Radiohead Manager, Nettwerk Launch New Label: Artists Get To Keep Their Copyright

from the good-news dept

We've pointed out how incredibly ridiculous the old structure of the recording industry was, where artists would hand over pretty much all of their rights to the label. It's amazing that this sort of indentured servitude model has survived as long as it has. After all, if you look at other parallels -- such as venture capitalists and startups, the VCs don't end up totally owning startups to the same extent as labels. Of course, this was really a function of the limitations inherent in the industry: the very limited ability to promote and distribute music in the past without a major record label behind you. With those barriers falling away, we're seeing much more reasonable models pop up. I still believe there's a big place for record labels, but it no longer needs to be a massive record label where you hand over all your rights.

And, in fact, we're seeing newer, more nimble and smarter record labels who are willing to embrace these new models rather than spending all their money on lawyers and lobbyists to hold back customers. The latest example (sent in by Ruby) is that Radiohead's manager, Brian Message, has teamed up with Nettwerk (who we've written about a bunch) to launch a new, much more artist-friendly record label called Polyphonic. One key point: artists on the label retain their copyright. To be honest, it's amazing that any band has ever been willing to give up the copyrights on its music to a label, so it's good to see alternatives showing up. The other plan is that the artists will get 50% of any profits, a significantly larger percentage than most other labels give.

Remember, also, that Brian Message is the guy who said file sharing is great for music and championed the band's "pay what you want" experiment (which I still don't think was nearly as creative as others' business models). And Nettwerk's Terry McBride has been an enthusiastic supporter of innovative business models that don't focus on relying on copyright as a crutch (in fact, he's discussed that copyright may be a totally pointless concept in the near future, and artists are better off to focus on other ways to build smart business models). It will be interesting to see who the new label signs up.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Vic, Jul 7th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Let's see ...

    ... who is going to sue them for "unfair advantage" or something along this line first?

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 7th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    "he's discussed that copyright may be a totally pointless concept in the near future"

    He's looking at copyright too narrowly. He's looking at copyright from the consumer's perspective. I wholeheartedly agree that consumers should not be concerned with copyright.

    However, copyrights are still big business where big business is concerned. If some corporation wants to use your song in an advertisment, movie, TV show, etc., copyright ensures you get paid. That very important and still highly relevant aspect of copyright is not going away anytime soon.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 7th, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    Behind the scenes at a major label about now ....

    Behind closed doors at a major label

    "Oh my god a label is letting an artist keep his rights
    to his music.... what in the hell are we going to do if
    this catches on?"

    "Lets invest in his company, Stifle his ability to gather artists, then sue him"

    "Hey thats what we do with all the internet startup why should we treat him any different?"

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

      Re: Behind the scenes at a major label about now ....

      A private company can refuse money. They could have to treat him differently if he doesn't publicly trade his music label and keeps it private through personal or private funding. And not take money from any "major" labels.

       

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        Hephaestus (profile), Jul 7th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

        Re: Re: Behind the scenes at a major label about now ....

        yeah this I know .... Its called sarcasm... you should try to get used to it ... We have alot of it here

        big Ole GRIN

         

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    BullJustin (profile), Jul 7th, 2009 @ 12:52pm

    Who won't sign up

    Metallica comes first to mind, and any artist/group that already has its own label.

     

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    Obligatory hater, Jul 7th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    This can't possibly work....XOXOXO

    This can't possibly work for small, unknown bands.



    This can't possibly work for established bands.



    Mike, spoon feed us business models so that we can complain to you if we fail!!!

     

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      Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Jul 7th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

      Re: This can't possibly work....XOXOXO

      "This can't possibly work for small, unknown bands."
      - Of course not, EVERYONE knows that you need a big label fronting you the promotion money to get any following at all. And how would you pay the session musicians?

      "This can't possibly work for established bands."
      - Also, obviously, NO BAND can become well known or established without the big label throwing money at DJs and radio comglomerates to get airplay, and TV networks to get music behind the soul-searching scenes in ER and Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives and Matlock and all the other huge TV hits. And how would you pay the session musicians?

