While it hasn't been a crescendo, there's been some noise recently about how accepting video game publishers and related industries are in allowing YouTube videos that feature their content. Granted, most publishers seem perfectly fine in allowing such videos, but there have been reports of take down notices going out as well. Of course, there was also a recent dust up between let's-play-ers and Nintendo, which opted into YouTube's ContentID platform. With all of the resulting hand-wringing over who is greedy, who is a thief, and whether all of this is heavy handed, the question that hasn't really been asked is: are YouTube videos of this nature good for gaming companies?
To answer that question, Google recently did a study dissecting how gamers use YouTube. The results, summarized by Kotaku, indicate that game publishers might not want to slaughter this cash cow. Some of the results are mildly impressive, such as the revelation that 95% of gamers watch YouTube videos about games. More interesting findings are that a full 47% of game videos were let's-play videos, while 50% of views were of videos released directly by the publishers. However, the most important bits are these two:
The most popular clips on YouTube aren't announcement trailers; they're reviews.
A staggering 1 in 3 views for gaming clips took place on a mobile device, Google hypothesizing that much of these were "second screen" views, done while gaming on a TV or PC for things like FAQs.
In other words, YouTube videos play two key roles for gamers. First, they are used to help potential customers decide whether to buy or not. Intuitive, yes, but consider what would happen if publishers insisted on the removal of these reviews and let's-plays. No videos and lost customers, because gamers would flock instead to those games that did have those videos available. Second, gamers use YouTube videos as tools once they've bought the game. This is the classic case of someone else making use of your content in a way that makes your content instantly more valuable. Were I to present the average gamer with two choices, first being a game in which you could find help on YouTube if you get stuck, and second, a game in which you could not find such help, I think it's pretty clear which route most gamers would go, everything else being equal.
The lesson here is less that YouTube game videos are awesome (though they are) and more about how important it is for content creators to just let go. Not only are these gaming videos not doing you any harm, they're helping you in ways you may not have considered.
These days, we hear way too many stories of content creators absolutely flipping out about fans enhancing their work in some way. Most recently, we were quite disappointed to see the "Real Calvin and Hobbes" -- a fan site that superimposed the comic strip images on real photographs that matched the original scenes -- get shut down due to aggressive lawyering. So, we're always happy to see artists, who really seem to "get it," recognize that when fans build on the things you've done, it's because they're fans and want to do more with the experience, and to share it with others. That's why it was quite interesting, in listening to the latest episode of the always awesome Hollywood Babble-On podcast with Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith, that they had a revealing discussion after a fan emailed in about a plan to release "enhanced" versions of the podcasts on YouTube.
If you're not a fan of the podcast, it involves the two hosts, in front of a live audience, discussing show business, hilariously. One part of the show is that it includes images and videos that they comment on. Many of these are from the week's news, but there are other amusing segments, such as "shit that should not be" in which they highlight a clip from a film each week where someone screwed up and allowed something into the film that shouldn't have been there (e.g., you can see the camera crew, or someone in the background is doing something stupid). When listening to the podcast, it can sometimes be a bit strange, since you can't see the images and videos that they use. To deal with that, they also put up all the images and videos on the site when the podcast goes live. I'll usually try to check it out sometime the following week.
So, in this latest episode, a fan emailed to say that he was going to put together "enhanced" versions of the podcast on YouTube, in which he'd insert the images and videos at the appropriate points so that if you listened to it via YouTube, you could take a look when the visual stuff comes up. Not that useful if you're listening while driving or something but if you're just, say, listening at your desk, it might make for a nice alternative. It's somewhat amusing to hear the reactions of Garman and Smith as they walk through this, and I actually think that Smith's reaction is the kind of thought process in action that many creative folks go through when they realize that people are doing something with their stuff: the first thought is -- instinctually -- to be concerned about someone else doing something with their stuff, but then the quick realization that, wait, this is a good thing, and if it's a good thing, maybe they should team up. So, within a few seconds, it goes from Smith somewhat jokingly suggesting that this is "stealing" to him saying that he now wants to give the guy money each week to do the same thing:
Garman: Doug did a very cool thing. He says I'm going to post uncut episodes of Hollywood Babble-On on YouTube. But I'm going to stick whatever pictures and videos are included in the show throughout the course of it.... What he's done is he's run the audio underneath and then laid all the stuff on top of it so you can watch it on YouTube in one sitting.
