The Register has another great news story from the CISAC conference, this time moving past Lester Lawrence Lessig III (known in the familar as “Trip” Lessig) who turned in what by all accounts was a firmly mediocre debate performance.
CISAC apparently gave the keynote slot to The Man aka Google. Boy I sure hope for Google’s sake that The Man didn’t pay a sponsorship fee for this debacle (although the cost would likely not have equaled a rounding error on the doggie treat budget at the Big G). Doesn’t anyone coach these people on how to handle themselves in public? Oh, I forgot. They don’t know any songwriters; they like them OK, but they wouldn’t want their daughter to marry one. It sounds to me like Nikesh didn’t do his homework. What a shock.
Those of us who were around for Web 1.0 will remember those moments when we had to explain to the babyfaced 24 year old Senior Vice President of Business Development for Socks.com that there was a difference between a budget and an allowance, that the SEC wasn’t a college lacrosse conference, not to believe everything Mary Meeker had to say, and that they call them bubbles because they burst. And they all burst.
These not so distant memories will all come back in a wave of nausea when encountering the Googles. We will fight the desire to smack anyone who says “long tail”, “China” and “wisdom of crowds” in the same sentence and suppress the impulse to scream “IDIOTBOY!!” like Dr. Strangelove struggling to keep control of his saluting arm.
They’re baaaaaaack. Based on the Register’s story, Nikesh Arora of Google seems to fit the bill nicely. Nothing–and I mean nothing–in his background would have made him the likely candidate to speak to CISAC. Then again, when you look at the backgrounds of all of The Man’s senior executive team, no one else has the background, either. Given that Google is in the business of stealing everything that’s not nailed down, maybe that’s not surprising. But at least coach the poor guy. There actually are plenty of PR hacks who could have helped with that, but of course that would mean that someone would have to admit they have a problem. And judging by the attitude so far, that simply ain’t going to happen chez TM.
Now if there is one group that has simply been screwed in the Internet music piracy debacle lead by Trip Lessig, it’s songwriters. People who just write songs. They are sick to death of copyright excuses from the bright eyed youth who think we give a good goddamn about whether Sergey’s yoga proclivities allow him to go inverted to pick the lint out of his nether regions upside down. We don’t think it’s cool that The Man lets employees wear shorts to work, we don’t care if they bring their dogs, cats or potbellied pigs to work. We don’t get any warm and fuzzies, but they definitely could all use with a time out when it comes to respect for other people’s property, and particularly our copyrights.
Just like we didn’t care when the radio station owners, or television station owners, cable operaters, movie studios or any of the rest of the long grey line of people who tried to screw us tried to make us buy that bull about promotional value, etc. Remember–songwriters get paid when their work is used on the radio, unlike artists. These guys may have been born at night, but they weren’t born last night.
Google is just another version of The Man to us, it’s just that they’re the biggest company in the world, and they steal everything that’s not nailed down, from music, to videos, to tabby cats inside private homes to index of” +”last modified” +”parent directory” +description +size +(wmamp3) “.
It’s like they all saw “That Thing You Do” or “Dreamgirls” or something, and think that’s the way the railroad is run. They think we need “exposure” like they even know what that means. You should want the exposure, little songwriter. As my friend Rick Carnes says, people die of exposure.
So TM sends Nikesh to CISAC–not to talk about anything meaninful, but to talk about Sergey’s yoga, and how nerds are sitting at home and finding “new talent”. Let me give you one hot tip yoga boy–you don’t “find talent” sitting at home. Not only that, but there are lots of “talented” people out there. Record companies and music publishers have everyone on earth sending them material every minute of every day on “talented people”, we have people stumbling over themselves to give us tips on what and who’s hot. What the Internet provides is a convenience, you don’t provide anything new.
And by the way, here’s another hot tip–there is a huge difference between someone who is “talented” and someone who is a compelling artist. Nerds are not finding compelling artists sitting at home. The industry is lucky if we find…how many in a year? One? Five? None? It’s not because we can’t find them, schmuck. It’s because there are very, very few of them. Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints this guy is dumb…
And here’s another hot tip: Finding them is the easy part, relatively speaking. Finding them is just the start.
So in comes Nikesh to an organization made up essentially of songwriters and their representatives–all of whom have seen this movie so, so many times–and tries to hide the fact that Google and their boy Lessig are trying to make us their bitch. Deny that they want us to take their revenue share and accept some vague idea of promotional value–which are concepts that might, might apply to artists, but not to songwriters–because as Eric Schmidt says, culture has no intrinsic value that isn’t proven–on Google’s terms. Denial. Pure and simple denial.
What’s different about this time around is that at least all the other guys who came before Google in the role of The Man tried to make nice. They didn’t steal our stuff quite so blatently. They didn’t stand up like Eric Schmidt and tell a great man like Sumner Redstone that if he’d just waited a bit for Google to decide what’s good for him, he would have been better off, or that we had to prove somehow the intrinsic value of culture.
The old guys may have been The Man, but Google takes it to a whole new level of arrogance. The old guys were more or less from our business, they more or less shared our values. There may have been negotiating, there may have been positioning, but ultimately there was real agreement and respect.
They didn’t sell adwords for “download pirate movie”.
They weren’t philistines.