When Will the Recording Industry Get It?

Lets set the record straight real quick, I believe that artists should be paid for their works.  I even feel that in cases of severe copying/pirating of material that people should be tried in a court of law.  By extreme I mean mass producing compact discs to sell on a black market.  However, the recording industry representatives seem hell bent on charging for every aspect of use that exists today.  From using a song in a television show to web radio.  It is the latter that brings us here today.

It seems that last week, the recording industry had a court win in which a judge stated that a former decision to charge webcasters exorbitant royalty fees would stay in place and that they must pay up by the 15th of May.  This decision is going to really hurt some forms of webcasting, one of the most popular among them is Pandora.  Pandora is web radio that you can use to help you find new artists to listen to based on those you already like and it is just one of hundreds of thousands of internet radio stations on the net.

The recording industry seems to want to be paid for every use of a song and in some cases such fees are okay.  However, when it comes to web radio, they are forcing people to pay to promote their product.  There is no other market that follows this method of practice.  Everywhere else the company pays to have people advertise for them.  But the recording industry wants to be paid by people promoting their music.  This does not make sense and I can not understand how artists can approve of such practices.

As a musician, I would want my music to reach as many ears as possible.  It just makes sense for me to allow people to play my music for others.  Especially without them having to pay for the privilege to do so.  Musicians have existed on word of mouth long before radio or record companies.  In fact, several small artists exist solely on word of mouth.  Others have built entire careers on word of mouth (John Mayer, anyone?).  In fact, word of mouth is how artists get noticed in the first place.  A person goes and sees a band they like.  The concert has 2 opening acts and the second one really rocks.  They tell their friends about this really cool band they saw and then those friends go with their friend to that band’s next concert.  Thus, the cycle begins and that bands fan base begins to grow which can lead to bigger album sales which gets them noticed by the majors.

The idea of web radio is only beneficial to the artists that get played.  A webcaster starts a small radio station where they play their favourite songs from their favourite artists.  As more people listen to the station, the more people find out about the bands that webcaster likes, and if that webcaster has a large collection of unsigned bands, that only increases their fan base.  So why on earth would the recording industry want to end the practice of free advertising if all it is going to do is bring in more money long term?

The answer is simple.  The recording industry is trying desperately to hold onto an idea of how their business should work, rather than adapting to the change in climate.  They deal in counter productive practices.  For example, they want people to buy entie albums rather than singles, but they want artists to only write and record marketable songs (singles).  They encourage artists to write songs that are marketable which means less time for the band to expand and try new things because they have to pump out five, four minute verse-chorus-verse songs.  The idea of the public picking what they want to hear is an unheard of practice to these people.  They would rather tell you what to listen to rather than you trying to figure it out yourself.  The recording industry has become nothing more than an oversized marketing department that cares only about getting paid rather than developing musicians.

I have friends in bands and they all want the national exposure a recording contract would bring, but they continue to struggle to record albums on their own dollar and play shows around their state.  A couple of them have even given me free reign to use their music as I see fit, because they want the free publicity that comes with that.  I have sent their music to Sirius radio DJs, used their music in Power of Information (which gets aired on a real radio station once a week), and even gone through the trouble to find out how to get their music on television shows (did not have much luck on that front so if anyone can help let me know).  But they understand the power of free publicity and word of mouth and want to utilize that to a great degree.

I really wonder if the recording industry is ever going to fully understand the concept of change and adapt.  Sure, we have some folks who do get it and are working to change things at the levels they can but really the whole system needs to be gutted and redone from the ground up.  There needs to be a focus on the artist and the music, not the number of dollars that can brought in.

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8 Responses to When Will the Recording Industry Get It?

  1. Hi Michael –

    Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your post. As a musician and composer myself, I’m particularly worried that most artists are not aware of this, and are being misled about the consequences for them.

    Pandora plays the music of over 33,000 artists, over half of whom have no label affiliation. It is the one and only promotional channel for 98% of the recording industry. Take it away, and you destroy what is perhaps the most vibrant and promising piece of music’s future.

    Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

    Cheers. Tim (Founder, Pandora)

  2. Hi Michael –

    Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your post. As a musician and composer myself, I’m particularly worried that most artists are not aware of this, and are being misled about the consequences for them.