Smith: It would be better if he did it on our channel, rather than stealing our content and putting it on his channel. And just because he's putting our fucking pictures under it as well, that seems like theft to me, no? Especially since he's putting it on his YouTube channel, if you get enough hits and stuff, they'll give you some fucking money and shit. I mean, I'm not one of those cats who's like 'don't bootleg' because I used to get bootlegs back in the day... but I'm still alive, bitch. This is all I got is this fucking Babble-On show. Don't take this away from me and Ralph.
Garman: Doug, you'll be hearing from our lawyers, was what I meant to say.
Smith: Yeah, just do it for our channel. Do it for our channel and will throw him a couple bucks every week. I love that shit, man. Just do it for us.
Smith: I'll give him shit in advance. I'll give him the podcast in advance so that by the time the podcast drops, the YouTube episode can drop as well.... There's no point in fighting it. I mean, you can't fight the creative urge. This dude loves our art so much...
Garman: Well, he likes to watch it on his Xbox which has a YouTube app, so he can sit there...
Smith: Bingo. He's loves our shit. It makes him want to make his own shit. And you don't want to stifle that and be like "fucking don't do that or we'll sue you." What you want to do is fucking recruit him and be like "help us do it" and fucking work together and shit....
And... boom, this week's episode (the one where they discuss this very idea) comes complete with an enhanced YouTube version that is posted on Smith's own Seesmod YouTube channel. If you want to hear the actual discussion transcribed above, it's at about 28:12 in the video below:
Of course, this is hardly the first time Smith has done something like this. We've discussed a number of cool things he's done to connect with fans in the past. In fact, the latest movie that Smith has had (something) of a hand in, Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie! was actually directed by Steve Stark, a guy that Smith met via Twitter, after Stark animated some of another Smith podcast, the Smodcast. That led to a collaboration in which Stark was hired to produce more animations, and eventually to direct that movie.
To many of us, of course, this kind of thing makes quite a lot of sense. If your fans are doing awesome stuff with your stuff, see if there are ways to work together to make it better for everyone. And, yet, it still seems like too many people instead stick with the instinctual reaction of "that's against the law!" and immediately call the lawyers. How much more interesting a world would it be if more people looked for the upside when fans embrace the artwork they love?
Update: Kevin Smith stopped by to provide some more detail, including explaining that, coincidentally, people working with him were already working on something like this, which is why they put up this clip, and it's not actually by the guy who had emailed him, but he's still reaching out. Um, and he also says that Techdirt is mentioned in Clerks III.
from the can-we-have-a-little-reality,-please dept
We've seen some really nutty arguments from musicians claiming that YouTube is hurting them, even as we see much more evidence of musicians becoming successful entirely because of YouTube. But this latest argument may be the nuttiest yet.
On returning, he told the audience that he had lost many recording projects and contracts because music managers had told him: "We're sorry, that has already been on YouTube." "The destruction of music because of YouTube is enormous," he added.
Now, let's think about this for a second. This makes absolutely no sense. A shaky smartphone recording of a live performance of a song does little to nothing to take away from a recorded version of the song. The two are entirely different. Furthermore, such a video is actually much more likely to drive more interest in both the overall works of the musician and in going to see them perform live.
Now, I can understand why some musicians might find it generally distracting, and might even put in place general rules within the venue that require people not to film on their mobile phones. And, if such rules are in place, it seems completely fine for the venue to ask those who violate the rules to leave. But to argue that such actions are "destroying the music business" is simply not supportable in reality. And, frankly, if music managers have actually told him that he's lost a record contract because a performance is on YouTube, then it seems pretty clear that he's dealing with clueless music managers. If a music manager said that, my first reaction would be to find a reality-based music manager, rather than a completely clueless one, because the manager who reacts that way is clearly not going to be helpful for the rest of my career.
Unfortunately, others, including the person behind the festival took the bizarre complaints even further:
Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, the festival's director, said he felt a great deal of sympathy towards Zimerman, one of the star performers. "What happened is theft, pure and simple," he told German media.
Theft of what? And how? This goes beyond just the whole "it's not theft if nothing is missing" argument. This is not theft under any possible interpretation of "theft." This was just a fan wishing to create a digital memory of the experience, and possibly share that with others, such that others might look forward to more of Zimerman's music and performances.
