The Cheapening of Art in America

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The following interview with Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation will strike a chord with those who believe that YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and the majority of streaming services are destroying a musicians ability to earn a living from their work.

Rob confirms what many of us have been saying for sometime. Musicians need to be able to sell their recordings to survive. Their work was never intended to be used as barter to sell advertising.

Back in the day, we knew any artists we signed, and put out the record, it would sell at least 5,000 copies. Right? You give artists an advance. There was some money to be made through selling CDs and through licensing, and touring.

Now, a lot of these artists…I don’t know if you saw that thing with David Lowery, from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, where he talks about how, he had a million plays on either Spotify or Pandora, one of these streaming services. Basically, he earned less money than he would have made selling a t-shirt at one of his concerts.

Those are the kind of economics we’re dealing with. When you run a small independent label, at a certain point, it becomes like trying to squeeze a dry lemon. It’s a lot of work, and you’re not getting a lot of juice. In one way, it’s allowed people to learn more, about these different artists that we have on our label. Even when we were dealing when it was just, iTunes was the only thing on the block, it was a lot more beneficial and sustainable for artists.

The Gigaom interview: Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza on how “we live in a streaming world”

Online Piracy Finally In The Crosshairs

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On March 13th, the Congressional Subcommittee on Copyright Reform held hearings on proposed revisions to the DMCA,  Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Those invited to testify were evenly split between those who represented the tech industry and those who represented the artist and Copyright.  Maria Schneider, a Grammy Award Winner, was the lone artist represented on the panel.  She presented honest, impassioned testimony framing the serious challenges of out-of-control piracy from an artist’s perspective.

Written in 1998, with the intent of protecting both Copyright Holders and website owners, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, quickly became a devastating problem for Copyright Holders.  Not coincidentally, barely a year later, in 1999, Shawn Fanning launched Napster, marking the beginning of online piracy and over a decade of artist abuse.

Now, fifteen years later, most pirate sites are still operating under the protection provided by the DMCA’s Safe Harbor; a loop hole that has enabled pirate sites to thrive in a quasi-legal gray area.  A Safe Harbor from which online pirates claim compliance by engaging in what is commonly referred to as whack-a-mole, a process where infringing sites comply with take down notices by taking down the infringing content only to have the same content reposted almost immediately from another source.

In the past decade, most artists who could once earn a living wage from their work are now on life support as a result of having their work relentlessly pirated on the Internet.

These were the key the issues facing this Congressional Subcommittee Hearing on March 13th.  After watching all three hours of testimony, it was clear that all of the Congressional Representatives, understood just how bad things had become for artists.  It was nothing less than a revelation for those like myself who have been following the destruction of piracy for years.  Every member of the subcommittee saw the need to provide greater protection for the individual artist.  The cruel absurdity of hundreds of millions of nearly worthless take down notices every year was finally inescapable.

The tech industry has always been very adept at redirecting any discussion that threatens to regulate their business, but this time with years of documented abuse, even the tenacious representative from Google was unable to make much headway.  Her main point was how hard Google was fighting alongside artists and how Google was providing a new streamlined method for Copyright Holders to file take down notices.  Really, a more efficient way to file worthless take down notices?  Fortunately, none of the Congressmen were buying into this subterfuge.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, a job creation advocate from California, provided real time proof that Google was failing in burying pirated sites in their search results.  Barely typing in a few keystrokes associated with the Oscar Winning Film, 12 Slaves, numerous pirate sites appeared immediately on her laptop near the top of Google’s first search page.  Unfazed, the representative from Google continued to extoll the progress that was being made by her company in pushing these pirate sites down in their rankings.

With Amazement, Ms Chu alluded to the fact that at the very moment Google’s representative was responding, Ms Chu was literally looking at search results on her iPad.  Sometimes, reality is irrefutable, even when confronted by the sharpest of minds.

Why are search companies, like Google, so determined to maintain the status quo?  The answer is simple.  For all the claims about innovation and the power of the Internet to drive our ailing economy, the Internet is totally dependent upon content.  Without it, they simply have warehouses filled with empty servers and endless bandwidth.  The key to their explosive financial growth is dependent upon unlimited, cheap access to quality content.

What they fail to take into account is that someday, soon, they will run through all the great content produced over the last fifty year and find themselves desperate.  Desperate for the great content that was created because someone was willing to pay for it.

