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Why a Music Tax Is a Bad Idea

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the let-me-count-the-ways dept.

The Almighty Buck 194

An anonymous reader writes with a followup to the story posted last week about Warner Music's plan for a music tax for universities. "There's been some debate about this plan and Techdirt has a detailed explanation of why a music tax is a bad idea, noting that it effectively rewards those who failed in the marketplace, punishes those who innovated and sets up a huge, inefficient and unnecessary bureaucracy. Meanwhile, plenty of musicians who are experimenting with new business models are finding that they can make more money and appeal to more fans. So, why stymie that process with a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record labels?"

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194 comments

First troll! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26066757)

Mod me down, you bastards!

why? (4, Insightful)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066781)

So, why stymie that process with a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record labels?
...
Profit???

At the very least campaign contributions?

Re:why? (3, Insightful)

tyrione (134248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067083)

I think the biggest barrier to growth is the lack of music talent now compared to the times past which saw explosive growth in the 70's and 80's.

Re:why? (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067155)

it effectively rewards those who failed in the marketplace, punishes those who innovated and sets up a huge, inefficient and unnecessary bureaucracy

Well, that explains why Warner and the MafiAA are wanting it. They failed in the marketplace because they refuse to innovate and adapt with the times.

Meanwhile, plenty of musicians who are experimenting with new business models are finding that they can make more money and appeal to more fans.

And of course, that's the other thing that scares the shit out of the MafiAA - the new business models make them obsolete.

Re:why? (5, Informative)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067249)

Darnit, bumped the "submit" button early.

I think the biggest barrier to growth is the lack of music talent now compared to the times past which saw explosive growth in the 70's and 80's.

Not true, not true at all. There is plenty of new music talent out there; the problem is that the MafiAA companies no longer want to promote new talent, because new talent are not interested in selling their eternal souls to crappy slave-labor contracts, MafiAA "creative accounting" practices, and multi-album deals where the labels hold musicians hostage by claiming their final contracted album needs to be "re-done" over and over until they manage to blackmail the artist into signing an extension or giving up any hope of ever owning their own music.

Track the MafiAA's supposed "piracy loss" numbers against the number of new albums and new acts released, and you find a linear correlation that has absolutely nothing to do with "piracy."

But why take it from me? Take it instead from someone who's lived through MafiAA Hell [janisian.com] herself.

Re:why? (4, Informative)

eniacfoa (1203466) | more than 5 years ago | (#26069783)

your 100% right...they arenot funding talent and do not deserve to reap any extra taxes in... record execs have been heard saying james brown would never have been signed in todays climate...thats really sad...

!(almost like a market) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26068055)

In order to make this work almost like a market (It is where you only pay the people who actually contribute something usefull and your goal is to pay as little as possible for what you need), you will have to have:

Total monitoring of everybodys media use (aka anal probing)
or...
A central planning committee (aka testicle lock)

Neither sounds like America, but the choice is of course yours, for now.

Old, lame joke gets new life (2, Insightful)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068707)

Because it's easier to sit around on your ass and complain and mutter ominously about job losses while holding out your hand than it is to get up, lose some metaphorical weight and breathe some new life into the industry by - GASP - doing something different. Especially when your lobby group is intimately acquainted with the government.

Reminds me of an old joke:

Q: Why do they bury prairie farmers only two feet underground?

A: So they can still get their hands out.

Substitute "entertainment industry executives" for "farmers" and the joke gets new life. See? Even I can do it!

While we're at it... (2, Funny)

Jonah Bomber (535788) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066797)

Let's tax birds singing too.

Re:While we're at it... (5, Interesting)

TypoNAM (695420) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066987)

Funny thing is in my neighborhood you can frequently hear some birds chirping like they're reciting car alarm tones and the most hilarious part is they memorized the entire alarm cycle and will do so in the exact order on common alarms.

I'm sure birds in other places have done the same thing, but in order to find out requires actually going outside. :)

Re:While we're at it... (5, Funny)

jskora (1319299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067399)

Dear Sir,

Those alarm tones are copyrighted and these birds are in violation of royalty agreements. Due to their lack of financial mean, redress will be targeted at the neighborhood associations that let this blatant abuse of intellectual property rights occur unabated.

We will be in touch shortly!

Sincerely,

CAIAA - Car Alarm Industry Artists Associations

Re:While we're at it... (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068889)

i think i saw something like that in a BBC or NatGeo documentary. they had clips of birds mimicking the sound of car alarms, construction vehicles, and chainsaws with an amazing degree of likeness. but the birds in these clips were living in the jungle or rain forest. i've heard any birds mimicking artificial noises in person.

i wonder if that's the bird equivalent of whistling/humming a tune that's stuck in your heard.

It Depends On Your POV (5, Insightful)

Snowdog (3038) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066833)

So, why stymie that process with a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record labels?
I think you've answered your own question. Warner Music isn't proposing this for your benefit.

