Universal Music Working Hard To Alienate Its Biggest Stars
from the no-mashups-allowed dept
The recording industry loves to trot out musicians in its fight for ever-more-draconian copyright laws. We're repeatedly told that fans who create mash-ups with their favorite songs and post them back to YouTube are not only infringing copyright, but are hurting the very artists who created that music in the first place. The funny thing is, a lot of musicians don't seem to have gotten the memo. A couple of years ago, OK Go front man Damian Kulash took to the pages of the New York Times to tell of his battle to keep DRM off of his band's latest CD, which he knew would turn off a lot of fans. Now Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor, who just a few weeks ago parted ways with Universal, has a statement on the group's website about his own struggles with his former label. Reznor has actually encouraged fans to share and re-mix his music, and has even released a new CD featuring user-created mash-ups of Nine Inch Nails music.
He was planning to create a YouTube-style website to host and promote the best mash-ups, but he found out at the last moment that Universal wasn't willing to participate in the site, for fear it would undermine their legal arguments against YouTube and its competitors. It’s a little bit unclear about what the exact controversy is about. To its credit, Universal apparently hasn’t tried to stop Reznor from setting up his own mash-up site. Since Reznor has been released from his Universal contract, it’s not surprising that Universal would be reluctant to help him promote his music — even though it still owns the rights to his earlier songs. So in some sense, it seems a little unfair to blame Universal for not wanting to be involved in setting up a website to promote the music of one of its former acts. But this kind of friction also makes it pretty clear that the labels' claims to represent the interests of artists are rather hollow. Reznor wants to experiment with new ways of promoting his music, while Universal seems to be myopically focused on the next quarter's CD revenues. Instead of looking for ways to turn YouTube into a new promotional vehicle or revenue stream, they've been busy threatening to sue YouTube and its competitors. That's probably not a good strategy for Universal; it certainly isn't a good strategy for Reznor or musicians who are still on Universal's labels. Reznor, it seems, was smart to get out when he did, and I'm sure he's encouraging his musician friends to follow his lead.