Irregardless of the facts, Google’s unofficial spokesperson, Michael Masnick of techdirt is already fiercely pounding the drums comparing Staydown to the failed SOPA. Google “Staydown” and see what you find.

Ultimately, the other real loser is the audience.  Fans, like myself, who understand that greatness is not a part time job or a hobby.  It is someone’s years of hard work and dedication.  Someone who needs to be able to earn a living wage while they dedicate themselves to their work.

The Staydown legislation makes sense and is way overdue.  It is time to finally do something that supports our artists; musicians, filmmakers, authors, photographers, software developers, video game developers and everyone in the creative community whose work merits pay.

Anonymous Post

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Identity Hidden  Saturday, January 21, 2012

Anonymous post from the Blog, Digital Music News.

“Historically, it’s taken brave actors standing up for unpopular positions to effect positive change in America.  It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this chapter in the long battle for creators’ rights – this time against digital platforms that, like their predecessors, enrich themselves at the expense of creators – is going to be a historic one that will require similarly brave voices to Sam’s. . . .

Sadly, because of the fragile nature of the livelihoods of artists and indie labels it’s terribly risky for them to speak up publicly about about their feelings and the real effect of piracy.  Better to bleed slowly than jab a dagger into my own heart would be an appropriate metaphor.

The mob mentality and anger that is visited upon those who do speak up has resulted in voices who could be beneficial to this conversation to go silent to the detriment of the entire debate.

Think I’m wrong?

Ever wonder why the overwhelming majority of your favorite artists and indie labels remain mum on the subject publicly except those who are taking the popular position?

Don’t you think it’s telling that when a list of artists appear on a petition against anti-piracy legislation it’s such a relatively short list?

We’ve only been hearing from one side for too long now while excoriating the few who dare to differ and that has hurt our ability to find a way forward.  For only when you truly listen and respect an opinion different from your own can you begin to have a real conversation about how best to move forward.”

** Sam is Sam Rosenthal owner of Projekt Records, a friend and ally of FarePlay.

Artists’ Digital Rights

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Artists’ Digital Rights

We believe the creative community has been silent for too long and they need to be actively involved in speaking out in their opposition to online piracy.

We believe that if we don’t take a stand for artists rights, the quality of music and film will deteriorate and truly talented artists will be deprived of the opportunity to create great work.

We believe that for many in the creative community, the silence comes from a fear of being attacked by a small but highly vocal group of individuals who believe they have every right of free access to everything that can be copied, digitized and distributed over the internet, including all copyrighted material.

Our mission is to create a safe haven; a global online community where artists can communicate and connect directly with their fans about the human hardships that are created when people aren’t compensated for their work.

Because at the end of the day, as working people, where is the legitimacy of criticizing someone for just wanting to get paid for their work? Why should a musician, filmmaker or an author be treated differently than any other hard working individual? In our society we call this equality.

We believe that artists have the right to determine what happens to their work. We believe that producing great art is a career not a part time job. We believe that “everyone” should be compensated for their work.

We believe that the proponents of illegal downloading have owned the conversation in social media for too long and have misled an entire generation into believing that illegal downloading is a victimless crime and that technology has created the right for people to take whatever they want… because they can.

We call on the creative community to communicate with their fans and let them know how important their support is to their future and the future of music and film.

Join us and let us make sure your voice is heard.

 

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related articles:  Why People Don’t Talk About Illegal Downloading Anymore

An Open Letter

Question Technology

What started as a simple way to share music and video with friends has morphed into illegal downloading, a billion dollar-a-year international criminal enterprise, responsible for eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs, eradicating the earning power of artists and diminishing our once vibrant diversity of arts in American Culture.

Equally as disturbing, I’ve found a creative community that has failed to engage the problem out of fear of recrimination from a small band of illegal file-sharing proponents.

The challenge is clear. We need to enroll and empower the creative community in this battle and we need to do it from a place of understanding and enlightenment; starting with a conversation grounded in personal stories about working class people who deserve to get paid for their work, just like everyone else.

The message isn’t about stealing or shop lifting, it is a message about broken dreams and survival. It is about connecting with friends and fans through social media and letting them know about the value of their support.

Sincerely,

William Buckley, Jr.   Founder / President  FarePlay