John Mellencamp: Thou Shalt Not Permit The Internet To Derail Our Gravy Train

from the holy-shit dept

We’ve written about John Mellencamp’s anti-internet rants before, but this latest one doesn’t just take the cake, it takes the whole bakery and turns it into a reality show on the Learning Channel, but with more melodrama and an even looser definition of learning. There’s almost too much to unpack here, but let’s start with the headline—a particularly audacious version of the “copying is theft” fallacy:

Good News! Ten Commandments Reduced Now to Only Nine

Really now, John? Internet behavior doesn’t have any more authority over the ten commandments than vice versa. If it did, we’d already have knocked at least a few more over, since websites stay open on Sunday and graven image machines are a hit on Kickstarter. But let’s just sail right on past that, as well as the part where he confirms that he does indeed love music, and meet the bee in his bonnet:

I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m confounded by the apathy of those who have participated in music-related successes and are now witnessing the demise of the entertainment business as it has existed since the beginning of recorded sound and moving pictures. So here I plan to ask some questions and my hope is offer a solution to the problem.

So, he’s confounded by the apathy of the entertainment business in the face of piracy. If only they’d air commercials before movies or something. But, he promises a solution—and we’ll save that for later, because I don’t want to give away the punchline. He continues:

Tell me where, under today’s conditions of de facto indentured servitude, will the new artists come from? If I were a young songwriter today, I would definitely be looking for another way to earn a living. The same would go for the young screenwriter or novelist.

Quiz time, John: What does indentured servitude mean? Time’s up, because you already used the term in the most ironically wrong way possible. Indentured servitude means working for no wages in order to pay off a debt to your employer for an initial outlay of cash that allowed you to commence the work. Sound familiar? Because to me it sounds like a traditional record label contract, not something new or anything related to piracy or the internet. And, in case you didn’t notice, there are countless new artists everywhere. The internet has enabled more artists to share what they create with the world—and to earn money with it—than ever before in history.

But that’s not all Mellencamp is worried about:

And what about the guy who only had one or two hit records 10 or 50 years ago? What happens to this guy who depends on that income to support his family if people are stealing those songs now? Tough luck, right?

Well basically, yeah—tough luck. Were we supposed to shed a tear because a musician can’t live comfortably forever on the back of “one or two hit records 10 or 50 years ago,” and might have to actually produce some new material or else find some other way to earn his living? Copyright is supposed to encourage creativity, not act as welfare for artists.

So what does he have to say about all the artists who have figured out amazing new ways to make lots of money? If you guessed “it’s a fluke, plus something at least mildly original and not totally debunked,” then you’re half-right.

And to all you bloggers who have prophesized that this new way is going to somehow provide sustainable careers? Your prophecies did not and will never come true. If there is the occasional sparkle of success, it usually turns out to be nothing more than a novelty, not a new business model.

So we can add Mellencamp to the list of people who have, apparently, been waiting for someone to tell them what the magic-bullet business model is, while smarter artists are out figuring out what works best for them and their fan bases. Our mystical blogger prophecies that artists can find new ways to make money will never come true, except for all those times that they have, which were flukes. Duh. Of course, these days there are an awful lot of flukes. Like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one. And that’s just a few that I remembered and could easily look up, rather than any sort of representative sample. But they’re all flukes.

Why is thievery allowed to continue on the Internet? And why do people think it’s so impossible to correct? Right after radio was invented, they played music and sold advertising. Then it dawned on some: “Hey, they’re playing our music, and they’re selling advertising on our backs; we should get paid.” So performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI were established with the express intention of protecting the intellectual property of artists who create it.

But where are ASCAP and BMI today on the new delivery system — the Internet? Where are the record companies? Where are the book publishers? Where are the unions to which we pay dues that are supposed to protect actors, writers, songwriters, and producers? And, most importantly, where’s the government? Apparently everybody’s too busy making excuses and shrugging their shoulders to realize their gravy train has gone up the waterspout.

