Hack the charts

Amazing talk from Peter Filimore, an Australia security researcher, investigating hacking streaming services like Rdio and Spotify to make his test albums #1 and also get royalties. Amazing how little security checks there are…and how funny the ‘music’ and albums he put up there was, and some of the responses to his ‘Troll Music’

Also a good primer on how to get your music out there on these services…but also a reminder that to treat ‘plays’ as with ‘likes’ very sceptically. (via SC magazine)

Kids, Lawns and Unhappy Campers

I must say this is a strange one – a NPR intern writes that she’s not owned many albums in her life but has 11,000 songs – fairly typical for that generation, as much as you might deplore it. Then Oscar the Grouch, sorry David Lowery comes along and his long toilet-roll rant about how it’s so wrong.

What appalled me about it is because he knew Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt he can then claim that downloading contributed to their unfortunate demise. WTF? No, nothing about the fact that EMI delayed the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ for over a year with a legal dispute – contrary to the fluffy argument earlier that record labels don’t rip off artists which David states “…in the vast majority of cases, this is not true.” (hmm right). Just because you knew someone, even closely does not mean you can know why they took their life, what was going through their heads that moment, or whether having no money or lots of money would have changed it. It’s unknowable. I know this from very personal experience, sadly. And then to get defensive and insulting when questioned about such an allegation? (check the comments) – ouch. Not a good look, really. And not a good way to remember Mark or Vic, whose work I both respect and loved – and indeed financially supported.

Also odd is the ‘it’s our site, fuck off!’ moderator comments at the end and the usual OMG Free Culture = EVIL ILLUMINATI CONSPIRACY simplifications (also – pretty sure Spotify has never actually disclosed the proper rates in fact? The ones people quote are from a leaked Gaga ‘receipt’ and estimate from 2010?) David’s post is full of FAIL, and comes over as a bullying sort of older generation that kids will just switch off. I mean I write about this shit, and that screed even turned me off…and I’m not exactly a kid. I feel sorry for his students.

I do get the whole ‘you’re giving Google/Apple/Samsung your money why not me?’ argument, although that’s very simplistic. There is some truth there, although artists are far from in the clear when signing very stupid contracts and not allowing people to give them money (I mean seriously, if you’re an artist without Bandcamp or your own site for buying direct, you’re a dolt). Also the culture has changed, hectoring ‘the kids’ about not giving you money for bits of plastic is not going to run – and I do think subscription/streaming models will most likely be the way as Emily did point out.

Screaming that ‘Spotify is shit! Google is shit! Do it MY WAY!’ won’t really run, nor help with that – the reason such things don’t exist or get crippled is record industry bodies (RIAA, BPI, MCPSPRS etc) who do want to screw every cent out of any service – not that many small artists see it – which tends to mean many of these things are either incomplete or stillborn. I would pay for access to ALL recorded music, there’s so much stuff that’s still not available and I’d like to pay for it – but can’t. Sadly this means the second hand dealers get the money not the artist – which is why I say if you don’t get your catalogue back and/or use Bandcamp or similar for your music then you are indeed a dolt.

Giving profits to the rare record dealer, when you or your label could be making it. Many records never made it to CD let alone iTunes, and all it takes is a few sales to be quids in…rather than moaning about kids sharing your stuff. I’d rather buy a decent quality copy, but amazes me that so many artists including the ones who moan about filesharing don’t do that (I won’t look into, say, Camper Van Beethoven’s discogs entry but I’m sure I could find some deleted gems that should be out there, but aren’t.)

In my mind if you’re not selling your music then why can you moan about people sharing it? Personally I’d change the law to say copyright is only in force through use – ie. you don’t use it by releasing then deleting something, you lose. Cover would still be there for unpublished works, but it would go back to the original idea of a license – like a patent – that only exploitation of rights happens for a shorter period and also must be utilised. If not – it reverts to the artist (which would also stop record companies holding onto albums forever). If they aren’t interested then public domain it goes. I don’t see why in the digital age recorded can be still shelved in dusty vaults, it makes no sense and makes a mockery of the original idea of copyright. It was never meant to be some artist pension scheme but to help dissemination of works into the public domain with the ‘candy’ to the creator of a protected window.

And unlike the expensive distribution and record pressing of yesteryear ANYONE can release a record now without any initial outlay – and sell it for almost free in fact (Bandcamp and other sites take a cut of any sales, for instance – meaning you don’t have to pay for it up front).

Oh and to finish – I love this gramps style comment from the article:

“kids, lawn, vacate. You are doing it wrong.” ?

Way to go, David. My response is: old fool get off my lawn.

EDIT: Dave Allen of Gang of Four restores my faith of old punks getting it with the excellent The Internet Does Not Care About Your Mediocre Band. He really does – and points out some other silliness of that article (thanks Jeb for the link!)

Calling out RIAA and MPAA lies over SOPA & PIPA

Or to use their term ‘misinformation’.

Really the RIAA and MPAA don’t seem to know when to lick their wounds and give it a rest, judging by their petty and frankly wrong response to the successful Internet Blackout and actions by Wikipedia and Google – so it’s nice to see Techdirt calling them out line by line, internet forum style, and rather than coming over all green ink it’s great to see such stupidity pwned so intelligently and with knowledge. Something the RIAA and MPAA seem to lack, with the cases as mentioned where blogs have been taken down for sharing music with permission from their very own members – or from non-members thus they have no jurisidiction over.

