Archive for September, 2010

News from the Goolag: Unions don’t go for Geist et al singing Google songbook redux

September 30, 2010 1 comment

Organized labor released a public statement about the Leahy/Hatch bill and the shrill opposition to it from the Google amen chorus:

“We respect the rights of business and interest groups to raise thoughtful questions for open discussion and debate, but we must speak up when such groups organize campaigns dedicated to paralyzing the legislative process with half-truths and absurd misrepresentations of civic rights”

See LA Times “Hollywood labor unions declare support for online piracy bill

So attention, artists: If you suddenly get a call from one of your representatives asking for you to oppose this legislation, ask them to explain how the bill cuts off advertising sales on pirate websites. And whether they think this loss of advertising revenue might–just might–having something to do with Google’s staunch opposition.

Is Geist singing from the EFF songbook?

September 28, 2010 Comments off

Interesting coincidence of this EFF call to action to oppose the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act and Geist’s apparent regurgitation of the “open letter” in the Toronto Star.
Notice that the EFF did Geist one better–while Geist at least mentioned the title of the bill (although he never once told readers that the purpose of the bill was to save creator jobs in line with the goals of the Obama Administration), the EFF never even mentions the title of the bill in their call to action–merely it’s acronymn. Nor did they mention that Senator Patrick Leahy, a co-author, is probably the leading civil libertarian in the Senate. Actually–that’s Chairman Leahy, sorry.

One good thing: At least this time Geist didn’t try to get non-citizens to sign up to a form letter to be sent to another jurisdiction despite that pesky nation-state business.

Compare the two and see if you can find anything I missed on the Geist checklist from EFF:

1. Never mention theft–CHECK

2. Protecting creator jobs–ALL creator jobs, not just Americans–is political censorship–CHECK

3. Danger, danger, danger, fear, obfuscation, circle the wagons–CHECK

4. Fighting online crime is a US government plot to censor the people of the world–CHECK

5. Scared that domain name list blocking might actually succeed–CHECK

6. Ignores due process oversight of courts–CHECK

7. Never mention the bill is designed to stop criminals for which ICE gets warrants–CHECK

8. Never mention that the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was about combating online infringement and counterfeits–CHECK

9. Never mention that likely names for the international list may include Google Adsense customers–CHECK

10. It’s all so urgent my brain may explode! CHECK!!

So…we must ask the musical question–who’s zooming who?
From: Peter Eckersley [EFF]
Date: September 27, 2010 5:15:22 PM MDT
To: [Distribution]
Subject: [URGENT] EFF needs your help to stop the Senate’s copyright
censorship bill

Dear interesting people,

As you may or may not be aware, there is an extremely bad Internet censorship bill that is going to be passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this Wednesday. Senators are claiming that they haven’t heard any opposition to this “COICA” bill, and it is being sponsored by 14 of the 19 committee members. We need to stop it, and we need your help.

What EFF needs right now is sign-ons to an open letter, from the engineers who helped build the Internet in the first place. The text of our letter is below. If you agree with it and would like to sign, please send me an email [DELETED], with your name and a one-line summary of what part of the Internet you helped to design, implement, or debug.

This is URGENT. I need your sign-ons by 4:00pm, US Eastern time (1pm Pacific), tomorrow. Unfortunately, the civil liberties community has been ambushed by this bill.


Open letter from Internet engineers to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

We, the undersigned, have played various parts in building a network called the Internet. We wrote and debugged the software; we defined the standards and protocols that talk over that network. Many of us invented parts of it. We’re just a little proud of the social and
economic benefits that our project, the Internet, has brought with it.

We are writing to oppose the Committee’s proposed new Internet censorship and copyright bill. If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. In exchange for this, the bill will introduce censorship that will simultaneously be
circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties’ ability to communicate.

All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but this bill will be particularly egregious in that regard because it causes entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under this bill. These problems will be enough to ensure that alternative name-lookup infrastructures will come into widespread use, outside the control of US service providers but asily used by American citizens.

Errors and divergences will appear between these new services and the current global DNS, and contradictory addresses will confuse browsers and frustrate the people using them. These problems will be widespread and will affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.

