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Arts and Culture

Danny Goldberg on the Digital Music Revolution

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Posted on Jun 26, 2009
book cover

By Danny Goldberg

(Page 2)

This litany of real and imagined insults to the consumer ignores the central reality of what caused the decline of record sales: the ability of fans to get albums free. The problem wasn’t the price. In the eyes of many consumers, it is simply impossible to compete with free. Many of the same people who won’t pay $15 for a CD will fork over $20 for a T-shirt or $30 to $200 per ticket for a concert by the same artist. This is not because the IQ or moral compass of concert promoters or merchandising companies is higher than that of record executives, but because it is infinitely more difficult to get into a concert without a ticket or to shoplift a T-shirt than it is to burn a copy of a CD. Security guys at arenas are not particularly empathetic to people who try to sneak in without paying, but that hasn’t hurt the concert business.

Missing from Knopper’s narrative is the story of the incredible wealth that was accrued by a few hundred computer and software entrepreneurs and executives who fueled and exploited the cynical notion that music “should be free,” that music was a “killer app” that drove traffic, computer sales, etc., at the expense of artists and the people who worked with and invested in them. The fact that many record company executives were inept at PR, wildly outspent in Washington and in some cases personally unappealing did not mean that the society’s swift capitulation to the devaluation of intellectual property was a good idea.

 

book cover

 

Appetite for Self-Destruction

 

By Steve Knopper

 

Free Press, 320 pages

 

Buy the book

Knopper is a good writer with a keen sense of some of the comic hubris that record companies produced. He correctly identifies a number of Internet marketers at record companies who had to overcome roadblocks within their own companies in order to use the Internet as a positive promotional tool. They faced embattled salesmen and lawyers who were trying vainly to stop the deterioration of sales and CEOs who had to deal with pressures from their boards and Wall Street analysts. However, Knopper errs in conflating conscious promotional tactics with an “anything goes” mentality that many Internet companies adopted. There is no question that in certain situations, artists and record companies and other content owners can benefit by making some material available free in order to bond an artist with fans in the hope of selling to them in the future. But there is a huge difference between the Grateful Dead choosing to let their fans tape and disseminate their live shows and those same fans deciding they have the right to take any music they want regardless of whether the artists want them to or not.

Knopper makes much of the record companies’ seemingly pyrrhic victory in shutting down the original version of Napster through lawsuits. Various disgruntled former executives claim that if the companies had bought Napster instead, they could have communicated directly with their tens of millions of fans and somehow short-circuited the migration of those fans to other, more-elusive systems where they got free music illegally, almost always with impunity. But as long as the technology made free music possible, why would any fee system, whether subscription, discounted or artist-friendly, have made more of a dent than i-Tunes has?

There is no question that many aspects of the digital explosion have been good for music fans and musicians. Recording and video costs are a fraction of what they were in former times, and niche artists have the ability to identify and bond with fans in a way that was impossible in the pre-digital world. Select superstars such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails can make previously unheard-of profits by cutting out the middlemen. The larger music business (as distinguished from the record industry) allows musicians and the people who work with them to make good money from concerts and licensing. But overall the music business has been very badly damaged, especially in the critical area of artist development, where literally thousands of jobs have been lost that cannot be easily replaced by cottage-industry efforts of artists and their managers.

Near the end of “Appetite for Self-Destruction,” Knopper suggests that record companies could fix themselves by hiring as bosses “digital music executives trained to build the next Napster.” That might be good advice for AOL (or it might not—AOL didn’t do so well when the company controlled Warner Music), but it makes no more sense for record companies than suggesting that book publishers could fix their business problems by marginalizing the power of editors and giving the reins to techies who would create the “next Kindle.”

Retailers such as Napster or, in a previous generation, Tower Records, are not and never were a replacement for risk-taking on individual artists. There have always been plenty of businesses that will market artists after they become successful and that make their decisions based on research of what is already popular. The particular role of record companies (or book publishers) has been to choose a few artists to support among hundreds of talented aspirants before they have a measurable sales base that justifies the risk. The nature of those positions invites criticism. When Bob Dylan’s debut album didn’t sell, he was famously called “Hammond’s folly” in the halls of CBS Records, a reference to John Hammond, who also took early risks on Billie Holiday and Bruce Springsteen. Technologists have many virtues, but replacing people like Hammond is not among them. And by the way, Hammond and his bosses were not the equivalent of Martin Luther King either.


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By goldvillage, July 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

Camnai—Firstly I dont delude myself that one can reverse the course of history. I tell all of my clients that we have to live with the world the way it is while seeing if there is anything to do to change it. The people who wanted free music won the battle for the most part. Thousands of stores are closed forever. Thousands of jobs are lost forever. Sales are less than half of what they were even five years ago so although many who have gotten free music might not have bought it in previous timers, many did.