Again, I recognize that some musicians might find it distracting, but the focus should be on that, rather than bogus claims about it being "theft" or laughable claims about recording contracts not granted because of fan videos.
On Tuesday, as rumors were spreading about YouTube's plans to launch a paywall we reminded folks that Google had actually tried this twice before and no one paid. On Thursday, the folks at HuffPost Live had me join a video panel discussing this. What we didn't realize was at the very moment we were talking about it, YouTube had officially launched the program. You can see the discussion below, where I play the role of the lone dissenter who argues that this is a dumb idea:
What annoys me about this is that everyone else was making the same silly arguments that were debunked over and over again on the newspaper side -- that paywalls lead to a higher quality product and more investment into the content. That's not true if no one pays. It's a pretty simple equation: if you, say, get 10 subscribers for $2/month, that's $20/month. That's not that much money. If you can make more than that in advertising, then you're better off advertising. Yet, time and time again in the video above you see people claim that it's somehow automatic that putting up a paywall will mean "more money" and "the end of free content" or "profits so that more investment can happen in video."
All of that makes a huge assumption: that enough people will actually subscribe. Yet there's simply no basis for it, and yet people kept claiming it over and over again as if it had to be true. But we know it's not necessarily true, because we've already seen Google try exactly the same thing. Hell, let's take a look at the original Google Video, launched about six years ago, with a similar subscription offering:
And now let's look at the new YouTube pay channels:
It's basically the same thing, though, I'd argue that the original Google Video had even more brand name content. In 2010, when Google tried the exact same thing with YouTube, over the course of 10 days, they only got $10,000. I'm not against experimenting. And I'm not against models where people pay -- I think things like Netflix and Spotify and the like are really interesting business models. But, those work because of different factors: mainly a combination of convenience and a ton of content all together. People are paying for those because of the completeness of the offering. Here, people are being asked to spend between $1 and $10 per month for a single channel of content. It may work for a few specialized shows: Game of Thrones? Yeah, sure. But not many others.
This idea that people paying directly is the only "real" business model is just silly. The guy who did a video comment during the panel discussion who seemed to argue that this was necessary because it's "capitalism" doesn't understand economics. A bad business model is a bad business model.
People seem really good at forgetting history. While most people realize that Google bought YouTube early on in that company's existence, they tend to forget that this was, in part, because YouTube was beating the pants off of Google's own online service called Google Video. The big difference? Google Video's launch focused very much on selling videos and using annoying DRM that had to check in with a server any time you wanted to watch. It was a complete and total failure, which probably cost an even larger amount when you realize it made Google more desperate to buy YouTube.
A few years later, Google tried again, playing up the ability to pay for videos... and once again it flopped pitifully. A 10 day test brought in just a little bit over $10,000 -- which is hardly worth the effort involved.
Perhaps the third time's the charm? People are reporting that YouTube is getting ready to launch a paywall feature, which may have 50 "channels" locked up behind the wall. The idea is to be more of a Hulu or Netflix-type competitor, though rather than a flat fee for access to all locked up content, YouTube thinks people will pay $1.99/month per channel. That seems... pretty high. Perhaps they're hoping that times have changed and what failed in the past is now okay because people are accustomed to paying for this kind of thing. However, I still have trouble seeing how this succeeds. If anything, this just seems like a tool with which Hollywood can hang itself. It may jump on this thinking that it's a great new way to build an online revenue stream, without realizing all the potential hazards.
Cable and satellite channels, which traditionally rely on a dual revenue stream model, are eyeing YouTube’s subscription service to generate revenue from older shows and new programming, according to another person familiar with the project.
I'm sure plenty of old school execs are thrilled about this idea... until they see the actual numbers. This isn't about helping the old industry adapt, but giving them the tools to see how unlikely they are to succeed with a paywall.
A few weeks ago we took a look at the latest filings in the long-running Viacom/YouTube dispute and were somewhat stunned at the ridiculous arguments made by Viacom, suggesting that the burden of proof was on YouTube to prove it did not know the videos on its site infringed on Viacom's copyrights. The idea that copyright law works this way, in which the burden of proof is on the service provider to show a lack of knowledge of infringement, is crazy. Thankfully, the court agreed.
In a ruling released today, the court gave a total victory to Google/YouTube, granting it summary judgment, saying that YouTube was protected from claims of infringement via the DMCA's safe harbors, and mocking Viacom's legal theories at the same time. Might as well jump right in with some quotes, including the money quote that Viacom's legal theory is "extravagant." Elsewhere the judge calls it "ingenious."