The US government has regularly claimed that it supports a free and open Internet, both domestically and abroad. We can’t have a free and open Internet without a global domain name system that sits above the political concerns and objectives of any one government or industry.
To date, the leading role the US has played in this infrastructure has been fairly uncontroversial because America is seen as a trustworthy arbiter and a neutral bastion of free expression. If the US suddenly begins to use its central position in the DNS for censorship that advances its political and economic agenda, the consequences will be far-reaching and destructive.

Senators, we believe the Internet is too important and too valuable to be endangered in this way, and implore you to put this bill aside.

Copyright, thy name is Satan!

[Actually, the letter didn’t have that last bit, I was just checking to see if you got to the end.]

(For those who do not recognize the name, Michael Geist is aka “he who shall not be named,” according to a prominent Canadian artist), or alternatively “the wonderful Michael Geist” according to Lester Lawrence “Ace” Lessig III, author of “The Starving Artist Canard” among other works. Mr. Wonderful is advisor to the U.S.-backed Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the paid consultant to Industry Canada. SG-CIPPIC‘s external advisory board includes Lessig the American, the American EFF legal director, the American director of the American EPIC, and the American Pamela Samuelson, who is also a board member of the American EPIC and the American EFF—in short, 100% Yanks. So this Canadian affiliate of the Samuelson-Glushko system is to IP in Canada kind of what Alcoa of Canada is to Canadian industry.)

Google Books: How bad is the metadata redux

September 27, 2010 Comments off

Andrew Orlowski nails it on the continuing saga of the horrendous Google Books metadata in his piece “Google crowdsources card index for ‘humanity’s last library’“.

The issue is this: Serious scholars have found extraordinary errors in the Google Books metadata, the equivalent of the card catalog in a library. (Remember those?) Which means if you’re a digital native high school student and all you’re doing is having a quick search for a cut and paste job to complete “your” term paper remix, you don’t care much about the quality of the metadata because you don’t know Madame Bovary from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. You think Mame is the prequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You don’t know The Hotel New Hampshire from Hotel California.

But scholars do, and they are truly the last repository of the world’s culture, they are supposed to know what the world’s culture was remixed from. So they care about getting it right as opposed to a bunch of Weejun sniffers who just want to get it scanned.

You know who else cares about getting it right? Authors who are supposed to get paid by the sainted Google Books Registry.

So here’s the other aspect of this: If Google screws up the metadata badly enough, they won’t have to pay anyone.

And how does Google propose to fix the problem: Crowd sourcing.

Of course.

As Andrew Orlowski says in this must-read article, for none of us are as dumb as all of us.

News From the Goolag: Geist strikes a blow for piracy…I mean, consumers

September 27, 2010 Comments off

The Obama Administration has done a remarkably effective job at finding clever ways to attack online piracy as evidenced by raids earlier this year that sent torrent freaks running from a federal manhunt and found their domain names seized–but more importantly froze their transactional accounts and advertising revenue accounts.

Meaning, the government can use an off the shelf seizure order (about which there is nothing new) to shut down a streaming site operating in the jurisdiction of ICE. Senators Leahy and Hatch have introduced new legislation, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, that would bring all this authority to bear in one clearly articulated statute designed to take the fight directly to the pirates and those who succor them.

But more importantly in my view, no more Mastercard and Visa to sell “subscriptions”.

And most importantly–no more Google Adsense dollars for pirates.

If you’re not aware of how much of a role Google plays in the piracy game, read the CNET coverage “Indie filmmakers: Piracy and Google Threaten Us“, the NPR coverage (“Feeding Pirates: When Legit Companies Advertise on Shady Sites“), the Los Angeles Times coverage “Independent Filmmakers Feel Squeeze of Piracy“, trade coverage “Google Netflix and Other Pirates“, or the blog of independent film maker Ellen Seidler, Pop Up Pirates, or just watch Seidler’s instructional video. Google is extraordinarily uncooperative with film makers trying to stop illegal traffic to their websites

As Peter Sunde of the Pirate Bay put it so succinctly, there is no difference between the Pirate Bay and Google. That is exactly the point–although not the point he was trying to make, but an exact statement of the problem, nevertheless. (Google is not alone in this, but because of their dominant position in search that they try to maintain at all costs, they may as well be.)

Therefore, Google is likely in a bit of a spot in trying to stop this legislation, the first bill in a long time that actually takes money away from Google and puts Google in a very awkward defensive position of finally acknowledging its unsavory and possibly criminal role in driving traffic to websites that host illegal content. And some of these websites are also Google Adsense “partners”. (A little tip? Dump that “partner” reference, kids.)

