Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)

No, I don’t have a hangover tho’ by all accounts, I probably should – having enjoyed a bit of a stonking evening at the Liberal Arse last night. Mellow Johnny was in charge of slapping the Martini’s down, Mother Mary having taken an early bath from her usual duties.

In any event, by the time I’m awash with the third cup of coffee (meaning some sense of order had replaced that merest hint of morning fuzziness – brought about by the fellas wielding a large hammer and cordless drill in diabolical harmony upstairs at the hour designated as ‘how best to really annoy anyone within earshot’) – a small news item posted on the Music Week site via CNet had grabbed the weary eye.

It’s a leaked letter from a chap called James Pond… and Master Pond, so it appears, is one of the top dogs at Google… Splendid, we do love leaks don’t we?

And… a quick ‘Google’ of Master Pond – there’s no hiding place on the wibbly wobbly web, is there – reveals his ‘job title’ at Google is Product Counsel… no idea what that actually means but that’s how he has listed himself on LinkedIn.

And, after a bit more Google-fed prowling, its quite easy to discover he was previously a media lawyer at Osborne Clarke, a paralegal at both Freehill and Freshfields… having been ‘educated’ at both Oxford and Cambridge as well as at the Inns Of Court Law School… Marvelous – that’ll mean he’s one of their legal eagles.

So, doubtless he’ll be a bit cross that a letter of his has been leaked but… hey, its out there now. Besides, given that what he’s had leaked is – or should be – really important, equals... so much the better.

Because, it appears that Google might just be about to step up to the plate and… just might… get involved in stemming online piracy as well as helping copyright holders track down material that’s being put up and out there as ‘free’.

And this little grassy knoll out there on the windswept world wide praire says… about fuckin’ time too.

Google have a moral obligation to do this – not least, because theirs is the biggest search-engine this side of Mars.

CNet reports that Google will charge a fee for this service… yeah and they should ‘cos, after all, they’ll be offering a service… they have a ‘product’ (hateful word as it is) and… ‘products’ should be charged for in order that the person / people who have created said ‘product’ earn a living.

Don’t think anyone’s got an issue with that… have they?

I mean… c’mon… we all have to make a living… you go to work, do whatever it is you do… and, at the end of the week or month, you get paid… from that wodge of dosh, you pay your bills, put food on the table and… so on and so forth…

And, if you’re a creative kind of cove who… lets say… writes songs from which you make a living… then, you’d expect to be paid for that… wouldn’t you?

But, of course, the vast majority – and, especially those who’s careers are in their twilight years – most often do not get paid.

For why?

Ahh… and here’s the rub… and this is a critical aspect of all of this file-sharing that’s going on – and a part that doesn’t affect the successful artists out there at all (they have their own issues).

Lets take artist X who, in his (or her) career, has recorded – lets say ten albums.

Those records, in their time, gathered a certain degree of caché and sold pretty well on vinyl but have lain dormant for the last however many years. And, now that we’re well into digital middle age, most of those recordings in our example aren’t available via the modern medium. Why is that then?

It is because the Record Companies don’t consider the cost-effective equation viable.

Cost-effective means them (the Record Companies – who are the copyright holders) not making a decent return on the cost of actually digitizing and re-mastering those old recordings because they reckon they’ll only sell a handful.

Which, essentially, is food on the table for the companies that host the files – that the fans and collectors want – that, in turn, are put up by fans of the music in the first place. They – the fans / music bloggers – aren’t making any money out of this… if anything, they’re paying to put records up on the internet (‘cos, to upload X amount of music files via MegaUpLoad or RapidShare or any other Upload service you care to name costs).

They (the fans and bloggers) like the records and feel like sharing what they like.

Any examples? Hell yeah, as many as you like actually… but just one should suffice.

There’s one particular album I like rather a lot from the Seventies (ok, so it proves I’m quite old – get used to it) that I spotted the other day freely available to download.

And this came with a really interesting statistic attached to said download… it had one of those counter thingies attached… which showed that particular full album download had been accessed a smidge more than 29THOUSAND times.

And that was on one site among dozens offering the same full album download of an album that has (I know for a fact) never been digitized.

Oh – and do I have a copy? Sure I do – quite some time ago and when the technology first became available, I digitized my own vinyl copy… its not great quality but, it suffices.

By and large – and if one really wanted to – I reckon old fogies like me could not only replace their old vinyl collection for nothing other than an internet connection charge but also top up on all those old vinyl recordings that one never quite got around to purchasing.

In a sense, the fans who post these recordings are offering a service of their own yet it is highly probable that they’re the people who are going to get their teeth kicked in when the outraged might of Google comes a-knockin’

When in actual fact, its is Companies such as those named above who should be taken to the cleaners…

And, by that I mean, they should have the bejaysus audited out of ‘em – and yeah, I know it’ll take a long long time – and the money they have earned from those who have paid to upload files should be re-distributed to those who have lost out who are... the creatives.

Google helping out with the file-sharing issue – yeah, I’ll go for that BUT ONLY if they deal with the companies who are making millions out of it and feed that cash back to where it should, rightfully, be.

The other solution would be to bring in some form of legislation that would mean that the companies (as above but there are loads of ‘em) have to pay a royalty / percentage of their income to a central fund from which the creatives who are missing out would be paid.

File-sharing is a bit like prostitution, it’ll never go away. But, it can be harnessed and, if done correctly, then those whose work is being prostituted can, rightfully, earn.


Anonymous said...

Well reasoned and absolutely valid arguments.

In the file sharing world, here's just one of dozens of statistics... direct from MediaFire's site:

Every month, more than 85 million people use MediaFire to send and receive over 460 million files to their friends, family, fans, colleagues, and clients.

With all of the technology available, it wouldn't be that hard to put your thoughts into practice.

Bill, NY.

Patrick said...

Hi Neil,

Interesting article. I was having a melancholy moment or two thinking about my old music business days and wondered what you were up to and hence found your blog. I've searched to see if I can find an email or phone number for you online, but no joy. It would be nice to catch up, my email is: patrickq (at) fastmail (dot) fm

In the meantime I'll see if I can find an old phone number for you amongst my paperwork.

Patrick (as in the photographer) Quigly

Victoria said...

Love the blog! You'll have to check out mine.
Thanks again to you and yours from me and mine for a wonderful Times Square evening the other night.
Love, Victoria xx