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Content Creators Coalition & MusicAnswers Applaud the Revision and Passage of the Music Modernization Act by the Senate Judiciary Committee — Artist Rights Watch

June 28, 2018 Comments off

PRESS RELEASE

[Washington, D.C.] – The Content Creators Coalition and MusicAnswers released today the following statement on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote in support of the Music Modernization Act.

C3 and MusicAnswers applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance the Music Modernization Act, while incorporating key changes we had urged to make the legislation stronger, more transparent, and more equitable.

The MMA will strengthen the music ecosystem and all its participants, including songwriters, publishers, performing rights organizations, artists, record companies, music services and fans. It ensures digital music services will pay fair royalties for every song they stream, establish a better standard for determining royalty rates, and eliminate some out-of-date provisions of the PRO consent decrees. In return, digital music services get certainty, legal protection, and new streamlined tools to bring more music to more people at lower cost.

It’s a reasonable bargain, and, therefore, we have consistently and publicly supported the basic construct of the legislation.

We are especially grateful that the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), was willing to engage with our organizations on ways to improve the bill and include in the Managers Amendment approved today key protections for creators and the public.

As a result, the MMA now provides greater transparency, including rigorous audits to make sure that royalties are flowing to the correct parties, a commitment to educating all music creators about their rights and the royalties due them collected under the new Music Licensing Collective (MLC), a requirement to study and follow best practices in order to find the proper owners of unclaimed royalties, and increased clarity regarding who owns the data generated by the new system.

While we support the legislation and are proud of the changes we have achieved as artist and songwriter advocates, we continue to have concerns about three key issues: whether the entity that is designated as the MLC is being foreordained by the bill and precludes competition with the MLC; the composition of the Board of Directors of the MLC, which is unduly tilted towards major publishers; and the methods used to distribute royalties from works where even using best practices the authors could not be identified.  We urge the full Senate and the House to consider further improvements to those flawed provisions and we call on the Copyright Office to ensure in implementation of the final legislation that no stakeholder group can dominate the MLC and that all royalties are distributed in a fair and equitable and non-self-interested manner.

The process leading to this moment has been strong in many ways. But it has also included its fair share of divide-and-conquer tactics and efforts by powerful incumbent forces to crowd out grassroots organizations like ours and to divide the music community within itself.  We believe that we are strongest when we respect and support each other – a lesson too many in our business still have yet to learn.

We are deeply appreciative of the partnership c3 and MusicAnswers have forged. Together, we represent thousands of writers, producers, performers, and music business professionals, and over the past few weeks we have worked steadfastly to pursue improvements in the MMA. We look forward to future collaboration and welcome the involvement of other collaborative groups and individuals.

via Content Creators Coalition & MusicAnswers Applaud the Revision and Passage of the Music Modernization Act by the Senate Judiciary Committee — Artist Rights Watch

Must-Read by @LizPelly: Discover Weakly: Sexism on Spotify

June 8, 2018 Comments off

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Liz Pelly demonstrates how Spotify perpetuates gender stereotypes.  Spotify–where A&R stands for “Algorithms and Redirects .” Why are we helping these people again?

“Spotify has actively steered its listeners away from the album as a format and toward playlists. This serves Spotify’s interests: a music culture dependent on playlists is dependent on Spotify, whereas a music culture dependent on albums is dependent on record labels. As Spotify vies to become more powerful and influential than labels, emerging as the music industry’s new center of power, one of its primary strategic focuses has been on playlists—curated by humans, algorithms, and sometimes a hybrid approach—making the process of navigating its platform more convenient and ever more personalized.

As a result, Spotify’s most popular playlists have emerged with outsize influence. After I created a new Spotify account earlier this year for this very listening experiment, when I clicked the “albums” tab on my brand-new account, Spotify responded, “Your favorite albums will appear here,” followed by, tellingly, “Go to your Browse page to find amazing playlists for every mood and moment.” A small but powerful gesture: at every turn the platform encourages playlists over albums. This, of course, raises several concerns regarding how fans relate to music and even this music’s context. Which is all to say: in the realm of Spotify, playlist placement matters. A lot.”

Read the post on The Baffler (h/t Artist Rights Watch)

@MusicFirst: Congress, end a longstanding injustice for legacy music creators #irespectmusic — Artist Rights Watch

May 18, 2018 Comments off

Otis Redding sat on the dock of the bay in 1967. Roy Orbison sang for the lonely in 1960. Miles Davis was kind of blue in 1959. These artists’ iconic recordings live on today and are frequently played across streaming services, satellite radio, and FM radio. Tell Congress to make Big Tech pay its fair share.

via @MusicFirst: Congress, end a longstanding injustice for legacy music creators #irespectmusic — Artist Rights Watch

@Smokey_Robinson Gives Moving Defense of Artist Rights at @SenJudiciary Hearing on MMA

May 16, 2018 Comments off

Smokey Robinson is one of the best witnesses for artist rights.  Mr. Robinson was on stage yesterday in the clinch at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Music Modernization Act, the new omnibus package that finally includes all of the pre-72 protections and closes that loophole for Big Tech.  (Read his written testimony here.)

The records of the 50’s and 60’s aren’t called “classics” because of their age. They’re called classics because of their greatness. They still resonate today. They add value to our lives and bring people together. They define America.

While Mr. Robinson’s written testimony was eloquent and inspiring, where he really showed his genius was in his ability to synthesize key issues and think on his feet in front of both the cameras and the U.S. Senate.