For the people I represent that means that have much smaller budgets for recording and release records with far more limited marketing. The only kinds of artists who have been exempt are those with massive TV exposure like American Idol or who make pop records. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with pop. Non pop artists tend to record for themsevles and make disitrbution deals or for indie labels. None of my clients is currently on a major worldwide although a few are in certain territories (The Hives, for example will stay with Uni in Scandanavia).

Of course there was music in the nineteenth century but the artists who could make a living from it were, for the most part, subsidized by rich people (see “Amadeus”) and the genres that effected me the most—rock and roll—-did not exist pre record companies.

The idea Im most enthusiastic about is for the US to emulate what some other countries do and support recording. I have Canadian clients and they get support that permits a kind of experimentation and artistic integrity that a pure pop marketplace doesn’t allow for.

My piece was a book review about a book that desribed the past and my point is that its a mistake to glamourize a phenomenon that had morally mixed results.

Reading over the comments it is clear that there are some people whose rage at record companies is so great that they cant focus on the fact that artists themselves are effected (as journalists are) when their work can be monetized. I dont exactly understand why some people think that a transfer of wealth for artists to tech companies is so fabulous but maybe their point is that anything that got record execs fired must be good.

As far as under assistant west coast promo men go, I wish my clients had people like that to help get their music exposed. The fact that many mid executives were sleazy doesnt mean they all were. As an author of two books I sure appreciate the PR people who helped get me exposure and it would be worse for me as an author if such jobs ceased to exist.

I recognize we cant go backwards—I just hope that as society goes forward it looks for ways to compensate for the damage done to intellectual property. You know more about the flaws in copyright laws than I do. I take your point that many aspects are out-dated. But to replace them with nothing is a bad trade.

Danny

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By camnai, July 2, 2009 at 11:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d like to thank Mr Goldberg for his response, and to say that since he is obviously no more a narcissist than me, he obviously does not qualify as a narcissist at all.

If he is still reading these, though, I would be interested in hearing a bit more specifically how downloading is harming the musicians that he is representing. There might be more there that I could agree with.

I think we need some kind of ‘intellectual property’ laws; unfortunately we need them most to prevent the kind of thing that the laws we have now make possible. Yes, the man who wrote ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ should have got paid for the song while he was still alive; no, a major record company should not be collecting royalties for ‘Happy Birthday’ 135 years after it was written, and with none of the money ever having gone to the people who wrote it. And no, Disney should not be able to sue anyone who uses the image of Mickey Mouse in a way they don’t like. (And no, computer users who don’t have time to become computer engineers themselves shouldn’t be forced into having to deal with Microsoft somewhere along the line if they want to use a computer at all.) Sites like Napster that flourished by making free downloads possible should be made to pony up out of their revenues. And if I want to release my acoustic-solo version of Bohemian Rhapsody, I should have to pay Queen for it.

But I suspect it’s quite difficult to download ‘Thriller’ these days. The laws as they stand are there to protect the interests of those who have the most lawyers, and to protect a system that has sat like smog on music ever since the record company/radio conglomerates in the early 1970s regained the hammer-lock on it they had lost briefly in the mid-60s.

The movie industry is constantly complaining about how it’s losing billions of dollars because of pirated DVDs; one would think that all those people in China who are buying the $2 pirated version would, if it were not available, buy the $15 legitimate version. That is simply not true. They would do without. Yes, piracy for commercial sale is and should be illegal, but the billion-dollar figure arrived at by adding all those $15s together is nonsense. I suspect the same is true in music: I hazard that if some kind of software magic prevented unpaid downloading, 90 per cent of the songs that are downloaded for free now would not be. Music is selling less now for other reasons: all we had when I was a young lad were records; now there are DVDs, games, cell-phone novels, and internet porn with which to while away the time. (Plus I don’t think the music is very good, but I’m old so, to quote Mandy again—sadly, she will collect no royalties for her intellectual property—I would say that, wouldn’t I.)

The music industry is being restructured. The Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man will not be replaced. There won’t be so much money for a few people in the business, which means that more of the people in it will be there out of a genuine interest in music. People like Mr Goldberg will still be there; a very cool guy I knew, a self-described ‘bean counter’ who knew little and cared less about music but who ran the Japanese arm of an American record company, will not be.

The horse is gone. Free down-loading is the barn door. Leave it and go find the horse.

