitive or it could be he is just that arrogant. All I'm talking about are the little rooms that can't pay those fees so they end up shutting down the live entertainment. He claims they don't exist. I know they do. It would be illuminating to collect all the stories of the rooms and acts bullied this way and contrast those to the howls from the industry about being ignored by the tech industry. I'm not saying they don't have a case; I's saying pot calls kettle black. I wonder who pays for the buskers who play for free on sidewalks so the room owners don't have to pay at all in those entertainment districts. It's a fucked up mess out there.

John Cowan said...

To make things worse, as you probably know, ASCAP doesn't bother to track who actually performs what. The licenses are blanket licenses, and the collected revenue (after the vig) is distributed according to a popularity metric which makes sure that small creators get nothing at all.

Comment Policy

If you don't sign it, I won't post it. To quote an ancient source: "All your private property is target for your enemy. And your enemy is me."