To provide an answer to John’s list of questions: fucking everywhere. All of those organizations are heavily active online, collecting money for creators from a roster of legal services that grows longer every day. And, really, if we’re talking about “thievery” on the internet, perhaps we should look at some of those collection societies who seem to be taking money from artists and not giving it back.

And the entertainment industry is most certainly not “shrugging their shoulders” and failing to notice whatever the hell their gravy train is supposedly doing. They love their gravy train, and are fighting tooth and nail to protect it. But, like “indentured servitude”, John doesn’t seem to know what “gravy train” means, and yet he has accidentally used it in an accurate way. A gravy train is a way of making lots of money with little to no effort (like say living off the profits of decades-old songs) and it’s exactly the kind of thing you don’t want in a functioning economy. A gravy train is something society resents, and something we try to take away from those who have it. John’s right about one thing: the entertainment industry has been riding one for a long time.

If you can believe it, all that was just a preamble to his main point, the promised solution to all the woes of artists and the entertainment business. Turns out it’s extremely simple, as facile solutions to complex issues often are: repeal the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.

[The DMCA] was supposed to bring U.S. copyright law into the digital age but it included something called “Safe Harbor Provisions” that basically says that each artist is responsible for retrieving his own merchandise and shutting down anyone stealing their property, which is kind of a joke.

This law now, unintentionally, allows big search engines — like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. — to be the equivalent of a department store as both provide and sell many services and products. Let’s say that Ralph Lauren has his merchandise in Macy’s. If someone shop lifts it out of the store, he’s told, “Hey Ralph, your stuff’s being stolen off of our shelves. You better go try to collect your money for it. It’s not our problem or responsibility since all we do is make your stuff available to non-paying customers…” In other words, under the Safe Harbor Provisions, search engines behave like unpoliced department stores where anyone can steal whatever they want with no real threat of significant repercussions.

I could write a whole post about those few sentences, but let’s try to run through some of the glaring problems here. Firstly, the vast majority of copyright infringement is a civil issue, not a criminal one—so it has always been the copyright holder’s responsibility to bring action against infringers. The DMCA’s safe harbors are about liability—they say that you must go after the person who actually infringed on your copyright, not the provider of the tool they used. In other words, you have to hold the correct person responsible. Such protection is the backbone of the internet as we know it—without it, not only would websites be unable to allow user participation, even ISPs would be unable to provide open internet access and protect customer privacy.

But Mellencamp’s primary concern is, apparently, search engines. We’ve heard this one plenty of times before, but perhaps never so ineptly described as it is here. The analogy to a department store is stupid in so many directions that it’s like some kind of memetic virus, and I’m getting a headache trying to write a response. For one thing, retailers buy their stock up front and then re-sell it. If it gets stolen, it’s their loss, not Ralph Lauren’s. Secondly, Google doesn’t have “stock” that people can “steal,” it’s a damn search engine, and the DMCA’s safe harbors don’t turn it into an “unpoliced department store.” In Mellencamp’s shoplifting analogy, the DMCA would be the law that says you can’t sue the manufacturer of the shoplifter’s car, or the company that made his backpack, or any of the other entities that provided tools he used while breaking the law—and that’s what he finds unacceptable.

To put it plainly, radio kept track of their playlists, record stores kept track of their sales, each movie theater counted tickets, each bookstore kept track of books sold, and why? Because the law required it and the manufacturers demanded it. And so the same should apply to search engines. They should be governed in the same manner but they’re not. The Safe Harbor Provisions allow intellectual property to be stolen because the search engines are not held accountable.

Search engines do not provide content. It’s pretty hard to violate copyright while staying on Google—you have to click through to the site that is actually providing the infringing material. The only reason to attempt to pin blame on search engines is that it’s convenient for copyright holders (or because someone doesn’t understand how the internet works), not because it makes any sense for them to bear liability. And it’s not at all clear what Mellencamp is asking search engines to count… the number of people who click on links to sites that contain infringing content? How is Google, or anyone other than the copyright holder, supposed to tell? There’s no magic “detect infringement” algorithm—even real live humans struggle with the nuances of the law.