      "Mike, spoon feed us business models so that we can complain to you if we fail!!!"
      - Especially the business models that provide guaranteed lifetime income for the session musicians and their descendants!!! All the rest of us have jobs that provide guaranteed income for our families and descendants in the event we are unable to continue to get a paycheck. Right?

      /nonsense

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    I feel compelled to buy from artists on this label for no other reason than to stick it to the RIAA and their label ilk.

     

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    reboog711 (profile), Jul 7th, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    I wonder about other aspects of the contract...

    On the surface this sounds good, but I feel I don't have enough information to properly judge how good it is.

    What if these label contracts have a lot of the same 'bad' terms used in traditional label contracts? What if the label uses the same smoke and mirrors to mask income and inflate expenses?

    Is the band still obligated to reimburse the label for the recording of the album and the promotion of the band / record? Is each album cross-collateralized?

    50% of the profits, when you have a loss is no better than 10%-15% of the profits when you have a loss.

     

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      SteveD (profile), Jul 7th, 2009 @ 1:52pm

      Re: I wonder about other aspects of the contract...

      This has me suspicious too. People who just think labels are greedy and evil don't appreciate the very real costs involved in recording and promoting music.

      It is good that a band will be getting more influence (an artist who signs away their copyright for life really has no leg to stand on in future dissagreements), but there isn't any such thing as a free lunch.

      '50% share of profits' could mean any number of things; publishers are deviously clever with numbers when they need to be.

       

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        eclecticdave (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 5:34am

        Re: Re: I wonder about other aspects of the contract...

        > People who just think labels are greedy and evil don't appreciate the very real costs involved in recording and promoting music.

        No, people think they are greedy and evil because they typically charge all of those costs against the artist's advance/20% and run laughing to the bank with the other 80%

        The fair and reasonable way to do it (IMO) is to take the costs out of the pot first, then share the *net* profits 50/50. I agree that we don't know if this is what Polyphonic is planning, but I've heard good things about Nettwerk.

         

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    bjc (profile), Jul 7th, 2009 @ 3:58pm

    Nettwerk gets it. We will be reading about them in textbooks soon.

    In every financial paradigm shift, there is some small potato who sees the future.

    I will support them and buy what they're selling for the simple reason that they are the only folks in the music business who have moved past 1985.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2009 @ 4:10pm

    Nettwerk

    I first heard about Nettwerk when I fell in love with Sarah McLachlan's music back in 1993. They went something like a half million dollars in debt to finance a 2.5 year tour of her album "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" because they view their artists as long-term investments rather than short-term money fountains. So I'm not at all surprised they'd attempt this sort of thing. I wish them the best of luck!

     

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    Seth, Jul 7th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

    A very important point needs to be made. The artist signs away the copyright to the RECORDING only. If the artist is the author of the songs, they automatically keep the rights to the composition...no label can take that away. So when a song is liscensed in a commercial or movie, the production company has to make TWO liscensing deals, one with the label for the sound recording rights, and one with the publisher (or artist if they are self published) for the publishing or composition rights. Keeping the recording copyright is still a good deal for any artist, don't get me wrong, but it's not exactly a game changer either. Different payment structures with regards to recoupment and royalties should be the focus in any new deal.

     

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    JJ Cancel, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

    Let's talk

    I have the best album in 2009.If Michael or Prince were to perform my songs they would go Gold!I'm not a green pea or young,cute,hot or sexy.I can write hits.I go by the name of Zkunk.I will release my new CD in two weeks.I don't have a band but get this,I have everything you need to make an impact on this label!On sound click one song went to #8 in two days.Go to sound click/changedman productionz.com and listen to the next hottest artist in the world!

     

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    identicon
    JJ Cancel, Aug 19th, 2009 @ 4:28pm

    money/music

    Zkunk 214-289-4590 PS:Check out the Best of Zkunk on CD Baby.Read the comments.It's an insult to me because I know that I'm better! Zkunk VI will be released in two weeks.Listen to the samples then the CD then let's Shock the world!You got my back,I'll get yours!I'm for real! The best that the internet has to offer!Prove me wrong!Call me.Zeus

     

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