Chair Of The Featured Artist Coalition Explains File Sharing Isn't Going Away; Artists Need To Innovate

from the indeed dept

A few months ago, at Midem, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Silver, the chair of the Featured Artist Coalition. We had quite a nice chat and have exchanged a few emails here and there since then. Last week, when there was that debate on the music industry that involved ten or eleven panelists — including a bunch of record label folks, and Brokep from The Pirate Bay, I noted that Silver’s comments about the industry’s own failure were quite compelling. Glyn Moody alerts me to the news that Silver has written up much more detailed thoughts on what he would have liked to have said if there had been time. It’s well worth the read. But, the short version is, again, that file sharing isn’t going away. Focusing on fighting it is missing the point. The focus should be on innovating, creating new solutions that are what consumers want. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a short snippet with some of the text highlighted (by me):

File-sharing is also a technological capability that, having been unleashed on society, is highly unlikely to go away. I don’t think it’s like a smallpox virus that can be eradicated. Close down the Pirate Bay this week and another Bit Torrent site will pop up next week. Find a way to reduce the popularity or effectiveness of this particular form of unauthorized file-sharing and another technology will replace it. The chances are also that the newer forms of file-sharing will be less easy to detect, less easily identified with the individuals at various ends of the process — until our detection methods improve and seek to clamp them down, and so the cycle will continue.

There is a shift in attitude of mind required. We have to look at a world in which the reproduction right and the control of it are progressively eroded. Given the woefully low level of economic development of alternative methods of funding content, we are fortunate that the rate of erosion is slower than it might have been. Whether the impending new legislation in the UK will slow that erosion any more, I somehow doubt. And unfortunately I believe the cost of that legislation to civil liberties and freedom of speech will be much greater than the likely cultural and economic benefit it strives to achieve.

For those of us toiling in the cultural digital fields however, this kind of legislation also has another negative effect. It continues to provide incumbent businesses with a remedial focus on prevention of piracy rather than on investment in new solutions to the economic problem it causes. Worldwide expenditure on anti-piracy measures is out of all proportion to the worldwide investment in new digital content business models. More importantly the investment in new ways to invest in content is not coming from the music industry. It’s coming from new entrants who are faced with the prospect of rights holders who make it difficult and expensive to try new things out. Rights holding companies typically demand advances and even equity in companies that dare to enter their sector with a new idea for creating economic growth.

This is, of course, what many of us have been saying for over a decade now, but we were always told that we were crazy folks who didn’t know anything about the music industry and just wanted stuff for free. Silver, on the other hand, has been quite involved in the music industry for many years and knows his stuff. Will the copyright system defenders claim that he’s just a “freeloader”? As for how to get out of this vicious cycle, Silver is hoping that artists take charge, rather than let the record labels continue to frame the debate and pretend they’re acting in the best interests of everyone. It’s a good read.

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Comments on “Chair Of The Featured Artist Coalition Explains File Sharing Isn't Going Away; Artists Need To Innovate”

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Anonymous Coward says:

from their site: ‘The Featured Artists Coalition campaigns for the protection of performers’ and musicians’ rights. We want all artists to have more control of their music and a much fairer share of the profits it generates in the digital age. We speak with one voice to help artists strike a new bargain with record companies, digital distributors and others, and are campaigning for specific changes.’

sounds like this is just more agenda spewing, not news.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

they appear to represent only a small handful of artists, and most of them are artists who have shunned labels or lost their label contracts and are no longer part of the system that made many of them rich. the organization is less than a year old. so they dont represent more than a small number of rights holders, most of which appear to be old school artists who got rich off the old system and now want to thumb their nose at it.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

they appear to represent only a small handful of artists

Whatever their numbers, their membership is composed of rights holders, so your argument doesn’t make sense. Again.

most of which appear to be old school artists who got rich off the old system and now want to thumb their nose at it.

Yeah, those evil artists! Picking on the poor, defenseless multinational corporations that “made them rich.” I can see them now, sitting there in their swivel chairs and laughing maniacally as they pet a white cat!