    Pandora plays the music of over 33,000 artists, over half of whom have no label affiliation. It is the one and only promotional channel for 98% of the recording industry. Take it away, and you destroy what is perhaps the most vibrant and promising piece of music’s future.

    Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

    Cheers. Tim (Founder, Pandora)

  3. Michael Koby says:

    Tim,

    It is always nice to hear from those behind the curtain of some of the internet’s best websites. It is truly a pity that the recording industry has let it come to this.

    I myself have found quite a few artists because of Pandora, and would love to see it continue even despite all of this nastiness. I wish the best of luck to you and Pandora.

  4. Michael Koby says:

    Tim,

    It is always nice to hear from those behind the curtain of some of the internet’s best websites. It is truly a pity that the recording industry has let it come to this.

    I myself have found quite a few artists because of Pandora, and would love to see it continue even despite all of this nastiness. I wish the best of luck to you and Pandora.

  5. JASON EDWARDS says:

    “WHEN WILL THE DAMN PUBLIC GET IT!”
    The statements here, repeatedly uttered for a long time by others, is SELF SERVING. It is the same kind of SELF SERVING statements attitudes that RAPPERS etc. have made about UNAUTHORISED SAMPLING; “Gee, but we are PROMOTING your Music/Song, why should we have to PAY for it”? OF COURSE they are going to feel that way say that. It’s SELF SERVING for their so-called “Art” pocketbook then they say they are being further “victimised”, as, they are “artists” in a “new music” and, of course, also, “the man”, is so bad against them. God forbid anyone should “sample” or “steal” etc. the Rappers recordings Songs! They would go crazy [shoot?] as they would be losing $ for thier “bling”. They want to “borrow” [steal] others Music for FREE then FLAUNT how much $ they have made with ther “bling”.
    In this article, the SAME SELF SERVING attitude prevails by the consumer etc. [Espescially the younger one’s who have never been to a “record store” never bought a CD ALL they know is getting Music on the computer for FREE.] They others now are not only used to, but, “expect” Music etc. for “free” or “cheap” get outraged when they are told or are forced to PAY for Music. Why? Because they not only now are USED to it, if not know it no other way, but, also, BECAUSE THEY CAN. [Get it for free etc.]
    The same self-serving comments attitude as the Rappers etc. sampling] is the same; “But “we” [the consumer, internet radio etc. etc] are PROMOTING your Music”! “We love you Artists your Music”. IF you [the consumer, internet radio etc.] REALLY “LOVE” the ARTIST’S their MUSIC, why would you want to cheat them by not paying an appropriate price for their Music? BECAUSE they really DON’T CARE about the Artist. They WANT IT FOR FREE or CHEAP the Artist should be “grateful” for the consumers “support” that “the Artist can’t make it without us the “consumer”, so, really, it sums up to,”screw the Artist his rightfully earned $.”
    The “digital age”, that you say the record companys etc. [ the Artists too?], should, “adapt to”, is nothing more than; “Hey. We can have gotten Music FOR FREE on the computer WE DON’T LIKE HAVING TO PAY FOR IT!”
    Then there is more SELF SERVING comments about RECORD COMPANYS; “Hey. Why should we pay? Everyone knows [?] they are “scumbags” who only steal etc. from the Artist anyway. They are just “big greedy corporations” etc. so why should we PAY them? [Meanwhile, good, hard working devoted Music loving employees are laid off.] Then it’s said; “It’s the record companys own fault. These “bad guys” charge too much for CD’S [higher price to offset unauthorised copying sharing along with other issues] “they give us shit music anyway; only one good song on a cd” etc. It is THE RECORD “BUSINESS” in the same way that EACH PERSON, one way or another, is “IN BUSINESS” in their life, for, profit or failure. The RECORD “BUSINESS” is trying to make “$”. SOME OF WHICH [:)] even makes it to pay the Artists. [i.e.; Artist Royaltys Publishing etc. for their Recordings Songs/Creations.]
