Posts Tagged ‘Blake Morgan’

Guest Post by @theblakemorgan: Music’s Mentors and Heroes Get the Day They Deserve

July 20, 2017 Comments off

IRM blake jerry

This is great day, and a huge victory for music makers. In a bipartisan move, Rep. Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Issa (R-CA) have just introduced the “Classics Act,” H.R. 3301, which finally guarantees that music recorded before 1972 would receive payments from digital radio services. (Currently only sound recordings made after 1972 receive payments from digital radio services under some interpretations of federal law.)

This issue has been at the very center of the #IRespectMusic campaign, and I’m thrilled to see this bill come to fruition. It’s happened in great part, because of you. Each and every person connected to this campaign has had a hand in this victory, because the grass-roots pressure that continues to be put on our leaders is what wins the day, every time. So if you’ve signed the I Respect Music Petition, if you’ve taken a selfie with the hashtag, if you’ve written your representative, hosted an #IRespectMusic event in your town, shared posts, tweeted, any and all in between…you’ve helped win this great day.

This is such a powerful moment for two important reasons:

(1) All music makers should be paid for their work––but especially recorded music’s founding generation of music makers. These are our legacy artists of Jazz, Blues, R&B, and so many other genres. They’re our mentors, our heroes––artists who are now in their seventies or eighties––who’ve been incomprehensibly denied their right to be paid for their iconic contributions to our society. As many of you know, the great Lesley Gore was not only one of those iconic artists, she was my godmother, and it infuriated me to no end that she was denied payment for her priceless work. This crusade is not simply ideological or professional for me, it’s personal.

(2) This moment is also significant because for the first time, a major Congressional bill that benefits music makers is being endorsed by an entity from “the other side.” In this case, internet-radio giant Pandora. Many if not most of you know my own history with Pandora (if not, start here).

It would be hard to find anyone, anywhere, who’s been more consistently critical of them than I’ve been. However, by standing up for this bill and standing with music makers, Pandora is doing the right thing and, I congratulate them for that. As a smart person once said, “You don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.” So, if this is a sign that Pandora has seen the light and will move forward in partnership with the people who make their only product––music––then I’m grateful, and I welcome them to a new future. A future where each of us understands that music isn’t created in a vacuum. It’s created by music makers. And each of us music makers has the right to expect from our profession what others expect from their professions. That through hard work and determination, perspiration and inspiration, we’ll have the same fair shot to realize our dreams, answer our callings, support our families.

Ours is a profession built on commitment. And respect.

Our music mentors and heroes have known that for a long time. They’ve deserved this day for a long time.

I’m going to honor them by fighting for this bill with everything I have.

I respect my mentors. I respect my heroes.

I respect music.

@IRMPodcast #2: @RadioCleveKKG Interviews @theblakemorgan about #irespectmusic — Artist Rights Watch

June 25, 2017 Comments off

#irespectmusic and #savesoho Join Forces in London, Tuesday, April 18!

April 17, 2017 1 comment

IRM London

BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt hosts this very special event.

The Save Soho pop-up venue returns to The Union Club for a special meeting bewteen two artists, both well known for their activism in the music sector. Blake Morgan, from New York – founder of #IRespectMusic and Tim Arnold from London – founder of Save Soho.

This will be a chance to hear both artists perform as well as hear each of them discuss their passion for protecting the rights and freedoms of the creative communities in the UK and the U.S with their campaigns.

The Reservation continues the Soho tradition to support emerging artists.. For this event we are delighted to welcome singer Sara Strudwick in her debut London show.

Make your reservation now….

Remarks at the California Copyright Conference #irespectmusic Grassroots Advocacy Panel with Adam Dorn, Karoline Kramer Gould, David Lowery and Blake Morgan

February 10, 2016 Comments off

Photo courtesy @amyraasch

What a great way to start Grammy Week!  Last night Adam Dorn, Karoline Kramer Gould, David Lowery and Blake Morgan came together to tell their personal stories and they let me moderate.  Each of them has an inspiring story of how they came to their personal epiphany, their inspiration to turn to advocacy as part of their lives.