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2009 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment

groovologist:
‘Sorry, rockfans, but I thought this was a very well thought-out attempt to advocate the side of an issue no one wants to face, which is whether it’s really OK to jump over intellectual property issues to a place where a song is only used for bait to sell something else. ...’

 

I think, to be accurate, your sentence should stop at “issues”.  The review says, “One key step is a public and political recognition of the value of intellectual property.”  But the concept and extent of intellectual property is hotly contested and in flux, not some pre-ordained, established thing that the errant public must come to recognize.  The record industry’s method of contesting it was to buy expensive lawyers, legislators and laws; as far as public discourse went, they are the ones who used their money and power to jump over the issue.  And you’re jumping over the issue, too, apparently.

You ought to look at those links I posted.

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By Blackspeare, July 2, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

This whole business is a fiasco built on archaic copyright and licensing laws that have created a source of never ending income through the concept of residuals.  The original intent of copyrights was to protect intellectual property from plagiarism when it took considerable time to create such works and not just a week or two!  It’s an example of good law gone bad.

In light of today’s information and communication technology, writers and composers can turn out works in days and for this should they receive a lifetime of residuals?  The prime example of this distortion is the late Merv Griffin, who in about 10 minutes composed the theme song for the game show, “Jeopardy.”  Every time that theme was played he received a royalty.  Even he couldn’t keep a straight face when he related, during an interview, that 10 minutes of work resulted in million of dollars of income over the years.  Perhaps his estate is now receiving those royalties.  Another good example is Jerry Seinfeld and he makes Griffin look like a poor boy!  No doubt he worked hard for 9 or 10 years, but should that entitle him to a lifetime of income for doing nothing.  He did get paid a pretty good salary during the show——-ain’t that enough?

Maybe it’s time we thought about “copy” protecting the consumer from greedy operators!

What’s wrong with this picture?!  I may be old fashion, but I believe you get paid when you produce not stay at home.

Most people do not advocate plagiarism or that artists do not deserve any payment at all for their work… if it sells. But what you’re advocating is intellectual monopoly and then asking government to sanction and then police for that monopoly. And that’s wrong.

I’m not calling you evil. I understand where you’re coming from. But there are many examples of how the ends don’t justify the means when it comes to current patent and copyright enforcement.

There is mounting evidence that show egregious manipulations of the patent and copyright laws are actually holding us back… technologically, economically, medically… there are many examples.

I recommend picking up a copy of “Against Intellectual Monopoly”.

Even if you don’t agree with the legal recommendations presented in that book you’ll at least learn about the abuses of some patent or copyright holders and you’ll see the data that shows how it can do more social or economic harm than good.

For example, it’s ridiculous that the Canadian government levies a tax on blank CD-Rs and CD-RWs and then redistributes that revenue to unknown “copyright holders” - probably music and film industry - to compensate them for the “presumed” copying of their material on to these discs. As of 2006, European countries have been considering similar legislation… I don’t know if they’ve moved forward with it or not.

Things like that are an absurd redistribution scheme and tax on a general multi-use item that forces monopoly rents out of consumers (and most are honest) - so it’s really just coercion and corporate welfare.

That said, few people are going to copy or file share a song or movie unless it was already a hit or popular with a niche audience… which means it already sold a lot of copies.

It’s tyrannical to put someone in prison - under the guise of “artist protection” - only because they downloaded a song that already sold thousands or millions of copies.

Draconian patent and copyright enforcement has been a PR disaster for the music and movie industry. “Regulating the Internet” the same way TV or radio is regulated - simply to enforce more monopoly rents for the RIAA or MPAA - and consequently limiting the economic opportunities and free speech of others who don’t “pirate” would be an economic policy blunder of the worst kind and would continue the PR catastrophe for your industry.

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By groovologist, July 2, 2009 at 11:03 am Link to this comment

PS: $10 says the review is better than the book.

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By groovologist, July 2, 2009 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

Sorry, rockfans, but I thought this was a very well thought-out attempt to advocate the side of an issue no one wants to face, which is whether it’s really OK to jump over intellectual property issues to a place where a song is only used for bait to sell something else. 

Also, I’m amazed how so many wordy bitches can’t read or do their homework, yet have the temerity to suggest what musicians “need” to do. 

> Yes, musicians were exploited by record companies, but not all or by all.

> Yes, corporate music distribution defaulted to re-producible, trendy and disposable music because corporations generally take the path of least resistance and people didn’t resist. But there was some good music in there too. And it didn’t seem to prevent good music from being created under its radar.

