Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

It’s a new day
A new dawn
And… I’m feelin’ good.

In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside you.
Deepak Chopra, philosopher.

The dawning of a new year and, just perhaps… the era of a new Aquarius?

The beginning of a week in which Prince has been quoted saying the gatekeepers have to change – he’s no longer working with a record label (quel suprise) and, apparently, is in final negotiations with a major retailer to distribute his music (that’ll be the vinyl and cds sorted then) as well as pulling together the web-site to end all web-sites on which, of course, his music (and all that that entails) will also be available. In charge of his own destiny.

Surprised… why would anyone be?

As I see it, the dam is finally starting to crumble; the blue-boy with his finger in the Dutch dyke has left and gone home for his beans-on-toast as the Guy Gibson propelled Barnes Wallis designed bouncing bomb has struck discord at the epicentre of the business of music equivalent to the Ruhr’s Mohne, Sorpe and Eder dams.

For golfers, striking a ‘Barnes Wallis’ means that you’ve whacked your ball hop skip and a jump over water; the actual Dambusters operation was code-named Operation Chastise… for music and all related, nothing – so my little Voltaire tells me as 2009 rubs sleep from its eyes – could be more appropriate.

Not only the gatekeepers but the goalposts and pitch are changing – because they have to; the smug dam of complacency is bursting before our eyes and… not before time.

Yet, in amongst this most fundamental of changes, the headless-chicken corporation-approach-mentality is neither adjusting or even looking like its hit the brake pedal – if anything its anaconda-like embrace of the accelerator toward doom is more prevalent than ever (judging by EMI’s recently installed Italian Stallion’s thoughts at the back end of last year).

And, until those in charge of a business in absolute turmoil start to look beyond their pay-cheques, the radical change in how to combat the latest prevalent menace will – and has to be – spearheaded by people like the diminutive purple-one (and no, I’ve never been that huge a fan) because they’ll take charge of their own future, work with the technology that’s evolving as its available and stamp their own authority on what comes next.

Because, we’re slap bang in the middle of the golden age of… thievery… of absolute whole scale, daylight robbery.

Everyone knows it, everyone sees it – yet it is only the true creatives who’re actually doing anything about it.

Personally, I don’t think music is overpriced. People pay 50 quid for a video game and in our case, we’ve put two years of our lives into it and I think it’s got real value. I’d like to make it better value by creating an experience you can’t have by just ripping it off. Make the music more interesting, make it better value and create the environment that it’s in. That’s what I’m into.
Bono, singer

And therein lays a truth, a real truth.

Because… the creators are being ripped off and finally, they’re not just saying enough is enough, they’re also saying… we’ll find creative ways to stop this madness.

Immediately, I can hear the counter argument rising like disgusted bile in throats across the universe. How can multi-millionaires (like Prince or U2 or Coldplay or Bruce Springsteen or…) complain… how dare they, they’ve made zillions… how’s a few downloads gonna affect them – they’ve made so much money their grandchildren’s grand-children will never need to work? Ok, so its illegal – but, so what..? Go on… answer that..?

In a sense it’s not really the download hi-jacker’s fault that has led to hi-scale piracy of the airwaves.

All they did was harness the new technology to find ways of getting what they wanted… for nothing based upon the growing culture that whatever you obtain from the internet you can, by and large, get hold of for free.

Clearly much isn’t – that new woolie from Mr Debenham’s fabulous emporium isn’t, nor are the online-ordered sausage rolls, lavatory paper, the chicken drumsticks, toothpaste, superglue, light-bulbs and six-packs of crisps to be home delivered by Tescos.

However… Information is free – Wikipedia may well not be as accurate as it could be but who’s counting; pornography is freely available (should you feel the need to take that sort of a journey to satisfy the urge within); most education is by and large on the house; everything from for example – the BBC site – is gratis (so long as the licence fee’s been paid); there’s a wealth of sport and entertainment readily available for viewing across a multitude of web-sites; many banks offer free internet banking services (but for how long?) and if you choose to socially network – then that’s yet another freebase.

And, with music files – MP3 and MP4 and their off-shoots – being but mini-cheddar-mega-byte sized chunks… file sharing is a doddle.

So, why shouldn’t music become free too?

As I see it – the blame lies with the mega-corporations who simply took way too long figuring out how technology was going to change the world and how fast that change would occur.

Over the last two to three years they’ve woken up, scratched their hairy corporate arses and gone… oh dear… what should we do now..? Lets form a committee and look into it (‘cos we know how to do things like that). Yet frustrated acts and artists – by and large powerless since they’ve signed this sort of control over to label X or Y – all over the world have been screaming, you didn’t shut the fxxxxxg stable door, the horse is running headlong down the street.

Therein lies the real rage in the machine.

Further to which, the record companies have, in fact, never been ripped off – no matter how much they plead poverty and an inability to re-invest in younger upcoming artists.

For sure, they’ve lost revenue… doubtless oodles of revenue. Largely because they’ve allowed Proctor & Gamble taught executives to run riot as bell-hops to creativity while not attending to the real business at hand.

Because, the reality – on any bog-standard recording contract – is that the company earns back four times (minimum) as fast as the artist will. Secondly, while the artist may be given colossal advance X, that’s just a loan… pure and simple.