Call it what it is... (5, Funny)

jemenake (595948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066835)

It's not a "Music Tax", it's a "Record Company Bailout"

Re:Call it what it is... (4, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066857)

Extortion rather than bailout.

Re:Call it what it is... (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067213)

Isn't that redundant considering the bailouts was extortion?

Many members of Congress were told that the stock market would drop 1000's of points the first day if the bailout wasn't passed and were also told that there would be physical martial law in the streets.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaG9d_4zij8 [youtube.com]

It later came out that it was Paulson who made those threats. Wouldn't that be considered terrorism?

Those are different!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26069621)

> Extortion rather than bailout.

What's the difference?

a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record (5, Interesting)

RichMan (8097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066873)

You answered your own question:
"a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record"

If you were a big record company that is the greatest solution ever. They have to do nothing and roll in the cash at the government and end users expense. Straight to step 4) profit.

Why our governments are even considering it is a question we should ask every law maker out there.

Why the nation of the Boston Tea Party is even considering it? Is an even greater question.

Re:a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big rec (4, Informative)

Tired and Emotional (750842) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067139)

The Boston Tea Party happened because the government lowered taxes, so that the smugglers could make less money. They were protesting against cheap legal tea, not against taxes on tea. Seems like the record company proposal is totally in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party.

Re:a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big rec (3, Interesting)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067369)

No, they were protesting against a tea monopoly run by the East India Company that the British Government was trying to force on them. They only lowered taxes to force their competition out of business so they could raise them again later.

This music tax is remarkably similar to what the Boston Tea Party was in protest against.

Re:a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big rec (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068185)

Hang on a sec' - the Tea Party [wikipedia.org] are from Ontario, Canada. What's all this noise about Boston???

Re:a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big rec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26067801)

This nation has long been dead.

Here's a better question (3, Interesting)

77Punker (673758) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066887)

Why would any self respecting university volunteer itself for this?

I know my alma mater would never put up with this and I suspect most other universities have the same sense of dignity. This plan cannot possibly succeed.

More reasons why it's a bad idea (4, Insightful)

joe_cot (1011355) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066899)

The music tax will be based on how much music is currently being shared online. Do you expect the amount to stay static, after it's legalized?

Of course not. All of a sudden, how to download music will be on the news. People will make lots of money helping the technology-illiterate use file sharing. Everyone will file share music, because they're being taxed for it anyway. Music file sharing will go through the roof, and profits will drop lower than they knew was possible. That's when the tax will start going up.

Second Issue. All you file sharers out there: how often do you download a whole discography, when you only really want 5 songs tops? Exactly. That whole discography is going to count towards that artist's share of the tax. People do a lot of things out of laziness when it's free.

Third issue. Do you think it will stop at a music tax? Next the MPAA will be clamoring for a movie tax, and there'll be moves for a different fee for everything in existence: a video game tax, a tv show tax, a pornography tax, a sewing kit tax, etc. Once you open that box, it's not going to close again.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (0)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066961)

All of this could have been stopped if people actually thought about buying their music...

I don't blame the music labels. Sure they can be draconian, but I don't blame them if people have no respect for copyright.

Remember copyright is what protects FOSS... That's why I am a big fan of copyright.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1)

mishehu (712452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067109)

So, just because I didn't buy music this month automatically makes me disrespecting/infringing upon copyright? Sounds like you've succumbed to the "if we're not selling the music then peoples MUUUUUST be pirating it!" philosophy.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067305)

Actually, I own a large collection of music (over 1000 CDs, albums, singles, and even a few DVDs). I also own a few movies.

There's another reason sales are dropping: people have bought up all the decent (in their opinion) media from the past 100 years, and now will only buy to replace or the very odd decent release. The media distributors are fooling themselves if they think every album is a "platinum" release, even though that's probably what they tell their shareholders/bosses/latest victim. Truth is that most of the "music" coming out today has been so arm-wrenched to conform to an industry standard that no one can distinguish one artist from another and hence no one buys the result.

The industry is experiencing the nasty hangover from their euphoric rise. It happens in every business. The one MS is beginning to experience might be painful to watch even for those here when it hits in full within the next 3-4 years. (ok, maybe not;)

I still remember the best quote I ever heard in regards to file sharing: "I guess Lars (of Metallica) has finally found a solution to piracy - release an album (St Anger) so terrible no one wants it even for free". Seems more "artists" are joining him these days.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (3, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067503)

Remember copyright is what protects FOSS... That's why I am a big fan of copyright.

FOSS would do just fine without copyright. The success of FOSS is because of dedicated communities of volunteers and commitment to principles of openness and sharing.