> Yes, agreed—a certain kind of very satisfying career can be had without record companies and these careers will provide an ever-increasing degree of comfort to the artists who fit the paradigm. But let’s dispense with idyllic images of wandering mistrels earning their keep, happy to be on the road collecting a living in their hats. I go to a lot of concerts. Bands make a very big percentage of their revenue selling CDs after shows. Pre-recorded merchandise has a very significant role in a post-record company world.

> And yes, music existed before record companies and it will exist long after. But rights organizations, copyright laws, royalties and other protections and compensation for the rights of creators means people like Richard Thompson, Al Kooper and John Hiatt get to have a decent life while they are actually alive, and might even accumulate something to leave the kids.

Anyway, I didn’t see this story as a defense of any of the bad parts of the record industry, per se. There may have been a recognition of a corporate employee’s reality, but I didn’t hear a single word in defense of the system.

I think Goldberg is a realist who is trying to address this single thing that just can’t seem to get traction. I think he is opening a dialog about a seminal issue which is important no matter what channel a musician and/or songwriter exploits to make their living.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that Goldberg is widely considered to have been one of the good guys in the industry for a lot of years. I sat next to Warren Zevon at a dinner around the time of his first Artemis release, when he knew his days were numbered and when his hope was to simply put together a decent final payday for the benefit of his family. He was full of praise for Goldberg and the way he conducted the business, and said he was smart, hard-working, realistic and honest.

It’s just my 2 cents. I don’t know Goldberg and don’t work in the record business anymore.

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By hippie4ever, July 2, 2009 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

For the sake of the rest of us I’m glad these assholes are tanking. Yes it was a long time coming, yet I miss the work of music scouts who frequented venues & signed the artists who did reshape modern pop/rock music. Those guys did a great job of bringing us Motown artists as well as urban rock bands. They had an ear and could separate the wheat from the chaff. Many were amateur musicians themselves and were able to make a living helping others get to the stage.

The problem I see is nobody seems to sign good artists anymore; it’s all American Idol bullshit and uninspiring divas such as Britney Spears and Myriah Carey. Industry-created product for not-too-intelligent masses. Granted the Internet’s a great source to find quality music, but it exists amidst lots of REALLY BAD MUSAK; we need a filter better than “word of mouth” because lots of fans don’t understand music fundamentals & otherwise have questionable taste. 

So we didn’t just lose an albatross around artists’ necks: we also lost the brains that could determine originality over derivitive song and bring them to public attention. Now the tail wags the dog and it really sucks!

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2009 at 6:57 am Link to this comment

Russian Paul:
‘I love the fact that not one single poster here is going along with Goldberg’s bullshit apologetics.’

I’ve noticed that elsewhere on the Net.  I think the attitude of the industry has been that as long as they could buy legislators they didn’t need the public, and could screw them as they pleased.  That attitude is now being returned.

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By Russian Paul, July 1, 2009 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment

I love the fact that not one single poster here is going along with Goldberg’s bullshit apologetics.

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By Samson, June 30, 2009 at 11:15 am Link to this comment

The key is to view the last few decades of the ‘music’ business as a temporary aberration.  If you take the long view, there was a relatively short time period at the beginnings of the era where music could be recorded where companies found a way to make money from it.  This was roughly from the invention of the phonograph to just recently.

Of course, music existed long before the invention of the phonograph.  And music will exist long after the ‘record’ companies are gone. 

To anyone who’s known musicians, the music industry has always been regarded as the land of thieves, liars and con-men.  Its funny to now listen to how awful it is that these thieves, liars, and con-men have lost their gravy train.

Beethoven and Bach didn’t have to have record companies trying to muscle money out of anyone who played their music in a bar or on a phone ring-tone.  The artists will survive, just like they always have.  The only people getting hurt by this is the people who stole from them and lived off their talent.  And to that, all I can say is “Hell yeah!”

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By Anarcissie, June 29, 2009 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment

What strikes me as curious is that the price of recorded music CDs did not fall in sync with the cost of producing them.  The fact that the difference became so pronounced made it inevitable that people would start making illegal copies or selling them second-hand, and then later rapidly switch to downloading when that became easy to do.

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By Rob Lewis, June 29, 2009 at 11:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Goldberg makes some valid points. But the music industry he is nostalgic for hasn’t existed for a long time.
Until around the 1980’s, the industry was considered too quirky and unstable to attract the Wall Street banksters. Record companies were run by passionate (and, yes, quirky) personalities who were in it for the music and would spend years, if necessary, nurturing an artist they truly believed in.
But when the labels started minting vast fortunes with little risk by reissuing their old hits on CD, Wall Street definitely noticed. The merger artists and bean counters arrived, and that was the beginning of the end. The labels devoted their energies to the dependable mega-stars that could be counted on to generate hits. New or offbeat artists? Not so much.
I don’t believe, as Napster fans disingenuously aver, that CD sales are declining solely because the product quality is bad. But naked greed definitely had a role in tanking the industry.

