back to article Music's value gap? Follow the money trail back to Google

If you want to understand the economics of the music industry, imagine that you make wellies: Prestige Boots. They’re excellent wellies, well reviewed and loved by customers. You deserve to crack the big time, so you arrange a meeting with Hypothetical Hypermarkets. In his swanky office, the Hypermarket buyer tells you how …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google abeds copyright abuse.


    You can find almost any hit song from any decade on Google/YouTube.

    There just happens to be simple plugin for Firefox that will convert Youtube videos to a sound only MP3 file.

    Google music will provide you with cloud storage of your MP3s and even offers an automated backround upload service.

    So with Google/Youtube effectively making the selling of hitsongs unprofitable, they drive up the prices of live concerts which have become the only way for musicians to make money now.

    1. Tringle

      Great . .

      Sorta kinda with very very big buts.

      If the user could not access the music for free on Youtube et al then most of them probably wouldn't access it at all. Which means a high percentage of fewer fans, which means a huge drop in physical, download, and concert sales.

      The music industry has simply taken a long time to get its head around the fact that technology has seriously changed its business model. Successful musicians and media companies are making more money than ever. So cut it with the bleeding heart rubbish.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great . .

        I wonder if the fanbase aspect cannot be handled by making songs available at a much lower quality. That way, those who like music still have an incentive to obtain it formally, whereas the "it's only background" crowd couldn't care less and will continue scraping it off Youtube (they wouldn't have spent the money anyway).

        Caveat: I use "music" as a generic term here. Tastes differ.

        My main issue with buying music is the knowledge that

        very little of that actually makes it to the artist, but for some reason it has proven impossible to create a platform where this is done a bit fairer - probably because the likes of Google are quick to either destroy such an idea (as competition), or buy it.

      2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Great . .

        "If the user could not access the music for free on Youtube et al then most of them probably wouldn't access it at all. "

        That isn't really credible - it's an argument of convenience, that the music must be given away. Maybe sweets have to be given away too. Or cars and houses.

        1. DaLo

          Re: Great . .

          "Maybe sweets have to be given away too. Or cars and houses."

          Whatever the rights and wrongs, this argument is nonsensical and unbefitting. Physical goods have to be produced at a significant cost. Digital goods - assuming they were going to be produced anyway do not have a tangible cost to create new versions (copies) especially as the cost of copying is usually borne by the end user.

          That is not to say there is no loss of revenue (although obviously isn't the kind of losses expressed by the various licensing companies and labels) or that it doesn't create certain economic and even social abnormalities around the purchasing of the goods. However to create an equivalence with physical goods does not a good argument make.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Great . .

          "That isn't really credible"

          Actually, it is.

          I suggest you acquaint yourself with some history - specifically the 1986 dispute between Television New Zealand and the music industry - the music industry demanded royalties for TVNZ airing music videos in their various programs. TVNZ responded by axing the programs on the basis that videos are "promotional content"

          The net result over a 6 month period was a _90+%_drop_ in sales. It underscores just how loudly the music industry was crying "Uncle" that they paid full _undiscounted(*)_ market rates to air Michael Jackson's Thriller video - in the 6pm news adbreak and in several other prime time advertising spots over the following 2 weeks. In addition they'd had to resort to full scale advertising campaigns for most other releases - something that was only ever previously seen for big name "best of" releases.

          A few weeks after that, the industry dropped their demands. By that stage TVNZ could have been extracting money from them, as it was fairly conclusively shown that video airtime==sales and radio station airing made almost no difference.

          The music industry treads a dangerous line in tangling with youtube - Spain and Germany have already seen what happens when Google goes "Ok, fuck you" on the newspaper front - and that's without the risk of Alphabet exuding another pseudopod which could simply subsume the entire music industry without getting indigestion.

          (*) As in a lot of fields, noone ever pays the posted rates for TV advertising. Discounts start at 20% and large-longscale advertisers get at least 50% off.

      3. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Which means a high percentage of fewer fans

        And we all know what that means!

    2. 9Rune5

      Re: Google abeds copyright abuse.

      "they drive up the prices of live concerts which have become the only way for musicians to make money now."


      I am a big fan of The Rolling Stones. Two years ago I attended concerts in Oslo, Berlin, Düsseldorf and almost Stockholm (couldn't get a ticket as I missed the presale, and found no good scalpers on-site on the day either).

      Granted, some time has passed so my memory might be flaky, but I seem to recall that the Oslo tickets were noticably more expensive than the others (for a crappier venue). To me the price seemed to reflect supply and demand. AFAICT scalpers tend to drive up the prices when the artist charges too little, so it kind of makes sense for the artist to ask for more upfront. I also suspect that newer venues (Oslo's arena is a fairly new one) tend to charge quite a bit as well.

      Anyway, as a fan I want to archive their songs in the best quality possible. Lately I have bought some of their releases online. A couple through what I believe to be their record company (who can tell these days?) and a couple through Google Play. In both instances I end up having to take care of the backup-part myself. It is not like Steam's service where you can have a library online and simply download the title whenever you fancy. At one point I had to email the seller and beg them to reactivate my download link because my HDD had been pining for the fjords.