Copyright helps FOSS in the sense that someone can't just scoop up a GPL'd project, modify it, and start selling it without releasing their modifications, but even if they could, that doesn't mean the project wouldn't exist in the first place.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26068869)

BSD projects have not been nearly as successful.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (5, Interesting)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067621)

Copyright was always intended to give artists of all types a temporary monopoly on their works. When a law is abusive, it becomes the citizen's duty to violate it. I stopped respecting copyright the day I read about the micky mouse law [wikipedia.org], which effectively extended copyright far far beyond the term anyone rationally should have a copyright.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (3, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068891)

When a law is abusive, it becomes the citizen's duty to violate it.

I disagree. When a law is abusive, it is the citizen's duty to protest and get the law changed. Violation of the law should be the means of second-to-last resort[1] (revolution, of course, being the last resort).

I believe the rule of law is of huge importance to the efficient functioning of society, and immediate disregard for any unliked law, even abusive ones, leads ultimately to undermining the foundation of cooperative society.

[1] Special exception: laws which, by their nature, prevent one from further recourse against that law -- such as laws against free speech, laws against the right to bear arms, etc.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1)

Logic and Reason (952833) | more than 5 years ago | (#26069405)

When a law is abusive, it is the citizen's duty to protest and get the law changed.

Why? Where does this "duty" come from? To quote Heinlein (from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"):

I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068499)

All of this could have been stopped if the record companies had been willing to cut a deal with Napster to distribute music online instead of essentially suing it out of existence.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26068727)

FOSS subverts copyright, it turns copyright's own power to restrict and control against itself to reduce restrictions and increase freedoms. FOSS is the ultimate hack - not of software but of a social system.

If there were no copyright, market forces would make FOSS inevitable - just as no car manufacturer can viably sell a car with the engine compartment welded shut, so to would no software developer be able to sell software without full source code if copyright laws weren't distorting the market.

So no, copyright does not protect FOSS in anything more than a superficial way that would not be needed if copyright never existed in the first place.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1, Troll)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066967)

Socialism by thousand cuts.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (0)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067051)

Not socialism, but an oligarchy...

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067837)

Au contraire.

An expanding system of product taxes if taken to infinity IS socialism--you receive no income because you've paid it all in music tax, tv tax, game tax, ebook tax, oxygen tax, etc. And you can have what you want because you already paid for it anyway, right?

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066979)

Since it really seems like you are leading to it, why don't you just say it out loud then?

Make them all free.

If that isn't what you wanted to say then, then that's what I wanted to say at least.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1, Offtopic)

Pinky (738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067013)

Given that Canada current has a "music tax" (on blank media) and the courts have ruled that it's legal to download material off file sharing site (but not share material yourself) and this has been the case for some time now... not to mention it's country wide instead of just on university campuses.. Has everything imploded? the tax gone up dramatically? People stop buying music/movies entirely? No. Have they been clamoring for more "taxes". No.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (1)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067125)

And how many record labels are based in Canada out of curiosity? Oh, also while we're at it, what percentage of the music buying public lives in Canada?

Shoo.

Re:More reasons why it's a bad idea (4, Insightful)

Pinky (738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067427)

You know, those big fancy American labels sell here too. Sometimes in this fancy store called walmart. do you have those in america? Well we do anyway, they are very popular here.

What I meant was the local, Canadian market for movies and music, both local and imported, hasn't collapsed despite the fact that p2p sites present a free and legal alternative. I know it's presumptuous to think that a little country with approximately the same population of California could be used as a test case for a country with a population ten times the size but I'd be willing to stick my neck out there and say that it could.

....On the other hand, if you wanted to play it safe you could have the law only apply in each individual state. Sure, that would be equivalent to enacting it on the country on the whole but through a cute trick of accountancy you'd technically be enacting it in units smaller or comparable to canada... thus guaranteeing that it would work as it does in Canada.

"The Art of Taxing" (4, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066903)

I read in "The Economist" a while back, that the "Art of Taxing," is like plucking a live goose for feathers.

You want to get the maximum amount of feathers, with the minimum amount of fuss.

So, try to sneak in a small tax, that nobody notices, or can do anything about. Or pick on a small minority, and whack them with a big tax.

Here we have Warner asking for a small "taste" from everybody.

I prefer to "eat alone."

Music Tax is the foot in the door (4, Insightful)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066909)

After they get the music tax, you know they're going to go after a movie tax, a tv series tax, a game tax and an ebook tax.

so $50 /m for all the movies and games that you wa (2, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066989)

so $50 /m for all the movies and games that you want? Does that void laws about taking cams to the movies I payed the forced tax so how can I fined for braking the law? OR going to a bast buy taking a game and just paying $5 $10 for cost of game media and seeking it out of the store? I not shoplifting I just paying $5 $10 to have the game now and not have to download 4GB or more of the game for free under the tax.

They'll do it because they think they can (4, Insightful)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066959)

Warner is proceeding under the assumption that if they apply their big guns to this, they will get it pushed through. Especially for those colleges that would rather roll over and pass the bill to the students than fight for their rights. If I were a big music exec, I'd be doing the same thing. It's free money, even if only a handful of schools agree.