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By samosamo, June 29, 2009 at 1:22 am Link to this comment

By Rob Christensen, June 27 at 10:18 pm #
(Unregistered commenter)
““First of all, the recording industry, who puts at least 90% of their efforts into complete garbage-quality music”“
***************************************************

Good comment. I myself am very discriminate about music I want to hear and even with that being said, just like how can anyone read every book that has been written much less hear all the songs/music that has been written and played which is a terriffic way to distract people, especially the young.

What the music industry represents now besides the inviolate ability to ‘censure’ at its pleasure and to ‘set the stage’, so to speak, of how any musicians will be presented to the audiences by denying exposure or granting exposure no matter the content will go a long way in really allowing artistic diverstity that is a natural way of weeding out the 90% of crap thrown at the people and let this be considered, thrown at the younger people that may not have a chance of discriminatiing the difference in what is art and what is emotional dribble.

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By Rob Christensen, June 27, 2009 at 7:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Seriously, consider for a moment the worst possible scenario of everyone getting their music for free.

First of all, the recording industry, who puts at least 90% of their efforts into complete garbage-quality music, will go out of business, and so will all those pseudo ‘bands’ and ‘singers’ who NEED a high-end recording studio to make anything resembling music.

 

No argument that some jobs will be lost, but just because an outdated music industry collapses, who is actually crazy enough to believe that it would be the end of music, forever?

 

That’s just not going to happen. What would happen is that musicians who can actually preform their music well live will continue to thrive off of the one-of-a-kind concert experience; while high-quality bootleg recordings would circle amongst their fans - aka: ‘free publicity’. Basically a whole new economy centered around the live music experience would fill the vacuum left by the dinosaur industry who’s only hope of maintaining any sort of profit is pursuing a culturally-fascist model of charging people for intangible i’s and o’s - which is almost as stupid as paying for water, but I guess some people still do that too. ..The point being, that music is culture, and culture is for everyone. Great musicians should be praised, not over-payed. 

 

I’ve discovered much good music by trading bootleg recording of life concerts, and no longer feel even remotely compelled to buy any studio recorded albums, being that it is so much more fun listening to the recording of the show that you actually attended!

 

So in a short, and cultural sense,

 

SUPPORT MUSIC: STEAL IT!!

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By samosamo, June 27, 2009 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment

I am all for a musician getting paid for his/her efforts but I don’t plan on buying ‘another’ copy of a disk everytime I have one stolen from my vehicle.

But the interesting thing about this ‘review’ is that the ‘branding’ of products and now the concepts these jerks in marketing keep coming up with and the use of copyright laws to protect them leaves me with very little sympathy for their losses, as a matter of fact as an overall general concept of totally ridding the planet of corporations, will in a short time vastly improve the positions and contditions of everyone on it.

How ironic that I am in the middle of reading Naomi Klein’s book ‘No Logo’ and how she describes the mucking up of the world by corporations in their drive to rule the world and ‘trying’ to by their version of globalization which klein unmasks as some of the most devious and insidious bull shit ever perpetrated on the planet and the people by exposing these ‘corporatists’ as the most uncaring and uncompassionate(money is the compassion these fucks have) slime to ever inhabit this planet.

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By eyeroll, June 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

Oh, boo hoo, poor record industry. Since you can’t seem to figure it out, I’ll tell you the reason people lament the news industry’s demise and not yours: newspapers add value to our democracy; they’re not mere leeches interposing themselves in any way they can between artists and fans, screwing both to make a buck.

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By tropicgirl, June 27, 2009 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The whole problem here is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND OUR COPYRIGHT LAWS ARE CORRUPT FAVORING THIEVERY AND USAGE FROM LARGE CORPORATIONS. The music business violated the true copyright laws themselves. When corporations tell you not to violate copyrights, its because THEY WANT TO RESERVE THAT RIGHT FOR THEMSELVES. The Founding Fathers knew this all too well…

Here’s a quote from stayfreemagazine.com regarding how Thomas Jefferson felt and how the Founding Fathers instituted FAIR copyright laws, which have since been changed. BUT THE TRUTH PREVAILS…

“The issue of copyright was one of the most
lively subjects of debate among our
Founding Fathers. The values that copyright
reflects echo with the very principles of the
American Revolution and Constitutional
Convention.

