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WinMX World :: Forum  |  Discussion  |  WinMx World News  |  Songwriters Guild and Its Myths of “Stolen” Music

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Offline DaBees-Knees

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Songwriters Guild and Its Myths of “Stolen” Music
« on: July 29, 2010, 09:35:15 pm »

A long, but interesting article.

Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America, claims P2P has “stolen file-sharers minds,” and that they’ll do anything to justify their illegal behavior.
Every once in a while I get an angry letter from this songwriter or that songwriter angry about my apparent endorsement of, or even alleged involvement in, illegal file-sharing, and thus my complicity in their industry’s woes. Both claims belie the truth.

Recently, in addition to a hate-spewing diatribe about how I will eventually face a “federal judge” and be forced to explain why I’m a “delinquent thief,” he passed along an article written a few months back by Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America, entitled “Has Stealing Music Stolen Your Mind?”

Now it too is a compilation of rants filled with hyperbole and conjecture, but what else would you expect from an outfit that opposes Net Neutrality. rather than toss both into my spam box I decided to debate Carnes’ assertions and do what the person who sent me the email refused to do: engage in an honest debate.

Here are Carnes’ claims:

1. Artists aren’t getting paid anyway.

Well, according to some reports they really aren’t. Even if an artist does manage to sell X number of albums he can earn as little as $23.40 for every $1,000 in music sold depending on the number of members in the band ($23.40 is based on 4 bandmates splitting proceeds equally). More than $870 of the $1,000 in music sold goes to distributors ($240) and the record label ($630) so it’s clear artists aren’t getting paid, it’s just a matter of who’s more to blame. I think non-creative entities taking home a lion’s share of the profits of an artist’s work is what’s really troubling.

And according to a study conducted by the Canadian govt P2P actually increase legal music purchases.

“Our review of existing econometric studies suggests that P2P file-sharing tends to decrease music purchasing. However, we find the opposite, namely that P2P file-sharing tends to increase rather than decrease music purchasing.”

The BI Norwegian School of Management, the largest business school in Norway and the second largest in all of Europe, determined last year in a similar file-sharing study, “Consumer Culture in Times of Crisis,” that file-sharers actually buy twice as much music as they download for free, and buy nearly 10 times more music than those who never download illegally. So even though file-sharers may not be paying for some of their music they are clearly still having a more positive effect than those who don’t, especially considering that MP3s are infinite resource that costs them nothing in packaging and distribution costs.

Artists like Mick Jagger have pointed out that artists have always struggled. Earlier this year he said: “When The Rolling Stones started out, we didn’t make any money out of records because record companies wouldn’t pay you! They didn’t pay anyone!.” He also said that if you look at the history of recorded music going back to 1900 there was only a narrow 25-year period where artists did well. During the other 85+ years artists have struggled.

Freelance pianist David J.Hahn observed last year that musicians have been around long before the music industry and that no matter what will always be here.
“The musician industry has been around as long as humans have, but recorded music is, relatively, a very new invention,” he says. “Mozart never sold a record. Beethoven never released an album. Yet they made careers as musicians.”

2. Artists and songwriters are all rich, and don’t need the money.

Aside from big artists like the U2s, Elton Johns, or the perpetually whining Lars Ulrich of Mettallica, I don’t think anybody will claim that artists and songwriters are “all rich” and “don’t need the money.” It’s hyperbole of the first order.

3. Record labels need a new business model.

Of course they do, and to argue otherwise would mean ones “mind has been stolen” as surely as has the minds of the befuddled execs that have run them in to the ground over the years. It took years of wrangling just to get allow Apple’s iTunes to get up and running and years more to get rid of DRM. Even now it refuses to give consumers what they want.

Techdirt’s Michael Masnick gave a spectacular presentation last year entitled “Serving Your Fans – The Trent Reznor Case Study” in which he argues that artists need to connect with fans and give them a reason to buy. He notes that buying an album is a voluntary transaction, and that it’s nonsensical for artists to think to “think that there is some sort of obligation to buy.” As for record labels, he rightly points out that the music industry needs to realize that illegal file-sharing is here to stay and that it instead of wasting its focus on a losing battle against it it ought to instead “return to business (RtB)” and learn how to “compete with free (CwF),” an alternative formula to the one given previous. Imagine if the RIAA had done this 10 years ago rather than making lawsuits, and likely guaranteeing the targets never buy music again in disgust, a central tenet of its business model.

4. Stolen music promotes live shows.

Of course it does. Why is this a bad thing? If P2P is the reason you hear an artist hear an artist in the first place and thereby go to one of his concerts – where he gets the lion’s share of the profits this time – surely that is a good thing.

