Warner Music: Where's The Conversation?

from the let's-talk dept

Last week, we broke the story about a presentation being given to various universities about a music "tax" plan. The plan presented wasn't any different from what Jim Griffin (who was hired by Warner to pitch exactly this plan earlier this year) has talked about in the past -- but Warner Music Group was quick to contact us and distance itself from the presentation -- despite the title of the presentation announcing that this was Warner Music Group's plan, and two full slides of "comments from WMG," with one of those slides suggesting people contact Griffin at WMG for more info.

This week, a bunch of news organizations reported on the story -- with some, such as the the Chronicle of Higher Education, just repeating what was already known, while a few added to the story. Wired discovered that the planned name of the organization that would handle the "distribution" of funds would be Choruss. It also found out that EMI and Sony BMG have already signed onto the plan, along with Warner, which initiated it. Universal Music is the major label that's still holding out. Apparently independent labels are able to join up, as well, but the terms aren't at all clear yet.

Portfolio stepped up with its own discussion of the topic, highlighting a key point that I made to the Warner Music rep who called me: this conversation should be public. My conversation with Warner Music was off-the-record at their request, but I tried to defend posting the presentation by noting that this information should be discussed among all the stakeholders, rather than settled in a backroom deal like so many efforts by the recording industry. Otherwise, the parties that are left out of the discussion (generally, consumers) are going to get screwed.

In Jim Griffin's response to my post, he complained that: "At this early stage, many ideas may be discussed and discarded, but efforts to prematurely label or criticize the process only hinder achievement of constructive solutions." I would say back, that, at this early stage, if ideas are being discussed and discarded, why not bring everyone here into the conversation, so that we don't feel like the fix has been put on us after the "finished product" is finally announced from high atop RIAA-mountain? We're more than willing to help, right here on Techdirt.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Dec 9th, 2008 @ 10:29am

    It would make

    It would make my day if I found out that they hired the Insight Community to do an analysis of the stuff you guys have discussed a lot around here. Kind of a large formal report type deal.
    It would make my week if I found out that they cared about it and understood.
    It would make my month if they took the advice and followed it through.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Hulser, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    Constructive criticism

    "At this early stage, many ideas may be discussed and discarded, but efforts to prematurely label or criticize the process only hinder achievement of constructive solutions."

    Has Jim Griffin never heard of constructive criticism? Sure, much of the public feedback would be in the banal "Not one cent!" vein, but I'm sure there'd be plenty of helpful, insightful comments as well. Just because you are receiving criticism, doesn't mean that it can't be constructive.

    Is this guy afraid of his feelings being hurt by his ideas being labeled or criticized? If that's not it, the only other logical explanation is that he knows the whole plan is actually worthy of criticism rather than just its implementation ("solution") details.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Dec 9th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    Justifiable Piracide

    One sure way of assuring that music fans feel justified when they pirate music is to shut them out of every discussion where compensation schemes are developed.

    How is it that the people with the money are never part of the discussion? Shouldn't the money represent some power?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Mark Rosedale (profile), Dec 9th, 2008 @ 10:43am

    Here Here

    I say Here Here techdirt. Time for the Labels to understand there are consumers who hold stake in this process. I have long since taken my money elsewhere (by not buying much of the major label crap & mostly listening to indie stuff), but if they decided to engage consumers rather than fight them I might bring some money back to the table.

    I agree @Hulser apparently someone is afraid to get their feelings hurt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Lilly, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 10:53am

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 11:18am

    A 10-year old problem with 80-year old solution

    The solution to this decade-old problem is to tax the product? I really hope that advice didn't cost much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    hegemon13, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    Gladly, if it is voluntary

    If this
    - is voluntary
    - makes all licensees immune to prosecution
    - allows downloading and uploading using the protocol of the licensee's choice
    - is priced reasonably
    I would GLADLY pay a fee for the convenience.

    If this is an involuntary, prop-up-the-failing-businesses tax that still leaves me open to prosecution, I will outright refuse to pay and join anyone in protesting this to the highest levels.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jon, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 11:41am

    Re: Constructive criticism

    It isn't that he feels there wouldn't be constructive criticism. It is that he can not take criticism and frankly doesn't care what the people think. This has been proven time and time again.