What burns me about it is that it's obviously a money grab, and it's so blatantly immoral it kills me that it's reached this level of attention. First off, why Warner? Why do they get the money? Second off, I'm a musician on the side, and I put out albums on a regular basis which make money here on a local level. If my band's album is downloaded on a college campus, is some of that tax going to go to me, if I have no affiliation with Warner? NO! So not only are they getting money for music that may or may not even be downloaded, they're getting money for content that isn't even theirs to profit on.

It's my opinion that the music industry has an standing policy of "do everything you think you can get away with", which, when combined with the more venerated "better to ask for forgiveness than permission" puts them in the frame of mind to do this. And if they get away with it, even a little bit, they're making money. For those lamenting that these guys are clinging to a dying business model, wake up and look around. This is the new business model! Use your clout and presence to try and get as much free money as you can, while doing damage control on the other side to stem any repercussions from less than moral practices. If you had millions of dollars to throw into a system like this to "prime the pump" so to speak, and you valued a quick buck over scruples, why the hell wouldn't you try to pull something like this? /soapbox

Re:They'll do it because they think they can (3, Informative)

butalearner (1235200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067143)

Second off, I'm a musician on the side, and I put out albums on a regular basis which make money here on a local level. If my band's album is downloaded on a college campus, is some of that tax going to go to me, if I have no affiliation with Warner? NO! So not only are they getting money for music that may or may not even be downloaded, they're getting money for content that isn't even theirs to profit on.

Oh don't worry, from the previous /. story:

The idea is that students would be free to file share, but the university needs to monitor and track everything, create a pool of money, hand it over to a recording industry entity that promises to distribute the proceeds fairly.

100-to-1 says this entity is the RIAA and "distributing the proceeds fairly" means funding litigation against students from universities that haven't agreed. You know, just like the "proceeds" from their lawsuits to date. Of course the inevitable end result is that nobody will pirate your music anymore, and you make more money! Beautiful, isn't it?

Re:They'll do it because they think they can (1)

BorgAssimilator (1167391) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067529)

It's an easy way to get money:
Tag the students that haven't agreed on said music tax and sue them. Chances are they've "stolen" at least a small amount of music right? Besides, even if they haven't, they'll most likely settle because of those really high court fees.

Since you all steal anyway (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26067009)

Don't worry about it. Even a 100% tax on $0.00 is still $0.00.

silly question (2, Insightful)

einer (459199) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067053)

So, why stymie that process with a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record labels?

Because the record labels donate more money to policy makers than you do.

It's a great idea (2, Funny)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067067)

I personally think it's an awesome idea. Let me tell you why.

A few years ago I wrote a great book. It would have sold a billion copies, but alas, no one else thought it was worth reading. If we can set a precedent with this music business, then we can do the same for books. As an author and a published (because I self-published 20 volumes) I should be entitled to a cut of the proceeds when we start taxing universities for students that copy ebooks. It's the logical next step.

I'm also an amazing artist, the Michael Phelps of the art world. Alas, no one has bought my work "Ruled 8x11 Sheet of Paper" and instead, millions of so-called printers are infringing my copyrights.

SO yeah, this is a good idea.

Re:It's a great idea (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067841)

In Canada, the apportion the tax revenues to the artists based on current sales revenues, so you would likely continue to enjoy your current earnings.

Money for a failing industry (2, Insightful)

Suisho (1423259) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067071)

The music industry is failing in the current setup, and everyone and their grandmother seems to know it, and most people are willing to DL something to avoid the costs.

There is also the whole "how much does the artist get anyway?"

The internet brings up so much that wasn't around with books- (which was probably the original model music industry was based on) and it seems the question of libraries, fair use, and copyright definitions have been trampled on in so many ways.

Artists are disgruntled with contracts, people are disgruntled with costs, and the business is disgruntled with selling losses.

But, there is no reason for a lax to be leved based on a unpredicted media distrubution system. Buisnesses need to adapt, learn and create to survive. And, instead of learning how to deal with what listeners want today: signle songs, low cost, instant availability... they've attacked their consumer base, and are forcing them to pay.

All in all, there is no reason to support this industry. It needs to be revamped into a new successful business model, that takes into account its listening base, and doesn't disrespect, sue and tax them when they are not paying attention.

Re:Money for a failing industry (2, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067275)

The "music business" isn't a viable business any longer. Period. There is no "adapt". You can't adapt to a situation where the sale of your product is undercut by distributors passing it out for free. So any idea of selling recorded music has got to go.