      And afaict I paid the full price, same as what a CD would cost back in the day.

      My suspicion is that there is simply too many people around ("artists") who think they can make serious money from strapping on a guitar and belt out a handful tunes (and quite a few "artists" do not bother even learning to play an instrument and they certainly do not perform live without playback). And there are too many record companies around who expect their 90% cut from that money. But supply is clearly overwhelming the demand right now.

      Either way... The solution cannot be to cling on to a 50 year old distribution model. The entertainment industry needs to recognize what century it is.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Google abeds copyright abuse.

      "they drive up the prices of live concerts which have become the only way for musicians to make money now."

      The odd thing about the music industry is that the more record an artist sells, usually the more in debt they become (with a very few high profile exceptions).

      Many of my jobbing musical acquaintances and friends have done live shows for years as a way of paying for records to be made - and this goes back 35+ years. The whole "making it big" thing has always been something dangled on a string for the gullible, whilst sensible musicians looked at the numbers and took on day jobs to pay the bills.

      All that lovely jublly money the record companies shower on new signups? That's a loan - with interest - that's paid for out of artist royalties. All the advertising, manufacturing and distribution costs? That's lumped into the loan too.

      The fact that artists get $2 royalties per record SOLD, whilst the label gets $8 and the record store gets $6 - that's just the cost of doing business, don't you know? The real creativity in the music industry is in the accounting department.

      The fact is that 99.9%+ of musicians - even sucessful ones - end their careers in debt to the record companies.

      The same applies to the movie industry. Ask Sigourney Weaver how much she got diddled out of in royalties for Alien (or Mark Hammill+CarrieFisher+Harrison Ford for Star Wars - or Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

      These same accountants (in companies with turnover and network so low that Google could pull a hostile purchase with change found down the back of the sofa) are wielding influence on trade treaties far beyond their actual value.

      Ask yourself where the real pirates are - and ponder that it was once said that the perfect crime is one where the victims willingly hand over their money and never realise they've been swindled.

  2. Unep Eurobats

    Let's see if I've got this straight

    If I take a music file and distribute it via some file-sharing mechanism, I'm a pirate and SOPA will take me down.

    If I use that file as the soundtrack to footage of me dancing round my bedroom and upload the whole thing to YouTube, that's UGC and perfectly legit (insofar as you can describe my dancing as such).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's see if I've got this straight

      We'd have to see your dancing before we could venture a definitive opinion.

      1. Chemical Bob

        Re: @moiety

        "We'd have to see your dancing before we could venture a definitive opinion."

        Don't go there, could cause Blindness.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's see if I've got this straight

      good luck you'd be content id'd as you uploaded it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Article says Content ID is off by default

        So no, he wouldn't get caught by it when he uploaded it.

  3. Steve Button Silver badge

    Here's the thing. Most musicians make money nowadays from live performance for this very reason. Is this a bad thing that the old model has give away? I guess if you aren't the kind of musician that can make money by performing then yes.

    1. breakfast Silver badge

      Value and values

      Those kinds of musicians are often the most interesting - an artist whose work doesn't draw a lot of people in any specific location, artists who have physical or psychological reasons for being unable to perform in front of a crowd - is their work without value because of that? If they are using experimental instruments and arrangements that aren't easily transported or created as one-off performances that only exist in recorded form, does that mean they deserve no income, no matter how great their work is?

      I suppose one question might be: Where do we derive value from music? I have been to a lot of gigs down the years and enjoyed them a whole lot, but the real value for me has always been listening to recorded music as the soundtrack to my life. If I was to pay by how much I valued it, that is where my money should go, and as an old-fashioned throwback who still buys albums, that is where it does.

      I don't think that people derive less enjoyment from music now, but it seems that even the ones who talk a lot about free markets ( perhaps especially those people ) are unwilling to think of that as an enjoyment that is worth any money.

      1. nichomach
        Thumb Up

        Re: Value and values

        "Those kinds of musicians are often the most interesting" - THIS. One of my favourite albums was and is "Drunk With Passion" by The Golden Palominos , who were largely a studio only project, but able to call on artists like Richard Thompson, Bob Mould and Michael Stipe to fantastic effect, in no small part due to the fact that it was a studio-only deal, and they didn't have to take it on tour. Yes, live performance is great, but if that were the only way to finance making music, albums like that would never be made and we'd all be the poorer for it.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      In an age of on-demand and whenever and wherever you want, should you have to go to a performance in another town which might be difficult to get to at a time which might not be convenient for you to support your favourite musician or band or group or whathaveyou?

    3. Rob Gr

      "I guess if you aren't the kind of musician that can make money by performing then yes."

      Some forms of music lend themselves well to live performance, others not so much. Massive Attack, for example, were absolutely dire live, but their studio albums works of genius.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I prefer live music... however... there's nothing easy about studio recording, engineering, mastering, etc. It's an art unto itself. Hard work, too.

        If there's any excuse for piracy, it's that the record industry generally doesn't reward artists & technicians for their hard work. But that doesn't apply to indies with their own labels, for example.

  4. nijam Silver badge

    So what's new?