No music download site – legal or otherwise – will ever compare to the selection available on What.CD or It’s just a fact. Apple’s iTunes and other legal download sites restrict content based on legal or economic considerations, whereas BitTorrent tracker sites like the two I mentioned do not. Hence, they will naturally always have an edge on promoting music and thus live shows.

Hip hop megastar 50 Cent has even referred to P2P as “part of the marketing” necessary to make up for what the record labels are no longer able to afford.
And artists like Canadian Indie folk-rock singer Daniel Mangan says he “doesn’t mind” people illegally sharing his music online it if it means they’ll attend one of his concerts and “have a real face to face, human interaction.”

5. Stolen songs don’t displace a sale, (the perp wouldn’t buy it anyway).

In many cases he wouldn’t and he likes it he usual will as concluded by the studies I cited above. With some file-sharers having MP3 collections in excess of 100s of GBs it is illogical to suggest they would have shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to acquire it legally. Even a measly 64GB Apple iPod would costs more than $16,000 to fill. That’s not to say that some don’t, but the operative word is “some.” There’s also the consideration that P2P turned people on to a given song in the first place and lead to a purchase.

6. I want it all my way, and I want it now (convenience).

Criticizing people for merely being consumers is hardly a worthy argument. Don’t all consumers want what they want when they want it? The ability to satisfy these demands are what makes or breaks all businesses in a capitalist society. Ignoring consumers for more than a decade is the reason why the music industry is in the tank.

7. Destroy the ‘gatekeepers’ and the little guy wins.

If buy “little guy” you mean artists of course they do. Before digital distribution artists were at the mercy of record execs who got to make or break their careers. Now artists can produce and distribute music on their own terms! Why should record labels be able to determine what music fans do or do not get to hear? How can leaving it up to record labels be a good thing? Look at the crap they trotted out from the late 1990s to mid 2000s.

8. Information wants to be free!

Non-sequitur. What does that haveh the reality of digital music in the 21st century? Music is not information. It’s an experience for which people are in most cases willing to pay for, either in person (concert) or remotely (MP3).. You’re arguing against a myth and not the actual economics of what’s being discussed. Its akin to screaming “I’m rubber and you’re glue.”

As Cory Doctorow points out, it’s time for the saying “to die.” “It’s time for IWTBF to die because it’s become the easiest, laziest straw man for Hollywood’s authoritarian bullies to throw up as a justification for the monotonic increase of surveillance, control, and censorship in our networks and tools,” he says.” And he’s right. It does little to advance ones argument.

9. Illegal downloading is ‘sticking it to the man!’

Anybody who uses the phrase “sticking it to the man” is probably not a rational person to begin with. That being said, I’ll bet even these guys (and gals) still buy concert tickets, t-shirts, and the occasional CD or MP3.

10. The copyright term of protection is too long.

Are you really arguing it isn’t? 70 years after an artist’s death (it was changed to 70 from 50 in 1998) mainly enriches rightsholders like record labels. Spouses and children, the economic well-being of whom copyright laws are intended to benefit by this lengthy protection, are hardly the main beneficiaries.

Let us assume a copyright term of 70 years after the death of the author is applied to a work, and that the author, after having children at age 25, dies at the age of 75 . The author dies the same year his great-grandchild is born; this descendant will have a child 25 years later, and only when this child’s child (the author’s great, great, great-grandchild) is born another 25 years later copyright protection expires. At some point society needs to reclaim the ability to freely enjoy the works of artists and the important contributions they’ve made to its culture.

The sad reality of it all is that many in the music industry want to use legislation to fix their broken business model rather than put in the time and effort into figuring out how to adapt and compete. If your game plan is to fight technology and the efforts of millions of people with expertise and time to spare you’re doomed to fail.

I neither endorse P2P nor do I download content without paying. Sure, I may have downloaded my fair share back in the days of AudioGalaxy and KaZaA, but with ample free streaming services like Pandora and it became unnecessary long ago.

Truth be told, I’m not alone. Last year Arbor Networks, a network-management firm used by more than 70% of the world’s top ISPs, reported that “P2P is declining and it is declining quickly.” Since its 2007 peak of 40% it’s dropped to a mere 18%. A month later the SG oddly claimed it was responsible for 70%.

Who are you more likely to believe?

"Even if an artist does manage to sell X number of albums he can earn as little as $23.40 for every $1,000 in music sold depending on the number of members in the band ($23.40 is based on 4 bandmates splitting proceeds equally). More than $870 of the $1,000 in music sold goes to distributors ($240) and the record label ($630)"

So now you know where the money goes.  8)

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