What could possibly compensate artists? Patronage is a bad idea that was stamped out with the death of feudalism. Doing it for ego-reasons - because the artist feels it has to be done - doesn't feed the children or pay the rent. Any sort of tax is going to run into massive fraud and evasion. Trying to give the music away and sell T-shirts or hope for huge concert sales only helps a very few artists. Most artists and performers are going to be playing bars and clubs for pocket change and drinks. And that is the way it is going to be, because music is now free.

Any semblance of value in recorded music has pretty much been destroyed. Partly by record companies deciding what to market based on what was selling last year. Partly by really awful bands commanding the same prices as top performers. Partly by piracy exerting really strong negative pricing pressure. Might as well face up to it, you can't compete with free and win.

That seems to be the open source message, right?

Re:Money for a failing industry (1)

Suisho (1423259) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067661)

I'm unsure- I think kiosks offering music, in which it prints a chosen label onto a CD, a customer chooses what songs she/he wants on it and it burns it there for a cost would be a good strategy that was never implemented. I wouldn't mind walking into the mall and spending $15 on a CD where I chose the songs, and it was guaranteed high quality files. I also think that the CD business model could have had a mix and max approach- more theming of artists singles, instead of selling just the one or two songs- doing more of the "top ten" or "Classic Rock hits of 1972". Also, there was rarely an option of buying mp3 music in the store on a USB disk, or whatever, which could have been a way to get more revenue. I-tunes has survived thus far- and it cannot all just be because of the popularity of apple. I think that people are willing to buy- when quality is guaranteed. I'd personally much rather spend money, picking songs from a list and have it burned to CD for me or put on USB instead of trying to get 8 good high quality songs from BiTorrent. There are so many mislabled, misnamed, and navigating the porn can be a huge task. I also think creating "kid-safe" kiosks, could be useful- where only specific rated music is available, so parents can let their kids choose without worring about what XYZ song has on it. Off the whole kiosk idea, there is the wonder of why music seems to have failed at the specialty items. I think they kind of took the cafe press approach, instead of actually*thinking* of what people want to buy with an artists name/album on it. A cool designed t-shirt, is a cool designed t-shirt, made by the music industry or not. And, why are these items only marketed in booths and CD specialty stores- except for Disney stars like the dreaded Hannah Montana ?

Here's one (5, Interesting)

Xelios (822510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067105)

Normally I'm not a fan of rap, but I came across a guy by the name of Immortal Technique a few weeks ago that impressed me quite a bit. Not only are his lyrics actually about important things rather than bling, hos and poppin caps, but he seems to get the new way music distribution works.

He's been on an independent label since 2000 (he's co-owner of it now I think) and in that time he's sold maybe 300,000 units total. Is that a lot compared to artists on major labels? No, but he makes $7 per CD sold and lots more money doing live shows. He said in an interview that he was offered $150,000 to make an album for a major label and he turned them down.

He's not making nearly as much money as Jay Z or some other big name rapper, but he has full control over his production and full control over his music, something he says is more important than money. I'll leave you with a piece from an interview:

Lots of people, not just the record labels, told me that this wasn't going to be lucrative or that no one was going to care, but I was fortunate enough to believe in myself and say, listen, I'm going to do whatever I want, with or without the express permission of other people. There's no gatekeeper for me. I don't need somebody to co-sign me to put me on.

Anyone who has supported me has never been because I twisted their arm, it's been out of the goodness of their own heart because they felt the truth in the music. So I think in terms of marketing myself, I don't need to create a rap persona, or a different personality in order to sell records. For me, it's just as simple as getting the word out and getting the music to people. The music sells itself, and the message sells itself.
...
I definitely would like people to purchase The 3rd World in stores and purchase it online, but I think it was more of a way for me to express my frustration with the music industry. I can't believe they have the audacity to call anybody else a thief. As much money as they steal from artists, as much as they don't have a health care program for any of their artists, and I look at stuff like that and I'm disgusted. They go to these conferences and tell kids, "How can you steal a record?" I'm like really?


Full interview [wordpress.com]

Bailouts.. (1)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067115)

All these bailouts for industries that failed to progress and modify their business methods. They rather change society than change themselves. I'm sorry, but fuck the music industry. Indy music is way better than the commercialized piece of shit they put out on radios.

The "Record Industry" - An Historical Anomaly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26067117)

The "record industry" and "recording artists" are an historical anomaly who's rise and fall are now complete. With the advent of the recording equipment developed by Edison in the late 19th century, musicians and the music-providing industry blossomed since they were able to monetize their works by selling hard copies. Now that the internet technologies have made this business model obsolete, the musicians and music-providing industry is reverting to its original form. The entire business of selling copies of records is merely an anomaly that was enabled by the existence of recording technologies coupled with the immaturity of telecommunication technologies. Just like plenty of other businesses that wax and wane with technologies, the days of the recording industry are over.

Re:The "Record Industry" - An Historical Anomaly (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067149)

Just like plenty of other businesses that wax and wane with technologies, the days of the recording industry are over.