And in case it wasn’t clear–we were recruiting!  Follow them on Twitter through the ‪#‎irespectmusic‬ and @theblakemorgan, @radioclevekkg @davidclowery @moceanworker and @musictechpolicy.

The following are my introductory remarks to the panel:

Successful advocacy sits on a three legged stool whether we like it or not—lobbyists, campaign contributions and individual action.  The music industry and the larger entertainment industry has largely failed to achieve successful advocacy.  We still have essentially the same problems today that we had 15 years ago and the industry is at least half its former size.  In case you haven’t noticed, the cavalry is not coming.

Why?  At the end of the day, until politicians think they may get unelected if they don’t listen, they’ll smile, take our money and our votes, and do nothing.

Blake KKG Conyers

There is one leg of the stool that we have some control over—individual action.  Any of us have the ability to take action and stand up rather than wait for some miracle from Washington.  That action can range from a Tweet to putting our jobs on the line—and since our jobs are on the line anyway, we may as well tweet about it.  And until we can deliver bodies at the polling place no one will fear getting unelected.

You’re going to have a lot of people asking for your vote in the next few months.  They’re not shy about asking you for money and your vote, so you need not be shy about asking how they are going to vote on your issues.  If that sounds aggressive, it is.  In the long run, we may get a fair and just revision of the Copyright Act, but as the economists say, in the long run we’re all dead.  The NAB has outlived generations of artists and songwriters and Google is learning from their example.

All of our speakers tonight have had this epiphany in one form or another and all of their stories are inspiring examples of individual action. Blake Morgan took on Pandora and Big Radio and founded the #irespectmusic campaign. Karoline Kramer Gould joined Blake in supporting the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act and became an inspiration to all of us. Adam Dorn started SONA out of spontaneous meetings with songwriters who were confounded by the state of the industry. And David Lowery started writing the Trichordist blog as a cathartic blog that has inspired thousands and is widely read.

doug collins

As far as the moderator is concerned, my own epiphany in starting the MusicTechPolicy blog 10 years ago was largely the same—why is the news all bad and why isn’t the market producing an outlet for truth.

The #irespectmusic campaign grew out of Blake Morgan’s personal advocacy and opposition to Pandora’s Internet Radio Fairness Act. His viral posts on the Huffington Post about IRFA and what he perceived as Pandora’s deceptive PR tactics trying to enlist artist support against their own interest led directly to his advocacy in support of a performance royalty for terrestrial radio.

After IRFA failed to pass, Blake started an online petition to support a terrestrial radio royalty—and issue campaign as opposed to a particular piece of legislation. The petition has had over 13,000 signatures so far from music makers and music lovers. That made it easy to attach the #irespectmusic hashtag to the Fair Play, Fair Pay act when it was introduced by Blake’s Congressman, Jerry Nadler.


While the #irespectmusic campaign started with artist pay for radio play, it soon evolved into a campaign for fair treatment for all creators. This lead in turn to his recent lobbying trip to the Senate supporting the Songwriter Equity Act and an alliance with the NMPA.

Adam, Blake, David and Karoline all have inspired each other to continue in their individual advocacy and we hope can inspire you, too.



The MTP Interview: Blake Morgan and David Lowery on the CRB Rates

December 17, 2015 1 comment

MTP had a chance to catch up to Blake Morgan and David Lowery for an interview about the CRB rates announced yesterday.  This is the first of the two posts with Blake Morgan, read David Lowery’s interview here.

MTP: How do you feel about the CRB decision in general as far as rates go?

While I’m happy the Copyright Royalty Board raised Pandora’s non-subscription royalty rate by 21%, I can’t celebrate fully. The fact that webcasting rates were cut by 25% makes this mostly a wash, and flies in the face of basic respect for music makers.

MTP:  Was this more of a victory for the Pandora/Google MIC Coalition or for artists?

Overall, Pandora is going to have to pay 15% more than they have been paying, so it’s certainly not a victory for Pandora/MIC. Artists are going to get more, so that’s a win. However, it could have been a slam-dunk victory for artists, and I feel this is more of a squeaker.