Watch this clip in which he corrected DiMA head Chris Harrison about a cavalier statement regarding “artists can always sue.”  This is what these people always say, and too often our Congress full of lawyers gets drawn into the “lawsuit as remedy” thinking–which most of the time is a dodge.  I’d even go so far as to say it’s laziness.

As Mr. Robinson pointed out so precisely, artists and songwriters can hardly ever sue because they can’t afford to hire a lawyer or even investigate their rights.  So if that’s the result–and a good justification for the copyright small claims court–that’s no remedy at all and results in an income transfer.  It’s called YouTube, Twitter, Facebook–the biggest income transfers of all time.

Fortunately, Texas Senator John Cornyn, a supporter of the pre-72 fix, gave Mr. Robinson a chance to hit it out of the park and he took it.  Smokey the Closer.

If there ever was a better defense of the need for statutory damages and attorneys fees (the “private attorney general” clause of the Copyright Act), I haven’t heard it.

And while no one said it at the hearing and taking nothing away from Mr. Robinson, it must be said that the only reason that this bill is where it is, the only reason that the pre-72 and mechanical licensing fixes are where they are, is because of Howard Kaylan & Mark Volman, David Lowery, Melissa Ferrick, Bob Gaudio and Bluewater Music and the lawyers like Henry Gradstein (both Turtles and Ferrick class actions), Sanford Michaelman and Richard Busch.  And that’s the fact.

@agraham999: ‘BIG DATA IS ABOUT TO BECOME A VERY BIG PROBLEM FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.’ — Artist Rights Watch

May 14, 2018 Comments off

One of the big pitches we have heard for years from digital services is how they can provide artists with data resources to connect with fans.  That is–everything except a meaningful way to connect with the fans that the artist isn’t already driving to the service in the first place.

Of course, the most laughable part of this pitch is that somehow knowing you’ve been streamed in Shoreditch, Tyler, Yellowknife and Brooklyn is going to be meaningful to a talent buyer, even if that talent buyer books in those towns.  Yet we frequently see journalists dutifully spout this received wisdom as if it meant something other than trying to gin up a reason to pay artists and songwriters a still lower royalty to offset the cost of rent at World Trade Center.

Alan Graham’s recent post in Music Business Worldwide has put his finger right on another problem that defies the conventional wisdom and Spotify narrative–big data ain’t all it’s cracked up to be and may be going the way of Cambridge Analytica.

Big data was a solution pitched and sold to the music industry as a panacea to fan engagement problems. While big data seems very attractive, using personal data and profiling fans may in fact turn out to be, like oil and plastics, already outdated and toxic….

In a 2014 New Yorker article, Spotify was keenly aware of the power of such data:

All this, Ek explained, will help Spotify to better program the “moments” of a user’s day. “We’re not in the music space—we’re in the moment space,” he told me. The idea is to use song analytics and user data to help both human and A.I. curators select the right songs for certain activities or moods, and build playlists for those moments. Playlists can be customized according to an individual user’s “taste profile.” You just broke up with your boyfriend, you’re in a bad mood, and Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” from the “Better Off Without You” playlist, starts. Are you playing the music, or is the music playing you?

…In fact, when you agree to use Spotify, third-parties who install the Spotify widgets on their sites may also send data as to which page on what site you are visiting.

With this knowledge, just how comfortable are you knowing that Facebook is now contextualizing your private chat messages to suggest music on Spotify?

via @agraham999: ‘BIG DATA IS ABOUT TO BECOME A VERY BIG PROBLEM FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.’ 

@jkdegen: Nothing to See Here, Folks. Keep Moving, Academics Ignore Suffering of Cultural Workers

May 12, 2018 1 comment

[“Everybody knows that the boat is leaking, everybody knows that the captain lied…”
From Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen.]

Testimony at Canada’s copyright review shows cultural workers suffering, the world noticing, and education pretending none of that is actually happening.

by John Degen

Canada’s copyright review committee has been travelling the country, setting down in five major cities to hear testimony from individuals and groups.  [Imagine if the U.S. Congress did that with the Music Modernization Act?]

Testimony from the cultural side of the table has been shocking and compelling. In Toronto, for instance, best-selling children’s author Sylvia McNicoll revealed that she has personally visited a classroom (at a prison school) where the entire class set of her book were bound photocopies. She has suffered a 90% total income drop since 2012 when Canada’s Copyright Act was weakened beyond its ability to protect creators’ rights.

Ms. McNicoll told Parliament that she is reluctantly retiring from the business, and will be selling her house as a result. I can confirm that I have heard similar stories and plans from many respected Canadian authors. That is more Canadian content discouraged and uncreated, and Canadian workers impoverished.

Parliament has heard from publishers that the explosion of free copying since 2012 has affected not only their own royalties, but the royalties they pass to their authors. Some have noted those steep royalty declines (80–90%) represent the difference between profit and loss, and that primary sales of actual books have also been negatively affected. What that means is that continued investment in Canadian content becomes untenable.

Read the post on Medium

@mikehuppe: “We are Making Major Progress on Music Licensing Reform – Together” #irespectmusic — Artist Rights Watch

May 6, 2018 Comments off

While several pieces of music legislation have been introduced in the Senate, there is not a single comprehensive package yet. We are encouraging our Senate allies to bring these many issues together into a single, comprehensive Music Modernization Act, like the bill passed in the House.

via @mikehuppe: “We are Making Major Progress on Music Licensing Reform – Together” #irespectmusic — Artist Rights Watch

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