    RIAA: Does this plan result in more $ for the same amount of effort?
    Consumer: No.
    RIAA: The idea is rubbish. How could you possible expect us to get the same, let alone LESS compensation for existing work?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 11:41am

    Re: Gladly, if it is voluntary


    I would take out the voluntary part if the money goes directly to artists and promotion of arts. Start an academy. Recruit established artists as professors+content creators. Admit budding artists as students or interns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 11:42am

    It seems Warner has just admitted that SOMEONE there reads Tech Dirt. Given this, why wouldn't they openly discuss this and involve the consumer? I can only think of one reason: it isn't financialy beneficial to the company to involve the lowly people whose money they desire. They might actually need to compromise with those from whom they have long forced into compliance (or at least attempted to force into compliance). Out of curiosity, what do artists think about this plan? How does it effectively compensate them, and at what rate?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Hulser, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    Huge risk

    I see this whole "music tax" at the univirsity level to be a huge risk from the standpoint of the music labels. For it to truly work, the implementation at the univirsities would have to be just a foothold, a means to apply the same model at the overall commercial level.

    The problem with this music tax is of course that it legitimizes the so-called "pirate" sources of music. So, you're going to, in effect, train college students that it's OK to download as much music as they want from anywhere they can get it, but as soon as they throw their mortor board up in the air, they'll have to start buying CDs and paying for downloads from iTunes? Yeah, that'll work.

    Given the history of the label's actions, I would think that they wouldn't want any part of that risk. From their perspective, it would seem to undermine their whole sue-the-consumer business model. Every day that this music tax model is in effect at the univirsity level, but not the commercial level, it would just undermine more their current commercial business model.

    I guess it just does to show that the music labels really are ready to try something different. It just so happens to be something as illconcieved as all of their previous ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 12:27pm


    Torrent programs + PeerGuardian = RIAA is SOL. When they start to get that the music market today is very much entropy-driven, they may start to find ways to make it easier for consumers to get and keep the music they want. Extra steps equal less entropy, and rather than take those steps, their target market, which has become rather fluid and adept at circumventing, will simply find a way to flow around the obstacle and continue on its merry way downhill. Obligatory xkcd cite: http://xkcd.com/488/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Snore...

    Yeah, PeerGuardian was cool until someone decided that 10.any.any.any, 172.any.any.any, and 192.168.any.any were all RIAA IP addresses. Crushed my network for 2 hours before I figured it out.

    Now I use Torrent and Tor. Granted, I don't even dignify the RIAA with a download.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    Weak Ideas

    When people don't want a proposed public policy discussed in public, it almost certainly means it is a weak idea.

    Trying to spring a fully developed idea on the public as a finished project is almost guaranteed to be a failure UNLESS you manage to slip it into place quickly and quietly so that no one notices.

    In this case the universities have noticed. They will be the ones who have to pay the bills. Yes, they can have music fees to pass on to their students, but students are already under huge financial stresses, and most universities are not going to be eager to pass those costs on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 1:47pm


    The fees look like they would be small, but are they going to be locked at that rate or are they going to be able to jack them up once the plan is in place.

    If you're a deaf student do you still have to pay the fee?

    It says the students have the freedom to share music on any application on any network. Wouldn't hosting more music increase downloading by people off campus?

    If were paying for this is the music industry going to verify that the files are clean and good quality?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    interval, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 4:50pm

    So why not cut to the chase?

    I really don't understand all the back-room dealing. Its obvious to anyone with half a brain that what really needs to happen here is the major record labels need to work with the legislators they already have in their back pockets to draft sweeping legislation that will allow armed agents (perhaps "Music Troopers"? Nah, "Storm Troopers" is good enough) to break down the doors of any one they like and take whatever money they can find. If there's none in the house then of course there's the lawyers. And make sure the defense of these "thieves" is so expensive there's not a damn thing they can do about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    before they're hatched, Dec 9th, 2008 @ 7:08pm

    something, something - Eggs

    Sounds like they are already counting their cash.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    mike allen, Dec 10th, 2008 @ 12:27am


    if this is
    1 voluntary
    2 music can be used for any net purpose videos on youtube to P2P net radio included.
    3 with this the removal of any prosecution threats past and present.
    4 is set at below say $5 per month or 5euros or £5 for people in europe and UK not sure for Australia they wont be allowed internet access soon.
    then i would agree to this being implemented throughout the industry not just students.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    wheatus, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 12:40am

    You know...

    I'm beginning to want this to happen. We need a clear, strong statement of contempt for youth culture by these cretaceous anal warts to really drive young people away from their product once and for all.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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