MTP: Do you feel compensated for the value lost from the last CRB when Pandora got the CRB rates cut substantially?  Do you think that the CRB had in mind restoring what was taken away the last time around?

It’s hard for me to climb inside their heads, but it does feel like the CRB decided to make a “some for them over here, and some for them over here” kind of decision. This is a significant cost increase for Pandora, but it’s still less then what we wanted––so it’s like the CRB tried to drive right down the middle. If they were trying to restore what’d been taken away last time, and that’s all, then that would be really disappointing to me.

MTP:  How about no rate increases in the out years other than indexing to the Consumer Price Index?  I saw someone online suggesting that essentially froze the 2016 royalty rate and just adjusted for inflation so that artists essentially would be paid 2016 value for the next five years.

Yeah, that’s a little how I feel. But, I hope it doesn’t matter because there’s such a strong possibility that Pandora won’t even be around in five years. At least if they continue to run their business the way they have been recently.

MTP:  The press seems to always refer to the fact that Pandora “hasn’t turned a profit” yet, and tries to create this impression that Pandora is an otherwise well run company with $1.1 billion in revenue, zero debt, government mandated below market vendors, SG&A over 40% that’s going on an acquisition binge for unrelated businesses with no regard for integration costs—that also can’t manage to “turn a profit”.  Does anything bother you about that press profile?

I have yet to meet a music maker who isn’t bothered by this. Far too many people have noticed that Pandora’s founder, Mr. Westergren, has bought and is building what’s being widely reported as a “massive” mansion, with 14 bathrooms. Not turning a profit? How full of shit do you have to be to need 14 bathrooms in your house, man.

MTP:  What’s the reaction in the #irespectmusic community to this latest move by the MIC Coalition?  Do the new CRB rates make getting a royalty for terrestrial more or less important?

Securing a terrestrial radio royalty for artists remains the singular issue in this fight for music makers’ rights and respect that everyone I talk to supports. They agree it’s embarrassing that we have to even talk about it, that it’s embarrassing for us as a nation to not have it, and it’s critical in winning. Simply put: it couldn’t be more important. It’s a century overdue, and it’s time to get this done for American music makers.

Music Director at WJCU Breaks with National Association of Broadcasters in Letter to Congress Supporting Artist Pay for Radio Play

December 13, 2015 Comments off

[Editor Charlie sez: It’s the end of 2015 and it’s time to look over the good news that came during the year.  For those MTP readers who missed the interview with Karoline Kramer-Gould, the heroic Music Director at tastemaker college radio station WJCU, here’s the reprint from Chris’s blog on Huffington Post.  If you already saw it, it’s well worth a re-read to remind you that we do have friends–a lot of friends–in radio who support treating artists fairly and who have devoted their lives to music every bit as much as artists and musicians have.  What makes Karoline so special is that she was willing to stand up for what she believes in and speak truth to the MIC Coalition.]

The United States is the only democracy in the world that does not pay recording artists for radio airplay. Artists and record labels have been fighting a legislative battle for decades to bring the U.S. in line with the rest of the world, but the powerful broadcasters lobby has always beaten them back.

U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Marsha Blackburn recently introduced legislation titled the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act” as another effort to fix this problem. This time the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”) has joined forces with Google, Pandora and many other companies to fight the bill.

I’m pleased to have a chance to interview Karoline Kramer-Gould, the courageous Music Director of Cleveland’s tastemaker college AAA station WJCU about her views on the issue and the NAB’s tactics. Ms. Kramer-Gould has broken ranks with the NAB and co-authored a letter with recording artist Blake Morgan (of the #irespectmusic campaign) to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte expressing her support for Fair Play Fair Pay. The letter to Chairman Goodlatte is reproduced below after the interview with Ms. Gould.

How long have you worked in radio? Have you always worked at NPR/CPB stations or have you also worked at commercial broadcasters?

I’ve worked in radio for 14 years. I started out as a DJ for a AAA Internet radio station and later I took over as MD/APD. Meanwhile, I was hired by WNCX in Cleveland to start up a 30 minute public affairs show called Greater Cleveland Forum, which ran for almost 4 years on WNCX, WAPS, and WJCU. That led to joining WJCU in 2006 as the Music Director for the AAA format “The Heights”. So, I’ve worked in Internet radio, at non-commercial radio, and in a more limited capacity, at a commercial station as well.