If anti-piracy legislation were the order of the day servers, wherever they may be including the mythical “cloud,” could and would be shut down thanks to technologies that have been developed and successfully employed during the fight against terrorism. The means to get this done actually exists; what we’re lacking, at the moment, is the will to do it.

Wait, what? Did John Mellencamp just call for drone strikes on the Pirate Bay, or does he think copyright filter technology was an important part of the war on terror? Either way, he needs to learn that taking down sites has proven to be futile, since replacements always pop up in no time. But then we get back to the hilarious premise that is peppered throughout the article: the notion that the entertainment industry is not trying hard enough. It sounds like he slept through the SOPA and PIPA fight, when anti-piracy legislation was very much the “order of the day”, and that order was overruled by the people.

For the final paragraph of Mellencamp’s rant, let’s get granular:

The entertainment business has been criminally assaulted by wrong-headed thinking that says we need to keep up with the Internet.

If by “criminally assaulted” he means it feels like they need to be beaten over the head with it, then I agree. As for keeping up with the internet, maybe he’s right—in a previous rant he called the internet “the most dangerous thing invented since the atomic bomb,” and look what happened when everyone was worried about keeping up with that. Plus, as War Games taught us, there can only be bad news when the two coincide.

No, search engines need to abide and adhere to the laws that have governed this country for over 200 years.

And what about laws that have governed the country for 16 years? It’s odd for John to be so fixated on respecting the law, since his entire premise is that we should stop respecting the DMCA’s safe harbors. But maybe he’s only interested in laws that have been around for two centuries—so I guess we should return a copyright term of 14 years, applicable only to maps, charts and books. That I can get behind.

It’s a moral imperative. Thou shalt not steal. Ring a bell?

Yes, it’s the same non-applicable tenet you brought up in the headline. If someone was stealing something, you’d have a point. Since they’re not, you don’t.

Calling it progress, ol’ Hoss, don’t make it right.

And calling it wrong doesn’t make it disappear.

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Comments on “John Mellencamp: Thou Shalt Not Permit The Internet To Derail Our Gravy Train”

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JWW (profile) says:

Dear Mr. Mellencamp

Its quite simple.

The Internet >> the recorded music industry

Basically the internet is way way way more important to mankind and human communications and the distribution of ideas than whether people get paid via some old school system (which Mike correctly notes looks more like indentured servitude than the net does).

So what we’re left with is that fact that artists damn well better learn how to use this fantastic new distribution, advertising, promotional, connection tool that is the internet to build careers that work for today, not the 1950’s.

Ed C. says:

Re: Dear Mr. Mellencamp

I think John’s real argument is mostly the same as all the other artist who don’t get the net, that there isn’t an institutionalized system that does all of the ancillary work for them. They just want to write the books and sing the songs, leaving it to the system to monetize the content and write them a check. However, consolidating the rights and money into a single monolithic system ended up creating the beast that subjugated them.

However, the luddites that were used to being coddled hate the net. With all of its freedom comes the responsibility to figure out how to monetize their creations, there’s no longer a singular cookie cutter business model. Some have taken up the task, but others just say “work? fuck this shit!” and demand that the net be dismantled and remade to work like the old system. That’s right, the very same system that they’re moaning has enslaved them!

These artist now want everyone else to save them, but there is no one else who can save them from themselves. Only they and they alone have the power to clean up this mess, but they just want someone else to do that for them too.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re: Dear Mr. Mellencamp

It’s actually worse that. The publishers had told the artist that they have the “moral right” to their works, so that the publishers can continue using them in exchange for a small percentage of the non-existent net profits long after the artists are dead. The publishing execs have their great-grand kids to look after too.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dear Mr. Mellencamp

With all of its freedom comes the responsibility to figure out how to monetize their creations

Or, I dunno, maybe hire a consultant to do that for them?

In my businesses, I hired consultants to do all kinds of things I didn’t want to or couldn’t do well. Accountants, lawyers, etc.