    So, the consumer is now USED TO [ therefore expects] getting MUSIC FOR FREE when told or shown they have to now PAY for it they come up with a myraid of SELF SERVING opinions statements as stated above in this many similar articles everyday conversation, to JUSTIFY theor stance. WHY? BECAUSE THEY CAN. It’s really saying; “Hey, Record Companys etc., we can do get Music for free. “We” got you by the balls. Shut up, fuck off get used to it.”
    The consumer REALLY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE ARTIST in some “lofty” way. They will DO steal from them or anyone anytime they can. It’s not only human nature [espescially for younger people who like seeing “how much they can get away with”] but, seemingly, it all is “a symptom of these times”, socially morally, on many other levels as well.
    It’s said; “Hey! Why are you charging more $ to play Artist’s Songs on internet radio etc.? Why are you “punishing” us nice, good, music ^ artist loving people with such great “social conscience”? You are gonna KILL our “free ride”. Gee. The Artist’s really “make it” with “word of mouth” etc. anyway, so, it’s no big deal, our playing His/Her Songs for so little $ etc.” “Gosh. I know “artists”/”bands” who GIVE AWAY THIER MUSIC FOR FREE for PROMOTION. WHY can’t [“REAL, PROFESSIONAL, WORKING”] Artist’s Record companys do the same? You mean they expect to charge us a “fair price” for their Work?” One could assume that if an “Artist” or “Band” HAS TO [NOT “choose to”] give away his music it’s possibly not that good or publicly desired. But “they”, by giving away their music to “promote” it, want their “big break” so they can become “famous” eventually “make $” from their work; JUST LIKE THE PRO’S have. WHY would EVERYONE LOVE a RECORD DEAL with a MAJOR LABEL? [Everyone really DOES no matter what they say.] IT AIN’T THE “BIG BAD” RECORD COMPANYS. IT’S THE CONSUMERS WHO GOT IT WRONG. YOU want it for FREE or CHEAP no matter WHAT you “say”.
    You also say; “There needs to be a focus on the artist and the music, not the number of dollars that can brought in.”
    SURE the focus should be on the ARTIST MUSIC. Quess WHAT? IT ALWAYS HAS! No matter what seeming “bad apples” in the Music Biz, they know [somewhere inside themselves!] [:)] THE ARTIST THE MUSIC IS THE BOTTOM LINE. Are you CRAZY? NOT focus on “the number of dollars that can be brought in”? THAT’S HOW the world WORKS the Artist’s GET PAID for their HARD WORK CREATIONS. [Yea. They get ripped off just like every other human being in a job, business, relationships life.] How could any person SURVIVE, NOT, “focusing on the number of dollars that can be brought in”, in EACH PERSON’S life? Here we find “the juvenile”, “unrealistc”, “inexperienced” “altrustic” “immaturity ignorance”, ALSO, “self serving”.
    In closing, it’s amazing, all the talk press about “the consumers complaints” “how badly the record companys are doing” etc. NO ONE EVER TALKS ABOUT THE ARTIST THE MUSIC which is THE BOTTOM LINE; NO ONE! [SELL BLANK MP3’S, CD’S CONCERT HALLS ETC.!] THE ARTIST MUSIC IS the bottom line, but, EVERYONE, in their almighty, ALL KNOWING, altruistic “socially caring loving way”, ONLY CARES ABOUT THEIR OWN ASS. Therefore; “FUCK THE ARTIST MUSIC”. THAT’S how it “comes out”!
    You say at the begginning of your article; “Lets set the record straight real quick. I believe that artists should be paid for their works.” BULLSHIT.