What’s your role at WJCU?

I am the Music Director for The Heights, the AAA format on the station, WJCU. I am, as I always have been, a contract employee (1099 and all).

We’ve always viewed college radio and AAA as outlets for new music and helping artists find an audience in comparison to commercial broadcasters who typically are largely interested in artists who already have an audience. Not to put too fine an edge on that because there are many examples of commercial radio getting behind a new artist who is getting traction, but as a general rule I think it’s fair to say that they rarely get behind a new artist early. Do you agree with that assessment?

I absolutely agree with that assessment. One of the great things about the AAA format and Non-Commercial radio is the relationship we have with artists and musicians. It’s this format and these stations where new, up and coming, or less mainstream artists can get played and get a much needed chance to be heard.

It seems to me that YouTube, Spotify and Pandora cater to what I’d call the “lottery” method rather than the career building method of artist development. I don’t know as you could even call “YouTube stars” artist development at all because it ties the artist to a particular distribution platform–can you imagine “Walmart stars” or “WJCU stars”? What’s your view on the benefits of humans versus algorithms for music discovery and artist development?

A computer can never replace the power of the human touch. When I listen to music for The Heights I have only one focus: what will make my listeners sit up in their chair and reach for their phone to Shazam what they’re hearing? I play music that I think represents Cleveland. I measure my success in my job by the phone calls and emails I get from our listeners. Nothing else.

The NAB traditionally claims that the promotional value of radio compensates artists and record companies for any airplay royalty. It seems to me that commercial radio with its restrictive playlists spends more time keeping records off of their air than they do promoting music. In fact, we look to stations like yours to introduce new artists to your listening audience and not the commercial broadcasters. What do you make of this “promotion” argument?

I never hear the word “promotion”. I hear the word “exposure.” And I hate that word with the passion of a billion burning suns. When I hear it I think of some nasty greasy old man in a trench coat “exposing” himself to innocent young women. In this particular case though, that nasty greasy old man is the NAB. To imply that artists should be willing to work for free invalidates everything about them and what they have spent years working on. I would never ask any other skilled professional to work for free and it disgusts me that the radio industry finds it acceptable. Not only that, but the fact that some musicians find it okay makes me think of Stockholm Syndrome. It horrifies me that so many people have been brainwashed to believe it’s acceptable–it not only lessens their hard work but also lessens them as human beings.

I’d be interested in knowing how you perceive the #IRespectMusic movement and the effort to bring US broadcasters into line with the rest of the world. What’s your view on these developments?

I heard about the movement as soon as Blake Morgan started posting on social media. I embrace it and support it completely.

You’ve given me a copy of an email from an organization called the “Free Radio Alliance.” We did an extensive dive on the stations supporting the Free Radio Alliance and a majority were Clear Channel stations (#irespectmusic Looks Deeper: The Free Radio Astroturf Alliance Fights Artist Pay for Radio Play) This makes it look a lot like the National Association of Broadcasters. Have you ever heard from this organization before and how is it that they are reaching out to your station for membership?

I have never heard of this organization before, and the only reason I saw it was because it was sent to my boss at WJCU, who then forwarded it on to me.

Do you feel that there’s pressure from the NAB to get stations like WJCU in line to oppose Fair Play Fair Pay for some reason? (Like blocking a potential alliance with artists?)

Of course there’s pressure, simply by the fact that this letter exists and was sent to Non-Commercial stations around the country. I don’t think they have any ulterior motive beyond the given, which is to rally every station in the United States to their cause and against artists getting paid. Which is sad and pathetic, because I don’t know any GM in AAA who wouldn’t do research on their own on this matter. This is a bill that benefits local radio, college radio, Non-Commercial radio.