In the American copyright system since 1791
has reflected American republican values. While it
granted a limited, temporary monopoly to a specific
publisher, American copyright grew to embody
four democratic safeguards:

• A guarantee that all works would enter the
public domain once the copyright term
expired.
• A collection of purposes that consumers could
consider “fair use,” such as limited copying for
education or research.
• The principle that after the “first sale” of a
copyrighted item, the buyer could do whatever
he or she wants with the item, save distribute
unauthorized copies for profit.
• The concept that copyright protects specific
expression of ideas, but not ideas themselves.
Copyright, when well balanced, encourages
the production and distribution of the raw material
of democracy. But after more than 200 years of
legal evolution and technological revolution,
American copyright no longer offers strong democratic
safeguards. It is out of balance. And our
founders — especially Thomas Jefferson — would
not be pleased.”

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By John K, June 27, 2009 at 6:56 am Link to this comment

Like all big institutions, the music business is filled with deadwood and middlemen who are not necessary for the creation and production of music.  Why should consumers pay money to them if they don’t have to?

All American businesses operate on the premise that “the closer the deal is to getting something for nothing, the better.”  The record industry is notorious for their exploitation of artists.  For decades the they got a lot of “something for nothing.”

Now everyone else wants in on the deal.

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By musicin thepool, June 27, 2009 at 6:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The music industry of decades past was based on controlling and creating scarcity because that was practical on a number of levels. In the days without the Internet, we *needed* all those middlemen in the production and distribution chain to get the music out to the listeners, and there was only so much capacity for new music and shelf space. And the industry worked hard to make itself profitable; it got good at what it did. It also took advantage of it’s position, displaying exactly the greedy characteristics and habits that Mr. Goldberg rails against in this article - and it’d be hard to deny that.

With new technology, all those middle-man jobs disappear. The future is artists and fans, directly connected. Fans pay money, and it all goes to the artist. Of course there are expenses, as in any business, but now the artist gets to choose and control those expenses instead of being - yes, I’ll say it - exploited by the record companies.

We’re in an awkward time right now, the time between the old way and the new. Artists and tech like shopping carts & Paypal are just now getting to know each other and getting easier to use. But picture 2020: it’s all easy clicks then. Artists will be able to focus on their music and performances and the pay-channel will be simple and accepted (probably even easier though cell phones).

This will enable **so many more** artists to make a living at making music and sharing their passion than ever before. Most artists will only have maybe 2,000-3,000 true fans, and they’ll have to keep producing & performing to keep the money coming in - just as we all do.

So what rock star is Pepsi going to hire when rock stars only have 3,000 fans instead of 30 million? Yep, that’s going to change, too. No more mega-hit, homogenous, play-it-till-you-like-them national artists anymore. It’s all niche, personal passion and connection from here on out.

Personal passion, niche and personal connection. Isn’t that what real music was all about in the first place?

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By jared, June 27, 2009 at 6:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The fact remains that the more corporatized the music industry became the less the music mattered? Does anyone listen to more than a handful of artists from the last 30 years with any motive other than ironic enjoyment?  If he means by ‘developing artist’ the mass manufacturing of comodtizable flash in the pan fame whores, then I completely concur with the indispensability of the music industry.

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By Anarcissie, June 27, 2009 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

Here’s an artist who has escaped from the Mickey Mouse nightmare: http://www.sitasingstheblues.com/

See also http://questioncopyright.org/

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By wolynski, June 26, 2009 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And why shouldn’t music be free? Most of it already is, on the radio, on TV, in shopping malls, restaurants…

Record companies took advantage of technological advances, like the LP, and now they don’t like it, when technological advances overtook them. Tough.

The music business was never about music - it was selling vinyl, tapes, shiny disks to retail outlets. Record companies were in the business of shipping and now there’s nothing left to ship.

As one musician put it, the recorded music is the menu, the concert is the meal.

Anyone can record in their garage now and put it out on the Internet and there’s bugger all “the music industry” can do about it.

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By Russian Paul, June 26, 2009 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment

doodahman - Bravo, great post! You said what I wanted to say, but more eloquently, more concise.

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By muffinblighter, June 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

word. you cats posted all the thoughts that burned inside me after reading danny ‘i don’t know what the fuck is going on’ goldberg’s post.

he even mentions the primary reasons that the recording industry will die. recording costs are so cheap anyone who can save a little money can produce an album in their bedroom that when they play a show at a small hometown venue might be bought by individuals who connected with the music, who can then follow the artists progress on any number of free networking sites for musicians, go to future concerts, by the next album when it comes out, and help that artist make a living even if he has only a thousand fans. And he can make music freely, without a deadline or anyone manipulating the songwriting process to appeal to the lowest common demoninator, and thus make the most money. in the words of immortal technique, “so if your message ain’t shit, fuck the records you sold
‘cause if you go platinum, it’s got nothing to do with luck
it just means that a million people are stupid as fuck

oh yeah, and also pastafari cubensis:

“when a robotic arm introduced in a factory line replaces a human being nobody cares. It’s a technological advance. Well, guess what? Internet technology is the robotic arm replacing the music industry.”-pwnd

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By Joel Grossman, June 26, 2009 at 11:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Music existed thousands of years before Edison invented the phonograph. The record industry is a 20th century invention. Music will go on no matter what. Musicians will adapt to the Internet. That was the tune Danny Goldberg was singing when he spoke at the LA Times book fair at UCLA. Though obviously in psychic pain at watching his old industry.

