Performance Rights Organizations Again 'Protecting' Artists By Killing Off Revenue Streams
from the this-revenue-opportunity-has-been-destroyed-for-your-protection dept
Alec Empire, founder of Digital Hardcore Recordings and leader of Atari Teenage Riot, recently compiled a list of his 13 favorite albums for UK music site, The Quietus. Along with this, he put together a three-hour mix of tracks from these albums and posted it to Mixcloud. It seemed to be the natural companion piece so I headed to Mixcloud and ran straight into a wall set up by several music licensing services.
For reasons that only make sense to a host of PROs (performance rights organizations), this upload is "unavailable in my country." Why? Good question. Fortunately, Mixcloud has an answer, but not one that will make anyone (but performance rights groups) happy. (And even then, how? But that's a question for later).
In America Mixcloud has blanket music licences with SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI & SESAC.The problem here isn't artists or labels. The problem here is middlemen that collect performance rights on behalf of artists. But what exactly are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC going to collect if no one in the US can stream these tracks? Even the top 5% of artists that receive the majority of collections are earning nothing if the tracks (by such non-top 5-percenters like Duke Ellington, Shizuo, Goblin and Pharoah Sanders) can't be played. So, this collection of PROs (not that SoundExchange is completely faultless either…) is "assisting" its roster in making a slim percentage of… nothing.
These licences stipulate certain rules around how you can listen to a service like Mixcloud:
- The tracklist must be hidden until you hear it
- You cannot scrub or rewind backwards within a Cloudcast, only forward
- Cloudcasts with more than 3 tracks by the same artist may not be available for listening
As music lovers ourselves, we understand that this may be frustrating at times, and we hope that in the future the rules will evolve to be more open to new types of services like Mixcloud.
And look at all the technology that's being disabled in order to satisfy this motley collection of acronyms. No skipping tracks. No replaying tracks. Nothing over three songs by the same artist. You can't even view the tracklist in the United States, so there's no way of seeing what Empire chose to include in his mix. It's two-thousand-fucking-fourteen and a bunch of PROs have turned a streaming site into the equivalent of an unlabeled C90 being played on a malfunctioning tape deck. Or, in this case, not played.
Sure, licensing agreements for streaming tend to have all sorts of specific terms delineating interactive and non-interactive services, but a license that "permits" no interaction at all? If this is all that's "allowed" by Mixcloud's licensing agreement, why even bother? It might as well just route affected users to a static page saying "Not For You" and save itself the hassle of supposedly pro-artist groups like this that so severely kneecap a service that it has all the functionality of a bitmap.
Once again, this is helping artists how? People unfamiliar with the artists Empire is showcasing (which would be most people) won't have any idea if they like them or not, which isn't really going to increase sales. Running into such an inherently stupid, counterproductive wall is also likely to put off people from a) searching for these artists on their own, and (more importantly), b) using Mixcloud as a platform for listening and/or uploading.
The saddest part is that Mixcloud has blanket licensing agreements with these entities and despite that, it can't even offer a functioning service to a country that would likely provide it with its largest user base.
Do these PROs view this sort of abject ridiculousness as some sort of victory, one that sacrifices its artists in order to maintain absolute control of Mixcloud's platform? How does this help anyone sell more albums or earn more streaming revenues? I doubt anyone at the acronymous (and acrimonious) agencies have any idea. I doubt further that they care.