    Simply that it's Google (Orlowski's bete noire) rather than the traditional liggers at the records labels, AFAICT.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      The record companies paid their artists, and would organise their marketing and studio time for them, if they wanted. As well as hunting down new talent and offering these services to them. Including taking a punt on new acts, and giving them free access to studio time for a first album. OK, not free, they'd pay out of the sales, but not a loan either, as the record company would eat the losses if the album stiffed.

      Sure the record companies sliced off profits, some of which got spent on cocaine and hookers. But they actually put real money into developing new bands, and provided some services. And they weren't the only game in town, you could go off with the independents, or self-publish.

      They can't have done too awful a job either, because top bands stayed with them, who had the ability and finance in place to go completely independent if they so chose. But obviously decided it was less hassle to let someone else do this stuff, but get less cash.

      So they were at worst symbiots, rather than parasites.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        "the record company would eat the losses if the album stiffed"

        That would have been nice, but history shows that the record company would bill everything to the musicians anyway thanks to contractual clauses concerning advances. I urge you to take a look at the linked article, specifically the paragraph concerning said advances.

        Then remember one thing : the majors are not in it for the music, they're in it for the money. Anything they can do to avoid paying, they will.

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: "the record company would eat the losses if the album stiffed"

          O RLY?

          If you think the fact that we have sold in excess of 2 million records and have never been paid a penny is pretty unbelievable, well, so do we. And the fact that EMI informed us that not only aren't they going to pay us AT ALL but that we are still 1.4 million dollars in debt to them is even crazier. That the next record we make will be used to pay off that old supposed debt just makes you start wondering what is going on.

    2. John Lilburne

      Bad as they were the record labels did occasionally turn up with a new caddy. Google might send you a cheque for $15 for a million plays.

  5. James 51
    Joke FTW!

    On a slightly more serious note has their spring sale on. DRM free and mp3/FLAC depending on what you're willing to pay.

  6. The_P

    That is all well and good

    But Prestige Boots would use a take down request to prevent anyone else selling a pair of wellies which looks similar to theirs, or any type of foot coverings to protect their interlectual property. Giving companies these tools has already shown them to be untrustworthy so how would giving them more power work?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: That is all well and good

      "But Prestige Boots would use a take down request to prevent anyone else selling a pair of wellies which looks similar to theirs, or any type of foot coverings to protect their interlectual property."

      Are you drunk? What are you trying to say?

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: That is all well and good

        "Are you drunk? What are you trying to say?"

        Multidimensional metaphor manipulators and analogy algebraists perhaps shouldn't produce petrified projectiles regarding the clarity of analogous manifestations.

        Especially when you know full well he can only be talking about DMCA misuse, and you could answer him, but instead chose to do something more.. satisfying.

  7. Philip Storry

    Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

    Andrew, Andrew, Andrew...

    Such a poor metaphor. It's the 14th of April, 2016. Not the 1st of April. And definitely 2016. So can we please stop trying to equate intellectual property - the ownership of an idea or a record of the expression of that idea - with physical property?

    Because it really doesn't help. At best, it muddies the water, and at worst it makes people write simplistic comparisons that actively mislead people.

    Let's try a different metaphor. One less stuck in bovine faeces than the wellies you struggled with here.

    Imagine that you are a writer. And your writing has value. It can entertain people, inform people, even enlighten people. And you're proud of the results of your efforts, and want a simple exchange - that people give you money in order to have access to the fruits of your efforts.

    Which seems fair.

    But now imagine that there are only two ways you can get your work out to people. The first is via small-scale printing, locally distributed. It's messy, the end result is a little ugly, and it doesn't scale very well. Only people within a few miles of where you live will ever get the opportunity to see your work. The second is to sell your work to a big national publishing of newspapers or periodicals. They have the scale in both production and distribution - and they'll help you with editing and have access to stock images too! Unfortunately, the downside is that they pay pittance and they insist on the right to re-use your content whenever they like, however they like. And you lose editorial control.

    It seems that there's only one option - take the pittance, and make up for it in volume of works. Hopefully you can grow an audience, then demand more money from the publisher. Meanwhile, your growing body of work is being owned or licensed to a company that may not share your values, and merely views you as a line on a profit or loss statement. But hey - in a way you're one of the lucky ones. There are plenty of talented writers who never got the chance to reach as wide a public, because these publishers are quite conservative in their editorial policies - - unless it's "hot", they like to avoid controversy, seeing it as a risky investment. And new things are often controversial...

    But you suck it up. Because, after all, there is no other game in town. There's no technology that can fix this for you.

    But wait - what's this? A technology that interconnects networked computers! Let's call it the conwork. Or internet. No, conwork is better. Let's use that.

    Well, you have loads of fans. And now you could take your work to them on this new frontier!

    Except your publisher doesn't care. They're too busy selling physical books and periodicals - which is profitable, and has an existing and well tested supply chain - to bother investing in this risky new technology. And you've signed away your rights to your own work - past, present and future - to the publisher, so you can't take your work to your fans yourself. Which is crazy, but who could have predicted the conwork, eh?

    Meanwhile, your most dedicated and most technical fans are starting to transcribe your works so that they can enjoy them on their conwork'd computers.