Artists can do the same, and end up with the same sort of workflow they are used to with the labels with one important exception: instead of being employees, they would be employers.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re: Dear Mr. Mellencamp

This is exactly what the artist should have done, even before the internet. If separate task such as publishing, distributing, advertising, etc. had been farmed out to separate companies while the artist maintained control over their rights and money, there would be dozens of companies competing for their business and no one player would have the collective money or clout to contort laws and government into the mess we have now.

Technically, that is what the publishers already do, but the artist made the crucial mistake of farming the money and rights management to them. The collective money and rights of hundreds, even thousands, of artist is what has made the publishers into the beasts we have today.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Dear Mr. Mellencamp

In the words of John Rzeznik: (paraphrased)”They dangle your dreams in front of you, so you sign”

Naturally, the labels figured out that by using acquisitions they could form a controlled monopoly over access to the “best” recording studios/producers/publishers/distributers/marketing firms.

The result is “you can try and definitely fail on your own because we are the gatekeepers, or you can sign with us, do what we tell you, give everything to us, and maybe you’ll get to keep your advance. But don’t count on it as we’ll make you pay that back even if you fail, unless you’re the few exceptions where we forgive you so we can say ‘we lose and don’t recoup from everyone'”

So the artists are not really making a mistake per-se, they are just trying to follow their dreams. What kind of artist (only a handful) can be legal/marketing experts while also being incredibly talented AND have the ability to write hooks that appeal to the masses without doing covers or modifying their sound to be someone else?

That’s the problem today and it is a valid one, but there ARE people who can help for those who can’t be like Amanda Palmer and do lots of the work themselves. So they need to partner with people who can help them but are not out for the control and those people DO exist.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Dear Mr. Mellencamp

I’m not saying that artist have to be a jack of all trades. It’s probablly best for most to contract task out to specialist. What they never should have done was contracted out all of the work to a single company to manage, not alone give them the keys to the kingdom. The music labels never would have had the money to create their monopolies without the centralized control over the artists’ money and rights.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Dear Mr. Mellencamp

More specifically, I was arguing that artist under the major publishers have become so disconnected from the task required to actually turn a profit from their work that they don’t know what to contract out, or even that they need to hire contractors under this new paradigm. Under the old system, they delegated the task of delegating task to the publishers.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Dear Mr. Mellencamp

What they never should have done was contracted out all of the work to a single company

Yes, this.

Two rules of business that I learned early on: never have only one supplier, and never have only one customer. In either case, that single source effectively owns your business and, sooner or later, will act like it.

Gwiz (profile) says:

But where are ASCAP and BMI today on the new delivery system — the Internet?

This another tidbit he got wrong.

The Internet is not the “new delivery system”.

It’s a two-way communication platform. It’s a many-to-many relationship. It will never, ever be turned into a one-way one-to-many system like broadcast TV. It’s not built that way.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:


It will never, ever be turned into a one-way one-to-many system like broadcast TV.

I’m not so sure about this, though. With all the attempts to impose central control, remove anonymity, obliterate privacy, etc., traditional media companies have a chance to win the war they’re waging to turn the internet into a broadcast medium. And that’s not even mentioning the effects of Apple’s iPad, which is overtly about using the internet as if it were a broadcast medium.

What would happen, of course, is that the internet will be replaced with a different system that functionally replaces it (or we all return to Fidonet), and in that sense you’re correct. However the internet that we’re using now can be turned into the wasteland that is television if we’re not vigilant.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

However the internet that we’re using now can be turned into the wasteland that is television if we’re not vigilant.

Maybe, but I’m not so sure myself. Remember, the intenet populace views censorship and blatent control grabs as damgage to be routed around.

There will always be people out there creating new ways to avoid censorship of any kind. Look at YaCy for example. They saw the writing on the wall a few years ago concerning search engines being controlled by single corporations which gave them the ability to censor search results at will. (and they were not wrong – take Google Autocorrect for example) So they created a search engine that cannot be controlled or censored.

We also have things like Freenet – a completely uncensorable, encrypted and mostly untrackable dark web.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I agree! I think we differ in our terminology here.

