Tales Of Collection Societies Gone Wrong: GEMA

from the it-ain't-about-helping-the-artists... dept

We’ve noted in the past some of the massive problems with various collections societies around the world. These groups are often given something of a monopoly over collecting music royalties, and even though they present themselves as being non-profits designed to help artists, the truth is usually something far different. Beyond abusing their position, their real goal is often not to help all artists, but a small subset at the top. This is what copyright law has pretty much always done. By setting up artificial barriers and monopoly rents, it allows a very few at the top to benefit at a grossly disproportionate level, and it’s the rest of the creators who are harmed by this (i.e., if those monopoly rents mean that I need to pay much more than the true market rate to support some top pop star, I’m much less likely to spend money on an up and coming indie musician). The whole recording industry has been built around a few megastars, and it should be no surprise that the industry has used copyright law and collections societies in support of that.

Wolfgang Senges is digging into how this works in Germany, where some are finally questioning GEMA’s actions. In delving into how GEMA works, Senges notes that its entire structure is specifically designed to really only give a small percentage of top artists a say in how GEMA operates. Everyone else just gets dragged along for the ride. Is it any wonder, then, that its policies are mostly designed to help those big artists, rather than others?

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Comments on “Tales Of Collection Societies Gone Wrong: GEMA”

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Chillout music (user link) says:

Royalty societies

Well, Yes this seems to be right – unfortunately this System only Works for some People at the Top of it. But to my mind every Artist and Publisher has the Chance and Choice to benefit from a system like the GEMA.
The Main problem at the Moment is, that the Music Industry (Major Labels, GEMA etc) try to compensate lower incomes by increasing prices for musical work. How much Do u have to Pay for a cd right now? It is like with every bigger system managed by a country’s goverment: only a few get along with it and earn the money. People who were actually meant to profit from such a system have to finance it.

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:


Well, Germany has always been a problem child of sorts. However, they are the only Federal Republic, so I think they are in the same boat at the US.

Problem is, the US music market isn’t well received in other countries for some reason. Additionally, it seems that Germany is having similar problems outside Germany.

What’s the commonality?
Well, Germany has only pushed out disappointing numbers as of late. This seems to have started around the time MTV bought VIVA, which was odd, because the VIVA network was created to fill a local gap in the market which MTV could not fill. At the time, MTV Germany was really struggling.

VIVA ratings are through the roof and Viacom decides to make a move and buys an equity stake of VIVA in 2004. Perhaps, this success led to the 2005 acquisition of VH1.

So perhaps the real problem is the music methodolgy put in place by Viacom in a market they didn’t understand. The parent of MTV, which all Americans Lothe and Hate as well as Viva.

So I guess the question is this: is it right to force music upon a legal entity like GEMA based on US methodology who is known for using using focus groups?

Anonymous Coward says:

Thanks to who ever provided #2.

I’m not sure exactly what you know, or who you worked for, but reading the Wikipedia entry of Viacom is distressing. Unprofitable businesses were not let go. New content was not saught after. Difficult to tell, but it seems Viacom sent it’s networks to India for origination..? Unsure. Any partnership with Microsoft almost always ends loose-loose.

USA vs Microsoft

Wolfgang Senges (profile) says:

Most recent GEMA newsletter (1)

[Ok, obviously I have to break my post down to two replies…]

Just 2 days ago I received GEMA’s most recent newsletter. It’s dedicated in its entirety to the petition dealt with in the articles on ContentSphere.de (thanks to Mike for linking above).

Basically, it’s a call on their members to take part in the discussion going on at the petition’s forum (currently about 1.100 posts). Obviously, due to the fact mostly people who vote at the petition do actually visit the site, there are lots of posts against GEMA. So it’s only fair to push the few who are lost in the masses.

Now the fun begins. The newsletter kindly lists arguments to be used when posting. And I really suffered from an outbreak of spontaneous laughter when I read (translated into English):

“Since 20 June 2009 classical methods of ‘Guerilla’ marketing were taken such as mass mailings to selected target groups like media representatives, event managers, politicians and musicians.”

Let’s see… mass mailings? People involved were mostly private people. Those people rarely do have databases of clients to make use of. Well, even if they do have one – I don’t think there’ll be more than 1.000 entries. And even if there would be a hundred people sending such a “mass mailing”… the intersection of addressees will be very large. To be honest, it’s more than difficult to get 1.000 different recipients. Say, it’s 10.000 people (now that really is a high estimate) receiving “mass mails” – please have a look at the petition. We are getting close the 100k mark here.

[more: see next part of comment]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Most recent GEMA newsletter (1)

“Since 20 June 2009 classical methods of ‘Guerilla’ marketing were taken such as mass mailings to selected target groups like media representatives, event managers, politicians and musicians.”

Seems reasonable. Speaking from a stateside perspective, ever heard of various music clubs such as Warner Music Club, UMG Music Club?

Wolfgang Senges (profile) says:

Most recent GEMA newsletter (2)

[next one]

It’s not about mass mailings. It’s been Twitter. And word of mouth. Heavily. I read about the petition and instantly contacted people I knew because they are like-minded. And I tweeted (like others did). And those following my tweets are the same. This is where real and huge masses are built. Social media. So call me Ché “GEMA” Senges if you like… it’s about messaging, people decide to sign by themselves.

There are several detailed issues GEMA is picking up in the newsletter. It’s about new rates and transparency by communication. The latter refers to 3 issues of a print magazine a year plus a regular newsletter. Whoa. That’s a lot. Regarding new rates – have a look at the articles at ContentSphere.de. You have to know of these rates, and GEMA consultants apparently tend to not mention them (see discussion at petition forum).

I’ll try to address the GEMA newsletter in an upcoming article of mine at ContentSphere.de.

One thing: I honestly thank GEMA for appealing for an objective tone in discussion. Absolutely no pun in that. When discussing these issues we need to be objective. After all, we’re all in the same boat. Let’s go for improving what we’ve got. That’s what the petition is aiming at.

1DandyTroll says:

Can you spell

@Chillout music,

‘Well, Yes this seems to be right – unfortunately this System only Works for some People at the Top of it. But to my mind every Artist and Publisher has the Chance and Choice to benefit from a system like the GEMA.’

We start with a P, and continuing on with Y, R, A, M, I, and the last character of the first word, in this two word spelling test, D.

Now the second one might be a bit tricky, I’ll give you that, but it goes something like this: S. C. H. M. U. C. K. S.

Hmm, g’damn’t. But alas, not all together wrong. Here’s the right sort of characters S. C. H. E. M. E.

For these kind of schemes to work, you need one ingredient and lack of a couple of others.

1. Stir the soup, side ways, to make people believe, there is a chance, which they’ll do if it actually happens by chance, which you have to allow, otherwise create the illusion of chance.

2. By the law, only have the illusion of transparency.

3. Not to be too greedy, only take small fees numerous times from a number of different areas, for your trouble of shifting all the members’ money through accounts you manage. It’s not the members’ money you’ll be interested in, per se, it’s kind of in your best interest.

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