Viacom's argument that the volume of material and "the absence of record evidence that would allow a jury to decide which clips-in-suit were specifically known to senior YouTube executives" (Viacom Opp. pp. 9-10) combine to deprive YouTube of the statutory safe harbor, is extravagant. If, as plaintiffs assert, neither side can determine the presence or absence of specific infringements because of the volume of material, that merely demonstrates the wisdom of the legislative requirement that it be the owner of the copyright, or his agent, who identifies the infringement by giving the service provider notice. 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A). The system is entirely workable: in 2007 Viacom itself gave such notice to YouTube of infringements by some 100,000 videos, which were taken down by YouTube by the next business day. See 718 F. Supp. 2d 514 at 524.
Thus, the burden of showing that YouTube knew or was aware of the specific infringements of the works in suit cannot be shifted to YouTube to disprove. Congress has determined that the burden of identifying what must be taken down is to be on the copyright owner, a determination which has proven practicable in practice.
This was the crux of Viacom's argument. That because they could show a lot of infringement, and here and there point to some evidence that some people at YouTube might have known of general infringement, then the burden should be on YouTube. But the court clearly calls them on this, noting that's not what the law says, nor does it make sense. Instead, under the law, the burden is on Viacom and that makes sense.
From there, the court cut through the claim of "willful blindness" that Viacom (and some of the folks in our comments) were so fond of. The court's basic response is "huh?" Basically it points out that Viacom's argument makes no sense. It points out that the 2nd Circuit appeals court made it clear that red flag knowledge had to be about specific infringements and Viacom keeps talking about general knowledge. This is, of course, what plenty of us pointed at the time and the court clearly sees through Viacom's wacky argument.
Here, the examples proffered by plaintiffs (to which they claim YouTube was willfully blind) give at most information that infringements were occurring with particular works, and occasional indications of promising areas to locate and remove them. The specific locations of infringements are not supplied: at most, an area of search is identified, and YouTube is left to find the infringing clip. As stated in UMG Recordings v. Shelter Capital Partners, LLC, No. 10-55732, 2013 WL 1092793, at *12 (9th Cir. Mar. 14, 2013) ("UMG III"),
Although the parties agree, in retrospect, that at times there was infringing material available on Veoh's services, the DMCA recognizes that service providers who do not locate and remove infringing materials they do not specifically know of should not suffer the loss of safe harbor protection.
The Karim memorandum states that infringing clips of some well-known shows "can still be found," but does not identify the specific clips he saw or where he found them. The Wilkens declaration submitted by plaintiffs asserts that there were over 450 such clips on YouTube at the time, and presumably some of them contained the infringing matter seen by Mr. Karim. To find them would require YouTube to locate and review over 450 clips. The DMCA excuses YouTube from doing that search. Under § 512(m), nothing in the applicable section of the DMCA shall be construed to require YouTube's "affirmatively seeking the facts indicating infringing activity."
Mr. Karim's memorandum does not tie his observations to any specific clips. Application of the principle of willful blindness to his memorandum thus does not produce knowledge or awareness of infringement of specific clips-in-suit, out of the 450 available candidates. Nor does any other example tendered by plaintiffs.
It goes on to reject Viacom's theory that YouTube had the "right and ability to control" infringement on YouTube, by pointing out that its failure to monitor is completely allowed under the DMCA, contrary to Viacom's desire to pretend otherwise:
YouTube's decision to restrict its monitoring efforts to certain groups of infringing clips, like its decisions "to restrict access to its proprietary search mechanisms," do not exclude it from the safe harbor, regardless of their motivation.
Further, it points out that the rest of Viacom's arguments just show "the normal functioning of any service provider, and shows neither participation in, nor coercion of, user infringement activity." Basically, Viacom's bizarre attempt at making all service providers liable across the board has failed.
Finally, the court quickly dismisses Viacom's claim that because YouTube did deals to make its videos accessible via mobile phones, that syndication caused YouTube to lose its safe harbor protections. The court notes that this was just about making the videos accessible, not about YouTube selecting videos, but still letting users pick the videos they want to watch, but via their mobile phones. It notes that contrary to losing the safe harbor provisions, this is actually a reason for why the safe harbors are good, because it "serves the purpose" of the DMCA in "providing access to material stored at the direction of users."