The Free Radio Alliance recruiting email that you’ve disclosed [reproduced below] seems to try to invoke an “us against them” message by aligning broadcasters against record companies without really mentioning the artists. The letter to Chairman Goodlatte that you wrote with Blake Morgan resonated with me because it seemed like a natural agreement between two members of the creative community about an issue that is important to the entire ecosystem. What message are you sending to your colleagues in broadcasting by sending this letter to Chairman Goodlatte?

I want my colleagues to know that it’s ok to shout from the rooftops about our acceptance and support of musicians in the United States. I know that my speaking out may make continuing to work in radio an impossibility. But I don’t care. To know the NAB is trying to make the artists the bad guys in this scenario is ludicrous. Radio wouldn’t exist without music. We need the musicians to survive. Opposing this bill goes against all reasoning to me and seeing that lobbying letter bothered me so much I knew I had to do more than be a silent supporter of the cause.

What do you think is the fair resolution of the issue of artist pay for radio play?

A fair resolution is that artists should be paid for their work. I hope beyond hope that this bill passes.

Ms. Kramer-Gould’s letter with Blake Morgan to Chairman Goodlatte:

October 26, 2015

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
ChairmanCommittee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Goodlatte,

We’re writing to you out of respect for our individual professions, out of love for our families, and out of love for our country.

My name is Karoline Kramer-Gould and I’m the Music Director for WJCU, a non-commercial Triple-A radio station in Ohio that serves the greater Cleveland area.

My name is Blake Morgan and I’m a recording artist and songwriter living and working in New York City.

We’re writing to thank you for your leadership and to implore you to support H.R. 1733, the Fair Pay Fair Play Act of 2015. This bi-partisan bill would–for the first time in American history–ensure artists the rights to fair and reasonable royalties when their work is performed on AM/FM radio.

As you know, the United States is the only democratic country in the world where artists don’t get paid for radio airplay. Furthermore, the short list of countries that currently share the United States’ position on this issue includes Iran, North Korea, and Rwanda.

We’re writing to you together–and doing so now–with the urgent hope of dispelling the mythology that people in radio and people whose work is played on the radio are on opposite “sides” of this issue. The truth is, each of our livelihoods depend on middle-class artists and music makers being able to make a fair living from their work.

We’re writing to you to refute the factually inaccurate lobbying letters now circulating at radio stations like WJCU from the (so-called) Free Radio Alliance and the National Association of Broadcasters. Letters that aim to dissuade anyone in radio from supporting this much-needed reform. Letters that erroneously characterize this bill and assault common sense and reason.

The Fair Pay Fair Play Act rights an almost century-old wrong–one that now has our nation standing on the wrong side of history.

Music is one of the things America still makes that the world still wants. We believe the people who make that music should be paid fairly for their work.

Thank you for your courage in addressing these critical issues with such consideration as Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary.

Together and in music,

Karoline Kramer-Gould
Music Director, WJCU
Cleveland, OH

Blake Morgan
Artist and Songwriter
New York City, NY

The “Free Radio Alliance” letter:

Dear College Broadcasters, Inc. Member Media Outlet,

Please take a moment to read this letter, because proposed legislation in Congress could cost your student media outlet financially. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help stop new fees from being imposed on college broadcasters.

Right now, there is a bill (H.R. 1733) moving through Congress that would impose a performance royalty for every song radio stations play. This legislation applies to all broadcasters, both commercial and noncommercial, and the fees are in addition to what stations already pay in streaming royalties to the SoundExchange and copyright dues to BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Not only does this proposed law mean having to pay more in order to play music, H.R. 1733 has the potential to create significant new paperwork requirements for student media outlets.

If enacted, H.R. 1733, also known as the Fair Pay, Fair Play Act, would:

Add a new a performance royalty for sound recordings played on AM/FM radio on top of existing copyright and streaming royalty payments already in place

Put terrestrial, streaming and satellite radio all under a rate-setting standard that is most favorable to record labels and thus least favorable to radio stations and others who play record music

Set an initial royalty payment for college radio, public broadcasting stations, and other noncommercial broadcasters that will increase over time Establish a new public performance right for all recordings made before 1972 to significantly expand the number of songs subject to a performance fee

Supporters of the performance royalty recently told college radio stations that they will only have to pay $100 per year under H.R. 1733. However, H.R. 1733 contains language that is contradictory and open to interpretation, and the final royalty paid by student stations could be much higher. Equally important is the bill’s complex and burdensome record-keeping requirements that may force college radio stations to keep track of which songs and artists are played and how often, and report the size of the audience each song is reaching. Such census reporting for audio streaming has already proven difficult for student stations and without a reporting waiver, many college stations will not be able to comply with these new regulations.