    And there are new, smaller publishers popping up that use the conwork technology. They may not have the big artists, but the ones that they do have aren't constrained by the editorial policies of the big traditional publishers. They can write stuff that their fans really enjoy, and they're less fussed about being banned from vendor conferences. The world is changing, and these smaller conwork sites are getting big readership.

    Except for your publishers, who still refuse to sell your works on the conwork... For them, the world is static.

    Finally, the publishers - after much negotiation with a company in the technology industry - get round to selling your works to people over this conwork.

    But it's too late. People have spent so long trading your work on the conwork for free that the value of it has been changed. They'll never pay what your publisher wants. They're also now used to just getting the article that they want, without a load of lesser articles packed around it and cranking up the expense.

    Also, your contract with the publishers still only pays you pittance for each work sold, despite the fact that the publishers now add less value than ever and how much lower overheads than ever.

    However will the publishers defend this? Why, by attacking the customers on behalf of the writers - the writers will hopefully not realise they're being ripped off, and the fans won't be listening to the publishers anyway - only shareholders and the artists do.

    So you tell yourself that just as soon as your current contract is up, you'll renegotiate a better one. If they'll let you. And if not, you'll have to go to one of those smaller labels, I guess. Maybe. Seems scary though. After all, they still control the old media, so you'd be losing that.

    Maybe you'll just stick with the big publisher. They love you, after all, right?

    Hang on. My analogy seems familiar... It's almost exactly what the movie industry, the book publishing industry and every other IP industry has been trying NOT to repeat ever since the music industry really missed the boat.

    Seriously, your analogy sucks because it misleads people. Conflating physical goods with IP won't work. You could have told a decent story here. Instead, you put out something that's barely fit for this new-fangled conwork thingie...

    (And ironically, you did it on one of the new-fangled conwork thingies. I'm still unsure whether it was genius satire, or genuine idiocy.)

    I'm not even going to talk about how DMCA takedowns are being filed in bad faith by automated machinery, or how the big music companies believe that they have some divine right to own everything and anything, and fair use be damned.

    I'm all for artists getting a better deal. But I know where they won't ever find it. And I'm not going to attack fans or technology companies for the mistakes of an industry. That, it appears, would be taking your job...

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!


    2. Pat Att

      Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

      Upvoted for the invention of the Conwork. It could go far.....

      The rest of the post is good too.

    3. Steve Graham

      Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

      Except for your publishers, who still refuse to sell your works on the conwork... For them, the world is static.

      Finally, the publishers - after much negotiation with a company in the technology industry - get round to selling your works to people over this conwork.

      But it's too late. People have spent so long trading your work on the conwork for free that the value of it has been changed.

      This is exactly what happened. The industry tried to pass a law against the tides and were left high and dry instead of doing what everyone was doing and surf the waves.

      To mix metaphors, that horse has left the barn.

  8. ratfox

    If you want to use YouTube’s channel to market but prefer to use another advertising supplier to monetise your work more effectively: tough. You can’t. If you refuse to sign then Google won’t turn the Content ID filters on

    I might be wrong, but I believe there is a third option: you can tell Google to turn ContentID on, and use it to remove any infringing video. And contrary to the boots story, this removes not only one video, but all videos infringing your work, and they won't be coming back.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      No, Google won't turn the filters on unless you do business with Google, on Google's terms.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes it's outrageous that Google is profiting from music piracy.

    Piracy should be free / not for profit.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Surely piracy be about the dubloons!

      1. Mark 85

        Surely piracy be about the dubloons!

        And rum... and, oh yes.. wenches!!!

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Rum, sodomy, and the lash?

          Damn, need two icons!

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Streaming revenue has risen to $2bn, while digital downloads fell ten per cent to $2.9bn. Ad-supported streaming services bring in just $680m."

    What does this tell you about the popularity of on-line ads and the value of ad-supported content?

  11. x 7

    so why the heck don't the copyright holders simply complain as a group to the various countries trading standards / consumer protection groups? If UK trading standards laid into Youtube it would quickly get shut down

    1. BoldMan

      You reckon?

      What would UK Trading standards shut down?

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " If UK trading standards laid into Youtube it would quickly get shut down"

      Closely followed by the record labels due to lack of sales.

  12. danny_0x98

    Yes, but we aren't selling Wellies are we? We are selling licenses to enjoy music at home and other licenses to perform our recordings in a commercial context. For some venues, we used to pay them to choose our license. Incredibly, they resist when now we say that we need to be paid from those venues because our factory workers, no, not the ones we laid off in the 90s who really were factory and warehouse workers, but our current stable of work-for-hire creators need more money otherwise they'll disappear and we will be stuck selling licenses to these 40-year-old Wellies — returning to our analogy — and thank goodness and lobbyists, we just got an extension to be sole source for our 50+ year old Wellies.

    Meanwhile, unsold Wellies take up no storage space and have near zero cost of manufacture for the second and all later customers. On the other hand, lots of people seem satisfied with 30 year old "footwear" which never wears out, except through the cycles we call fashion and aging. From that supply and demand consequence, we would be hard pressed to figure out why this is a better business than in the old days when we had factory workers, warehousing that required real decisions regarding keeping things in print and stored, and our footwear wore out or was thrown out. Still, then, most people consumed through radio play, rarely an efficient converter of listens to sales, but the most cost-effective way there was. That's why the answer would be yes when the question was "Payola?"