Ah. You are probably right. I tend to use the word “Internet” to imply this vast electronic communication system we have as a whole. Probably because I have watched it evolve from a text based BBS system all the way through real-time video streaming and it’s had different faces along the way. From text browsers to the AOL era to the GeoCities era to Web 2.0 to smartphone apps. It will always be evolving and changing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Let the country henceforth be known as The United States of America and a Commonwealth (USAC).

Otherwise a great article that demolishes Mellencamp’s rant. The problem is that the Sheeple will only read Mellencamp’s side. Like that poor Disney corp. that suddeny came up with 2 billion in cash.

Let’s talk about an Intellectual Property Tax, mr. Mellencamp. You wouldn’t want to steal from your country?

Anonymous Coward says:

Perfectly reasonable

The geographically dispersed bits of my family have a tradition of phoning each other on birthdays and singing “Happy Birthday” into the phone. That’s right, a family tradition of copyright infringement. I guess I was born to be a pirate. (Well, technically I married into piracy.)

If I understand Mellencamp correctly, he thinks that the phone company should be held liable for our devilish antics. They’re not stopping us from using their network to carry out our infringing activities! They even make money from carrying our calls. Surely the NSA has algorithms that can monitor our calls in real time and recognize the infringement. Because, terrorists! The phone company should clearly be obligated to use this technology to stop us.

Moreover, if any of us ever used the phonebook to look up a number for one of these calls, then the phonebook publisher is liable too. They have irresponsibly provided us with the information needed to carry out our nefarious crimes.

Apparently with every year I get older, I am starving the children of artists. I’m so ashamed.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Perfectly reasonable

That’s right, a family tradition of copyright infringement. I guess I was born to be a pirate.

Heh. One of my memories from my early childhood is my Dad filming a TV broadcast of a pro football game (might even have been a Superbowl) on Super 8 film in the late 60’s or early 70’s. The footage is still floating around somewhere in my parent’s attic.

Why did my Dad do this? Because he had bought a new camera that gave him the technology to do so. No other real reason. Just because he could.

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Perfectly reasonable

One of my memories from my early childhood is my Dad filming a TV broadcast of a pro football game

And this right here fully justifies the warrantless wiretapping of ALL homes, public spaces, businesses, the implantation of recording devices into every human at birth so that heinous crimes like this can be tracked and the vile fiends like YOU caught, charged more money than your entire family for 10 generations can possible earn through their lives, flogged publically (all rights reserved) and locked up for the remainder of your unnatural life at your own expense… you villain you CAD, you BOUNDER, bllaaaaarghh!! Fnurghh, gllargh blaaaaaa grrnnnnnnn *crawls desperately towards tablets*

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hey, at least he admits that the industry existed before the advent of those technologies. Most of his compatriots seem to be under the delusion that music didn’t exist before the invention of the vinyl disc.

I particularly like this: “the demise of the entertainment business as it has existed”. There’s a word for that, John: change. That’s all this is, the whining of someone faced with change they neither like nor understand. This isn’t a bad thing for everybody, only those who can’t adapt to said change.

George Zimmer (profile) says:

I haven’t heard this amount of whining since putting Carly Rae Epsen into a 2 week recuperation coma from her tripping-the-light-fantastic ride on my savage coital tube snake.

I think Mr. Mellencamp and I should meet, so I can explain to him how he needs to educate himself on these matters before writing lengthy hack opinion pieces that make Jon Taplin sound like a legitimate writer.

MIlton Freewater says:

Two things that atuck out to me

“[The DMCA] was supposed to bring U.S. copyright law into the digital age but it included something called “Safe Harbor Provisions” that basically says that each artist is responsible for retrieving his own merchandise and shutting down anyone stealing their property, which is kind of a joke.”

Why is this a joke? It’s how we treat theft of real property in the physical world. If someone drives to my house and robs it, does the city report the crime? Does the auto manufacturer? No. I do. In many cities, I will also be visiting the local pawn shops myself because our cops are too busy to investigate every petty theft.

