Wednesday, November 21, 2012

There is nothing fair about the IRFA

Going through congress now is a bill named, in classic Owellian Doublespeak, the Internet Radio Fairness act. This bill is being pushed by online "radio" companies, most vocally Pandora. The basic thrust of the bill would reduce an artist's royalties by 85%, but it goes beyond that to include censorship and eliminating a panel of copyright judges.

In old fashion radio you had to wait all day, maybe longer, to hear your favorite tunes, if they were popular enough to be on the radio to begin with. With Pandora you can hear them several times an hour. Many of my friends listen to Pandora and thus while I'm at their homes, so do I. When we select an artist on Pandora their hits keep being played over and over. Several songs an hour. Because of this we don't need to buy their recordings. This means that the artists are not earning a living wage from being played on Pandora. Not even close.

My last royalty check from BMI, for the first quarter of 2012, states that several of my songs were broadcast by Pandora. One song was aired 73,700 times on Pandora and my royalties totaled $1.88. That's only $0.00002550881954 per play!

Another song was broadcast by Pandora 165,500 times and my total royalties came to $4.81 or $0.00002906344411 per play.

These are not high royalties. SiriusXM pays much higher rates. One song of mine for example, was paid $0.135 per play. Significantly higher.

Pandora is pushing this bill hard because they claim that they have to pay more in royalties than traditional terrestrial radio. Rates that were set up by a panel of copyright judges. A panel of judges that the IRFA would eliminate. If Pandora has such an unfair burden compared to traditional radio, then why are giant terrestrial companies like Clear Chanel and other broadcasters be backing the IRFA?

Also, Pandora's business model is to not play too many adds per hour. This lack of ads leads to less revenue. It also turns out that those ads they do air are not generating much income, as internet ads are pretty much worthless. This business model was perfectly fine when they were selling their IPO to investors. But now, after they have racked in millions from going public, suddenly ad free radio is not working? Imagine how their new investors must be feeling duped!

The IRFA would also censor an artist's ability to voice descent about any royalty rate that Pandora and the record labels might agree to. In fact Pandora's own website states that, "This bill also muzzles any group that acts on behalf of ”rightsholders” (artists) by threatening prosecution under The Sherman act for “impeding” any direct licensing between broadcasters and record labels." Yeah, that sounds "fair". Plus if you are a small, independent label, like artist owned labels, you don't get to negotiate a rate, you have to take what they give you. Where have we heard this before? Oh right, from Spotify. We know how large their royalty payments are.

Personally I struggle with Pandora playing my material at all. Listeners get access to my songs for free and I am paid royalties that I consider pathetic. Some would argue that I'm receiving "exposure", but an artist needs exposure to generate a growing fan base and thus a greater income stream. Pandora's "exposure" does not do that. As the saying goes, "You can die from exposure". Given that Pandora plays songs by a given artist multiple times each hour why would Pandora listeners need to buy an artist's albums? They can hear them over and over for free.

Pandora needs to stop whinnying and pay artists more, not less. Their competitors do. If they can't earn a living through their current income model then they need to realize there is a new paradigm. That's what every one has been telling artists for years. That we need to find other ways to earn money other than from our core product, the music. One of the ways that is suggested frequently is through ads, or sponsors. But now Pandora has realized what all inde musicians know, ads don't make much, if any, money. Regardless, it is not the artist's job to subsidize Pandora's failed business model.

No surprise, I will not be supporting this bill.

If you are an artist, or just want artists to be paid a fair royalty rate then send Pandora your thoughts. While you're at it, let congressional backers of the IRFA know that here is nothing "fair" about the IRFA bill by writing to them:
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Jared Polis (D-CO)

Pandora wouldn't even exist without the music that artists produce. As they are in the business of using music to make money, they need to pay artists, their suppliers, a truly fair rate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It has been a while since I've written any thing. There are reason for this. In the meantime here is something worth reading.

