from the bonus-comment-included! dept
If you woke up today thinking "darn, I sure wish there was more Techdirt on Sundays," then you're in luck—because we've got a fairly long post with a lot of great comments this week. First, on the insightful side, there was a tight race with the winner pulling ahead by a single vote at the last moment. Ever-so-slightly in the lead was an anonymous commenter, responding to Mike's post that asked why those who preach respect for artists are so eager to disrespect artists themselves. This AC had an answer:
Mike, these people do respect artists - they just have a slightly different definition than you.
When you say artist, you mean "someone who creates art."
When they say artist, they mean "someone who makes money for major multinational corporations."
That would explain it. Neck-in-neck with that was a comment from another AC, which also racked up a decent number of funny votes, directly responding to Jonathan Taplin's assertion that Nina Paley is "untalented" by putting things in perspective:
Nina Paley is so untalented that her first feature had the "dishonor" of being one of the highest rated films ever, being forced to be praised by the likes of Roger Ebert, put in film festival after film festival. And now she can't give it away without a significant portion of her fanbase trying to give her money and gifts. I feel sorry for her and her "lack of talent".
Sita's Rotten Tomatoes rating seems to agree. To his credit, Taplin recently apologized for his comments about Nina on Twitter—though not before he re-dismissed her (while half-apologizing in the same breath) in a blog post. And I quote: "I may have been a little rough with Paley over what she claims to be art."
That post was actually one of several posts with similar themes this week, all of which spawned a lot of overlapping conversation and debate. The disrespect for Nina is closely linked to Tim Cushing's discussion of the new elitism in music, from which we draw our first editor's choice. To counter the claims of some people that the internet is an unfiltered mess of crap content, one AC pointed out that the gatekeepers are still here, but they've changed:
These guys seem to think that the internet is just some giant cesspool where you have to randomly sample a bunch of shit before finding that one rare gem. And some people do this. They scour the dark recesses of the internet to find music, movies, books, and all sorts of content to find what is good. Here's the thing, they don't keep it to themselves. They write about it. They get involved in communities to discuss it. They run websites and blogs that talk about it. They are the new gatekeepers. And for the most part, they do a better job at finding what's good than someone who's motivation is simply money. And if you don't like what's coming out of their gate, there's hundreds more to choose from.
Whether or not the term 'gatekeepers' is the right one for this new role (and it's being used somewhat ironically here anyway), the description is perfect. The next editor's choice comes from the first post about Nina Paley, in which she explains the concept of intellectual disobedience. Frequent commenter Richard highlighted an important fact about where culture really comes from:
Actually culture is not created by the artist - culture is created by the audience. Without the endorsement of the audience art is merely self indulgence!
Artists remix existing culture as a way of acknowledging the audience's contribution - not just that of the previous artists.
If you want to see how art can even be created by the audience look here: http://darwintunes.org/
Darwin Tunes is a pretty cool experiment, by the way.
We've actually got one more extra-special bonus editor's choice for insightful this week, but it's quite long, so we're saving it until the end—for now, on to the funny stuff. Out in the lead is an Anonymous
Coward on our post about Charles Carreon's court filing, with a theory about how the trial will progress:
I predict that the first thing Inman's lawyers will do after reading this complaint is to ask the court for an extension until such time that they can stop laughing.
A well-deserved win—flippant responses are always hilarious when expressed in dry lawyer speak. A little ways behind in second place is another anonymous commenter, on the post about the FBI & DEA's concerns about IPv6 and how it might make it easier for people to get away with stuff. That got this commenter's mind rolling:
You know, these fancy automobiles make it harder for us to catch fleeing suspects. We should just get rid of them.
In fact, Polio helped make sure that suspects couldn't get away at all, we should just start warning that the Polio vaccine is also hindering our work.
I just ran a whois on my IP address (127.0.0.1) and it told me that the call was coming from inside my own network!
Welcome back! (That's for those of you who who just spent two hours on TVTropes.) Our second editor's choice for funny comes from a post that would itself be funny if it wasn't so horrifying: the story of the police sending a SWAT team to catch an internet troll (and raiding the wrong house). Josef Anvil pleaded for some clarification on the cops' assertion that "this is a little more difficult than a traditional crime scene, because we’re dealing with the Internet", and Chris Brand offered a possibility:
They couldn't figure out how to put that brightly-coloured "police line" tape round a crime scene in cyberspace...
Don't worry, I'm sure legislation will be introduced to take care of that at some point.
As I mentioned, we're throwing in a bonus editor's choice. On our response to David Lowery's condescending letter to NPR's Emily White, the always-insightful Karl took the time to provide his own thoughts on several of Lowery's statements. Here it is in full, with the quotes from Lowery in bold—and with that, see you next week!