“Let’s say that Ralph Lauren has his merchandise in Macy’s. If someone shop lifts it out of the store, he’s told, ‘Hey Ralph, your stuff’s being stolen off of our shelves. You better go try to collect your money for it. It’s not our problem or responsibility since all we do is make your stuff available to non-paying customers…'”

John does not recognize WHY Macy’s doesn’t do that. Macy’s doesn’t do that because Macy’s is the one being stolen from, not Ralph Lauren. It’s Ralph Lauren’s copyrighted work but Macy’s property. Again, in the real world, the owner of the item is the person who possesses it, not the person who copyrighted it.

Clear thinking on this subject leads you to the same conclusion every time. The debate is over, and John is yelling at the sun for rising in the east.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

“The guy who only had one or two hit records 10 or 50 years ago” is John Mellencamp.

He’s released 7 albums in the last decade so what is he complaining about? He doesn’t understand that he’s a dinosaur and the audience for his music will never be what it was in the 80s. I guess he feels like he should be treated like a living legend because of “Scarecrow” but he was never that good.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Allmusic’s review of his 2001 album: “John Mellencamp is nearly the Rodney Dangerfield of rock & roll, getting no respect no matter how much he may deserve it. Throughout the ’90s, Mellencamp essentially worked away from the spotlight, crafting a series of solid records without anyone paying attention. He had the occasional hit — a cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” the subtly insistent “Key West Intermizzo (I Saw You First)” — but he was no longer part of the rock critic discourse the way he was in the ’80s with Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee. Such neglect actually helped Mellencamp grow, as his 2001 effort, Cuttin’ Heads, proves.”

His career went to pot long before internet piracy. He probably feels his recent work is his best, but quality and success have nothing to do with each other.

artp (profile) says:

Mellencamp! I know him!

I heard him on the radio a long time ago. I liked his songs.

But I heard him on the RADIO, and I never paid a cent for listening to his stuff. I never bought his albums. And though I am now trying to catch up on some music from “My Generation”, I will definitely NOT be catching up on Mr. Mellencamp. Ever. Again.

So how is the Internet any different than the radio?

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Mellencamp! I know him!

Since you asked. You didn’t pay to listen all those years ago, but the Radio Station paid to play it for you. They did it by advertising.

Now you do pay if you have Sirus radio or similar.

No need to buy his music, I will gladly loan you my CD’s…LOL still no money for poor John. I can’t sell them to you because I have made digital copies, but that is Fair Use so… Suck it John.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who the fuck is John Mellencamp?

That was summing up my reaction to this whole thing. I had to look him up on google only to realize I never heard anything that guy made *ever*.

I think this are the ramblings of an disillusioned, jealous old man the world has left behind decades ago. Regardless what kind of authority in the music world he has had in the past, He has no relevance whatsoever today and that made him bitter.

Mr. Applegate says:

John, you sang about this Before the Internet

John Mellencamp Made “Authority Song” in 1983 (29 Years Ago)
Keep fighting John, maybe someday you will win.

We are fighting authority, just like you told us too all those years ago! Now you want us to stop?

John Mellencamp “Rain on the Scarecrow” in 1985. (27 Years Ago)
Might want to plant a new crop there John, before Google comes to auction off your farm.

Oh wait, Google doesn’t sell users anything, and they are more like a phone book than a mortgage holder or auctioneer, but hey…

Don’t worry though John, we will “Get off your Lawn” and stay off, gladly.

I still have the original CD’s guess I could sell them, they are probably collectors items by now. Maybe not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: John, you sang about this Before the Internet

“Oh wait, Google doesn’t sell users anything, and they are more like a phone book than a mortgage holder or auctioneer, but hey…”

I’m not disagreeing with the sentiment, but Google actually will sell you Mellencamp’s music in the Play Store. Hence they have a real incentive for their users to not pirate it. They really aren’t the enemy of musicians, no matter how much some want to cast them in the role. They’re just a convenient target.

Anonymous Coward says:

Those thieving kids of mine

A few days ago, one of my little ones ran up screaming that the other one was “copying” them. So I asked, “does that prevent you from doing it?”
After a few moments of pouting, I got back a whiny “noooo, but it makes me sad”
(here’s the fantasy/sarcasm)
But then I thought about all those artist that rely on getting paid for their work and promptly called the authorities!
I took the hint from John and start applying the appropriate punishment for this blatant thievery my children take part of nearly everyday!
After all… copying is theft!