You know what else waxed with technology? An automatic shoe-buffer!

That's what I'm getting you for Christmas!

Tax vs. Blanket License (2, Insightful)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067153)

So the music industry is trying to sell a blanket license, so that it can monetize its assets without suing customers. Isn't this a step in the right direction? Calling it a tax instead of a blanket license is just inflammatory, IMHO. Some of these companies were built in good faith, relying on property rights as they currently exist, they paid money to own licenses which gave them the right to make profits. That doesn't guarantee profits, of course, but if they paid someone to 'own' the music, what's ethically wrong with pursuing those profits?

Don't get me wrong, I disagree with many of the fundamental ideas on which the industry relies. I think it's bad business to sue their customers, but the original mistake that they made was failing to keep up. They've invested so much in their current business infrastructure that they can't bear to part with the concept of owning songs in the traditional way.

Re:Tax vs. Blanket License (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26067329)

So then offer the blanket license for sale to individuals who are interested. Forcing it on people who are not interested is immoral.

Re:Tax vs. Blanket License (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26069119)

So the music industry is trying to sell a blanket license, so that it can monetize its assets without suing customers. Isn't this a step in the right direction? Calling it a tax instead of a blanket license is just inflammatory, IMHO

Wrong. They would like to force me to pay for music I don't listen to, have no interest in downloading, and even less interest in buying. And in some cases (violent gangsta rap), actively dislike.
Not a chance.

Lets change the rules a little. How about a 'software blanket license'? No matter what s/w you use...you must pay. A portion of that goes to Microsoft, Oracle, Novell, Sun, etc, etc, etc. Whether you use products from them or not. Even if your personal/corporate usage is strictly FOSS..you must pay.
How about a large dose of Kiss My Ass.

They already have that (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067195)

it effectively rewards those who failed in the marketplace, punishes those who innovated and sets up a huge, inefficient and unnecessary bureaucracy

They already have that... it's called the RIAA

Hunky Dory (1)

Mr. Foogle (253554) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067365)

"There's been some debate about this plan and Techdirt has a detailed explanation of why a music tax is a bad idea, noting that it effectively rewards those who failed in the marketplace, punishes those who innovated and sets up a huge, inefficient and unnecessary bureaucracy

So .. a music tax is a bad idea. But more taxes by the State on everything from bread to services to shelter .. 51% of Americans think that's hunky dory.

Got it.

But I don't want to subsidize mediocrity! (4, Insightful)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067445)

This is just a fancy way of the music industry trying to hook up an IV drip tube to everybody's credit card account. It is like Netflix, but with music.

My first problem with this is that the music industry is only interested in promoting big-hit mass-market stuff that applies to the lowest common denominator. Excuse me, but I don't want to give my money to Britney Spears.

My second problem is that I want to be able to opt out of paying for more than I use.

My third problem is that a structure like this gives the music industry too much leverage in the internet world, and I prefer a free internet.

Never, I say!

Re:But I don't want to subsidize mediocrity! (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067513)

Excuse me, but I don't want to give my money to Britney Spears.

That's OK. Britney won't see a dime of it. It'll all go to record company executives, and to their lawyers (to file lawsuits against the schools that said "no").

Re:But I don't want to subsidize mediocrity! (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26069167)

It is like Netflix, but with music.

It is like forced Netflix, but with music.
Little addition there.

OH OH! (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067459)

I can answer this very easily....BECAUSE IT'S A TAX!! Tax=bad...like kicking puppies! It should be axiomatic!

Easy one (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067469)

"So, why stymie that process with a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record labels?"

Because it funds the big record labels.

That's the reason!

Ok, next question please.

Possibly Incorrect Assumption (4, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067523)

Everyone seems to assume the money would go to the record companies. How about we establish a music tax and allow musicians to register their copyrights with the Library of Congress to get a cut of it? We could completely remove the music industry and its associated overhead from the equation. Musicians wouldn't have to worry about marketing anymore, everyone would get a share and we could remove the drag on society that the RIAA has become.

Re:Possibly Incorrect Assumption (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26069237)

How about we establish a music tax and allow musicians to register their copyrights with the Library of Congress to get a cut of it?

How about no. I want my money to go to what I choose. Just in the music world, there are many, many acts/groups/people that I would refuse to support.
Just as with grouped charities(Combined Federal Campaign). There are many subgroups that I would rather not, and will not, support. Period.

I don't want everyone to have a share. I want *my* money to go where *I* want.

Economically, it's a good idea (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26067575)

It can be shown that under certain assumptions, a free market leads to optimal production and consumption of goods. Those assumptions hold for goods like, say, bread, where over the long run, the cost of production equals the marginal cost, and where giving the item to one consumer excludes giving to another.

Those assumptions fail for goods like music, where the marginal cost is essentially zero, and one consumer having a song doesn't exclude others from having it.

