There's a lot of stir…

about potential new laws regarding the use of copyrighted, musical, and intellectual property on-line. I don’t know all the details but I do know this.

Music is work. The songs that people like to hear don’t show up by magic, they’re the products of weeks and month of work, of practice, and polishing a product to perfection. People only see or hear the finished product when it comes to music and they have no idea how long it takes and the effort involved to make it all happen. They also don’t know that a musician or group supports not just themselves but a whole group of people who depend on this product for their livelihood as well. From the owners of small coffee shops to the truck drivers on tour to the folks who sell concessions, all of them make a living off from the band.

So when you record music you didn’t pay for you’re really stealing, not just from a performer you think is rich (and by the way the vast majority of them make less than you do) but everyone else who counts on the income from the music to make a living. After all only about a dollar or less of every CD sold goes to the performer(s), the rest feeds a whole lot of mouths along the way.

So perhaps you can see why musicians, anyway, are trying to find a way to protect their own creations, a way to make somewhat of a living in a world where they work hard and people take what they make for a nickel on the dollar while the Googles of the world make billions.

If you don’t like the government snooping around the internet for illegal use and sale of copyrighted material and artistic creations there is one way to stop this and it’s just being honest. Pay for what you record online. Use only reputable download sites that at least try to assure that artists get something in return for their work. And no matter how much your friends ask just say no when they want your music, which took the artists and performers time and effort, for free.

If you don’t, don’t be surprised if the producers of art try to find a way to get the government to protect them from those who steal their work or barring that for them to just say “Forget it” and leave the world to its silence.

4 thoughts on “There's a lot of stir…

  1. The issue with SOPA and PIPA isn’t so much the stealing part — I think most people that are against the legislation (in general) understand that and fully acknowledge that piracy must be dealt with. But the legislation is TERRIBLE and is the equivalent of using a chain saw to trim back a lilac bush. You just don’t do it unless you want to destroy the bush.

    Example: say one user uploads a song illegally to YouTube. The proposed legislation gives the federal government the power to shut down YouTube (via DNS blocking), all because of one user. While it is an exaggerated example, that’s the fact of the legislation. Most smart tech corporations acknowledge that piracy must be dealt with, and that SOPA/PIPA is not the answer. And worst of all, we have severely uninformed legislators listening to RIAA lobbyists with skewed information and terrible solutions.


  2. I agree that shutting down the whole site would seem extreme. I don’t want that. Yet when there is such widespread abuse of material that is copyrighted or the product of other’s effort what remedies would work? Perhaps there is a software fix for this down the line but until then there is a least an ethics fix that should be considered.

    My band will be in the studio this Saturday and we know that as soon as we record the music its very probable that it will be spread, without any thought to the effort and time involved, in a way that will provide no return at all to the people who made it. We’re not seeking or asking to get rich but a dollar per cd spread between five people doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.

    I just want people to think that when they post a song or concert footage against the artist’s wishes to YouTube they’re really stealing. When they file share without permission they are taking someone else’s work without paying them. How would any of us feel if we worked hard for two weeks and then the boss decided to forget about the paycheck?

    Until there is a fix that doesn’t involve the extremes of shutting down a whole site or the wholesale theft of material I just think that at a minimum people should be honest. I know I’m whistling in the dark but I can try.


    1. Being a musician and having recorded a number of albums, I know exactly where you’re coming from — you want people to value your music and purchase it as their expression of gratitude for your hard work. Unfortunately the paradigm for media (in general) has shifted a great deal in just the past five years from a number of contributing factors — online file sharing (think back to mix tapes, no different there), what the retail price of a CD has been and become, independent musicians giving away their music just to be heard, how the RIAA has responded in excess to individuals, and the culture in general online.

      I’m not saying that it’s OK for someone to just upload a song without permission to YouTube, but the reality is that it happens. But what many musicians (and the RIAA) don’t see is the opportunity in all this — the “free” exposure and viral potential of a song/artist. What’s different is the financial model of the music industry, is that while you still have units to sell, the music itself becomes a part of your marketing campaign and can effectively be viral (you have to spend money to make money). In other words, giving away that song online is part of your marketing budget for your album.

