Monday, February 15, 2010

TVD's Pie in the Sky

The machinations of the recording industry amaze me. Once upon a time there was a set of well honored rules—but the old game's been beset with a myriad of game changers in the name of modernity in all its forms and fashions.

So, fine. Adjust or perish, I say.

Some hints for the music industry at large this week (and one that personally strikes a chord here:)

#5. Get the hell out of the way of the blogs. | They're the last bastion of promotion for you at this point—unless you secure an iPod commercial or a track on 'The Hills." (And if you do, you arrive neutered.)

Our pal whiteray has had his blog shut down twice over copyright violations for posting vinyl rips of old and widely unavailable LPs and 45's—stuff dating from the 60's and 70's. Forget that he was honoring the bands or the recordings long dormant. If you're the copyright holder, wouldn't a little dust kicked up in your name be a good thing...perhaps people seek out and buy one of these old tracks from the new delivery systems?

Google unceremoniously shut down a host of music bloggers last week with blogs just like this one. Some posting obscure new genres of music and others semi-mainstream like TVD.

The rub is that those who were shut down were granted permission to host and post Mp3s from the labels, the promotions people, or the bands themselves, but internal communication was spotty between the players resulting in complaints filed and the subsequent deletion of their blogs—often without cogent warnings or explanations.

Scary, hm?

Labels and PR firms now have teams of coordinators reaching out to the blogs and we hear from them everyday. The Vinyl District which once posted Mp3 rips of obscure and not so obscure stuff has evolved (devolved?) into a roughly 90% sanctioned enterprise by posting music OK'd by whichever arm of the business is supporting and promoting an act.

Seemingly however, this is no longer enough to not warrant a bomb dropping via the old guard screaming copyright infringement. Should we be threatened with extinction when playing ball altogether?

Old guard, bloggers are the last ones disseminating your output. Remember that when everything goes silent around you—including the cash registers.

(Typically we'd add some tracks here...but silence seems to feel appropriate today.)


eric sommer said...

Comment on today's post re: copyright

Today my co-producer for our electronic materials project called me with a question - a local record company listened to his samples from a CD he had given them at the Black Cat a few weeks ago when the local label was having a local artists' night there, and then they called him a few weeks later and asked if they could include one of his songs on a new compilation they were putting together.

I have been doing this for awhile so he called me and asked what he should do.

Here's what I told him - right or wrong, the reality hits hard.

I told Whole Heart to go ahead and let them use whatever they want - make no restrictions on it, put it out there, let the universe absorb it and enjoy that someone asked you for permission to do it. And the reasoning is based in fact - at least from my own personal experience.

I feel it all comes back to live performance - that's the beauty of live music. If it's a recording, there's little you can do to protect yourself so don't even start with that mindset. Consider that if you put the material out there with a ton of restrictions, trademarks and copyrights on all of it... what would happen if someone like GirlTalk or some other sampler took it and used it whole or in part for a series of shows or mashups or jams or whatever and you wanted to try to stop it and/or get or recover any monies made using your stuff? Then it is all up to the artist to enforce the claim... BMI, ASCAP can help to a degree, but consider the time, expense and distractions that battle would cost - and for ASCAP and BMI, it's got to be worth their time no matter what they tell you... If it's just you, you're fucked.

To enforce your rights, you'll need a good trademark or copyright lawyer, and nobody would consider touching such a claim for less than $20,000 cash up front with an additional $200,000 cash in escrow - that's what it would take to prosecute your claim, at a minimum, and engage in the battle with labor-intensive and research-heavy prep for any lawsuit and subsequent court filings, plus three associates and one, maybe two from the Copyright Practice plus a Senior Partner.

And that's from personal experience - it happened to me, and faced with that kind of expense, I had to abandon my claim and let the rascals get away with it - they did but eventually went belly-up. I was right, they were wrong, they stole the material from me... but the cost of pressing my claim was prohibitive. But that means that the big pockets win out on this - Google and others can afford to enforce their will because they control the game and they have almost unlimited resources. What Google and other se's are doing is very destructive... but nearly impossible to counter. Except by creating a different sub-culture which eschews that approach in favor of open-souce collaboration and a focus on live performance.

All this... to protect what? Songs, soundscapes, samples...? How? Only the attorney gets rich on this so my advice was just keep writing and keep writing and keep your live show going because that is THE ONE THING they can't duplicate yet - there's only one of you.

Someone thought enough of your stuff to take it? Great! You are on to something!! So write another one, even more powerful... write 10 more today!!!

eric sommer

Anonymous said...

A band called True Lovers got fucked last week when Surviving The Golden Age was shut down by Google just moments after they did a track post of their song “Cougar”. That’s not why they got shut down, but its shows you that the indie artists suffer because of the majors Gestapo tactics.

Shutting down blogs that were promoting bands that are out there doing it on their own and need them to get word out about them is bad news. It’s like a small band getting a coveted review in Spin or Rolling Stone and then the government orders all copies of that issue destroyed...