A free market does not result in optimal production for goods like music. It results in underproduction, and thus underconsumption. This is sometimes called a "market failure".

There are two ways to address this. One way, which is what we do in our current system, is to artificially, by force of law, give music the necessary attributes to make it like bread. That's the theoretical economic justification for copyright law. That fixes the underproduction problem.

But there is still underconsumption, because the market price is higher than the marginal cost of production. That also leads to resource misallocation, as consumers are spending more for music than they "should" be spending, and so spending less on other things.

The good point, though, of the "intellectual property" approach, is that it leaves the decision of WHAT music to produce up to market forces.

The other way to address the market failure in music is to treat it as a public good. Consumers get to consume it for free (well, free in the same sense that a public park is free...we pay for it, but it comes out of our taxes, and we pay the same whether we use it a little or a lot), and the government pays musicians to produce it.

The usual big philosophical objection to this is that we then have the government deciding which musicians to pay to produce music. That doesn't sound very appealing, so to make the "public good" approach work, you need to design some kind of mechanism where who gets paid and how much they get paid is determined by some kind of objective method, probably based on tracking downloads or how many times a song is played or something like that, and splitting the money according to that. Then, the government just has to decide the overall music budget each year--which is still giving them a lot of control over music.

If we want to solve the music production/consumption problem rationally, as an economic problem of allocation of resources, then those are pretty much the only real ways to solve the problem. Either solution is fine with me. The "intellectual property" approach seems more elegant, but only works well if piracy is rare. My big concern with the "public goods" approach is how to handle allocating the money, but since under such a system, music could be openly traded on the net, and people would have no reason to hide, it would be possible to sufficiently sample music downloads to get a good idea of how popular any given song is. I'm not sure how the total music budget could reasonably be set, though.

"Public Goods" (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068605)

Freedom can still work in cases of digital works. People will take action to get things they need. If no one produced music because there was no money in it, people who want music will find someone to give money to who will produce the music.

People like to say this won't work, but many people buy music and video in iTunes which are freely available elsewhere on the internet. It has also been demonstrated that advertisers will pay artists (television and radio have survived on this fact alone for decades).

A music tax is completely out of the question, because not everyone wants or feels they need music. Only people who are willing to pay for music should pay for it. Then again, I feel that way about all so-called public goods.

Just guessing (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068039)

it effectively rewards those who failed in the marketplace, punishes those who innovated and sets up a huge, inefficient and unnecessary bureaucracy. ... So, why stymie that process with a new bureaucracy that simply funds the big record labels?"

Because you stand a good chance of building an empire out of that new bureaucracy and/or are invested in one of those big record labels who failed in the marketplace (or their allies?)

This is sort of like the levy in Canada (2, Informative)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068103)

Canada has a levy on blank media (currently just CDRs and tapes, not DVDs), and a right to make copies for personal use. (There's some question about whether allowed copies must be onto levied media, or whether they can be made copy: but it is not a copyright violation to make the private copies.)

There are lots of reasons to dislike this: you have to pay it even if you use the CDRs for data or your own music, the rules for distributing the money don't bear a close connection to what actually got copied, payments are only made to Canadian collectives, it doesn't apply to copies made on the more common media people use nowadays, etc.

The CRIA (the Canadian subsidiary of the RIAA) lobbied to have this put in place because it looked like a cash cow, but lately they've been lobbying to get rid of both it and the personal copying right. This is likely because they don't get a large share of the levy, which goes to copyright collectives first, and is distributed to their members (artists) as well as the recording companies.

It's probably not possible to fix most of the problems with the levy, but it is nice to know that I have the legal right to make copies of music, and don't have to worry about being sued over it. The Conservatives introduced legislation that kept the levy but did away with the private copying right (and promised to deal with the levy this fall, but things didn't work out for either the legislation or the promise). I think the Liberals are also in the pocket of the big media companies, so they will probably support that legislation if it ever comes to a vote.

So you should demand a blanket license to copy for personal use, not just a promise not to sue, and then this "tax" might not be such a bad thing.

Can I get in on this (1)

lalena (1221394) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068153)

I will create a web site where users can make music similar to Wii Music. Every song that is "played" is now a shared song on the internet that others can listen to (a.k.a. steal) and therefore I am entitled to $1 every time someone creates a new song. If people don't listen to other people's songs on the site, then I will automatically push the songs to their hard drive via today's latest zero-day exploit.

Spam spam spam (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068371)

  1. Write some music (who cares that it's horrible)
  2. Fire up the botnet to download a million copies of it from everywhere.
  3. Send out copies in billions of emails
  4. Profit!!!

the civil list (2, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068479)

It seems to me, that in america at least, we are moving into a very Aristocrat era, where people are not allowed the opportunity to pursue happiness, but rather are given it because because by some metric we think they deserve it. I believe this comes about because certain parties have convinced that the american is a right, and every person, no matter how incompetent, inefficient, or otherwise unproductive deserves a 2000 square foot house, a 600 cubic foot automobile, and a flat screen TV in every room. I believe nothing could be further from the ideals written into the justification for the colonies to rebel against England, and for at least some future Americans to become traitors against their monarch. The whole idea was to allow people, or rather men, the opportunity to succeed without having to compete against established firms that produced nothing.

