Because Only The Record Labels Are Supposed To Get Away With Not Paying Their Musicians…

from the bad-timing dept

So lots of people have been submitting versions of the story about how Pink Floyd is suing EMI, claiming that EMI isn’t paying the band what it owes for iTunes downloads. I’d avoided posting this, because it’s basically the same contractual dispute we’ve seen from other acts, where they claim that their labels are accounting for iTunes downloads improperly in order to avoid paying the bands. This story is as old as the recording industry itself. The labels have always worked hard to avoid actually paying bands anything.

But what made it worth mentioning is that the lawsuit has come out at just about the same time that the record labels are now hilariously trying to claim that radio stations are “pigs” who refuse to pay musicians. In one of the more juvenile pranks out there, a lobbying group supported by the labels is going around with a giant inflatable pig, mocking radio stations for “refusing to pay musicians for their work .”

You would think that the record labels would be smart enough to avoid making an argument that could so easily be turned against them. How about before you go blame the radio stations for not paying the labels to promote your acts, you start out by paying money to some of your top selling acts who claim they’ve never seen a dime in royalties. Given the labels’ propensity to blatantly lie to artists about how much they’re owed, you’d think the last thing they’d want to do is call attention to who is “refusing to pay musicians for their work.”

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Comments on “Because Only The Record Labels Are Supposed To Get Away With Not Paying Their Musicians…”

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mikez (profile) says:

missed the mark on this one

The lawsuit isn’t entirely about money. It’s about selling individual songs, specifically on iTunes. Pink Floyd’s contracts have always prohibited the sale of songs “out of context” as they felt their albums were seamless and meant to be consumed whole. EMI argued that the current contract didn’t only applied to CDs and LPs, and were therefore able to offer the songs individually on iTunes.

Pink Floyd won the suit today:

“the judge sided with the band, noting that the contract was designed to “preserve the artistic integrity of the albums”.”

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: missed the mark on this one

But is there actually a spot where Pink Floyd claims this is about money? All the headlines say it, but every quote I’ve seen from the band and their lawyer has focused simply on the fact that they don’t want the tracks sold separately at all – so I’m not sure I see the parallel to labels complaining about radio.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: missed the mark on this one

“I’m not sure I see the parallel to labels complaining about radio.”

It’s quite clear – it’s about control.

The labels complain about radio because it’s slipping away from their control. They cannot control both the playlists and the resulting payments like they used to (payola), even if it brings them more cash in the long term (free promotion).

Pink Floyd complain because they cannot control listener habits. That’s equally silly, because even if they were somehow able to force album-only sales, they cannot control how a listener plays the album. Don’t like the (IMHO) rather silly and dated “Money” from Dark Side Of The Moon? You can skip it on the vinyl or leave it off when you rip the CD.

The only real difference is where or not Pink Floyd gets paid for said track when a listener buys their album. Which is why articles tend to focus on the money aspect – the control thing, while more likely their motivation – is utterly retarded.

Rooker (user link) says:

Re: missed the mark on this one

My reaction to the news this morning, after I finished swearing, was “Sell us what we want to buy or watch us download it free from The Pirate Bay. What part of that are they too stupid to understand?”

An album is not an individual work; it is a collection of individual works. It is no longer possible to force people to buy all of them at once. The sooner these self-important artists understand reality, the less money they lose as people look in vain for the purchase option they prefer.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

There’s one thing I find interesting about this story, which is the specific focus on artistic integrity.

I’m not going to claim that this lawsuit isn’t financially motivated, but I’m not sure if it’s 100% money-based. There seems to be a genuine concern from Floyd about their seamless albums (which they and their fans have always treated as whole works of art, not collections of songs) being broken up and thus losing their original artistic purpose.

Now, I think it’s a bit silly to tell fans they must listen to all of Dark Side even if all they want to hear is Money, but I do find the “whole album” issue interesting because it’s something that has always bugged me: everyone talks about how great it is that you can buy individual songs on iTunes, but they never mention how this often means buying a digital album costs *more* than a CD would. It economically locks musicians and consumers into the “song” format, when really there is no reason that music as art must take the form of a series of individual songs.

So I actually wonder if, on an artistic level, Floyd’s case might have some merit here. They do not want their songs published and sold individually whether they get paid for them or not, and they signed a contract with EMI on the condition that this wouldn’t happen — it could almost be compared to a license that forbids derivative works, with the songs considered derivatives of the album.

I’m not entirely sure what I feel about this, but I have always thought there was an important question about the nature of “albums” that is being ignored online. True, albums were originally organized as such for the sake of distribution methods (vinyl, CDs) – but many artists embraced the album structure and used it to define and enhance their creation. The majority of albums may just be convenient combinations of a dozen songs, but there are lots that were intended as whole works.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I still agree!