      Traditionally a record company would allocate money for a record for what you’d expect — the production costs, the marketing campaign (publications, ads, flyers, etc.), payola (still a reality), up-front tour costs, and other things to help generate buzz about the album. The RIAA largely still operates in that model, but the reality is that the “Internet culture” of today has shifted dramatically and doesn’t respond as much to what traditionally has worked to market an album.

      If you look at the independent music scene in depth, many artists are giving away their singles for free in advance of the release of their album, often times encouraging people to share it with their friends. Also, it’s common to see said artist release their song in basically most social media platforms to get ahead of the curve in terms of exposure. Yes, they still have some traditional costs associated with the production, but much of the marketing costs have shifted to “giving away” music as being the written off expense. Sure a band might not make the $.99 (or realistically less) off the single they’re giving away, but what they gain in its stead is visibility, buzz, and competition for a piece of real estate in the forefront of our minds. If someone likes what they hear, it’s quite likely they will buy it.

      Yeah, you’re going to have the cheap schmucks who won’t pay for anything — you can’t change the cheapskate, they’ll always be out there. But when you show a notorious loyalty and devotion to your fans, give them plenty to share and talk about, and provide a good product, they’ll likely buy it. Especially when you ask them to, and nicely.

      The reality is that there are artists out there giving away their (quality) music for free, and it’s hard to compete with that — and that also sets an expectation level with the public, that music should be cheap, affordable or even free. What that means for us is that we have to be all-the-more creative on our respective business models and how we generate revenue from our music. It may be a free digital copy of the album for immediate download if they buy your CD online, or perhaps a package deal like a t-shirt/CD/digital download, or maybe membership to receive exclusive song releases. But they really have to like your music before they’re going to buy it, and that’s a factor that won’t change regardless of what’s going on with the interwebz.

      One band comes to mind: Pomplamoose — . By-in-large their schtick is “video songs” — they record a song in their studio, both in Pro Tools but also on video, and then cleverly compile the video and sync it with the audio recording. They take that video and then post to YouTube — for free. No question that they’ve sunk a ton of time into writing and recording the material and that they should be compensated. But the fact is that they gave it away free (in video form). Eventually they did release the songs on iTunes, and then later even gained greater notoriety when Hyundai came along and asked them to do several ads for them in their unique “video song” approach for some of their holiday sale ads in 2010. Their model is certainly non-traditional and counter-intuitive if you look at it from the RIAA’s way of looking at the music industry. But yet Pomplamoose is enjoying a good deal of success, notoriety, and plenty of buzz surrounding their music.

      It’s a hard pill to swallow — the current state of the arts in an online world where everything is so connected and is designed to share and collaborate. Artists will have to learn to adapt and change their perspective if they want to succeed out there. That’s the new paradigm. If we don’t embrace it, adopt and change, our art will never be seen nor heard. I can complain all I want about how people should pay $15.00 for my album because I worked so hard on it and spent months laboring over it, but in the end if people don’t really like it, they’re not going to buy it anyway. And if I’m really honest, I just want people to hear and enjoy my music — that’s quite gratifying in itself in this super saturated music industry where indie artists are a dime a dozen and people only have time to listen to what appeals to them most.

      Sorry for the brain dump there, but it’s an area that I feel strongly about — that the RIAA has created this walled garden and a fictional idea of how things are “supposed” to work, but the reality is that it only works for you if you’re selling millions of albums while under the contractual control of a label. For independent musicians like you and I, the new paradigm works in our favor — it just means that we have to think differently and much more creatively about how to generate revenue from it.


  3. Yes, but in the case of these artists they choose to give away their content and I can see the marketing value in that. We’ve done it ourselves. I simply don’t think its right for a person to take what an artist has made and give it to someone else without permission or without paying for it and right now the only option for content producers seems to be costly civil suits for each and all instances, suits which cost a giant company like google or youtube a fraction of what they will cost the content providers. There’s got to be a middle way between throwing content out there and hoping people will be nice enough to buy more of it and having the government patrol www sites for content. I just don’t know what it is. I can tell you, though, that if what has been happening to artists and content providers was happening to congressmen there would be a solution.


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