    In 1980, it was home taping that was destroying the music industry. It was more about a recession and competing modes of entertainment. But then, music videos, CDs, and Boomer hegemony revived the business. Mr. Orlowski continues in his mission of reducing the music industry's current problems to Google. I don't argue with his premises regarding copyright law and how it works. I just suggest that nearly all with a stake understand that the actual revenue to be realized is not worth the effort to collect. After all, the infringers are not Google, but people who put up unlicensed content and people like me who wants to check out an episode of The Young Ones, as I did the other day. Yes, the law recognizes contributory infringement, and why stop at Google? Quite a few parties collected fractions of pennies from me so I could watch that 35 year old episode.

    Were Google the primary existential threat, the industry would be be tireless in pursuit. I have intellectual property. It is my responsibility to protect it or hire agents to protect it, not Google's, and I have little patience for the tears about those who are already more successful than I and who have the resources to pursue options of collection and litigation. Maybe the majors are practically disengaged because they already worked out a deal; there's efficiency in being an oligopoly and if DMCA inefficiency is the reality that lowers what they can get, so be it. 0.5% of something is still superior to 100% of nothing.

    Call DMCA and safe harbor an imperfect attempt to balance overlapping interests and move on, Mr. Orlowski.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Artists like Prince are quite successfull at keeping their music off of youtube.

    maybe the next bussiness-model could be one where womeone procduces software that takes part of the legal earnings and scans for illegal streaming of the work & sends dmca requests.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Interesting you mention Prince as maybe 10-15 years ago he gave away his new album for free in the UK with copies of the Mail On Sunday I think it was.

      It seemed odd to guide it away for "free" but I believe there newspaper paid 25p for each or something like that and he made (or the record company) a lot of money from that.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I glanced at the title and bet myself a pint it was an Orlowski article.

    Now the basic premise of the article -that Google treat artistes like shit- I can't disagree with it.

    But wellies? Seriously. Comparing a physical product to a virtual one; a physical (and therefore vaguely centralised) manufacturing process to a wholly decentralised copying process and -a major factor- people give less of a sit about music because by and large it's not the artiste that's receiving the money; it's yet another bunch of bastards. So unless you add some sort of wellie-controlling mafia ring into the analogy it completely doesn't work. And comparing two different types of business (YouTube and Spotify) earnings in two different years isn't very scientific either.

    Can't argue with your point; but a well messy way of trying to get it over.

  15. The Mole

    Dodgy numbers

    " YouTube generated an average of $0.72 in music royalties per user. In 2014, Spotify generated $20.16 per user: 28 times as much."

    I'd hazard a guess here that all of spotify users listen to music, and spend a long time listening to many many different tracks. On the other hand many many of you tube users only use you tube very occasionally and may never watch a video with infringing music (too busy watching badly filmed cat videos). But then comparing apples to oranges to get some meaningless numbers never hurt anybody did it?

  16. MT Field

    For the times, they are a'change-in

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's not been such a robber found...

    YouTube is still the king of music piracy. Not just indies; all kinds of great stuff you can't even buy anymore.

    The only way to win: don't waste time and money fighting piracy, use it to your advantage.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Or this...

    I am a Prestige Boots customer. I've started off happy with my purchase, then I read the small print of the hefty document that came with my boots. It seems that Prestige Boots LLP want me to:

    1. Pay a yearly fee so I can wear the boots I purchased - it seems I actually only purchased a license to wear the boots under certain circumstances and that license can be revoked at any time.

    2. Promise not to bad-mouth the boots to anyone via any media.

    3. Give up ownership of any images where 'my' Prestige Boots are visible.

    4. Pay an extra 'extended usage fee' if I want to wear my Prestige Boots outside. Or abroad. Or in any public enclosed space. Or with more than four of my friends.

    5. Pony up for the limited edition of my Prestige Boots in 6 months time. And do this every 6 months.

    6. Buy special versions of Prestige Boots suitable for snow, for ice, for sun, for rain, for fog, and for when I'm feeling happy.

    7. Put up with Prestige Boots LLP telling me I'm a criminal of the worst sort because I'm not happy about their terms and conditions.

    8. Supply all my personal information to Prestige Boots LLP and their 'carefully vetted partners' so they can all bombard me with complete crap I don't want.

    So I decide to get the knock-offs. After all they're actually a perfect copy of the Prestige Boots, but without all the hassle.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The Music industry has profited off us the consumer by running a cartel for years, when the price is artificially inflated over true worth then you get the situation you now have. That value was only sustainable when they had control over the delivery medium which is now smashed to pieces as they don't. Three companies control 75% of the World's music.

    When you can store over 500 albums at FLAC quality on something the size of your fingernail the medium protection racket no longer works.

    Want to pay the artist ?

    Then go and watch them live as it's an honest way of earning a living and an honest method of payment. My daughter is a trombone player and I happily pay to watch her play.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      As usual, you're avoid the issue with a boilerplate rant. ("Go and sell more T-shirts. Go and play live. I want the recordings for free").