Again, not necessarily smart. But I can somewhat dig it. These are old-school musicians, and for once they aren’t just being greedy like a many others of that order – they are upset because they thought they had a contract defending what they see as the integrity of their music, and they don’t see any reason why that contract shouldn’t still apply. Neither do I.

I’m not saying that contract still makes sense. It would be in their best interest to revise it, or to take over the digital distribution of individual songs themselves, or anything that makes the songs available – I fully agree that the smartest response is to give the consumer what they want. Nonetheless, if they don’t want to do that, I see no reason why they should have to. Yes, the songs will still be available on file sharing networks and they will drive a lot of potential customers there – maybe this will help them figure that out – but I don’t see any legal justification for EMI to violate a contract that was signed in good faith for the sake of keeping the albums intact.

And apparently the judge agrees, because as mikez pointed out above, Pink Floyd won the suit.

PEBKAC (profile) says:

I get that there are albums that tell stories, the Wall being a primary example, and I get that the artist/s see them as not a collection of songs but one entire work, and I get that it is their prerogative to sell it as such.

What I don’t get is not selling singles where you can (esp. when they’ve been available for a while now), eliminating that option could cut you out of some income since people will go elsewhere for them and not pay you a dime.

So I guess it isn’t all about the money.

I love The Wall, but there are songs I’ll skip (Vera Lynn), or even replay (Run Like Hell). Hope they don’t mind. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, it makes perfect sense...

Think about this for a moment. The record labels have been fighting tooth and nail to keep from moving into the ‘download’ age. Even the Beatles didn’t want to offer their music for sale on iTunes and other services. If the record labels hold back the money from artists saying “There’s not enough money!”, then the artists will just demand their music be pulled from the services and everyone goes back to CDs or some other ‘controlled’ medium. I believe the term is “plausible deniability”. If the record labels don’t make it work, then the artists will back the record labels. It’s actually a pretty good strategy from their point of view.

New artists see the big artists screaming about no money coming in, so they may be less apt to offer their songs for download for money.

So what’s the downfall? If it doesn’t work, the record labels really haven’t lost too much as they can always hide the numbers somewhere in the ethereal plane of the internet and blame everyone else. If it works, the artists demand their music be pulled from online services, the online services close up shop and go under, and the record labels once again control the music.

It doesn’t mean this is happening, but if one looks at it in the right way…. *shrug*.

Big Mook (profile) says:

Re: Actually, it makes perfect sense...

What makes you believe that if iTunes, Napster, etc. closed shop today that the labels would regain control just because the music is issued on shiny plastic discs again?

People would still buy said shiny disc, rip the songs to digital files, then share them via P2P.

The labels can never get this proverbial genie back in the bottle. Even if they went back to magnetic tape, or even LPs, there are plenty of cheap, easy ways for the average consumer to translate analog recordings to digital, and start sharing it all over again.

The only way the labels could ever hope to control the product would be to control the Internet, and no matter how many stupid laws they get governments to enact, it ain’t gonna happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Actually, it makes perfect sense...

Think of it in absolute as the two limits: one direction is digital download which the mp3 format is still prevailent, and in the other direction are CDs, etc. I remember at one point there was talk of the labels bringing back phonograph records to fight ‘piracy’. Any step away from one direction goes to the opposite direction. More digital downloads mean less control of the music format (mp3, AAC, ogg, WMA, etc.). Move back in the other direction may not guarantee more control, but it’s still a step away from digital downloads.

Given this is just a suggestion, but I wouldn’t put it past them as the labels appear to be searching for anything to keep control over music.

chris ellis says: old as the recording industry itself

I agree that this is an irony, the record labels accusing the radio station of ripping off artists and I also agree that this story is as old as the recording industry itself. Heck 30 years ago I scored a contract and had my song Birthday Boy picked up by a US label; Once released by Buzz Cason, Billboard said it was getting “early regional airplay”. That should translate into royalties you say? Not a single penny. It is clear that the Internet didn’t spawn a generation of freeloaders who don’t want to pay for music as the media would have you believe, it’s just a case of history repeating itself…

BBT says:

Given the existence of…

the idea that Pink Floyd doesn’t want to break up their mighty albums is laughable. Yeah, they’d prefer the albums be whole (clearly they were designed that way), but what they’d prefer even more is more money.

The idea that they can “control” their artistic vision is of course absurd. I don’t care how they want me to listen, I care how I want to listen. They can only control their expression. They can’t control how others experience, interpret, and build on that expression. Ideas are not property, and they do not own their music except under the artificial construct of copyright.

Bill Wilkins, CEO, Melted Metal Web Radio (user link) says:

Try This For A Story Line ..

Let’s just say that ..

Corporations hide actual download revenues from artists, which shows losses to musicians, and the industry at large. In the meanwhile, those same corporations twist and distort intellectual property laws pertaining to the internet, to justify the very losses that they create.

Sound familiar?

Bill Wilkins, CEO
Melted Metal Web Radio

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