So what does Google do? They will have great difficulty opposing the legislation, particularly since it will involve telling Vice President Biden what the DMCA says (formerly Senator Joseph Biden, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which drafted the DMCA–you remember him, right?). That would be the same Vice President Biden who said “Piracy is theft. Clean and simple. It’s smash and grab. It ain’t no different than smashing a window at Tiffany’s and grabbing stuff.”

Maybe go to the amen corner? Ah, yes, there are some Googlers there now, vocalizing and warming up with their fingers in their ears singing “la, la, la, la, la, la, la”.

And so comes Michael Geist riding his white horse named Jingo. I am increasingly convinced that Geist is Google’s Man in Canada, for reasons that are circumstantial, I admit, but are very much so.

(For those who do not recognize the name, Michael Geist is aka “he who shall not be named,” according to a prominent Canadian artist), or alternatively “the wonderful Michael Geistaccording to Lester Lawrence “AceLessig III, author of “The Starving Artist Canard” among other works. Mr. Wonderful is advisor to the U.S.-backed Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the paid consultant to Industry Canada. SGCIPPIC‘s external advisory board includes Lessig the American, the American EFF legal director, the American director of the American EPIC, and the American Pamela Samuelson, who is also a board member of the American EPIC and the American EFF—in short, 100% Yanks. So this Canadian affiliate of the Samuelson-Glushko system is to IP in Canada kind of what Alcoa of Canada is to Canadian industry.)

Echoing the cant of the Electronic Frontier Foundation issued just last week, Geist launches an attack in the poor old Toronto Star, the worse for associating itself with Canada’s Million Dollar Man.

Geist’s attack on the Obama Administration gives the spur to old Jingo to such a degree that he may get a call from PETA. Yet the themes are classic in the literature of the pirate apologencia–“Only we can protect you from a [government/industry/artist] gone mad who is trying to break the Internet and [invade your privacy/chill your speech/criminalize our kids]”

In Geist’s case, being Canadian and all, old Jingo gives his own little snort to the cant: There are YANKS UNDER THE BED!! And so we are treated to this phrase from Geist, which has some very interesting implications:

“Effective regulatory measures have often proven elusive, however, since, unlike the Internet, national laws typically end at the border.”

National laws typically end at the border. End at the border. Sort of like the proposed Canadian Copyright Modernization Act, maybe? But more about this another time.

The piece is entitled “Geist: U.S. uses domain names as new way to regulate the Net” and what is funny about it is that it does not say one word about the reason the legislation exists–to give law enforcement the tools to carry out the Obama Administration’s commitment to stop piracy and those who support it financially. In fact, you could read the entire Geist piece and never know that the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was about combating online infringement and counterfeits, aside from the mention of the bill’s title.

Geist says that the “domain name block list – already being dubbed the Great Firewall of America – would be created through a censorship court order obtained by the U.S. Attorney General.”

A “censorship court order”? That’s kind of a heaping pile, even for old Jingo. First of all, if there’s a court order, then the thief that the DOJ is acting against would have all the process rights accorded to thieves, which are many. Plus, the probable cause for the order has to be enough to satisfy a judge, and judges will take into account any first amendment issues.

But what is screamingly absent from Geist’s piece is the obvious–the legislation is designed to bleed these thieves financially and the companies like Google that support them (such as his buddies at IsoHunt).

Will he say anything about the evilness of providing financial sustenance to thieves?

See also: A handy chart of government contracts with Lawbytes, Inc. f/s/o Michael Geist

See also: A closer look at Lawbytes, Inc. f/s/o Michael Geist

See also: The Professor Has No Clothes

See also re undtendered contracts: The Industry Canada Music Study Part I and Part II

See also more about untendered contracts: Only The Shadow Knows Part 1 and Part 2

See also internal document re Industry Canada and CCER letter : A Dedicated Group of Likeminded People

See also: Fair Copyright Canada and 100,000 Voters Who Don’t Exist

See also: What do Canada, Vietnam, China, Russia, Ukraine and Romania have in common? (And, no, it’s not future sites of the Creative Commons Internationale)

See also: Artist rights are human rights

See also: The Spy Who Consulted Me Redux: The Consultation of the Mikado

What’s Still Wrong With ISP Music Licensing? The Latest Victim is the Songwriters Association of Canada

September 27, 2010 6 comments

The Songwriters Association of Canada is the latest victim of the yearning to find a solution to massive online theft. Unlike some who circulate disinformation on this subject, I gladly accept the SAC’s bona fides of sincerity on this subject (and those of the SAC President, Eddie Schwartz.) Unfortunately, sincerity does not make SAC any less wrong.