In short, this proposed bill adds financial, administrative, and programmatic burdens to stations without addressing any of the challenges college stations face with current royalty statutes. If H.R. 1733 were to become law as is, your station will face new fees, more paperwork, and potential programming limitations that are likely to be harmful to your educational and public service missions.

When a performance royalty was imposed on the satellite and streaming industries twenty years ago, Congress, as well as the record labels, made clear that the new performance fee would NOT apply to terrestrial radio broadcasts. We at the Free Radio Alliance believe that this commitment must still be honored. That is why the Free Radio Alliance is working to prevent a performance royalty fee from being imposed on noncommercial and commercial stations alike.

The good news is that over 206 members of Congress have co-sponsored H.Con.Res. 17, the Local Radio Freedom Act. This resolution opposes a performance royalty. We have made great progress because radio stations have been active on Capitol Hill. But the threat is not going away any time soon.

Currently, the House Judiciary Committee is actively preparing for copyright reform legislation, which could provide an opening for the record labels to continue to move forward on a performance fee. To help combat these efforts, we hope your station will consider joining the Free Radio Alliance. There is no fee required and our only mission is to oppose a performance royalty. If you are not a member of the Free Radio Alliance and would like to be, please contact us at or call us directly at [_______].

In addition, we urge your support of our social media campaign. The Free Radio Alliance recently launched Listeners Not Labels to engage radio listeners in our fight. More than 240 million Americans listen to radio each week and we need your help engaging them. Please help us by:

Clicking here to send a tweet from your station’s Twitter account.

Clicking here to post a message on Facebook from your station’s account.

Following our account on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

Signing the petition asking federal lawmakers to oppose a performance tax and encouraging your radio and social media followings to do the same.

To learn more about this issue, please visit or

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. Thank you for taking the taking the time to read this letter and consider joining the Free Radio Alliance!


Peggy Binzel

Free Radio Alliance

“YouTube for YouTube” @midem: @davidclowery and @theblakemorgan Review “YouTube For Artists” Part 2

June 8, 2015 1 comment

In a crescendo of antagonism starting with the Sony Pictures hack that leaked confidential documents demonstrating that the film studios have had it with Google, Google’s lawsuit against a state attorney general seeking to stop his investigation of Google’s bad behavior and the leak by somebody of the Spotify agreement with Sony Music, the New York Post reports that YouTube (Google’s wholly-owned subsidiary) is going to the MIDEM conference this week for the purpose of attacking the record company/artist relationship.

I find this to be particularly bizarre given that Google has also formed a massive coalition fighting against artist rights in league with familiar faces like Pandora, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Digital Media Association (DiMA), the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and a host of others.  After doing that, YouTube’s attack on labels at MIDEM is triangulation of the first water particularly because I think that YouTube is simply a data profiling honeypot disguised as a video service.

So here is the question:  Is “YouTube for Artists” masking Google’s massive failure to innovate?

I asked two working artists and artist rights advocates Blake Morgan and David Lowery what they thought about YouTube’s campaign.  Each answered the following questions.  Yesterday I posted David Lowery’s answers, and today I’m posting Blake Morgan’s answers.

1.  The New York Post has a recent story that YouTube is directing their billions against “record labels”:

“YouTube’s ambitious initiative to grow its influence in the music business — and lessen the power of record labels at the same time — is about to meet its first big test….The huge initiative from the video streamer could cut music labels out of a huge piece of their business, insiders said…. “We’re going to disrupt the music labels,” YouTube executives said during these briefings, sources said.”

Two questions: First, why do you think that YouTube wants to attack record labels?