Basically, Viacom has wasted an incredible amount of money on a massive lawsuit based on a very, very shaky premise that the court didn't buy the first time around, or the second time around. Of course, now we fully expect Viacom to throw more good money after bad, and keep trying to convince a court that its entirely unique interpretation of the DMCA makes sense.
Note: I started writing this post up prior to the unfortunate news that longterm Deftones bassist Chi Cheng passed away, after spending much of the past four years in a coma following a car accident. Sad news.
One of the points we've tried to make over and over again is that people who are downloading unauthorized copies of music, movies and other content are often huge fans, or have the potential to be huge fans. So it never made sense to us that some content creators treat them like criminals. Every so often, we see someone say something silly like "I don't want fans like that." People say that, but they almost certainly don't mean it, because it would likely mean the loss of a huge percentage of their biggest fans. As we've seen over the years, plenty of enlightened content creators recognize the basic situation and have happily embraced it. We can add Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter to that list as he explains eloquently why he's happy about people downloading his music.
"I say hallelujah to them. I say it for only one reason, the truth is people who download your music are your fans, or people who are potentially going to become your fans," he said. "And if you're going to be upset that someone is interested, or becoming interested in your stuff, then what's the point? What are you doing?"
He continued: "If it's all about money then certainly you're going to be offended. But if your intent is to enjoy what you're doing and have others enjoying it, then it should be a no brainer. I welcome all people to download the music. They won't be the first, they won’t be the last, and for anyone to fight that ... it's futile."
He later says he "can't be offended by someone enjoying" his music. He notes that he's watched the internet and downloading from the beginning and he hasn't felt he needed to change at all.
The discussion is from a half hour interview with Loud Guitars. The full interview (about half an hour) is fun to watch, with a lot of discussion on having a positive attitude on all sorts of things, from life to the internet to the music industry to just making music. He also talks about how great the internet is beyond just the downloading issue. He talks about how things like YouTube can help make great musicians famous and kickstart a career and how awesome that is (in fact, he has a "hobby" of searching YouTube for great guitarists to inspire himself to push himself further).
Once again, a nice counter-point to those who have been arguing that YouTube is somehow harming artists or that fans should be treated like criminals.
Unless you've been totally under a pop-culture/music rock for the past few months, you've probably heard of Macklemore and his hit song (and video) Thrift Shop. Now at well over 200 million views, the song itself has been at the top of the charts and has sold over 4 million copies. In case you somehow have missed it, or in case you just want to watch it again, here's the video:
The song itself was released last year, and built up a lot of buzz throughout the fall, but completely exploded at the beginning of this year. While I became aware of the song a while back, I didn't realize until recently that Macklemore is actually yet another story of a totally independent artist who found success not by signing with a label and having them throw a ton of money into promoting him, but by carving his own independent path (and using YouTube to connect with fans). In many ways, his story reminds me of Alex Day's.
A few weeks ago, Macklemore sat down with Chris Hardwick on the Nerdist podcast and it's great. Beyond some interesting discussions about sudden fame (and then doing laundry in the communal laundry room of your apartment building days after appearing on SNL), he does talk a little about being a successful musician without a label. Chris asks him about the no label part and mentions what a great story it is:
Chris: To see you and Ryan Lewis come out of Seattle just making stuff you like making, with no label, and oh you're at the top of the charts, and all these people are talking about the song... that's just a great story.
Macklemore: Yeah, I appreciate it. It is a very cool story. It's what you always hope for in terms of picking the independent path. It's cool to see that that's been a focal point. It's not just "Thrift Shop"; it's this kind of do-it-yourself attitude behind the music we've made -- that is also within the midst of this thrift shop song. That these two dudes chose to go independently, to turn down the labels. That the music industry is changing. That it's evolving. And to be at any sort of place where we're at the forefront of that, at the moment, is exciting.
Chris: It's so inspiring to so many young people who maybe -- and I think people are more and more used to the fact that they can just make stuff in their bedrooms and it can turn out to be huge. But every time it happens, it's that much more inspiring to a younger generation of people who go... 'there's no excuse any more to not go out and make stuff that you want.'
Macklemore: Absolutely. And that's what we watched people that came before us that have done it independently, whether it's Sub Pop, or whether it's... Mac Miller did it independently. And he had every major label hollering at him with huge seven figure offers and turned it down and still went number one on Billboard. There's examples of it that came before us, that had us say 'I think that it can work -- I'm not sure that it can work." But, at the end of the day, what's most important, and creative control is number one for Ryan and I. It's a no brainer.