Canadian songwriters are certainly free to adopt any law they like for Canadian works exploited in Canada. Unfortunately, the SAC proposal is for online uses—and takes no precautions for works by international artists who can’t vote on the Canadian law, but whose works would be subject to it nonetheless.

Where is Bernie Madoff When You Need Him?

The biggest problem with the idea is very simple. It is predicated upon each user paying a flat fee. That flat fee is divided up amongst an increasing number of works or rights holders as there are constantly new works being released every year—even if you live in a perfect Lessig world of regurgitated art, the regurgitations themselves will be new.

This means that the share of the collections will likely decline every year with each creator getting paid less and less over time. That is, unless the number of users paying the monthly fee increases at a greater rate than the number of works—forever. If this sounds like a Ponzi scheme, you are not far off.

Even if all the assumptions could be satisfied and even if creators didn’t mind trading a market solution for an ever decreasing share of a pie, it should be clear where you want to be in the calculation—you either want to be an ISP (who will whack their bit off the top) or the collecting society (which will whack its bit off after the ISP). Nobody—and I mean nobody—would want to be the creator.

It is clear that going straight to a compulsory government mandated solution without even trying to implement a SNOCAP-type solution will never solve the basic problem—no reliable information is being produced and no auditable paper trail exists. All the creators (ALL—including movies, games, etc.) would have to blindly trust the system because there is no reliable proxy that isn’t just a wild guess and is itself not auditable unlike tracking audio fingerprints.

I don’t doubt that Eddie Schwartz is a good person and wants to see creators get paid. But he must not have thought much about this since we were on a panel together in 2007 at Canadian Music Week when I raised all these same points for which he had no answer then and doesn’t now.

So while I don’t question Eddie’s motives, I do wonder if he’s really thought this thing through. I also wonder who in the world he has been talking to. Because what he’s asking for is a guarantee that all creators will end up working for The Man 2.0.

What’s Wrong the SAC Proposal

So consider these specific comments on the SAC proposal:

The Songwriters Association of Canada has its own version of the EFF proposal which is kind of a combination of voluntary and compulsory, heavy on the compulsory:

1. New Right: SAC proposes to amend the Canadian Copyright Act to create a “Right to Remuneration for Music File Sharing”.

First of all, nothing in the SAC proposal limits this “right” to Canadian works. It seems pretty obvious that if Canadians want to do something with Canadian works in Canada, then more power to them. However, since this new “right” is by definition an Internet based distribution model, it does not appear that SAC intends to have the “right” apply to Canadians only.

And even if they did, how would anyone be able to distinguish one from the other?Second, there already is a “right to remuneration”, it’s called a price. The problem isn’t that there isn’t a right, and the problem isn’t that no one knows what to pay, the problem is that millions of people ignore the rights because they don’t want to pay—just like they will keep on doing until someone tells them otherwise.

Third, why would it just be limited to music? Why not every work that is stolen? Would SAC like to explain to ACTRA why it is that their actors rights aren’t as important as songwriters? Or explain to John Degen why his rights are not? Or James Cameron or Ivan Reitman? Shall I go on?

2. The Fallacy of Composition: The SAC proposal defines “file sharing” as “the sharing of a copy of a copyrighted musical work without motive of financial gain”. Set aside the fact that “sharing” is more accurately described as “bartering” (usually a taxable event a la swap meets), the “financial gain” is occurring at the company level, not necessarily the user level. Meaning that IsoHunt, Megaupload, Rapidshare sell advertising that is not directly connected to the massive download of unlicensed content. The SAC proposal apparently would give IsoHunt, Megavideo or The Pirate Bay at the company level the same defenses that SAC attributes to their users.

That is, SAC infers from the fact that every part of a whole has a given property that the whole also has that property. This is called the fallacy of composition.Aside from the fact that the proposition is itself fallacious it’s also just a little hard to understand. How in the world would anyone know what the “motive” of millions of people is? I’d say that their motive is not to pay for their music, movies, games or anything else they can get their paws on.