Common Sense says:

I was watching the Colbert Report the other day, and he had a band on, OK Go I think, not sure though. Anyway, while he was interviewing them, they came right out and said that the label that signed them wouldn’t let them do what they wanted, and just wanted CD’s to sell, so when they finally could, they got the hell out of there and started their own label so they could work on what they wanted to work on, which was making ART, not CD’s.

Take a lesson from them, music industry. CD’s might be how you get paid the most, but CD’s are not what people want anymore. They want GOOD QUALITY music.

SteelWolf (profile) says:

Taken with a grain (or two)

While I think this particular statement from Silver is on target, I have a hard time getting behind anything coming out of the Featured Artists Coalition. For one, these are the folks supporting “three strikes” type legislation.

I get the impression from reading their website and some extensive discussions I have had with their members that the FAC is more about ensuring that artists get a bigger share of the royalty checks. They want a bigger part of the same old business models rather than truly looking for something new.

Of course, this runs contrary to what Silver says here – maybe their position has changed, but as of now his organization doesn’t have much credibility to me.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

“The short term benefits of growth required on a quarterly basis by shareholders and the stock markets drives the strategic perspective of publicly traded corporations. Quarterly results and end of year bonuses force executive boards into myopic decision-making.”

This is really the big one killing the media distribution industry. Its driving all the repeats of past mistakes. I could come up with a half dozen solutions based on my “Wipe the media distro middlemen out” though experiment and business plan. but there is the fact that …

“Rights holding companies typically demand advances and even equity in companies that dare to enter their sector with a new idea for creating economic growth.”

and that makes it not worth the effort to even try to get funded. Oh wait i forgot, the labels have destroyed so many startups that there isnt a single VC that will invest in a music start up today.

“And then there is the question of getting paid.”

Think of music as a loss leader it costs you to make but, it gets you fans you can sell other stuff to. If you put it in online stores for download, the convieniece, guilt, and want to support factors kick in.

“In order to defeat this vicious cycle of wasted energy and denial, we do need to find some ways to intervene. One way is to force the companies to open up their rights to new entrants at low cost.”

That is not going to happen. The numbers show that in order to survive the next 10 to 15 years they would have to reduce staff by approx 80 percent over the next year. They cant do this without a proven plan. They cant create a plan with out reducing price. They cant reduce price without renegotiating with the artists. They renegotiate even worse terms with the artists, a sizable chunk of them will leave reducing their future profits.

… Rock meet hard place …

About the “Denial” there is nothing that can be done about it. The entire industry is in a repeating cycle. The cycle has this pattern, denial, rationalization, hope, depression. They deny that this is happening, they rationalize that this new “xxxxx” is a solution to the problem or proof of something, that brings hope, that something doesnt work they get depressed. rinse lather repeat.

“A second way is to address the copyright regime and bring it up to date.”

They are doing just that. Its called ACTA, and copyright that last 70 year after the death of the artist. ACTA is their final act of desperation when it gets passed. There is no way to become any more draconian, there is no way to push copyright law any further. ACTA wont work and it will lead to the acceleration of the fall of the record labels as, new artists not signing, old artists running screaming from the labels, fans not buying, and piracy going into overdrive with new methods.

JMHO … David

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

you make the foolish assumption that piracy will go on without limits, but that is just not supported by the evidence. even the masnick knows that there are wild west scenerios in almost every economic trend, followed by fairly rapid narrowing of the field, regulation, and so on. the current internet period is just one of those things, a wild west time before the rules of the road get enforced for real. no sane government will allow their profitable tax base of the entertainment industry be removed without replacement of a similar tax base. piracy is a non-taxable activity, which means it wont get tolerated. when it starts to hurt, action is taken, see current fbi moves.

D.A. Sebasstian (user link) says:

Pirates Suck- Buy Indie!

If pirates understood how much they hurt artists and the content they desire- I think most would think twice about pirating. It is an ethical question. If you throw ethics away you might as well say, “Well hell it’s really hard to keep people from stealing cars and car parts, maybe we should just let them do it.” Stealing a film is like stealing a hub cab (financially) but to the artist who created the work it is like stealing the whole car. I have lost over $3,000,000 on my last film from over 84,000 illegal downloads of my last film Hot Rod Girls Save The World (that was tracked on 6 P2P sites. Support the indies and indie content. Buy indie!

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