|The Recoding Industry is Dead. Long Live Music!
||[Sep. 18th, 2009|04:32 pm]
There is very little short of murder that we would not blithely accept the recording industry as being capable of, but this sort of stupidity really just beggars belief. ASCAP and the BMI want to collect royalties on the 30 second track previews in the iTunes store. It seems as though they are determined to cripple what little business they have left, like a man lopping off one of his own fingers every time he drops something.
I doubt there is anyone left that believes the recording industry will still be with us in the future - at least no one intelligent, sane and not actually financially dependant on this dying model. So the question is, what comes after?
Along with radical copyright reform (shortening the term to a maximum of 14 years and excluding all private copying) I've been a supporter of the blanket license in one form or another, preferably something along the lines of an independent, non-profit organisation acting as collecting, tracking and redistribution service for all digital media. But where music is concerned I think something else is going to happen. Or perhaps, something else should happen.
I'll lay it on the line: artist should forget about royalties, forget about the sale of recordings.
In a world of ubiquitous copying technology recordings are worthless. The recording industry only continues to exist on a foundation of past profits from which they exert political pressure, changing minds and laws to favour the old way of doing things. But that foundation and that influence is not going to last. Those old profit margins are never coming back. They will never recover the money they are wasting right now to fight an ill-advised war on the people who use to line their pockets.
If we accept that there is no more money in recordings, what does that leave the artists? It leaves them the skills that they started with; musicians should be paid for playing music, singers should be paid for singing, songwriters should be paid by the artists they write songs for. The future of music as a business is sponsorship and live performance, a future where the distribution of recordings is merely a precursor to this main event. And think how much more inclined punters will be to fork out for concert tickets when they are not paying an idiot who has never played a good note in his life to do something that the punters can do themselves at a microscopic fraction of the cost!
This is not to suggest that all use of recorded music should be free. Commercial uses, uses that attempt to produce a profit from an artist's work, should involve a payment within the term of copyright. But everything else should be written off as normal, private use and beyond copyright including sharing, and playing the music on a radio in a garage.
There is this odd perception that the industry has attempt to encourage, that artists should receive money from the public long after they have completed their work, that we must not stop paying them because they have families and illnesses to support. It is a suggestion that completely ignores the simple truth that these people were not paid enough by the industry that exploited their talents in the first place, and that the only way to support them now is to give huge sums of money to the labels who then offer the artist some thin shaving of the profit. As an excuse for the extension of copyright terms, disingenuous just doesn't cover it.
What remains of the members of The Beatles should not be paid by the public unless they are playing live. When they reached the point that they could no longer play they should, by that time, have saved and invested in a pension to cover the remainder of their lives. Sound familiar? That's because it's they way the rest of us live when our work is not protected by the magical thinking of artificial and self-referential moral logic.
Yes, this situation will be hard on smaller acts. They will have a hard time getting work, they will have to accept small fees and big losses. Well, wake up! That's how it is right now! The music industry has never been a wonderful frictionless fairy-slide into a world made entirely of money and Learjets, and it never will be. Some people will put their whole lives into their art and get nothing for it. It is lamentable, but it is not a problem solved by eternal copyrights and royalty payments on sales of a dead medium. And hasn't this risk always been a part of the allure of making music, the romance, the machismo, the daredevil attitude? No creative process is a sure thing, so no efforts based on this process can truly be relied upon. That is no reason to create a vast complex of logically and morally precarious rules to protect them.
For some this future of real work might sound terrifying. If it truly scares them, then they are either talentless recording industry cling-ons, or are really not cut out for music making.
The truth is, no matter what happens, music will go on. For as long as there are people there will be music. We couldn't stop them making music if we made it illegal! Why would we think it could disappear just because we change the way we pay the creators?
Face facts: the recoding industry is dead. Long live music!