I have to confess I do love this line (reminiscent of Lessig’s “hybrid economy”): “[Because of the motivation of file “sharers”] this new right is distinct from rights licensed by legal music sites like iTunes and PureTracks….The new right would cover the sharing of music, between two or more parties, using any technology.”Nice try. The use is entirely commercial at the company level, and in my view it’s also commercial barter at the user level.

3. Voluntary Payment: SAC wants to have someone—presumably the ISP—allow its users to opt out of the remuneration payment if the user says they won’t file “share”. But if the user is “caught” file sharing they’ll pay a predetermined fine if they are caught. So—who’s going to do the catching, who’s going to issue the contract, and who’s going to enforce it? The ISP? Really? Think again.I like this part, especially: “Payment of this fee would remove the stigma of illegality from file sharing. In addition, it would represent excellent value to the consumer, since this fee would grant access to the majority of the world’s repertoire of music.” And so how is it that the authors of the world’s repertoire of music got to be part of this negotiation? Answer? They didn’t.

SAC’s response: “Creators or other persons entitled by this system to claim a portion of the licensing fees but who nevertheless do not wish to be compensated under such a system could similarly opt out. Acceptance of license fees would amount to a waiver of the right to sue for the unauthorized transmission by Canadian users.”

So if you don’t take the money for the deal that you never agreed to…you can still sue?

According to SAC: “This scheme would present a major financial improvement for the music industry. Since the license fee would be paid by most internet and wireless accounts, the amount of income generated annually could adequately compensate the industry for years of declining sales and lost revenues, and would dramatically enhance current legal digital music income. Sales of physical product would continue to earn substantial amounts, albeit gradually decreasing. Masters would continue to be licensed to movies and television. Radio would continue to sell advertising and pay royalties on music.”

There is absolutely no evidence that “most accounts” would pay anything voluntarily.

4. Global Solution: “We believe strongly that by giving Canadian music Creators a solid business model for the 21st century, this endeavor would initiate a golden era for music in Canada. Ultimately, we see this model being adopted internationally, and we are working with Creators groups around the world to effect a global system of remuneration for the sharing of music files.”That’s great—for Canadians who get to vote on the proposal. When SAC is able to block access to the works of those who do not want to participate, that would truly be the dawn of a “golden era”, albeit not for the reasons given. I wonder what “creator groups” SAC is talking about—presumably Creative Commons Corporation.

“Though fears have been expressed that this new system would “cannibalize” existing businesses like iTunes there is no proof of that. In fact there are studies that have found the opposite to be true.” The study that SAC cites in support of this absurd position actually was the British Music Rights survey that used a sample of 14-24 year olds and their preparedness to pay for music. Nothing to do with this scenario.

5. Endless Adminisration Fees: And this is my favorite part: “ISPs would receive an administrative fee for collecting and remitting license fees to the appropriate collective(s).” Ah. So the ISP will take their whack, the “collective(s)” will take their whack—I suspect that the ISPs bit is going to be similar to what the DSPs take on ringtones.

“As file sharing becomes a legal activity, ISPs would fill their servers with clean great sounding versions of all the popular socially distributed tracks keeping much of the activity within their own networks thereby drastically reducing expensive bandwidth demands. This would mean millions of dollars in savings for ISPs.”

Say what? How exactly does that work? Who would provide these “clean great sounding versions”? Who would pay for the copies and who would host them?

6. Accounting: “The collective would be responsible for tracking vast amounts of internet and mobile file sharing activity as well as distributing royalties to creators and rights holders. Tracking could be outsourced to one of the companies that currently does this work.” Exactly how does this work? Magic? Tracking mobile file sharing? What companies “currently” do this work? Whatever it is that SAC has in mind, this step is THE MOST important part of the whole process and as usual GETS THE LEAST ATTENTION.

That’s because they don’t have a solution.

What Is the Solution?

The problem of file-barter is not something for which there is a silver bullet solution and will die the death of 1000 cuts. We also have to accept the idea that there has never been a time in the creative industries that was 100% pirate free–there’s a market clearing level of piracy that we have to accept. Having said that, the answer that you can’t stop all piracy is not a reason to stop what you can.

But there are some concrete steps that can be taken to improve the likelihood of success for creators.

1. Prohibit Trading with Pirates

Companies like Google, i.e., otherwise legitimate companies especially those who trade on public stock exchanges, should not be allowed to sell advertising on pirate websites. How would you know a website is a pirate website? Easy–ask those people who you supposedly want to do business with in the entertainment industries if they’ve licensed Megavideo or LimeWire.