But most record contracts specify royalties and advances to artists. Advances are important to understand–a prepayment of unearned royalties. Not a debt, more like a bet. The artist only has to “repay” (or “recoup”) the advance from record sales.
What he doesn't mention is that all of the recording costs are taken out of these royalties. Plus, usually, a good portion (standard is 50%) of the promotional costs. The only thing that is not taken out of artists' royalties are the physical costs of pressing a CD and printing the artwork (of course, designing the artwork might be). And, if you're signing your first contract with a label, all of the production options - producer, studio, etc - are determined by the label; diverging from their plan will cost you "points," or a percentage of your royalties.
In the end, most artists will make far less than minimum wage from their advance. In return, they lose all the rights to their music.
Secondly, by law the record label must pay songwriters (who may also be artists) something called a “mechanical royalty” for sales of CDs or downloads of the song. This is paid regardless of whether a record is recouped or not.
This is true. He does, however, leave out the fact that if the songwriter is also the artist, they will be paid only 75% of both artists' and songwriters' royalties, under a "controlled composition" clause. It's also important to realize that these royalties usually max out at 10 songs per CD. And that only 50% goes to the songwriter, the rest to the publisher (which is often, not always, the record label).
Let's say a label presses 30,000 full-length CD's. To keep it simple, we'll assume it's a solo record by a singer-songwriter (the "best-case scenario" for these sorts of royalties). The royalties from those CD's that go to the songwriter will be $10,237.50.
Now consider that if a recording artist only sells 30,000 CD's, they will earn nothing from performer royalties. This is quite literally all they will get from the label.
Oh, and sites like iTunes? They pay more for these royalties than the record labels. Oh, and those songwriter royalty revenues? They're rising, and have been for years.
Meaning that the file sharing sites could get the same license if they wanted to, at least for the songs.
This is total and complete bullshit. File sharing sites legally cannot partake of these royalty schemes.
Artists can make money on the road (or its variant "Artists are rich").
This is just conflating two different things. "Artists can make money on the road" is a statement of the undeniable fact that most artists - even those on a major label - make more money "on the road" than they do from record sales. For example, the 2004 top earner in music was Paul McCartney. How much of his money was from recording and songwriter royalties? Less than 15%. Musicians have always made money from touring, not from record sales.
I agree, however, that there is a bit too much "artists are rich" BS bandied about by the general public. But, most of the complaints are not that "artists are rich," but that "abel guys in suits are too rich." The fact that those same suits love to sue the public, or pass draconian laws, doesn't help.
If you are one of those "screw the Top 40 artists" type people, then remember this. The whole "rock star," hookers-and-blow, trashing-your-hotel-room persona? It was always a total myth. Generally speaking, even Top 40 artists work 60+ hours per week, get up at 6am, and have no time to sleep in hotel rooms, much less trash them.
The "rock star myth" is a deliberate creation of the major labels, in order to entice young wanna-be musicians into being exploited. It has no bearing in truth. The fact that this myth is now backfiring at labels is poetic justice; the fact that it's backfiring against the musicians themselves is tragic.
Over the last 12 years I’ve watched revenue flowing to artists collapse.
What he's actually saying is that revenue flowing from major labels to artists has collapsed. He's right. But that's not because of piracy. It's because of things like a la carte music purchases; the decision by major labels to kill CD singles; their decision to stop dealing with record stores, and focus on "big box" stores like Wal-Mart; and other bad decisions made by an industry that is used to being a monopoly. There is plenty of blame to go around for the collapse of the CD market; none of it lies with pirates.
And, notice that he doesn't go further back than 12 years. That's because 12 years ago was the year the record industry made the most money in its entire history. It did that because people were re-buying their LP's on massivly-overpriced (and price-fixed) CD's. In fact, the profits from record sales now are roughly equivalent to sales at the height of the 1980's. (He chose 1973 for a similar reason; prior to 1999-2000, this was the year when people spent the most on recorded music in history.)
There is no other explanation except for the fact that “fans” made the unethical choice to take their music without compensating these artists.
There wouldn't be, since Lowery never even considers any other explanations. Nor does he offer a single iota of evidence that "fans" sharing music caused even a single one of the ills that he claims.
It's also incredibly insensitive and tacky that he uses Chestnutt's suicide to advance his own agenda. There is no reason whatsoever to suspect that Chestnutt's suicide had anything whatsoever to do with filesharing. In fact, in his last interview, his biggest concern was that his hospital was suing him for $35K. (This is far, far less than what file sharers like Jammie Thomas are facing. Something to think about...)
Similarly, there is absolutely no reason to think that Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous committed suicide due to file sharing. On the other hand, his dire financial situation just might have something to do with the fact that EMI refused to release his album with Dangermouse, over continuing resentment about "The Grey Album." In other words, it makes more sense to say copyright enforcement killed him, not piracy.
What a douchebag.
You know, I could go on with this. But there's just too much of it. It is all bullshit.