Read the liner notes on some of the CDs from Billie Holiday and the other old blues artists. The CDS are STILL earning money for the record industry, and the artists never got royalties if they were black. Just a one-time $50 recording fee. Yet they had business cards printed saying “Exclusive Columbia Recording Artist.” Record industry back then told the artists to benefit from the free publicity.

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By P. T., June 26, 2009 at 11:34 am Link to this comment

Economist Dean Baker has suggested an alternative to the current system of patent and copyright monopolies.  Click on http://www.cepr.net/index.php/op-eds-&-columns/op-eds-&-columns/the-entertainment-industry-police-crackdown

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By doodahman, June 26, 2009 at 10:58 am Link to this comment
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So, what’s the problem exactly? Far as I can see, the protection of “intellectual property” of musicians, which took some absurdly extremist turns since Sonny “Watch Out For That Tree” Bono stole millions of assets from the public domain and handed them back to people who already had more money than they deserved, hasn’t made the quality, diversity or cultural importance of pop music any better. Quite the opposite, though I may be victim of rapidly advancing fogey-ism.

I just don’t think people will stop producing good art, including music, because none of that obscene wealth redistribution was ever necessary before. Bac in the day, artists required patrons, and I’m sure that with the internet, artists can easily develope followings that will create mini-patrons who will provide a living. Not an obscene amount of ridiculous wealth the artists can then use to destroy themselves, but a living. I know, the idea that Beyonce can’t travel with a train of seventy limos carrying her furs and what nots is sad, but I’m sure we’ll all get over it.

Now, the outer circles will suffer, too. Promoters, publicists, hair stylists, ROCK CRITICS, music industry parasites—all those people will have to get real jobs to produce something socially beneficial. But the rest of us and those with talent will get along just fine without ya.

Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, BTW.

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By mihai martoiu ticu, June 26, 2009 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

@goldvillage
So the internet refuted Robert Nozick. The people are not prepared to pay for Wilt Chamberlain.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchy,_State,_and_Utopia

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By goldvillage, June 26, 2009 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

Re Camnai—-this is the real Danny Goldberg. I read the comments because I am enough of a narcissist to be interested in responses to my article. I wasn’t trying to defend major record companies. I got fired by two of them and haven’t worked for them for a decade and the fifteen artists I currently represent are all with indies.

There are a lot of advantages to the internet for musicians most notably the ability to connect with people who will come and see them live. And as a practical matter artists and people like me have to deal with the world the way it is but I still think that the devaluation of intellectual property has not been particularly good for culture. Its true that musicians can play live and newspaper writers cant but that doesn’t mean the principal isnt the same. One can despise many of the people and policies of big media corporations and still acknowledge that driving down the value of intellectual property has had a lot of victims other than those corporations.

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By camnai, June 26, 2009 at 6:36 am Link to this comment

To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, Mr Goldberg would say that, wouldn’t he. A&R departments at music-industry behemoths are actually gatekeepers who spend most of their day turning would-be rock stars away (They’re kind of like Personnel Departments at large corporations). Before Mr Goldberg (an imaginary Mr Goldberg, because I doubt the real one will be reading this) accuses me of sour grapes because presumably a record company (several, in fact) turned me away, I hasten to add that people like Mr Goldberg are often right about the demo tapes (in my day) whose first five seconds they listen to when they’ve just gotten into the office, and a lot of people who want to be rock stars are never going to be one. The internet, however, will decide that as well, and the wannabes will have a few more people at least listening to a whole song. And they may find a thousand fans, where a big record company needs to think they will have many, many more before it gives them a chance to find even one. CDs (or whatever) will go back to supporting performance, and stores themselves will go back to being smaller, independent outlets in the interest of whose owners it will be, like Brian Epstein once did, to go out and check when people start telling them about a certain local band. People will still be buying things like CDs: Mr Goldberg forgets to mention that downloaders in fact buy more music than non-downloaders. Record companies are not necessary to the existence of musicians in the way that newspapers are necessary to the existence of journalists.