Robert (profile) says:

Dear John

Is that really the reality of the situation? Do some artists who feel the same as Mellencamp really expect the average Internet user to understand such a concept? Who really has the sense of entitlement here? Is this really a case of Mellencamp’s music is traded in such large quantities and no one purchases his music, or is it no one purchases his music anymore? Is it “piracy” or is it obscurity because he’s not in the spotlight? The reality is obscurity hurts you FAR more than filesharing.

For some artists, like Mellencamp and David Lowery (of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fame), you just can’t get them to think outside the box created by the industry they once loathed while in their hay-day. That same industry they look back upon with blinded glasses because they don’t understand the new model is “there is no magic bullet.” The new model is “you do whatever works for you and your fans.” And you must experiment to determine what that is.

All the while you have to struggle to be heard because NOW the field is level, there’s no suit saying “beat it, we’ve got hits already” or “we like you but you need to sound like our hit machines or beat it.” Now EVERYONE has a chance! If you can market yourself, if you can connect, if you can work with people who can market and connect for you without screwing you over, if you have real talent (well sometimes you don’t even need that – aka popular stuff today), then you can make it.

First and foremost, you need to listen to Trent Reznor! What are you goals for you and your band, sort that out first, then you can look at the way forward and try different things, including old-school-record-label-does-all-for-you. It’s all based upon your goals. You can’t fight the tide, so once you realize your goals you can create a plan, and expect to have to change/adapt it, to navigate to your goal.

DanZee (profile) says:

Old School

Well, Mellencamp must have actually gotten some royalty checks back in the day from his publishing company and his record company. But he should talk to the 98% of artists and bands who never saw anything but advance money from their record company and meager royalty checks from their publisher. Because of file sharing, bands are able to get bigger crowds to their concerts and charge higher ticket prices. Concert money is the highest it’s ever been. If you want to make some money, give away your old stuff and get out and tour. Otherwise, as someone blogged about above, the 20-somethings have never even heard of you and they won’t be going to your concerts.

Anonymous Coward says:

a) exactly who is this fucking moron and what exactly has he done to promote ‘the sciences and creative arts’?

b)trying to figure out that, if ‘stealing’ is happening and is wrong, why has it been and still is ok for all the record labels and movie studios to have done it and still be doing it for the ’10-50 years’ or more that they have been in existence?

typical copyright idiot that thinks he is owed a much better than comfortable life until he dies for what was done before but not joining the digital age now.

charliebrown (profile) says:

Little pity about Jack and Diane

I remember back in 1998, I’d heard the song “Jack And Diane” and decided I’d like a copy. So I go to he music store only to find out the song was 16 years old and the only way I could get it that day was to buy the Greatest Hits CD for a whopping $30 (the price of a new release CD in Australia at the time). I walked out of the shop empty handed.

Phil says:

I know of a number of talented musicians and songwriters who are indeed giving up on our industry and going elsewhere for work. I own a recording studio and from my point of view, file sharing is indeed a real problem, and many artists are indeed calling it quits rather than subject themselves to a market that prices their work at “free.” I don’t care how hard you work to justify it, it’s wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not justified but we don’t ban shit just because it can be abused.
If that were the case we should ban guns,cars,prescription medications, and a whole hell of a lot of other things as well.

Now I do think if your product sucks I deserve a fucking refund. I’ve bought plenty of stuff that turned out to be a pile of shit and I had zero problems getting a refund. However if I buy a cd,movie, or game they’ll tell me I’m shit out of luck.

Downloading can be a tool to preview as many software developers give trials because they know or at least think people will see it’s worth buying. I have no problem previewing the media I buy because if it’s trash there is no way in hell I’m going to keep it anyways.

I fucking love to support stuff I like in the hopes that they’ll continue making it. I hate being fucked out of 18$ for a piece of plastic that turns out to be fucking worthless.