The poodle won the X-factor not the Lottery and yet, the tabloid front-page headlines screamed – poodle wins million quid contract. Yes, she got to sign a contract… in which, she was loaned a million quid.

The only people who really earned from that were the brains behind the show (the high-wasted trousers that are Simon Cowell – who, so it was reported, bought yet another property in Barbados from the proceeds... or, did I read that wrong and... he simply bought Barbados, full stop) and the song-writer who, thirty-something years before penned a magnificent tune that the poodle massacred yet hit pay-dirt with.

74 year old Leonard Cohen will have long since recouped his song-writing publishing advance, thus he, too, will be quids-in… Millions of quids-in having watched his song propelled to gold and silver positions in the podium race to the top of the Christmas cracker. At least Jeff Buckley didn’t murder beauty, sheer natural beauty.

So… how does this giving the artist a shed load of money work, after all, doesn’t it have to be paid back? Well, the way its paid back is via royalties earned… And how does that work..? Rather like this… Lets imagine a record sells for 1 unit of currency and the act or artist’s debt (meaning advance, recording costs and a shed load of other fully recoupable costs) is 1,000 units. The act or artist pays back this debt via its royalty rate earned from each disc sold which, lets say in this example, is 1/10th of 1 unit.

It doesn’t take a mathematician with the brain the size of Einstein to work out that even if a record sells pretty well all around the world, the ultimate benefit is to the company that dished out the cash in the first place… yes, in time, the artist will do well… in fact very well. But, first and foremost, the record company – or modern day banker – will do exceedingly well and long before the artist drives off in his or her newly-acquired personal-number-plated Bristol.

But…

The geeks got there first.

And found ways… millions of ways of downloading music – ie creativity – for nothing.

I’ve used this analogy before, so bear with me... again. That is the equivalent of going into a major department store, eyeing up that very nice cashmere jumper, taking it – see me, touch me, feel me, love me – and all under the watching gaze of the terribly nice staff of said department store who’re busying themselves covering up the tills, with the store manger holding open the door for you as you walk by with the lovely – oh so beautiful – sweater and saying… be our guest… have that… for free.

Money for nothing, get your kicks for free.

Do that a few too many times and an entire business is going to fall flat on its arse.

So… what is happening now? The artists have – by and large – become utterly fed up with how their creativity is being squandered and have taken the law (so to speak) into their own hands. Sisters (and brothers) are doing it for themselves.

At last.

3 comments:

Fifi Dessein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fifi Dessein said...

Apple on Tuesday said every song in its iTunes library will be available without anti-piracy software by April.

The announcement came at a Macworld Expo keynote presentation at which Apple marketing vice president Phil Schiller said, "We worked with all major music companies and, starting today, iTunes will offer eight million songs DRM free and by the end of this quarter all 10 million will be DRM free," Schiller said.

"All songs will be DRM free in iTunes at iTunes Plus."Recording studios have long insisted on digital rights management (DRM) software that prevents music from being copied.In what may have been a concession that led to the studios backing off DRM demands, iTunes in April will break from its six-year tradition of selling songs at 99 cents each.Songs will sell for 69 cents, 99 cents or 1.29 cents with studios deciding pricing, according to Schiller.

Music studios have long lobbied Apple to charge more for songs at iTunes."We know already that more songs will be offered at 69 cents than at a dollar twenty-nine."

Copyright AFP 2008,

Fifi Dessein said...

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island couple whose son is accused of illegally sharing songs online should not be forced to surrender their home computer for inspection because it would violate their privacy, their lawyer argued at a federal court hearing Tuesday.

Joel Tenenbaum, a 25-year-old Boston University graduate student, is accused by the Recording Industry Association of America of downloading at least seven songs and making 816 music files available for distribution on the Kazaa file-sharing network through 2004.

The industry’s lawsuit against him is part of an aggressive campaign targeting people who share music online. The industry says it’s lost billions of dollars because of peer-to-peer networks that make it easy for Internet users to share songs online.

Record company lawyers believe Tenenbaum downloaded the songs on his parents’ personal computer in Providence and urged a federal magistrate on Tuesday for permission to copy the machine’s hard drive for proof of copyright infringement.

"The information on the computer is directly relevant and material to the underlying claims in this case," said industry lawyer Daniel Cloherty.

But Charles Nesson, a Harvard Law professor representing Arthur and Judie Tenenbaum, said the computer contains information protected by attorney-client privilege and holds other sensitive and personal material that has nothing to do with the case.

"You can hardly imagine anything more intrusive than asking anyone to disgorge a computer," said Nesson, who is also challenging in U.S. District Court in Boston the constitutionality of a federal copyright law that the music industry has used to target song-swappers.

Joel Tenenbaum had offered to settle the case for $500 after the industry confronted him in September 2005 with allegations of illegal file-sharing. But music companies rejected that, demanding $12,000. They sued in 2007.

"During the past several years, thousands of regular working class folks in the music community have lost their jobs precisely because of the illegal activity involved in this case," RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth said in a written statement.

"While this might be an interesting academic exercise for the professor and his class, there’s been real world consequences for those who create music."

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press.