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Joe Cocker RIP

December 22, 2014 2 comments

Many years ago, Roger Davies walked into my office in the green bungalow on the A&M lot with a list of issues to cover for his artists.  One was a license of “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker for a major motion picture.  We came to have Joe on the label due to Jerry Moss’s relationship with the late Howie Richmond that also gave us a couple other artists called The Move and Procol Harum back in the day.

Roger’s feeling was that “You Are So Beautiful” was one of Joe’s signature recordings and it had become undervalued due to overlicensing at less than premium prices.  Remember, Joe hadn’t been on A&M for years, but when you have a catalog of classic recordings by an artist who was as much of a creative force as Joe Cocker, those relationships are timeless.  Also remember that Roger Davies had just pulled off the revival of Tina Turner’s career (and we had released “River Deep, Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner).

So I was very much interested in respecting that history.  I asked Roger what he had in mind, and he said $250,000.

Now, that’s a lot of money for a licensed track, even for an end title.  I kind of looked at him.

And another $250,000 for trailers.

I said, just so I have this straight, you want $500,000 for an end title license on a 20 year old master?

That was, of course, exactly what Roger wanted.  This was not going to go over well.  I thought about it for a few seconds and then thought, fuck it.

I put in a call to the head of music for the major studio that was releasing the picture and said I got your request here for Joe Cocker.  The quote is 250.

He said, 250….?

Thousand.

Silence

I looked at Roger and he looked at me while we all sat there for a minute in silence.  The head of music said what do I get for $250,000.  I said, good point, the trailers are another $250,000.

Silence.

He said, I’ll get back to you.

And we closed on that deal.

Of course Roger wanted Joe’s share paid through off contract and of course seeing as it was A&M and as it was Roger Davies (who also managed Janet Jackson) and as it was Joe Cocker, I passed through Joe’s share about 10 days after we got paid.

None of that would happen today, but it was a good lesson in how a great manager handles a cherished artist.  Joe was happy, Roger was happy and we were happy.  I assume the studio was not all that happy, but the director was happy and it was a tasteful use of Joe’s music.  The studio would get over it.

Could I have come up with some greedy major label bullshit to hold onto the money?  Sure.  I could have.

I still see that movie on cable and get a kick out of hearing Joe in the end titles.  We did a few other things to help Joe have an easier life, and I was happy to do everything we could for an artist beyond category who we were proud to have had on the label.  I don’t know as it was always that way or if it is still that way, but it was that way when I was able to call the shots.

We need to cherish our artists and respect their memories.  Joe Cocker is one more reason why we need to get all artists paid for radio play.

Public Citizen’s List of Examples of “Third Party” Groups to Which Google Provides Support

December 22, 2014 Comments off

Music Technology Policy

As we know, Google spends hundreds of millions every year to extend its influence through government, academia and the media.  (Although sometimes with the media it extends its influence through theft wrapped in a bunch of excuses).

The venerated good government group Public Citizen released a comprehensive report entitled “Mission Creep-y” that measures many dimensions of Google’s influence in the US.  (“In the US” is an important qualifier–Google does much the same in major economies.)    In addition to the campaign contributions and lobbying spend that are largely public record, Public Citizen also focused on a largely unseen element of this influence–so called “third party” influence groups (often non-profits) that end up on Google’s side most of the time.  (See SOPA.)

Tax exempt nonprofits disclose their income on an IRS Form 990, but the one schedule that would be meaningful in evaluating the nonprofit’s bona fides is confidential.  That’s Schedule B…

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20 More Questions for Artists: License fee splits for film and TV

December 20, 2014 Comments off

Music Technology Policy

This post is a follow-on to “20 Questions for New Artists” by Chris Castle and Amy Mitchell available here.

Great news, you got a track licensed for a weekly network TV show, what’s called “episodic television.”  So now what?

The network will issue a standard license which is probably reasonably fair to you (although you should always have your legal or business advisor review it and tell you what it says).  Here are a few things that it ought to say.

1.  License not Ownership:  First, it’s a nonexclusive license, meaning that even though you license the recording (and the song, which we will come to), you are free to license the same recording to anyone else for the same kind of use (although not the same show), and you are free to continue using the recording and song however you want.