Companies like PayPal, Visa and Mastercard should not offer credit card merchant accounts to these people either.

These changes require law enforcement agencies to seize advertising, credit card and PayPal accounts of thieves and those who support them, as well as prosecute both pirates and employees of otherwise “legitimate” companies who give them succor.

Will that stop thieves? No, but it will make it very much harder to operate as it did in the case of absent government help.

2. Permit ISPs to Kick Pirates Off Their Network

Offer ISPs a safe harbor to never let these people on in the first place or to terminate them once they are discovered. I got your safe harbor right here.

3. Endorse Graduated Response

Although I don’t endorse disconnection as a punishment for individual users, I do think that a graduated response program should be available as well as a HADOPI style regime to bring the government’s resources to bear on bad actors.

I would prefer to see network operators charge users who upload the full unsubsidized rate for bandwidth usage, and heavy downloaders get substantially degraded service. (But see 2–the real solution is to avoid letting the pirates on the network at all.)

If these three tools were available, we could begin to build the rules in the market place for the digital society that would permit ideas like SAC’s to flourish.

4. Best Practices

ISPs and other legitimate companies should work with the government and stakeholders to determine a set of voluntary best practices for network management and the development of services and business models along with the network infrastructure to support them.

I gave a talk at Osgoode Hall in Toronto last year that covered much of this ground and offered a few other solutions. I’ve tried to keep this list of potential solutions shorter after having had another year to think about it and another year of experience in the space. I don’t necessarily reject anything I said last year, but I’m more convinced than ever that (a) the criminal enforcement arm of the government is necessary to go after the commercial operators (so I agree with John Morton’s approach at ICE), and (b) ISP cooperation is essential.

I do think that at long last there is the political will in the US to accomplish these four things in no small part due to the efforts of AFTRA, the AFM and the AFL-CIO, Vice President Biden, Senators Leahy and Hatch, Congressmen Conyers and Berman, and IPEC Victoria Espinel.

New Music 9-24-10: Healthy Minds Collapse, The Matches, Alexander Fog, She Screams Remedy, Napoleon IIIrd

September 24, 2010 Comments off

Anti-social Media: I know you can sing, but how well can you tweet?

September 24, 2010 Comments off

Helienne Lindvall has another brilliant column in The Guardian, “The Winners and Losers of Social Networking Promotion” in which she has a frank discussion of the problems that artists, and particularly songwriters, have with the demands of marketers and promotion folk to get creators to blog, tweet, and generally engage in the much vaunted “conversation” directly with their fans.

This is not for everyone–either artist or fan. When we first started planning for an artist-driven future (see my article from 2000, “Why Free Agency Matters: The Coming Changes in Record Company-Artist Relations“) there are some artists who embrace the direct to fan experience and some who do not. One wag said that “There’s a reason they call these people artists and not distributors. They’d rather sit at home in their living room with a guitar than with a palette of CDs or a computer.”

As we have said in these pages many times, it is concerning that finding out what’s “popular” or “trending” is a substitute for A&R, sending artists to corporations for sponsorships is a substitute for label or publisher investment, or valuing music based on a share of advertising revenues is a substitute for licensing at the intrinsic value of the music as determined by the creator. This is the ultimate corporatizing of music.

(Now before the peanut gallery pipes up that record companies funding the production and marketing of music and one-off corporate sponsors are the same thing, realize that one invests (or should invest) in the artist as they come, and the other invests in an artist if they do something the corporate sponsor finds acceptable. With some notable exceptions that prove the rule, corporate sponsors usually don’t invest in the long-term careers of artists, and online advertisers definitely do not.)

Helienne’s piece should be required reading for every artist and marketer. It’s too easy to say that a record failed because the artist didn’t blog. It’s nice to have the artist participate in “the conversation” (we think, although I’ve yet to see any data that gives anything more than a hunch about the consistent long-term positive effect on record, ticket or merch sales solely from free social media activities), but if the artist just isn’t cut out for blogging, then it is the marketer’s job to find another way to introduce the artist to a new audience.

I know this will come as a shock, but it has been done before. If the label wanted to sign a blogger, they should have done that.

On the other hand, artists have to understand that they may–may–be limiting themselves by not participating in social media.

But then again, I have yet to hear a fan say that they love a band because they tweet so well.


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