As for John Mellencamp I’ll never fucking buy anything from him again or even listen to it. In fact I feel like this asshole owes me my money back because I don’t support fucking Nazis.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am curious about these talented musicians you speak of who have decided to call it quits:
0) How long have they been in the industry?
1) Have they been gigging all along or just writing and recording?
2) Have they setup social networking and to what extent (creating a MySpace page doesn’t count – are they active? are they trying YouTube?)
3) Are they professional or hobbyists?
4) Have they been building up a fan-base via playing live and attending festivals?
5) Do they interact with fans and try to talk to people?
6) Do they feel the only way is the old-label way?
7) Were they ever signed to a label before?
8) Did they receive advances from the label?
9) Did they have to pay said advances back?
10) Have they tried alternative means beside the label-favoured method of “get signed or die” ?
11) How old are they?
12) Do they have dependents? House? Wife? Kids?
13) Have they tried in the new “free” market (as you referred to it) or are they giving up based upon fears of what might happen if they really gave it a go?
14) Are their live performances drying up?
15) If they are non-performers, are their attempts to connect with non-writing performers failing?
16) Have they adapted by moving to areas where music is more popular (there are areas of cities or entire towns where live music just isn’t popular)?
17) Are they finding their music is actually on P2P sites or bitTorrent sites? How many seeds?
18) Have they tried beyond the “here’s my CD, buy it” or “buy a tShirt” approach? Perhaps packages/bundles of creative ways of interacting with fans, like a performance in a fan’s home or even simple as personalized voice message or even a simple email that isn’t a copy/paste?
19) Have they tried partnering with creative local folks who are big into marketing?
20) Have they tried partnering with other musicians to join fanbases for performances?

These are just a few questions and what I am trying to illustrate is that it is NOT as simple as “filesharing is killing the industry” because the business is a commodity and like all commodities, speculation plays a factor. As does disinformation (RIAA/MPAA unsubstantiated stats that play on fears).

Some people quit before trying.

I’ve heard the “I don’t see a record store downtown anymore” as a “filesharing devastating industry proof” meanwhile there are many more factors involved: online sales mean people don’t need to go out, selling music in large stores (WalMart, Zellers, Target, BestBuy, FutureShop etc…) for discounted supplier costs, increased rental space costs (especially in Vancouver where said artist was referring to)… just to name a few. People don’t necessarily want a full CD, they want the song they want and singles were always reserved to a few, one shelf, with just the top-pop stuff. The rest? Well you either need the best-of or the album, whichever you derive is the better deal.

And while some argue the price is not a factor (and it finally has come down thanks to Napster), the fact that you can get a single for $1+/- instead of entire album, especially with competition from video games and home movie markets (it’s not like people suddenly have more money to spend on entertainment – sorry but that is bullshit from the MPAA/RIAA).

Again, it is simply not as cut-and-dry as you make it out to be.

KGWagner (profile) says:

I sincerely doubt the market prices the talent’s work at “free”, especially considering how many artists are making a living at what they do. But, it’s entirely possible some of them can’t afford the high cost of professional recording services if they have trouble marketing their wares, which would impact your business. I suspect that’s what you’re seeing in your specialty.

Low-cost high-end digital electronics for recording and the internet for distribution have made promotion the last bastion of stardom. So, if you want to make money at music and you’re not an artist, that’s the service I’d concentrate my efforts on. The music itself has become a commodity with infinite supply, so trying to sell that is an exercise in futility.

Of course, there will always be those who can’t afford or understand the technical side of things, so studios and engineers will always be necessary, but it’s not going to be the big-dollar specialty is has been in the past.

hmm (profile) says:


And what about the guy who only served one or two sandwiches to customers 10 or 50 years ago? What happens to this guy who depends on that income to support his family if people have already eaten the food and moved on to other foodstuffs? Tough luck, right?

And what about the guy who only answered one or two customer service questions 10 or 50 years ago? What happens to this guy who depends on that income to support his family if people have already heard the answer and fixed the problem? tough luck, right?

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