Blake: Honestly, it feels like a simple and old bait and switch to me. Classic misdirection. YouTube paints the records labels as bad guys so that the spotlight will be taken off themselves. Hilariously, Spotify does the same thing by the way, but THEY point at YouTube. Each of these entities seems to think that saying “Well at least we’re better than them,” (even when they’re not) is going to work. Like a true race to the bottom. In my experience, music makers know the good labels from the bad (and there are both), the good people from the bad (and there are both) and they find this sort of tactic insulting. I know I do.

Why would YouTube think that that they can replace labels and if they did would that be good for artists?

Blake: The only reason I’ve ever encountered that artists sign record deals for is for capital. Up-front capital: advances, marketing and promotion, tour support. Is YouTube really going to be offering its capital to artists and songwriters? When pigs fly, I say. The day I see YouTube pay for and develop exclusive material (where’s their House of Cards show btw?) that puts money directly into the hands of the artists who make that material, I’ll eat my desk.

So if they don’t understand their own business, they really don’t understand the music business.

2.  Apparently “YouTube for Artists includes providing direct marketing intelligence to artists that will help them better connect with their fans”. This is apparently data from YouTube, which means you have to be on YouTube to get it. Given Taylor Swift’s success with using blocking techniques to essentially “window” how much do artists being on YouTube benefit artists compared to benefiting YouTube?

Blake: Well, some part of me wants to say that “marketing intelligence” should be filed somewhere next to “jumbo shrimp” and “free gift” as terms that should never be used. But seriously and simply, the only way to get that “intelligence,” I’d imagine, is for an artist to submit to the very YouTube licensing agreement that’s the problem in the first place. So to me, it’s like a tobacco company saying, “We’ll help you analyze your cancer once you develop it from smoking our cigarettes. Deal?”

3.  Assuming there’s a value in being on YouTube, how much does “direct marketing intelligence” from a free service like YouTube relate to artists who eventually have to sell something to somebody?

Blake: I just can’t suspend my disbelief for that long, honestly, or assume that there is any value––because there’s never been any value proven, ever, at all. I don’t know how the existence of mermaids or unicorns would help me sell merch at the gigs they’re not helping me get in the first place either. So, there’s that. Is the idea supposed to be something like, “Well, I got 3,254 spins in Omaha, Nebraska so I’d better book a gig there?” I can’t imagine calling a venue and that being my pitch, either as an artist or as a label owner. I feel I’d be laughed off the phone. Or the planet.

4.  The Post says that:

“YouTube will offer ‘promotional programs to help’ fledgling artists “get discovered and grow.” The video streamer’s effort in the music industry also includes the YouTube Music Awards.

Aside from the fact that “get discovered” usually means “by a record company” that YouTube is trying to displace, let’s just assume that “get discovered” in this case means “find an audience”.

Two questions: First, does YouTube actually help artists find a new audience that will engage with the artist outside of the YouTube platform? Given that YouTube skews young and given that most venues for “fledgling artists” are bars with age limitations based on the drinking age, how meaningful can YouTube really be in developing an engaged local audience?

Blake: Right, so to me, two nonsensical traps here. First, do they want artists to “get discovered and grow” by signing with the very record labels they themselves are excoriating? What other from of  “big” discovery leads elsewhere, permanently, exactly? That’s some sort of tautological vortex I can’t make sense of. And then second, to me they should be saying “We’ll help you find an audience outside of YouTube,” which in the end I can’t believe they’re really serious about. Why would they be? And…if they were, I’m supposed to believe that the legions of pajama people they’ve connected me with are going to turn into real and sustainable monetization for me because those people are going to be so compelled (and allowed, because of age restrictions) to exit the pajama universe and come out to my show? If that’s the plan, then I’ve got a unicorn-saddle business I’m dying to sell to you.

5.  The YouTube Video Awards have had a mixed success but have largely traded on at least some established stars that became successful without YouTube. Unlike the “Grammy bounce” or the “SNL bounce” we’ve seen no YouTube Awards bounce in sales. Do you think that independent artists are competing to be on the YouTube Awards?