  6. JASON EDWARDS says:

    “WHEN WILL THE DAMN PUBLIC GET IT!”
    The statements here, repeatedly uttered for a long time by others, is SELF SERVING. It is the same kind of SELF SERVING statements & attitudes that RAPPERS etc. have made about UNAUTHORISED SAMPLING; “Gee, but we are PROMOTING your Music/Song, why should we have to PAY for it”? OF COURSE they are going to feel that way & say that. It’s SELF SERVING for their so-called “Art” & pocketbook & then they say they are being further “victimised”, as, they are “artists” in a “new music” and, of course, also, “the man”, is so bad & against them. God forbid anyone should “sample” or “steal” etc. the Rappers recordings & Songs! They would go crazy [shoot?] as they would be losing $ for thier “bling”. They want to “borrow” [steal] others Music for FREE & then FLAUNT how much $ they have made with ther “bling”.
    In this article, the SAME SELF SERVING attitude prevails by the consumer etc. [Espescially the younger one’s who have never been to a “record store” & never bought a CD & ALL they know is getting Music on the computer for FREE.] They & others now are not only used to, but, “expect” Music etc. for “free” or “cheap” & get outraged when they are told or are forced to PAY for Music. Why? Because they not only now are USED to it, if not know it no other way, but, also, BECAUSE THEY CAN. [Get it for free etc.]
    The same self-serving comments & attitude as the Rappers etc. sampling] is the same; “But “we” [the consumer, & internet radio etc. etc] are PROMOTING your Music”! “We love you Artists & your Music”. IF you [the consumer, internet radio etc.] REALLY “LOVE” the ARTIST’S & their MUSIC, why would you want to cheat them by not paying an appropriate price for their Music? BECAUSE they really DON’T CARE about the Artist. They WANT IT FOR FREE or CHEAP & the Artist should be “grateful” for the consumers “support” & that “the Artist can’t make it without us the “consumer”, so, really, it sums up to,”screw the Artist & his rightfully earned $.”
    The “digital age”, that you say the record companys etc. [& the Artists too?], should, “adapt to”, is nothing more than; “Hey. We can & have gotten Music FOR FREE on the computer & WE DON’T LIKE HAVING TO PAY FOR IT!”
    Then there is more SELF SERVING comments about RECORD COMPANYS; “Hey. Why should we pay? Everyone knows [?] they are “scumbags” who only steal etc. from the Artist anyway. They are just “big greedy corporations” etc. so why should we PAY them? [Meanwhile, good, hard working & devoted Music loving employees are laid off.] Then it’s said; “It’s the record companys own fault. These “bad guys” charge too much for CD’S [higher price to offset unauthorised copying & sharing along with other issues]& “they give us shit music anyway; only one good song on a cd” etc. It is THE RECORD “BUSINESS” in the same way that EACH PERSON, one way or another, is “IN BUSINESS” in their life, for, profit or failure. The RECORD “BUSINESS” is trying to make “$”. SOME OF WHICH [:)] even makes it to pay the Artists. [i.e.; Artist Royaltys & Publishing etc. for their Recordings & Songs/Creations.]
    So, the consumer is now USED TO [& therefore expects] getting MUSIC FOR FREE & when told or shown they have to now PAY for it they come up with a myraid of SELF SERVING opinions & statements as stated above & in this & many similar articles & everyday conversation, to JUSTIFY theor stance. WHY? BECAUSE THEY CAN. It’s really saying; “Hey, Record Companys etc., we can & do get Music for free. “We” got you by the balls. Shut up, fuck off & get used to it.”
    The consumer REALLY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE ARTIST in some “lofty” way. They will & DO steal from them or anyone anytime they can. It’s not only human nature [espescially for younger people who like seeing “how much they can get away with”] but, seemingly, it all is “a symptom of these times”, socially & morally, on many other levels as well.
    It’s said; “Hey! Why are you charging more $ to play Artist’s Songs on internet radio etc.? Why are you “punishing” us nice, good, music ^ artist loving people with such great “social conscience”? You are gonna KILL our “free ride”. Gee. The Artist’s really “make it” with “word of mouth” etc. anyway, so, it’s no big deal, our playing His/Her Songs for so little $ etc.” “Gosh. I know “artists”/”bands” who GIVE AWAY THIER MUSIC FOR FREE for PROMOTION. WHY can’t [“REAL, PROFESSIONAL, WORKING”] Artist’s & Record companys do the same? You mean they expect to charge us a “fair price” for their Work?” One could assume that if an “Artist” or “Band” HAS TO [NOT “choose to”] give away his music it’s possibly not that good or publicly desired. But “they”, by giving away their music to “promote” it, want their “big break” so they can become “famous” & eventually “make $” from their work; JUST LIKE THE PRO’S have. WHY would EVERYONE LOVE a RECORD DEAL with a MAJOR LABEL? [Everyone really DOES no matter what they say.] IT AIN’T THE “BIG BAD” RECORD COMPANYS. IT’S THE CONSUMERS WHO GOT IT WRONG. YOU want it for FREE or CHEAP no matter WHAT you “say”.
    You also say; “There needs to be a focus on the artist and the music, not the number of dollars that can brought in.”
    SURE the focus should be on the ARTIST & MUSIC. Quess WHAT? IT ALWAYS HAS! No matter what seeming “bad apples” in the Music Biz, they know [somewhere inside themselves!] [:)] THE ARTIST & THE MUSIC IS THE BOTTOM LINE. Are you CRAZY? NOT focus on “the number of dollars that can be brought in”? THAT’S HOW the world WORKS & the Artist’s GET PAID for their HARD WORK & CREATIONS. [Yea. They get ripped off just like every other human being in a job, business, relationships & life.] How could any person SURVIVE, NOT, “focusing on the number of dollars that can be brought in”, in EACH PERSON’S life? Here we find “the juvenile”, “unrealistc”, “inexperienced” & “altrustic” “immaturity & ignorance”, ALSO, “self serving”.
    In closing, it’s amazing, all the talk & press about “the consumers complaints” & “how badly the record companys are doing” etc. NO ONE EVER TALKS ABOUT THE ARTIST & THE MUSIC which is THE BOTTOM LINE; NO ONE! [SELL BLANK MP3’S, CD’S & CONCERT HALLS ETC.!] THE ARTIST & MUSIC IS the bottom line, but, EVERYONE, in their almighty, ALL KNOWING, altruistic & “socially caring & loving way”, ONLY CARES ABOUT THEIR OWN ASS. Therefore; “FUCK THE ARTIST & MUSIC”. THAT’S how it “comes out”!
    You say at the begginning of your article; “Lets set the record straight real quick. I believe that artists should be paid for their works.” BULLSHIT.

