Copyright extension is anti-music

Regulators at the European level have voted to extend the copyright in sound recordings for a further 20 years. In so doing, they have more or less condemned the vast majority of music to the dustbins of history.

This Wired UK article explains:

But a government-backed, independent review of copyright doesn’t agree. A 2006 Gowers Review of Intellectual Property said, “The European Commission should retain the length of protection on sound recordings and performers’ rights at 50 years”

In its conclusion, the review says, “it is our view that a term extension will likely result in a net loss to UK society as a whole”, arguing that while retrospective extensions would line the pockets of the largest record producers, money to individual performers would be minimal and the cost to the consumer would be massive.

Continue reading »

Not content to merely delete their own catalogue…

My friend Simon Grigg is something of a music industry legend in New Zealand. Club owner, label manager, promoter, artist manager, punk pioneer, dance music pioneer, DJ, radio personality… You may have heard a song he released on his independent record label once, called ‘How Bizarre’.

These days he lives in Bangkok doing all manner of interesting things, but he still dabbles. On his blog this week, he talks about an email he received from Google…

Last year – whilst hunting through junk – I found a disc of old punk video footage. Amongst it was the video in that YouTube clip. I contacted the band members and, with their approval, uploaded it. I guess I thought I was in the clear. Nothing on that video actually came from the album, and even if it had done so, I had written approval from the band, who now own the copyright in all recordings.

Warners have never owned it. Ever. Never.

Unfortunately Warner Music Group don’t see it that way. Without any proof, legal right, paperwork or substance, they’ve claimed the rights to that (and another similar Toy Love video uploaded with permission) and, according to the letter, they have the right now to run advertising with the video if they want. In other words, they’ve stolen the clip’s copyright from Toy Love and are now asserting a right to profit from something they don’t own.

Piracy is a good word for that. It has currency these days.

The whole post is worth a read. He’s rightly angry.

Both Warner Music and Sony Music Entertainment have asserted copyright ownership of things they do not have any claim to, and have gone about removing it, taking away public access to it, and attempting to profit from it through advertising revenue where it is available.

This is not an administrative oversight. This is a business strategy. They’re not just deleting their own music through neglect – they’re actively seeking and destroying everyone else’s wherever they think they can get away with it.

Orsii meets Jazzman Gerald

My friend Orsii from the Little Miss Sunshine show on Laid Back Radio talks to Gerald from Jazzman – a man who collects the rarest and coolest of records from around the world and makes them available through his reissue label – always with the artists’ permission, and often as a result of great personal effort and a good amount of detective work.

Amazing stuff contained within. Listen and enjoy a whole lot of things you might never otherwise hear.

This is the furthest reach of the stuff I’m talking about on this site, incidentally. This is the stuff that is being deleted, and without heroes like Gerald – none of it would survive at all. It’s not all this great of course, but some of it is.

Restoring lost albums for cash

I was reading an article in the Australian publication ‘The Vine’ this morning. A meandering piece about music in the digital age, apps, music formats, archives and reissues. It’s worth a read if you have ten minutes to go for a leisurely mental stroll.

This bit leapt out at me:

Gil Matthews is probably best known as the drummer for Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, but he has also built a solid business giving many classic Australian albums new life on CD. Since 2005 the label Aztec Music has released about 60 titles, each with high-quality packaging and a 28-page booklet, creating a business with a yearly turnover of about $250,000. ”There are an incredible number of titles we could release if we had the time,” says Matthews. ”If we had a catalogue of 300 titles, this would be close to a million-dollar business.”

Each release is a painstaking process, requiring Matthews to go back to the ageing master tapes — or even vinyl if tapes are unavailable — and restore them for the digital format. ”Sometimes it can take 40 hours alone to remove all the clicks and pops from the original source — it’s almost a labour of love,” says Matthews.

It sounds like the kind of labour of love that might economically justify opening up the vaults, seeing what’s in there and figuring out if there is, in the first instance, a commercial imperative for reissuing back catalogue that major labels have more or less locked away to rot because they don’t feed the new release, promo, popstar machine.

Yes there is some healthy activity in the area of reissues (both physical and digital), but these tend to be the perennial moneymakers and still-active artists that can leverage big money at corporate levels of turnover. But cottage industry outfits like that of Matthews could be more than sustainable on the number of units that less well-remembered artists might sell – and not only would this create economic value, grow the industry, put more music in more hands and return money to artists… but it would also rescue some significant works of cultural heritage from inevitable decay.

Of course, for this to work, licences would need to be worked out, vault inventories would need to be made available, and – ideally – copyright laws would need to be changed to include a use-it-or-lose-it clause that would incentivise the major labels to maximise the value hidden in their own coffers.

Now… where were we?

It’s been a good long while since I posted to this blog, and a lot has changed in the meantime. Online music services have come and gone, Spotify has started in the USA, and the UK has declared it no longer a crime to copy one’s own CD to one’s own iPod. Imagine that.

But there’s a lot of catching up to do. This book has been somewhat on the back burner because of three other book projects I have on the go. One was entirely unconnected: it was about whisky, and I have completed my contribution to that particular work. Another is an introduction to the Music Industries for undergraduate students. That’s called Understanding The Music Industries. I’ve written quite a bit of it, but I still have a way to go on that. The other is one I’ve just started called Radio in the Digital Age. I’m quite excited about that one.

But this one here is a labour of love. I have no book contract. I have, as yet, not set structure to the book. All I know is that there should be one, and if I don’t write it, it’s likely that nobody else will – and so I’m collecting my thoughts here.

To encourage me along a bit, I have given the site a bit of a facelift so that I feel more inclined to pop in and express my thoughts. But the problem hasn’t fixed itself in the meantime. Masses of recordings are still slowly rotting away in the vaults, never to be heard again.

So… I think I have some work to do…