Chris I'm sure you've been approached a million times at this point, but you still don't want the infrastructure of a label?
Macklemore: Yeah, there's no reason to do it. With the power of the internet and with the real personal relationship that you can have via social media with your fans... I mean everyone talks about MTV and the music industry, and how MTV doesn't play videos any more -- YouTube has obviously completely replaced that. It doesn't matter that MTV doesn't play videos. It matters that we have YouTube and that has been our greatest resource in terms of connecting, having our identity, creating a brand, showing the world who we are via YouTube. That has been our label. Labels will go in and spend a million dollar or hundreds of thousands of dollars and try to "brand" these artists and they have no idea how to do it. There's no authenticity. They're trying to follow a formula that's dead. And Ryan and I, out of anything, that we're good at making music, but we're great at branding. We're great at figuring out what our target audience is. How we're going to reach them and how we're going to do that in a way that's real and true to who we are as people. Because that's where the substance is. That's where the people actually feel the real connection.
And labels don't have that.
So you sign up for a label. There's not some magic button they're now going to push and it means that people are going to like who you are. Or that they're identify with your vision or your songs. It actually comes from sitting down, staring at a piece of paper for months or years on end, trying to figure out who you are as a person, and hoping that it comes through in the end. But a label's not going to do that for you.
Uh huh. Once again, it makes you wonder what people are thinking when they claim that YouTube is putting artists out of work.
The whole episode is worth listening to as Macklemore has a great perspective on all of this, and it's interesting to hear him discuss the oddity of his sudden increase in fame and how he's dealing with it, without letting it go to his head. But considering how often we've had similar discussions about artists who choose to go independent, I thought some would enjoy that particular snippet especially.
Last summer, we wrote about UK musician Alex Day, creator of a number of very catchy tunes (seriously take a listen), and how he sold half a million songs by breaking all the "rules" that those from the old recording industry insist are true. You can read that article for the details, but the short version is that he has no label, relies pretty much entirely on YouTube, he encourages fans to use his his music as much as possible and he's regularly releasing new songs. Recently, he released his latest album in the UK the same day that music industry superstar Justin Timberlake did, and (at least on iTunes), Day's album charted better than Timberlake's, despite Timberlake basically having the entire force of the legacy music industry behind him.
At that link above, James Altucher has another great interview with Day, in which he (once again) highlights the basics of how he built his success -- hitting on a bunch of points that we've regularly talked about here, and which industry insiders insist could never really work for anyone. First up, connect with fans:
Right from my first 30 subscribers, I began talking to the audience that was there and making videos directly for them and replying to comments, but I never saw it as a ‘fan base’ – I mainly just figured we were all bored kids.
Another interesting point: he doesn't perform shows. This is a very interesting one, because we regularly get attacked in the comments by people who insist that we've claimed that the answer for musicians today is just to tour. Of course, we've never actually said that. There's a conflation there between where many artists are making money today and other ways in which artists can make money. In many ways, Day reminds me of Pomplamoose, who also used YouTube to build up a huge following and to make a living (both mixed cover songs with originals early on). You don't need to perform to make money, and Day has proven that.
Performing wasn't an avenue for me – the only gigs I've done are one-off launch events (to launch my album, for example) or gigs with friends (as I mentioned). I really don't feel the need to gig when I can reach my audience online and hit everyone at once, all over the world, and not exclude anybody, which a tour doesn't do.
And, yes, it sounds like he's doing quite well. Between YouTube and people buying the music (even though it's available for free on YouTube), he's doing quite well.
Typically I make around £3500 a month from YouTube (I'm on a network so they can sell the ad space higher) and at least £10,000 a month from music and merch sales. I've also done other projects – I co-created a card game with my cousin which we sell online, I have a business called Lifescouts I launched this year – which add a bit of extra cash to the pot also.
Basically: connect with fans and give them a reason to buy, and they will, even if the music is available for free. So much for the idea that no one will ever buy if it's free.