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By Enough with the corporate hot air, June 26, 2009 at 6:26 am Link to this comment
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I suppose it is provocative journalism to have a former record company official review a critique of the industry, but it also means that the central tenet of the book will only be considered in a self-serving way.

In contrast to the reviewer’s contention, “information wants to free” was a TRANSFORMATIONAL, LIBERATING SLOGAN that was undemocratically crushed by the corporate-captive state acting in the interest of the record company owners—not even the artists.

I can only hope that the vast majority of us, whose lives will be better with FREE information, can gather sufficient energy to overthrow the rent collectors of the Internet. 

These corporate colonizers who claim to own the Internet are as corrupt, cruel and terroristic as the Great Powers of earlier days who enslaved free people all over the world.

We natives have got to SHAKE THEM OFF.

Or are Americans so happy with corporate authoritarianism that we’ll gladly sacrifice the great pleasures in life in order to grossly enrich the few?

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By Russian Paul, June 26, 2009 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

The record companies deserve to die. I’m a musician, and the only profit I wish to make is from playing shows and through selling merchandise. If someone wants to buy an album, fine. If I get lucky enough to get popular to the point where my music is being spread over the internet, that’s great. Copyright and intellectual property can still be enforced.
It’s always the Metallicas and Britney Spears’ that complain about this shit, most artists understand that the recording industry was a short-lived, parasitic entity and we are better off without it.

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By mihai martoiu ticu, June 26, 2009 at 5:16 am Link to this comment

“Healthy societies need art, entertainment and journalism, and all these areas are affected by the technological revolution of recent years.”

Music existed before the gramophone was invented and it was in no way inferior to the music today. So I’m not going to have sleepless nights that internet would make music in any way disappear.

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By Pastafari Cubensis, June 26, 2009 at 3:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Danny Goldberg belongs to the industry so he doesn’t understand the problem, let alone the solution. And he’s saying we pay 30 for a concert basically because we can’t “steal” a concert? He’s just a digital illiterate. Which is not surprising at all. It’s like having Maddoff write about financial accountability. Give me a break!

The way copyright works needs to be changed. It favours the industry fat cats on top and damages real artists and society as a whole. Also, the industry needs to embrace technology. Instead they oppose it. For one thing the CD has to die. It can’t be the main source of income anymore. Musicians need to live on gigs and other sources. Just like in the pre-recording era. They may use computer, a software and a few non-expensive devices to create a recording they can release on the web and create a fan base that will go to concerts or buy merchandise. The times a CD made the industry bosses and the pseudo-musicians who made it millionaires are over.

Also, it’s time to deliver digital content you can put anywhere you want.

And we’ve heard the same old broken records before. Photography is going to kill paintings. Radio is going to kill records. VHS is going to kill the movies. How much longer for the same moronic uninformed rationale?

I used to be a fan of mainstream rock until I started to share files. I discovered World Music. Now I’m a fan and I pay for the records. I don’t buy anymore from the big labels. So yes, illegal file sharing led me to discover real artists and since then the big labels don’t get one cent from me. Tough call. The sooner they die the better for society and culture.

Lack of copyright gave us Mozart and Van Gogh. The industry gave us Britney Spears and Disney. That’s because true artists (and the key word is “true”) never thought about creating for money or living on their creative work. They’re talent was a powerful force what came from within. They HAD to create. That’s why centuries later they’re still relevant.

Ever heard of the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”? The industry with his buying power bribed politicians and governments and changed the law to extend their ownership. In case you’re wondering why Mickey Mouse is not public domain at the moment. As it should’ve been. Same thing with The Beatles. The industry is the real thief and crook stealing from the public and society. They don’t even play by the rules. When the law doesn’t favour them anymore they buy politicians and they change it. So much for their moral arrogance. Talk about who’s the real pirate here.

When a robotic arm introduced in a factory line replaces a human being nobody cares. It’s a technological advance. Well, guess what? Internet technology is the robotic arm replacing the music industry. They have been fired but they still come to work and bribe the factory owner. Their days are counted. It doesn’t matter how many policitians and governments they bribe and boy, do they bribe right and left! It’s over!

I’d happily pay directly to artists but never to the middleman. If you’re an “artist” with the RIAA you won’t get a cent from me.

Oh, and Danny Goldberg, the counting days also apply to you. Btw, Danny Goldberg and The Counting Days sound like a good name for a mediocre rock band (With Dave Barry’s permission). And I want some royalties for that.

Ever noticed how “intellectual property” is neither intellectual nor property? File it next to the Patriot Act. These people are masters of 1984 semantics.

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