No one wants an American car. Few people are willing to pay plastics discs of music. Why are we wasting our time trying to save these failed business plans. The executives are clearly not able to turn a profit. Why do we think the are entitled to their income.

I know that everyone says they are too big fail, and what about the jobs. Well, I still believe in America. I believe that they failure represents an opportunity, not a termination. If these companies are no longer wasting resources, well those resources will be available to other more innovative firms.

As far as the job losses, and 'main street' argument. How many houses have been saved since the bankers stole $400 billion from the american taxpayer. And how many jobs did Chrysler say there were going to cut as soon as their handout is given? Here is a thing to think about. One trillion dollars pays for almost 150,000 so-called welfare recipients. People who have and raise families, pay rent, spend all the benefits at the grocery store for food and necessities. they don't buy jets, figure how to screw a person coming in for a loan, or go crying to washington for a bailout. Here is one thing I think we can all agree on. A person pulling in $7000 a year is much more likely to go out and look for a job, or create a job, than a person pulling in 40K a year making cars no one wants.

Re:the civil list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26069343)

plus-fucking-1

Gramm was right when he said the country's leaders are a bunch of whiners.

"The Creative Business" (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068693)

There's something about art that doesn't readily lend itself to business. Actually, there are a lot of somethings about art that doesn't lend itself well to business.

1. Art is often temporal even though some is timeless. And you just never know when it may become interesting again. But instead of letting the people have their art after a specified time has passed, the business people have bribed legislators to push the expiration date on are back "forever" denying the public their side of the bargain... the side of the bargain that says "we will respect your copyright for a while and then you let us have it."

2. Art is a matter of taste and opinion and therefore has different value to different people. Business puts it all in the same sized and shaped box and puts it all on a shelf with similar prices with no refund if you don't happen to like it or think it is worth it. There is no standard measure for quality, and it is quite difficult to quantify or appraise.

3. Art cannot be duplicated effectively. When art is duplicated and copied, all copies and sometimes even the original loses its value. The industrialization of art demeans the art and the artists. There is nothing wrong with one-hit-wonders -- they are sometimes the best songs ever and if that's all that ever comes out, then that should be just fine and we should appreciate it. Trying to duplicate artists is even worse... how many boy-bands were there before they eventually got so tiresome that people couldn't stand any of them any longer? The same goes for movies... how many "Rocky" movies? How many Star Treks, Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Lethal Weapons will the market bear? There is some value in fandom and unquestionably some movies demand sequels, but how much is too much? And worse, how many of the "same movie" will they make because they thought a "formula" was successful and worth repeating? Will we run out of comic book heroes before they move on the nursery rhymes and classic children's stories?

People are tired of it and getting moreso. I believe we are getting to a point at which civil disobedience is most certainly in order. Copyright law has forgotten its half of the bargain and so I feel the bargain is null-an-void. Screw the copyright industrialists. They aren't the creators. They are just the people abusing and exploiting the creativity of others. Many artists are demonstrably showing their own disobedience to the masters of media by publishing in their own ways. It is for that reason alone that "music taxes" should never be allowed to exist. There is more than one path for money to flow and more than one medium for art to exist, reside or be recorded upon. Bittorrent isn't used exclusively for sharing illegal media and MP3 format isn't used exlusively by copyright infringers. These copyright industrialists no longer and arguably never have controlled the entire marketplace and therefore have no claim to tax the entirety of music or any other art form.

Oh jeez. (2, Funny)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26068995)

Normally I look beyond the surface to see what is being discussed, but half way through I realized, "Music Tax"?? --And realized that after all the smoke and mirrors, switchbacks and rationalizations are summed up, the convoluted system whereby music has been harnessed by the wheels of industry, "Music Tax" describes it exactly.

Pay tax to listen to music. I'm certain given enough time and marketing, logical arguments could be made to stick for implementing a Sunshine Tax, and a Happiness Tax.

And it's why the Empire is falling.

-FL

ASCAP/BMI/SESAC work. Why won't this? (1)

Brett Glass (98525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26069239)

ACAP, BMI, and SESAC all impose fees upon venues where music is played (and also radio stations), and then distribute the royalties to artists. Why wouldn't the same thing work for music downloads? I can't see any reason why not. Even if the distribution wasn't perfectly accurate or some people paid a little more or less than they really should, it seems to me that overall it'd be pretty fair. And it'd sure be worth it to get rid of all the wrangling, deception, piracy, lawsuits, and everything else! Internet radio might even flourish again.
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