Sometimes there is a…

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Why Does Google Drug Stockholder Settlement Cover Golden Parachutes for Felonious Employees?

December 19, 2014 Comments off

Music Technology Policy

Google recently filed a tentative settlement with its stockholders over the $500,000,000 of the company’s money that Google’s executive team authorized be spent to keep from being indicted by a Rhode Island grand jury.  (I invite you to read the sordid history in the settlement and also the story of the Google sting operation in the Nonprosecution Agreement between Google and the United States,)

The settlement is full of the kind of stuff you’d expect to see in a settlement of this kind:  Google refuses to admit liability, but agrees to spend even more of the stockholder’s money to stop itself before it sins again.  But then out of the blue comes this section:

2.7 Criminal Activity Reporting

Google’s General Counsel shall be responsible for reviewing every situation in which a  Google employee is convicted of a felony under U.S. federal or state criminal statutes in connection with his…

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The Revenge of the Adsense Whistleblower: Google Sued For Canceling Adsense Accounts and Keeping the Money

December 18, 2014 1 comment

Remember the Adsense Whistleblower?  What the whistleblower alleged is that Google is essentially stealing money from Adsense publishers in situations that may be subject to an obligation on Google’s part to refund that money to advertisers.  Because the whistleblower has not published any documents as evidence for the claims, we don’t have much to go on.  So in this way, it’s like almost everything else with the highly, highly secretive Google.

pastebin groups

 

That’s right–Google is canceling accounts supposedly for violating Google’s Adsense policies, but did not give any warning to the publisher or an opportunity to correct the behavior.

But Google sold advertising and kept the money after canceling the account.  This is similar to what Google was reported to have done by the BBC when it discovered that its vast advertising network was being used to sell counterfeit Olympics tickets for the London Olympics.  Google cancelled the account but kept the money.  And it is also a topic that is the subject of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s latest subpoena to Google for investigating Google’s business practices.  (Google shills are trying to pass off Hood’s subpoena as focused on piracy, but if you actually take the time to read the subpoena you will find that it hardly mentions IP theft at all and mostly focuses on how Google enforces its own practices and potential violations of the $500,000,000 plea bargain that Google entered into with the US Department of Justice for violating the Controlled Substances Act.)

The thing to remember about Google’s taking accrued but unpaid Adsense revenue under bogus or false pretenses is that it smacks of fraud.  And if Google is not refunding Adsense revenues to advertisers, then not only is it likely defrauding its ad publishers (the sites where the ads appear) it is also defrauding the advertisers.  This is not behavior that is protected by the DMCA, the Communications Decency Act, or any other safe harbor.  It is quite simply profiting by deceit and that kind of thing is often covered by state law.

When the Pastebin whistleblower first posted these accusations, Google immediately poo-poo’d the post (including the one about a sex harassment claim against well-known political contributor Matt Cutts who took a leave of absence from Google shortly after the Pastebin post.)  But now we are starting to see a conga line of lawsuits against Google for largely the same thing.

Business Insider reports that:

One company, Pubshare, has sued Google for nearly $1 million in revenue it allegedly earned from ads, which Google declined to pass on to the company….Google asked the court to dismiss the case, but a judge ruled to let it proceed. The company has recently indicated that it is bowing to pressure from publishers: In a blog post, it said it would be “making some changes” when considering whether publishers should be banned.

“Allowing an AdSense publisher to accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings without any warnings of improper practices, and then abruptly refusing to pay out any of those earnings by means of auto-generated form e-mails is the very definition of bad faith,” says Randy Gaw, a lawyer at the San Francisco firm Gaw Poe, which represents Ogtanyan.

Google declined to comment on this story when contacted by Business Insider….Four different companies have told Business Insider they are talking to their lawyers about suing the search giant for fraud. Three have actually sued, according to copies of the litigation obtained by Business Insider.

In total, Business Insider has heard from seven companies that say they lost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars when they were suddenly banned from AdSense. All the companies say they were following Google’s strict rules about how to place ads on their site. Some of them say they were encouraged or given approval for their ad plans by Google’s sales staff. The companies showed us emails, images from their AdSense account dashboards, and online chat transcripts with Google staff to demonstrate their problems.

