Copyright, Artists' Rights and other Digital Music Industry Things

edited January 2013 in Fight Club
Sometimes we talk about this type of thing, but I couldn't find any specific place so I made one.

Anyway, article/letter by David Lowery (Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker).

How messed up is it that my first thought was to check Guvera for Camper Van Beethoven albums?


  • Very well-written/thought out piece by Lowry. A lot of things I'd like to respond to (both support and couter points), but that will have to wait 'til I'm home. 2 key things I will mention now:

    - The health issues that Chestnutt (didn't realize they were actually neighbors - that's awful) and Linkous faced are one of the biggest problems with any kind of freelance-based industry. And, without getting too political, one of the main reasons why some form of single-payer healthcare is necessary. That is the biggest hurdle most people face when contemplating "self-employment".

    - "First, you could legally buy music from artists. The best way to insure the money goes to artists? Buy it directly from their website or at their live shows. But if you can’t do that, there is a wide range of services and sites that will allow you to do this conveniently." That is what has largely defined the change in my purchase habits over the past year - why I am more frequently ordering physical media directly from artists/indie labels and maintaining multiple subscriptions.

    Hopefully I can get back to this later tonight.
  • Lowery's article was really good. I grew up buying albums, then CDs, and now downloads, so the idea of paying for music seems eminently reasonable to me. My music collection has grown exponentially the past few years, largely as a result of legal (cheap but not usually free) downloads: Amie Street, eMusic, Guvera, 7Digital, Lala, etc. That said, I've certainly ripped CDs from friends that I didn't pay for. I like owning music, so Spotify, Pandora etc. don't really appeal to me, except as another source for music when my digital collection isn't accessible. The idea that a generation of music fans don't see any reason to pay for music is more than a little disturbing, though. One of the things I like about Bandcamp is that it seems to provide a pretty direct way to compensate the artists for their work, and I hope that more artists will find their way there over time.
  • Funny how the right price for music never comes up.
  • Funny how the right price for music never comes up.
    Isn't that good? There's no "right price" for anything.
  • One of the most interesting and interestingly written pieces I've read on this so far. While most of the comments seem to be in support, and the few comments against poorly argued, there is one a fair way down the list that adds what I thought was a useful point: words to the effects that maybe 15 cds is about the right size collection for a college age intern. That comment made me think back to when I was, say, 18. Not sure exactly how many LPs I owned. Not more than thirty. The fact that my library is now in the tens of thousands is not simply a reflection of having more money now (though it is partly that. The increase is not based on illegal downloads). It's also a sign of how the medium and the marketing have changed and how expectations have been reshaped through those processes, so that we have between us created selves that want to own vastly more music than is actually realistically affordable on a full-price payment, all artists making a living model.

    It's a bit too simple to pin this on the young as though their moral failing (and I do see it as a moral failing) were somehow generated only from their own peculiar generational inadequacies rather than the sense of self that the culture has very deliberately and intentionally fostered for commercial reasons (this is really what the Bell book that Dr. Mutex and I chatted about on the reading thread is about, if I read it aright so far). (And I don't think the article does this - it does point to larger interests pushing the changes - but quite a few of the comments do do this, lamenting the self-centered youth of today rather than the larger configurations the article points to.).

    So maybe the issue is not to figure out how Emily can be made to pay $10 an album for 11,000 tracks, but how to make Emily content with owning 15 cds. Which apart from being a tall order does not actually bring the benefit to artists that is sought.
    In other words, while I found myself nodding along with the article, the one counter-argument from the comments that nagged my mind a little was whether "if everyone paid for everything it would all be OK" works if in fact in a more ethically normative scenario many people would have ("own"?) *much* less music (this not intended as the whiny argument that crops up in the comments that stealing must be OK because otherwise I would have less music, but rather to wonder whether putting the ethics straight would have exactly the implied economic effect, since getting the ethics straight might involve not merely getting people to pay more for music, but also getting people to rein in their appetites for consumption, which have been deliberately and strategically cultivated to excess in the current culture).

    I don't have enough economic math in my head to know the answer to my wondering.
  • I also thought it was, pretty much, a well-written letter.

    Trying to assign any sort of blame for the tragic deaths of Linkous or Chesnutt to the intern is way misguided. They had problems way bigger than "not enough royalties."

    I wonder if Emily, as an intern, was paid for her position. I wonder if her efforts in that unpaid internship ever went to the benefit of Lowry or his friends.

    As far as "deserves" go, I sure don't want to hear any whiny pop rock band complaining about what they're not getting. I got a whole site of jazz musicians who are ten times as talented as Lowry's band going with far less income and public exposure. I like CVB well enough, but that any of their music is still getting played on the radio while the music of modern jazz musicians in not, or that old CVB albums get better promotion and product placement on retail sites and stores than those same jazz musicians (both new and old)... well, Lowry's benefited from the inequities of the music industry more than he's suffered from it.

    That said, I like most of that letter.
  • edited January 2013
    Lowery's attack on the Free Culture movement makes it difficult for me to take anything else he has to say seriously. He seems to be parroting ASCAP's deceptive claims. I'm involved in the Free Culture movement and I've released a number of works under Creative Commons Licenses. The Free Culture movement is not about taking, it's about permission. The creator of a work willingly chooses to give up some of the exclusive rights that otherwise automatically attach to everything they create. Lowery's attack on Spotify defies reason. Every track on Spotify is there because the label/distrbutor put it there. Lowery wants us to believe a tiny company like Spotify can dictate terms to Sony and EMI because of piracy? The people who are downloading music don't and won't use Spotify. They can get anything they want in seconds without listening to ads or choosing from a limited (but large) selection. It's Sony, EMI and the others who negotiated what the artists get, but Lowery says they aren't the ones hurting artists. Finally, there's a ruinous flaw in his math: Ms White wouldn't have even 1/5 that number of tracks if she had been paying for them. It's hard to believe, but I was once 22 and a DJ. I had to buy my records and when I stopped DJing the records I had amounted to about 2000 tracks. So realistically White deprived artists of about $20 in income. Now lets consider how many people bought records and went to shows based on what White did with those 11,000 tracks. I'd say those artists got a fantastic deal. One normally has to pay a lot more to get a product in front of that many people.

    [redacted in the interest of civility]
  • edited January 2013
  • edited January 2013
    Redacted for the good of mankind...
  • What do you know; Guvera does have some Camper Van Beethoven.

    And I couldn't resist: some Sparklehorse too.

    Only one song by a "Vic Chesnutt" though. Hey, Chesnutt, Chestnutt; I wonder if they're related?
  • @amclark2 - Unfortunately I think they used to have almost the entire CvB catalog, including the Cigarettes & Carrot Juice boxset. Now it's just their 2 Virgin releases.
  • This letter is fairly old now, I followed the brouhaha when it first came out. I'd be interested to know if Emily has ever reflected or followed up on it.
  • I have as much sympathy for musicians as I do for anyone else who's in an industry that's undergoing a paradigm shift, which is to say I do indeed have sympathy but not if their response is to hope the paradigm shift just goes away.

    Little rhetorical flourishes posing as facts always irritate the hell out of me:
    "Recorded music revenue is down 64% since 1999."
    Yeah? How does it compare to 1899?
  • edited February 2013
    Good Golly:
    Amazon has won a patent for an “electronic marketplace” where users can resell digital content. The company had filed for the patent in 2009 and it was awarded on January 29, 2013.
    It gets complicated, you won't be surprised to hear. Apparently there is a company (ReDigi) that is attempting to do this, and getting sued for its trouble. As someone ingenuously asks in the comments, 'So that means artists will get royalties on the re-sale, right?'
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