  7. Michael Koby says:

    Jason,

    That is certainly an earful. However your argument is nulled the second you started comparing my argument those of a rapper.

    What I am talking about and the argument made by early rappers in the hip-hop movement are two different things.

    Let me try and explain. Rappers were using their “samples” of other music to sell and make money off of. For that, the artist of the sample being used should be paid in full. However, this dicussion is about internet radio stations, specifically about the ones that do not have advertisers, are run off of some person’s home computer in a garage somewhere. That is free promotion for a band. The web radio station is not making any money from the play of the song, because they do not have advertisers. That person is making zero dollars from playing that track. They simply like the band or song and wish to play it on their web radio station.

    Another example is Pandora, this website makes little to no cash for playing artists on its website in an attempt to turn people onto NEW artists that are linked to Amazon purchase pages. I’m sure Pandora gets a small percentage of that Amazon sale, but I can speak from experience, it is not much. Also, Pandora PAYS for the rights to some of those artists they play. So again, your argument is defeated.

    My point is that for what is essentially free advertising, the recording industry wants a cut of the spins. Regular radio stations have to pay for broad licenses to play what they play on the radio, because they sell to advertisers in hope to turn a profit. Any regular radio station that plays music over an internet stream should have to pay for the spins, that’s how the business works. But to ask those who make zero money to pay up, is just ridiculous.

    I’ll put it in even simpilier terms: If you make money off playing the song, then you should pay for that play (be it a sample or on a radio station with advertisers) if no money is made off the play of the song, I feel that it is free advertisement for the artist/song.

  8. Michael Koby says:

    Jason,

    That is certainly an earful. However your argument is nulled the second you started comparing my argument those of a rapper.

    What I am talking about and the argument made by early rappers in the hip-hop movement are two different things.

    Let me try and explain. Rappers were using their “samples” of other music to sell and make money off of. For that, the artist of the sample being used should be paid in full. However, this dicussion is about internet radio stations, specifically about the ones that do not have advertisers, are run off of some person’s home computer in a garage somewhere. That is free promotion for a band. The web radio station is not making any money from the play of the song, because they do not have advertisers. That person is making zero dollars from playing that track. They simply like the band or song and wish to play it on their web radio station.

    Another example is Pandora, this website makes little to no cash for playing artists on its website in an attempt to turn people onto NEW artists that are linked to Amazon purchase pages. I’m sure Pandora gets a small percentage of that Amazon sale, but I can speak from experience, it is not much. Also, Pandora PAYS for the rights to some of those artists they play. So again, your argument is defeated.

    My point is that for what is essentially free advertising, the recording industry wants a cut of the spins. Regular radio stations have to pay for broad licenses to play what they play on the radio, because they sell to advertisers in hope to turn a profit. Any regular radio station that plays music over an internet stream should have to pay for the spins, that’s how the business works. But to ask those who make zero money to pay up, is just ridiculous.

    I’ll put it in even simpilier terms: If you make money off playing the song, then you should pay for that play (be it a sample or on a radio station with advertisers) if no money is made off the play of the song, I feel that it is free advertisement for the artist/song.

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