You have to feel for these Adsense publishers.  Remember, Google has acknowledged terminating thousands of Adsense publisher accounts.  Former staffer for Vice President Joe Biden turned Google lobbyist Catherine Oyama proudly told Congress how many accounts Google had terminated that is consistent with the whistleblower post and the Business Insider story:

Oyama Testimony
Google also told the world about another bunch of accounts it terminated in a report that may have been written by Fred “shred ’em if you got ’em” Von Lohman, former piracy guru for Google Shill Lister Electronic Frontier Foundation and current Google piracy guru:

Google Piracy Ad Cancellation

(A little free advice to General Hood–Oyama and Von Lohman should be happy to testify in response to the subpoena, which is probably why the Google PR machine is kicking into panic mode.)

So keep an eye on these lawsuits by publishers.  But the people who should really be looking into these cases are the advertisers, particularly the small advertisers.  The big ad agencies like Publius and WPP can take care of themselves on this kind of thing, and you have to believe that Google takes very good care of them.  But where do the mom and pop advertisers who are duped by Google turn?  What about the profit from counterfeit products like the London Olympics tickets?  Who takes care of those situations?

Given that the US DOJ reportedly apologized to Google for the US Attorney for Rhode Island’s statements regarding Larry Page’s involvement with promoting the sale of illegal drugs, do you think that that mom and pop advertisers or the general public can rely on the federal government to protect them from Google?  Or the consumer protection powers of their state attorneys general who are directly accountable to the voters?

The Life She Wants You to Have

December 16, 2014 3 comments

…there was lunch in the larger, first floor cafeteria where, in the corner, on a small stage there was a man, playing a guitar, who looked like an aging singer-songwriter Mae’s parents listened to.

“Is that….?”

“It is,” Annie said, not breaking her stride.  “There’s someone every day.   Musicians, comedians, writers….We book them a year ahead.  We have to fight them off.”

The singer-songwriter was signing passionately…but the vast majority of the cafeteria was paying little to no attention.

“I can’t imagine the budget for that, ” Mae said.

“Oh god, we don’t pay them.”

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Two different Bay Area artists have posted on Digital Music News about being asked to perform on Oprah Winfrey’s “The Life You Want” tour.  Both were asked to perform for free, one chose to do it for the exposure, the other decided not to kiss the ring.  The one (Revolva) who wanted to be paid did not get hired.  The one who did it for the exposure did get hired.

The question came up with artists who were asked to play for free on the Amanda Palmer Kickstarter tour (about which criticism Ms. Palmer evidently is still stinging) and it’s actually a very old question.

I would suggest to you that there’s a difference between telling an artist that the tour can afford $500 plus some swag and a bunch of comps, and telling the artist that in exchange for being allowed to bask in the glow of the genius of the headliner, they have to play for free plus a couple of house tickets.

Particularly when the headliner is one of the richest performers in the world and can clearly afford the $500 route.

I think that the question that needs to be examined here is not what decision the artists made.  Artists presented with this “opportunity” will either take the deal or they won’t.  The question is why is the deal being offered in the first place, particularly when employers are being sued every day for unpaid internships.

As a restauranteur told me once, if they can’t afford to tip they should cook dinner for themselves.

The tour is called “The Life You Want”.  That title has so many satirical possibilities that I think I will just let it sit there.

News from the Goolag: Lessig says he likes everything about the Pirate Party except the name

December 14, 2014 Comments off

Here’s a blast from the past, a “Gruber moment” for the Poker Prof.

Music Technology Policy

Lessig counsels that the U.S. Congress already thinks that the fight he has created is over “hard working copyright owners” against people who want to steal.

Yes, that’s the fight he created. He got that exactly right. Which should come as no surprise–he’s been promoting the Pirate Party since 2006. Now his problem is that they are actually becoming visible and he has to figure out how to co-opt that political success for his own purposes without getting fired by Fox News contributor Joe Trippi.

What he doesn’t like is accepting the “Pirate” label. Now why would that be? Why would he care, being a lobbying academic and all? Could it be because it would make it difficult for him to keep shilling for Google & Co.? Not that he wouldn’t keep shilling, it’s just the short con is harder to run when you are walking around with…

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