      The issue is whether trade negotiations for the use of the artist's recordings is a fair one or not. The evidence suggests not: that artists are getting a fraction of the value those recordings can get from Google, because Google can pull a stunt that Spotify cannot pull.

      Given your comment history I wouldn't expect you to say anything else. I just live in hope.

  20. Mikel

    We don't care

    We're not about to start to care, either. No matter how good or poor your metaphor.

  21. Schultz

    Simply broken

    I have not purchased music (online or off) for years. I am quite selective in what I listen to and I am not willing to pay lots of money for legally sampling music online. I pretty much gave up hope that they'll ever create a system that will work for somebody like me. The only music I bought in the last >10 years was boring old CDs, directly from artists I already knew. I was excited for some 5 minutes when Pandora launched (and I found and bought some new music in the days), but they were quick to shut out the bigger part of the world and that was that.

    There is a lot of money waiting to be spent worldwide, but the system is broken and apparently nobody can put Humpty Dumpty back together again.The artists and producers dream of the golden days when everybody replaced the payed-for LPs and tapes with an expensive CD collection. They forgot that, historically, even wizz kids like Mozart barely made a living.

    Cry for me, Argentina, -- no, that's still copyrighted. Cry me a river -- oops not that one either. Just forget it then.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Simply broken

      "The artists and producers dream of the golden days when everybody replaced the payed-for LPs and tapes with an expensive CD collection. "

      It's worth noting that CDs were a 10-year shot in the arm for the music industry. Those sales from 1984-1998 were largely driven by people format-shifting - new releases didn't sell particularly well and it wasn't helped by the industry unilaterally reducing artist royalties on CD sales by 60% - on the spurious basis that CDs cost more than LPs (here's a hint: They did for the first yea or so. By 1986 I was getting costings to produce 1000 CDs at about 2/3 the cost of 1000 LPs and by 1990 it was 1/3 the cost of LPs.

      Prior to CDs the industry had been in a long decline. Sales of singles stopped being meaningful by the end of the 1960. Overall sales in around 1982 were about half what they'd been a decade earlier. The _REAL_ driver of the sales slowdown was simply that the format-shifting blip was over and sales were back on the same curve they'd been on (worse, because whilst they could make money for old rope, the labels neglected their new artists, resulting in a dearth of _quality_ new material to drive sales.).

      One of the things to bear in mind about back catalogues is that the labels want them to STAY in the back catalogue. Having to keep stock of every obscure artist who sold a few hundred records because there's now demand 20 years down the road from a generation who've just seen them on TV (or youtube) isn't worth the cost of doing so. They HATE that explosion of complexity of demand that the Internet brings. Far easier to know that you will sell millions of copies of New Kids on the Block, who coincidentally have been signed to the most repressive contracts and can be discarded for the next New Thing next year.

      From that point of view, it's like how telcos hate the internet - they used to dictate how much bandwidth we wanted, at rates they set, to make a nice profit. Now there's competition in the supply market and most new submarine cables aren't owned by telcos.

      Hollywood suffers a similar problem. The main driver of low audience figures isn't piracy. It's crap content. Who's going to pay £15 to see a bad movie - and what theatre owner is going to pay £14.50 to the distributors per seat sold to when audience figures are flagging and it costs £600 a screening on an 1100 seat theatre just to run the projectors and pay staff? (yes, I've spoken to managers and the distros are demanding that much for new releases) - and as with record sales, movie attendance was declining at least as far back as the late 1970s - which is why so many old theatres ended up rotting in city centres worldwide.

      The models _ARE_ broken. They've been broken for a long time - long before the Internet was "a thing" Google and Youtube are a convenient scapegoat, but the malaise runs very very deep and the damage to the entertainment industries is almost entirely self-inflicted.


    In my view your song on Youtube is a free advert for your concert...

    ... which I will pay to attend if I like your song. It might be that you are better off than when record company executives bathed in Champagne[1] bought with your dosh.

    [1] Coke and hookers, obv...

  23. DaveNullstein

    Finding it hard to give a shit.

    On the one hand, I do believe that nobody but the artist(s) should be making money off of You Tube music "videos", though perhaps Google deserves a tiny bit to cover hosting costs.

    On the other hand fuck the record industry (and IP owners in general) who think they are entitled to a near perpetual right to profit from work done once (and often, work done by someone else).

    I would think there's some marketing value in the illicit You Tube versions of songs which really makes your entire argument somewhat moot. Nobody who can afford not to (or knows where to get the good stuff) is building their music collection by ripping YT videos.

    Ultimately though, I view the entire internet as a hyper efficient library and don't feel much remorse about what I check out. I also occasionally go to movies and concerts and even purchase albums and books from time to time. No guilt here. If we are going to feel sorry for someone in the IP creation business, I'd worry more about the writers than anyone else. I think they are the most screwed in the long term. However, making sharing illegal is not and never will be a viable solution.

  24. cd

    Google wouldn't have prevented Monk and Coltrane from recording more sessions together like their respective record companies did. Prevented the wellies from even being made, they did.

    Need wellies to wade through the article.