Making Cents
Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi breaks down the meager royalties currently being paid out to bands by streaming services and explains what the music business' headlong quest for capital means for artists today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Google Announces 'Ads Free, Just Buy a Tee' Program

January 16, 2012
-Palo Alto, CA (TMD News)
In a surprising move, Google, (NASDAQ:GOOG) the country's largest generator of ad revenue, (their earnings for Q3 2011 were $9.72 billion) announced today that it would no longer be charging for ads through their successful "ad sense" and "adwords" programs, but would instead be giving away ad space for free and looking to Tee Shirt sales to generate all future income.

A spokesperson for Google, Hans Vet Allt, explained the change, "This is the business model that has been so successful for the music industry for a number of years now, and our marketing data indicates that individual consumers, small business and corporations would rather pay for Tee Shirts over any other good or service.” The statement released by Google also noted that the company believes that Tee Shirt sales are, “The future of all monetary transactions."

Vet Allt went on to announce that after Google finishes destroying SOPA and PIPA it would lobby Washington D.C. hard to abolish the Federal Reserve and replace it with Old Navy, turning the U.S into a merch based economy.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Break It Down. Music Sales in 2011

Soundscan released their 2011 numbers for music sales. As we saw earlier, the first two quarters of the year saw a boom in music purchases and although sales lost some of their momentum during the last half of the year, 2011 was the first year since 2004 to see growth in album purchases from the previous year.

Before we go through the numbers, it is worth restating that TMD is primarily written for musicians and listeners of smaller genre categories. Independent music. As we will see, the major labels always claim the top prizes and determine the direction that the rest of us follow, if we can. A big IF.

The Good News: Barely
The good news is that album sales in the US grew a whooping 1.3%. Not much, but better than the landslide that has been happening for most of the 2000’s.

As always, the main forces behind these numbers are due to a handful of albums. This year there were only 13 albums that sold 1 million units or more. Led by Adele’s “21”. Those 13 albums make up only 0.0169% of the 78,875 newly released albums Soundscan counted for 2011. So for Independent musicians the story is pretty much the same. Only artists on labels can make it big, and realistically, even for those artists, the odds are still slim to none.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Pointless Debate

Recently David Touve, an Assistant Professor of Business at Washing & Lee University posted a blog asking “Is a stream on Spotify (or any music service) really worth less than an iTune sale?”

His attempt to show that an iTune sale or a Spotify stream are basically worth the same, in terms of payment to the artist, is arrived at by fuzzy math that assumes a listener will play a song purchased from iTunes 250 times. (Where he gets this number is anyone's guess. A quick look at your iTunes app will show that most songs get played far less.) By prorating the cost of the song by 250 plays, he would have us believe that the price per play is $0.0028, which he believes compares favorably to the urban myth of Spotify's $0.0033 per stream payments.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Takedown-Why the DMCA has failed

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend letting me know that my music was being used on a website as background music. On the site there was no mention of my name, the titles of the song or my record company. My friend, being smart, figured that I would never have allowed my music to be used by the site, much less without any link back to me or my record label.

Since I had found other sites in the past using my music, or my writing, without my permission, I took this seriously. Sure enough, when I checked out the website in question, they had illegally embeded the song of mine. As I continued to poke around the site I discovered that they were using two additional songs of mine, all without permission, and the first song was used on two pages. So four cases of blatant copyright infringement.

Suddenly all of my work plans for that day came to a grinding halt as I now had to spend time searching online for who owned the website and who they used to host it. Then I had to start writing the email letter to notify the owner of the website that they were illegally using copyrighted material.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Coldplay sets a Digital Record without Streaming

-This post has been updated-

A few weeks ago Coldplay announced that it was not going to post its new album Mylo Xyloto on streaming sites like Spotify. To date they are one of the larger acts to publicly not allow their music to be streamed. At the time Coldplay's decision reportedly embarrassed their record label, EMI, who has a licensing deal with Spotify. But EMI may be singing a different tune now after Coldplay's new album Mylo Xyloto hit a "one week digital sales record" in the UK. According to a report by Digital Music News of the 208,343 units sold in the UK over 40%, or 83,000 were digital. U.S. sales figures from Soundscan are pending. In terms of percentage, digital album sales are still growing rapidly and Coldplay seems to be benefiting from this.