“Artist Revenue Streams” is a multi-method, cross-genre examination of how US-based musicians’ revenue streams are changing, and why.
Meteoric transformations in the creation and distribution of music over the past ten years have drastically changed the landscape for musicians. New technologies like digital music stores, streaming services and webcasting stations have greatly reduced the cost barriers to the distribution and sale of music, and a vast array of new platforms and technologies — from blogs to Bandcamp to Twitter feeds — now help musicians connect with fans.
This week, with support from a Promo Bay campaign on The Pirate Bay, UK rap artist Dan Bull is aiming to send a message to the mainstream entertainment industry. With the release of a brand new track called “Sharing is Caring”, Dan will attempt to break into the UK and international singles charts without the backing of a label and show that with the help of a free Internet and BitTorrent, there is another way.
RIAA Still Doesn’t Get It: Hopes SOPA Opposition Was A ‘One-Time Experience’
In a previous post, I looked at the first part of Andrew Keen’s interview with RIAA CEO Cary Sherman. In the second half of the interview, Sherman fields some audience questions collected on Twitter, and his answers further expose the serious problems with his understanding of what’s happening in music, what happened with SOPA, and what’s happening to his industry.
The first question directly challenges Sherman over his NYTimes op-ed in which he claimed the massive opposition to SOPA/PIPA was somehow undemocratic, asking him if he really thinks an informed populace is a bad thing. But Sherman is still convinced that it was all a misinformation campaign by Google (though he avoids using the name):
This is the strange story of a band that can make a million dollars from Chevy, but never see a dime from EMI. Two years ago, OK Go wriggled out of its EMI relationship for a number of reasons, and frankly, they’re doing just fine on their own. But in a rather frank comment to one of our stories last week, OK Go manager Jamie Kitman pointed to a permanently unrecouped position. Which essentially means that the band will always be underwater on its original, major label deal. And, a big reason for that is a very exorbitant level of upfront expenditure. The lead-up to this was a conversation in San Francisco (at SF MusicTech) in which Kitman likened YouTube streams to ‘finding coins on the street,’ while noting that his band has never seen payments from VEVO (the reason - an utter and complete state of unrecoupability - is explained here).
VEVO: What Happens Between an Artist and Their Label Is Not Our Problem…
Just because you’re on VEVO, doesn’t mean you’re getting paid by VEVO. Which sounds like a big problem, especially since the stiffed are starting to make some noise. That includes indie publisher Matt Pincus, who earlier this month accused VEVO and its major label partners of systematically pocketing the royalties of all indie songwriters. And, more recently, the manager of OK Go, who said he’s never seen a check from VEVO, despite being one of the most-viewed bands of the modern era.
Now, VEVO chief executive Rio Caraeff is responding to these accusations. In a comment on our Monday story about OK Go, Caraeff didn’t say that these people were necessarily getting paid, but he did say the ‘licensors’ of these videos are. Which, translated, seems to mean that labels are getting their cash, and the rest (ie artists and indie publishers) really isn’t VEVO’s problem. So, maybe OK Go is unrecouped by their ex-label EMI, or maybe they’re just getting stiffed - who knows - but that’s not VEVO’s concern.
“What happens between an artist and their label or distributor in their contractual relationship are simply not something that we are party to and every artist’s deal is different.”
“We fully respect music, artistry and our teams work incredibly hard to build audiences and generate revenue for artists, writers and rights owners from a user-behavior (watching music videos) that was considered promotional by the industry for so many years.
“I am not willing to engage in a public debate here other than what I have already said (so please don’t contact me for more quotes on this) but I felt like declaring the simple truth of how we operate as it seems like this place attracts many who easily disparage without knowing the facts.
RIAA Backs .music Proposal… If It’s Only Limited To ‘Accredited’ Musicians
For years there have been a few efforts underway to try to create a .music top level domain. While I’m not totally convinced such a TLD really is needed, it’s been interesting to watch the RIAA’s allergic reaction to the general idea. About a year ago, we wrote about how the RIAA was complaining that any such TLD might (gasp!) be used to infringe, and arguing that ICANN shouldn’t allow it unless it was completely locked down. Apparently, the RIAA has now found the plan it likes, siding with a company called Far Further on its bid to run .music, and going against the company that has fought the hardest for .music… a company called dotMusic. If you want to understand why the RIAA is now endorsing Far Further’s proposal, it’s pretty simple:
Its .music would be restricted, along the same lines as gTLDs such a .pro, to card-carrying members of what the company calls “accredited Global Music Community Members”.
“It’s not open to everyone,” Styll said. “You’d have to join an organization.”
Amateur bands would have to be members of an accredited songwriters association to get a .music address, for example.
In other words, it goes against the reality we know today, which is that new technologies are allowing anyone to become a musician. Instead, it’s based on the obsolete notion that only those in a special club are “really” musicians. What you end up with is exactly what the RIAA wants: a system where it gets to “accredit” musicians. In other words, a system where gatekeepers still matter. Of course, what they don’t realize is that if .music uses such a system, it almost immediately becomes irrelevant, and sets itself up as an exclusionary club in an era when such things aren’t necessary any more.
TuneCore: RIAA Has Become A Part Of The Problem For Artists
Beyond his continually awesome series of posts providing tons and tons of useful data that the legacy recording industry has totally ignored, he’s written a brilliant response to Cary Sherman’s NYT op-ed that we’ve been discussing. Price points out that the real disinformation campaign has been from the RIAA, and the key point is that the RIAA does not represent artists, but rather it represents the major labels, who very frequently have agendas that are at odds with artists:
The RIAA has become part of the problem of protecting copyright due to its occasional less than honest approach to things. You just can’t take what the RIAA says at face value as their agenda is not clear—is it to protect copyright or is it to protect the interests of its label members at any cost?
Now add to this that as the RIAA demands that its label members’ copyrights be respected and properly compensated, its members have knowingly taken hundreds of millions of dollars of other peoples’ songwriter royalties over the past few years. Knowingly taking money generated from the copyrights of others—aka “Black Box Money”—sounds eerily like stealing.
The Various Ways In Which Capitol Records Screwed Kenny Rogers…
It’s fairly shocking to see how dedicated major labels are to screwing their own artists. One former major label executive pointed Digital Music News to ‘institutionalized policies’ towards shady accounting and hidden charges under the banner of ‘cost reduction,’ and we keep seeing evidence of that. Which might explain why so many artists are now suing their major label parents for millions, and even threatening to put them out of business.
Which brings us to Kenny Rogers, who recently sued EMI-owned Capitol Records on a litany of accounting offenses. The centerpiece of the lawsuit - whether Capitol should pay a much higher percentage on digital sales - is controversial. But the rest just seems like a laundry list of shady accounting and obfuscation. And with that, here’s a list of the various offenses, as listed in a complaint filed by attorneys for Kenny Rogers in the US District Court of Middle Tennessee (Nashville).