  25. Mr.Bill

    it comes down to this

    Since the advent of quality digital technology including storage, reproduction and distribution globally essentially for free, infinite times, simply means the music industry simply can not expect to be paid for each copy of the data required to reproduce a song. Blame digital technology and the internet if you want.

    The arrangement of the bits and bytes only needs to be paid for once and thanks to the same technology, great music can be created relatively inexpensively. The data itself is _physically_ worthless, sand in the sahara, doesn't matter if its all 0xFFs or forms actual audio (or video) samples.

    We used to use vinyl, tape, CDs etc because that was the only way to get the data into the hands of people to reproduce the music for on demand playback. That music turned the worthless plastic disks into something that could be marked way up in price - like turning worthless sand into expensive glassware. That just is not the case anymore. No matter how much you plead to the public to pay $15 for the album "for the good of the artist", most will not - they don't _need_ to. Just like most will not "go green" just because "its good for the environment to".

    The sooner they view the bits and bytes as essentially an advertisement to build up the value of the musicians/performers themselves, and get people to purchase merchandise and go to shows - things that you actually have no choice to pay for, the better.

  26. goldcd

    New world can be evil - yes

    Evil fills any void.

    Imagine you write a song and record it. You have a song.

    Technical cost of putting that thought into a binary is falling by the day.

    You can put it out on soundcloud, right now.

    Jump through some more hoops, and you can make it available to millions/billions of people - at pretty much no cost to you.

    Maybe they'll find it, maybe they'll like it, maybe they'll turn up to your local gig (big maybe, but possible).

    Alterative - sign it all away to an existing music publisher, for cents on the dollar return if they can even be bothered pushing you.

    Bluntly, you used to need an 'advance' - mortgage your art in the hope that somebody might pick it up. No way you could get your record into Woolies without it.

    Now, no longer the case.

    You have a choice - go with the labels and hope you're in the 1% that are popular enough to renegotiate something favourable.

    Or looking at it another way - most of those that are protesting streaming, are those that survived their contract, renegotiated to make a wad, then got enough clout to get their labels to pull their music.

    See any mid-range published artists getting their label to pull their recordings? Nope.

    Labels get to see the money trickling in and can recoup their deductions for nil effort.

  27. Mike 16

    Wheras the proposed alternative

    To the current takedown procedure is that some garage band covers "Start Me Up" and files a new, efficient takedown notice to make sure nobody can find the Stones version. Real improvement there.

    (Yeah, you'd have to be daft to take on the legal power that Mick and friends can muster in retaliation, but many musicians of my acquaintance have gotten hit in this way, had their own performances of their own material vanished at the request of some predatory music/law firm)

  28. That_Guy

    Asleep at the wheel

    Still equating a 1:1 ratio with digital distribution? Flawed thinking.

    As an admittedly small-fry musician; I started writing while I had a day-job. Never having the pretense that because I created something I was rightful in demanding a regular salary, let alone wealth or riches. True artists enter the music environments with nothing more than a passion to write. Those of us for whom our fans help promote our works are luckier than we imagine. Thus when we whine about lost profits through slants created by corporate executives interested solely in maximising profits: we've become derailed from the truth as both products and consumers of culture.

    It's time for a new promotional industry to emerge that is fair and proportional to consumers and artists, even our promoting fans alike. It's time to dump our labels and the greed that drives them.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Asleep at the wheel

      The piece is about a weird legal loophole that permits YouTube to maintain an unlicensed supply chain. It has also leveraged two monopolies: a video monopoly and an advertising monopoly. The fairness of the terms of trade is reflected in the market price: a few cents per used are returned by YouTube, for Spotify it's in dollars.

      ($18 to $1)

      You write:

      "It's time to dump our labels and the greed that drives them."

      That's a pretty amazing thing to write in 2016. Maybe you've been writing the same thing year after year, and not noticed the world has changed: the power is overwhelmingly with UGC platforms. I get that impression from a few comments: minds were made up a long time ago.

      Blathering about past injustices is just a way of avoiding what's staring you in the face.

  29. The Nazz

    The value gap indeed

    For sale in our local charity shop : CD's 49p each.

    so i has a rummage, selects one i actually want and a couple i'll give a listen to.

    Just about to sort out the princely sum of £1.47 when the lady asks for 99p.

    Yeah, that's correct, it's 49p or three for 99p. What value indeed.

    And the best parts of this?

    When that CD was made and sold, the musicians, songwriters, producers etc were ALL paid by the record company, or more correctly were supposed to have been paid.

    And NO f*cking licence. No sign of one, at all. I just put it in the hi-fi, car, optical disc tray whatever and it just works*.

    And when two of em go back for resale to someone else then the various artistes were still paid.

    *Mind you, these days they tend to need de-amplifying by upto 50% to be bearable.

    Perhaps the makers of "Prestige" wellies (what a dreadful analogy) should pay more attention to THEIR quality and asking prices.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The value gap indeed

      "For sale in our local charity shop : CD's 49p each."

      It's worth noting that the publishing, music and movie industries have ALL tried to get sales of secondhand books, records/CD and movies made illegal.

      Hence we have the first sale doctrine.

      Not that it's stopped them periodically trying again - and also trying backdoor routes like trying to get licensing fees for resale. All of these attempts have been thrown out.