No, it’s sad to see such protectionism at work with the corporates, trying to save an industry which, to quote Jello Biafra ‘put out too many lousy records’ – whereas Spotify, Bandcamp and a lot of independents seem to be in rather rude health at the moment providing good music to people who want to buy it, not at the rare £15 a pop for an album but many multiples of pennies per track…or special formats like vinyl which the big boys were so quick to drop. Also strange that RIAA, BPI et al are first to trumpet the rude health and worldwide success of the likes of Adele – on the indy label XL no less – but then go and claim the industry is then ailing under piracy. Which is it? It can’t be both…

Especially offensive and intentionally misleading (and an outright lie, in my case anyway – aren’t generalisations a bitch, RIAA?) is this part:

but how many knew what they were supporting or opposing? Would they have cast their clicks if they knew they were supporting foreign criminals selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals to Americans? Was it SOPA they were opposed to, or censorship?

Ahh the old ‘piracy supports terrorism’ unfounded propaganda trick! If those ‘foreign criminals’ are selling patent-free AIDS drugs to keep people alive in sub-saharan Africa and Asia, then yes, I’m quite happy for them to break the law. Ditto those resisting Monsanto’s efforts to screw the developing world over GMO crops.

But that’s actually not what this was about, and the language is intentionally inflammatory and misleading – that to oppose SOPA or PIPA is to be one with criminals and counterfeiters and yes, probably terrorists. I remember this particular strategy being used directly after 9/11 and had to point out there were many ‘ways’ (as John now says ‘Yes there are alternatives’) not just the black and white that was presented as the currentfait accompli. And also look where that thinking took us all…

It’s not about allowing counterfeit goods – there are already many laws to deal with those, especially in the drug sector. What was the worrying thing was possible uses for censorship and a corporate crackdown on patents over drugs where generic versions now flourish under a concerted action to not allow the pharma giants to squeeze poor countries more into debt, or play god with people’s lives over patent rights. And censoring sites that would enable such access, or take away financial accesss such as Paypal to those who were organising around these – people like Sherman would say ‘oh of course that isn’t in the bill’ – but laws like this are so broad and open then of course it could have a freezing effect. Laws are always misused, and those drafting them must counter for that, unfortunately when faced by nosy government and corporates they will be misused to protect those interests.

But to tell me I was supporting ‘criminals’ by my SOPA Blackout, well Mr Sherman you can fuck right off. Especially when later suggesting by classic veiled association that I and others might have been ‘hacking’ sites for Anonymous too. By and large the protest was lawful, and can’t say I was critical of Anonymous’s actions (maybe their techniques with that DDOS Spanish link director that was floating around Twitter – that was silly & dangerous) – well I call that a dirty trick and misinformation too because like most people I wasn’t involved.

Basically RIAA and MPAA had to back off by forces of many good and vocal people rising up and expressing how unhappy they were with such legislation that wasn’t transparent and most definitely not consulted widely or considered enough. That’s democracy, and if you don’t like it Mr Sherman, you know where to go.

How much does music really earn?

Answer: Depends on where you buy it from BUT that’s not the question you should be asking…

The infographic from Information is Beautiful to the left has been doing the rounds recently, and causing some debate (there’s also  been mucho discussion previously over at GYBO about digital distribution models vs streaming and physical CDs which this drops quite nicely into).

Steve Lawson says quite rightly it’s comparing different things, that streaming services such as Spotify isn’t about selling but promotion…I would take that further and say the problem with the graph – or more likely those who read it  -is there is an implied top to bottom causal relationship, that a comparison is taking place which doesn’t happen in the real world.

One namely of ‘footfall’ – how does one discover something? – but also that the categories aren’t exclusive – a streaming service could lead to a CD or digital sale, a CD sale could lead to streaming revenue cos the person has left the CD at home or lent it to a friend who’s given it back. Spotify although small in revenue is the way things are going, as Steve points out not as a primary revenue stream but a promotion stream, but as the millions go into 10s or 100s then of course revenue will be higher – we may scoff at 4 million views needed at the moment, but I’m thinking in the future that’s going to be seen as small-fry as the US & other areas get Spotify and other services.

When the world gets Spotify, it’s going to be touching the billion for a very popular track, as people listen to it more than once….

Also not included is the likelihood of a purchase. Yes a self-made CD-R from the artist WILL create the most profit for the artist… but how many people will either get the chance to do that or want to – the perception that the music or object has some worth is quite intangible & hard to graph but it’s part of the sale. Yes a hand-drawn scribble from some unknown artist MIGHT be worth millions in future years – but how many people would plunk down the change to buy it? That’s not to diminish CD-Rs or napkins – because the old adage is ‘if you like it, buy it’ is very true – but the mental marketing perception that it’s a good well-made packaged thing be it a house, desk or a piece of music – is ever-present in everyone’s head. Is it quality? So cheaper modes of production do not always win, which is why 7″ vinyl and special limited edition digipaks and handmade covers still survive. Also the personal/limited aspect is part of it, that can also imply value (even as a future eBay sale) in the mind of the buyer.

The future will be a blend of these, and yes some people will always want a physical product, some will prefer digital, some will prefer streaming services. It’s a multichannel approach,  and to say ‘ooh this means I’m going to put out only CDs and not use Spotify’ is blind to the fact that new discovery of music comes across many channels now – not just the old radio/broadcast model. And streaming services, along with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, blogs et al are part of that.

Interestingly the original post the first graph comes from was intending to debunk the theory that artists can make a living from digital revenues as stated in the Digital Economy Bill, to I’m guessing point out the Act is protecting no-one and that the piracy fight is a pointless one. A far more useful graph for doing that is so even though album sales are down the industry is still making massive profits, and now 4.2 billion on online sales alone? Piracy, what piracy? Look at that graph when the industry claims it’s being destroyed by pirates and filesharers, it’s actually in rude health, has been for years.


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