Also, while some insist that we hate record labels and think there's no role for them at all any more, nothing could be further from the truth. We've noted, repeatedly, that there is still a huge role for record labels, helping and enabling artists to do more for the artists that want that. What's different today is that artists have a choice. They can use a label, if they think that helps them, or they can do stuff themselves. And having that choice also gives the artist a lot more power and some more leverage. So it's interesting to see Day talk about his thoughts on labels. He's very open minded, pointing out that he's not against signing with a label, but they'd have to actually be able to do something for him and they've yet to show that they can do that without wanting to control absolutely everything.
Labels have never known what the hell to do with me. I always went in with an open mind – I don't like the idea that being proudly unsigned/independent instantly means I'm white and they're black and we have to duel to the death or whatever. There are a lot of things I do on my own because I have to, so I've got good at them, but it would definitely be easier with outside help! So I was willing to hear what they could offer and how we could work together and I still would be, but I don't think labels are ready to be that humble. They want to control everything. I like being able to decide my own songs and film my own music videos.
I've had several meetings with Island Records in the UK, the last of which ended with the guy saying he doesn't think I'm ready to be on a label yet because "we only sign artists we can sell at least a million copies of in the next three months" – but if he's waiting for me to get to that point without him, why do I need the label ever? I've also met with Warner, Sony, EMI – they were all the same, none of them expected to justify themselves and at best they were just trying to "figure out my secret" and at worst they were completely uninformed and lazy...
He talks about how a one-off deal with Universal solely for distribution of his CD helped get that CD into music shops, which was nice for sales, and those kinds of relationships are interesting to him. Ones where they control everything and don't add any actual value... are not. He even points to this hilarious video about his experience meeting with a major label. Seriously, watch this video.
And, of course for those YouTube-haters out there, Day notes that YouTube has basically been everything for him:
It's just YouTube. I have Twitter and Facebook only because I sort of feel I have to, because I need to reach people in those places.... For the personal connection, it's all YouTube. I love it there. It's such a creative outlet. I've been making videos seven years and never got bored of it — one or two videos a week regularly all that time.
It genuinely saddens me when YouTube isn't lumped in as one of the essential social metrics with Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr (I do have a Tumblr too but like the others I don't really know how to use it). I understand YouTube and it's changed my whole life.
Wait, weren't we just hearing some old school musician insisting that YouTube had put 12,000 musicians out of work? Maybe it's just 11,999 then. Or, maybe it's the opposite. Maybe it's created an opportunity for lots and lots of musicians. But the key, as Day notes, is that you have to actually get YouTube. Miss that step and (shockingly), it might not work for you.
Either way, it's great to see Alex continue doing what he does best: making great music, connecting with fans and building a career.
Remember last December when Sega was priming itself for a PSP Shining Force game and thought the best way to advertise the upcoming release was to take down anything and everything Shining Force-related on Youtube? Good times those, what with the takedowns and strikes against accounts and the hundreds of videos (some of which didn't even contain footage of the game) replaced with the well-known slash-mouthed emoticon and a quick "Sorry about that."
Thank you to all of our fans for waiting while we worked hard to get this issue solved. While SEGA may need to remove videos in rare cases, we’re happy to confirm that there are no further plans to remove Shining Force videos uploaded to Youtube by users living in North American and European territories. Additionally, if you live in these territories and your video was removed, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can look into it for you.
SEGA believes strongly in our fans and we apologize for any inconvenience. You all are what keep us going – thank you!
"Issue solved?" There was really no issue until the massive takedown effort began. Before that, everything seemed to be running fine. "Solved?" Once again, the issue was Sega's own making. It hardly seems proper that it take credit for "solving" it.
And bully for "no further plans to remove Shining Force videos." That's rather specific, innit? "We have no further plans FOR THIS PARTICULAR TITLE, but we reserve the right to remove other videos of other games, but in rare cases only, mostly because our release schedule isn't quite as packed as it was 15 years ago."
This announcement was conveniently buried on the 28th page of the Sega forum post discussing the video takedowns. Not exactly shouting it from the rooftops, but I suppose whoever's manning the Sega email inbox is probably not in any hurry to be bombarded with demands SoA un-strike their Youtube accounts.
All the damage done by Sega's short-sighted IP March to the Sea isn't going to be undone by a half-hearted non-apology that refers to Sega's own destructive actions as an "issue" to be "solved." Someone needs to inform those further up the chain of command that promoting a new game in an established series generally works better when you don't antagonize fans of the previous games. Not only that, but Sega needs to start seeing these uploaders as useful allies, rather than the only thing standing between it and a successful video game release.