      As far as internet airing of music goes: In 1999, APRA(*) offered a deal to all ISPs in Australia and New Zealand whereby all downloading of music for any reason by users would be covered by a blanket 99c per customer per year fee. They argued that it was no different to radio play and royalties should be handled in about the same way (99c is a bit high compared to what radio stations pay per listener but it was still worth considering)

      Unsurprisingly that got stomped on heavily by the *AA's who were trying to maximise revenue.

      (APRA = Australiasian performing rights association - this levies and distributes mechanical and copyright royalties for all public performances in both countries. Small artists would joke about getting a letter saying "you earned 50c this year, as our minimum payout is $5, it will be deferred" - and that's a lot of the rub about airtime royalties. Unless you are an uber-megastar you simply don't get paid much, but these same artists weren't being paid _at_all_ by the record companies)

  30. L05ER

    bitch and moan...

    you lose me as soon as you try comparing physical goods to digital ones.

    the comparison is shit and it underlines how shit the argument is...

    IF the world isn't giving you what you think you deserve for what you do... stop doing it. don't whine and complain that people need to value your work more. you have to MAKE THEM want your product, you can't create demand by complaining.

    i've wanted digital multi-track HD audio for over 15yrs now (i'm in my early 30s), and it's been entirely possible this whole time. THEY JUST WON'T GIVE IT TO US.

    i pay for blu-rays, i pay for netflix, i pay for digital media... it's not about being a thief. it's about what i want not being offered. capitalism dictates that the power is in my hands, so excuse me while i steal all this shitty quality music and laugh in your face while you cry about control and being relegated to middle class lifestyles.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: bitch and moan...

      Capitalism certainly does not dictate that power is in your hands. A peculiar worldview, there.

      1. L05ER

        Re: bitch and moan...

        two definitions of capitalism for your consideration:

        "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market" -merriam webster

        "an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state." -google

        ownership and control are generally seen as forms of power... care to explain how these definitions are wrong?

    2. Matthew Collier

      Re: bitch and moan...

      RE: "i've wanted digital multi-track HD audio for over 15yrs now (i'm in my early 30s), and it's been entirely possible this whole time. THEY JUST WON'T GIVE IT TO US."

      Err, for a long time, that was me too. However, for a few years now, they *have* been releasing multi-track "HD" audio, so I'm not sure if you missed it! ;)

      First SACD (some of which some new releases are still taking place), but more commonly now, on BluRay (both in "Video disc" guise but now also in "Pure Audio" guise - and also, various on-line services as well (I'm quite partial to Qobuz).

      Sure it was slow in coming, and the range of content is limited, but it is there and growing by the day! (thank god). The only real problem is the lack of reasonably quality of description of what you're buying, generally, by the vendor, and the odd charlatan that is selling "HD" when it's either not or barely (and/or not willing to define what "HD" means...)


  31. Herby

    So YouTube (Google)

    Is the new Napster. We're just pointers, don't look at us!

    Me? I just listen to the 60's channel on the satellite radio service, the offerings today aren't much. Then again, I'm older now.

  32. Stevie


    I'd have more sympathy for the music conglomorates if they hadn't spent my entire music-buying youth delivering rock-bottom quality at top-shelf prices.

    EMI used to whine about how it was going bust because of all the home taping going on, while quietly not mentioning the sales figures for its own blank recording tape division.

    Pre-recorded cassettes were always a joke too. No album art or info, cheap as shirt cassettes with ferric oxide tape. In 85 they made Brothers in Arms on Chrome Dioxide tape and claimed it as high quality, apparently unaware of the two decades of development that had produced super avalyn and similar proprietary materials that were both better from a signal reproduction standpoint and less abrasive to the transcription equipment itself.

    So cry me a river, music congloms.

  33. Aedile

    Andrew's bad analogy is entirely predicated on that YouTube/Google KNOW that something is being used without permission.

    How is Google/YouTube suppose to know if something is being used without permission? The song posted could be something the poster created, that they have permission to use, fair use or something they "stole". The only people who are going to know this is the creator/owner which is why they have to carry the burden of IDing infringing content.

    So if that burden is stuck with the creator/owner what to do if something is IDed as unauthorized? The answer that Andrew advocates is filters. However, how will the filters work? Previous court decisions (at least in the US) have ruled you can use the ENTIRE thing in some cases and it still be fair use. This means someone has to manually review the content EVERY time something is flagged.

    Andrew seems to think the site provider should do that because they are making advertising revenue and providing the service. I disagree and think that the content owner should because they are the ones who are making the claims and are making money off that content. Plus they only have to worry about what they own. If YouTube has to enforce copyright they have to look at every upload for every content owner. Further Google isn't responsible for what other people do. If they ran a swap meet they wouldn't be liable for someone selling stolen items so why should they be liable because it is a digital good?

    Then this doesn't even discuss the abuse. Someone can easily claim something has been used without permission when they didn't have the right to do so. Or they completely ignore fair use. Which is what makes notice and stay down a bad idea.

    At the end of the day the only real solution here is to either create a system where the goods can't be copied or to offer a product that is compelling enough people want to pay for it rather than get a knock off.

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