Blake: Um. No. I don’t. At worst––or no, how about this––at best, I’ve got to be at least a mid-level information holder when it comes to such things, and I’ve seriously never met anyone, anywhere, who’s even mentioned this award. Thinking YouTube is going to move the needle or “break” you as an artist is like thinking buying lottery tickets is a solid business plan. I’ve never met an indie artist, or heard of any indie rock artist who’s accomplished this through YouTube. Maybe some baby-pop acts have, but that’s it from what I’ve seen and heard.

6.  You can’t really speak of YouTube without also talking about its support of brand sponsored piracy and serving advertising against sex tourist videos. Do you think that YouTube has an obligation to clean up their advertising operation if they want to engage with artists?

Blake: Well of course they do. They have that obligation as a business, they have that obligation in their engagement with artists, and most importantly, the people at YouTube themselves have a moral obligation to do what’s right. Why do they get to suspend their moral obligations? Where else do we so readily accept this kind of behavior? They have no moral credibility, in my opinion, whatsoever.

7.  According to the Post, “The YouTube for Artists project is being managed by TJay Fowler, a former Beats Music product-management executive, sources said.” I don’t know that name, do either of you? Or what we did to offend him?

Blake: No idea who he is. But then again, I have no idea what a “product-management executive” does either, so it’s a clean sweep.

8.  Let’s take the Post’s list of features for YouTube’s attack on record labels and maybe you guys can comment on your views of the value of each of them.

“YouTube is telling artists that the data it is willing to share can ‘help you get a song added to radio by showing a programmer how big your local fan base is.’”

Blake: (Facepalm) Dude. If you think calling a venue touting your YouTube spins is a bad idea (and it is), now try doing the same thing with a radio programming director. I know several of them, and some of them are friends of mine who, in fact, really like my music. If I called any of them and said, “Hey! So listen…my new song is really doing well on YouTube and I wanted to let you know ‘cause you should play it now because YouTube!”…well, it’d be the end of my friendship with them (and rightly so), and the end of any respect they may have for what I do (and rightly so). You know what the equivalent would be? Going into a bank and saying, “Hey man! So listen, you’re really gonna want to bankroll me because I have been KILLING it playing Monopoly! Seriously…hotels on Park Place and everything. KILLING it, dude! So where’s the vault here, again? Let’s open it up, man! I’ll get my wheelbarrow.”

“Analytics showing the biggest concentrations of fans across the world to help plan tour dates.”

Blake: Yeah, ‘cause those spins I’m getting in Indonesia are really gonna cover the flight. Even from neighboring countries. Thanks for the tour routing, jackasses.

“Fan funding buttons for bands to gain the money they need to produce music and videos.”

Blake: Yeah…or…YouTube could just PAY the artists and songwriters the money they’re owed and deserve which is needed to produce music and videos. Let’s cut out the middle man, YouTube, how about that?

“Help locating fans’ concert videos and use of artists’ music in user-generated content.”

Blake: Wait a second…all of a sudden YouTube IS able to locate, supervise, and guard what’s on their site? I thought the whole issue was that they couldn’t. Well this is great news! Problem solved about all that illegal music and video on YouTube! Wait another second…they want US to tell THEM what’s there? WTF?

9.  It seems to me that the Post (and possibly YouTube) are using terms without an understanding of how the music business actually works. “Added” to radio, for example, implies added to a station’s playlist. If a band is based in Austin, just to pick a city, how much does it mean to them that they have some fans in Paris or Taipai? Or even Chicago? I’ve yet to meet the program director or local talent buyer who really wants to know what your YouTube views are because most of them don’t trust it at all or don’t trust it enough to give you a Friday night. Is that just me, am I being too harsh?

Blake: Well I don’t regularly read the New York Post, mostly because my eyes are attached to my brain. But if somehow I did read it regularly, I’d love to actually read the expert opinion of––you know––a music expert? A smattering of fans in Paris doesn’t help a band in Austin, unless it’s maybe Paris, Texas. Truly, I wonder if some of these pseudo-pundits (or pseudo-journalists) really do understand anything about the music world. I don’t know if Walter Cronkite did either, but I guarantee he’d have learned a lot about it before doing an editorial or interview about it.

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