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RIAA Math: Sell 1 Million Albums, Still Owe $500k

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the must-be-that-new-math dept.

Businesses 355

An anonymous reader writes "For all the complaints from the RIAA about 'pirates,' who are the real pirates in this scenario? Through a variety of contractual tricks, it's nearly impossible for artists signed to major labels to get paid. The article and video detail how an artist who thinks he's getting a 10% royalty is actually getting closer to 2.5% through various tricks placed in the contract. The labels, then, end up with 97.5% of the gross revenue, and anything they 'spend' on the artist continues to come out of the royalties, not the labels' cut."

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Shysters all (3, Insightful)

dosius (230542) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693592)

This is why I say fuck the MAFIAA.

-uso.

Re:Shysters all (3, Funny)

vlad30 (44644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693772)

This is why I say fuck the MAFIAA.

-uso.

I wouldn't fuck them with your dick !

Re:Shysters all (4, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693824)

Given that weve seen similar stories for years (hollywood accounting, unfair contracts, better off going alone), 2 questions spring to mind:

1) Surely enough people have been burned to set up a class action lawsuit and /or lobbying for new regulation/legislation towards Hollywood / the recording industry for their accounting practices; Im generally gun-shy of unnecessary regulation but this seems to be an area where audits would be helpful, and the odd multi-million-dollar judgement might not hurt either

2) If these contracts are known for being so bad, why do people continue to sign them? I sympathize if the contracts are simply not being honored, but if it continues to happen and people continue to sign the contracts, my sympathy begins to wane. I do NOT want to get into a situation where contracts are no longer enforceable because of legislation protect people from sneaky contracts; people DO bear responsibility for contracts that they sign if they are upheld to the letter of the contract.

Articles like this make me really nervous because they may have a valid point, but I am terribly worried about the results of overambitious and overreacting legislation.

Re:Shysters all (2)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693906)

Well, there's the factor that, right now, to make it big, you have to do it through the established system - all major media is controlled by the established system. So, if your goal is to make it big...

Re:Shysters all (1)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694024)

Just a dumb idea... Get musicians, authors, artists, coders, and other digital work creators to join a new Digital.coop cooperative designed to eliminate the middle man. Users pay $5 to join, but then any profits are split between users and the artists. It gets around Apple's agency model problem, so you save 30% on all digital stuff right there. I write more about the idea at Ebooks.coop.

Re:Shysters all (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694276)

Except you don't. There are a growing number of musicians who have completely avoided the "big labels" and done just fine.

Re:Shysters all (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693960)

If these contracts are known for being so bad, why do people continue to sign them?

People want to be signed by a big label so bad, they'll do anything to get that contract. Often, they won't even hire an independent lawyer or will ignore the legal advice they're given, because they want to be signed so bad. The label knows that even if this group turns it down, there are 20 more waiting in the wings, itching for that contract. You either accept it or it goes to the next group.

It's just like the people you see on Jerry Springer or whatever. They don't care that they look like idiots, they got to be on tv... and on Jerry at that!

Re:Shysters all (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694020)

Why do people sign up? You can lead a pretty good rockstar lifestyle for a few years if you sign up with the RIAA, but:

a) It's not all S&D&R&R - expect a lot of mundane days, long hours, jetlag, etc.

b) The letdown when they move on to the next great thing can be hard.

c) There's a possibility that when it's all over you owe *them* money, not the other way around - keep one eye on the accounts!

Re:Shysters all (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694072)

Why do people sign? Because they are not lawyers. They are also asking the wrong questions to their lawyers. They will say to their lawyer that they want to sign and see the contract. All the while dreaming of gazillions of dollars.
Instead they should ask IF they should sign or not. It means the moment they check the contract, they have already committed themselves.

The dream of stardom is as blind as love. I knew a band and I knew the manager they hired. The manager was all hot air and talk and no connections whatever to the music industry. The phone numbers he had of music people, he got from the phone book or yellow pages.

I clearly told them he would not be worth the 30% he requested for a 5 group band. They still went along with him. As predicted not one contact came out of it, yet the manager still got money from the band (30% and at least X amount said the contract).

So the problem is unfortunately not so much the rules and regulation, it is the fact that a sucker is born every day.

Look at all these X-factory type of shows. On top of what they need to pay standard, they will need to pay the company that aired their win 30% for 3 years. So to make a living they need to work like horses those three years. Results is that they are over exposed, killed their voice and end up broke.

Re:Shysters all (5, Insightful)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694096)

If these contracts are known for being so bad, why do people continue to sign them?

Lets say 95% of people are smart enough not to sign one. If you work for a record company, it means you only sign up people who fall in that 5% category. The pool of people who could actually make money for them will always be large enough that they can afford to ignore the rest.

And it gets worse. Let's say I started a record company today, and I genuinely want to do right by my artists. If I don't employ the same money squeezing tactics that the existing labels do, then my margins suffer and the only way to succeed is to have a much higher success/flop ratio with the acts I sign than everyone else. And that's not trivial to pull off.

Re:Shysters all (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694434)

Except you your logic, you would sign the other 95% and make more money. The fact of the matter is that 'smart' has nothing to do. It's about experience, desire, presentation, and how poor the musician is when presented with the contract.

Re:Shysters all (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694398)

1) People signed a contract they didn't understand; which is understandable when some is waiving a bunch of money in your face and you don't realize that's your money they're waving at you.

2) See 1

When people are throwing things at you (Limos, recording studio time, food, nice rooms) It become very easy to forget it comes out of your cut plus most people have no real idea how much that stuff costs.

I wonder what would, happen if the musicians had to sign a piece of paper that says : This item comes out of your percentage, and it costs X. You have spend X + X so far.

The idea that you are responsible for your expenses isn't anything new, and it's a perfectly valid way of doing business. It's how the contract is represented that's the problem.

The results will be that fewer and fewer musicians sign these contract because people in the industry are talking about them no a medium that all musician can access i.e. the internet.

The rise of indie (5, Insightful)

theillien (984847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693596)

With the ability to distribute online so easily these days, I don't know why artists even bother with major labels anymore. I'm sure with a little investment even the smallest artist can attain a decent marketing campaign. Word of mouth and social networks are a wealth of free publicity as well.

Re:The rise of indie (3, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693652)

Unlike self-publishing, indie labels and self-sales/recording have never had the same stigma of lack of legitimacy. However, I think there is still an impression, even among the artists, that getting signed to a major label is what "success" means. It might be due to confusion in that success and slavery both start with an 's'.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693790)

It's easier. Distributing and advertising your album yourself is hard work that pays off but if someone goes "I'm an artist, I'm above such worldly matters" they sign up to let someone else take care of that and get screwed for it.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694128)

This is simply a myth. Unless you are one of the lucky few that gets pushed to the front by your label, you will likely need to do your own marketing anyways. This also applies to other things like books. The gatekeeper system is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Also the bands that tend to make it are the ones that have some industry saavy and a bit of a clue. It takes a lot to stick out from the crowd and making your own opportunities can be of considerable benefit. You can't just wait for A&R men to beat a path to your door even under the old gatekeeper system.

Re:The rise of indie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694216)

Majors are a much faster route to mega-stardom...what most artists don't realize is that mega-stardom is rare even for those signing with majors. For the average band the major label deal is equivalent to contractual rape.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

Alworx (885008) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693658)

I agree with word of mouth etc. but it's airtime that gets you the best visibility. And radio or music tv aren't but the tip of the iceberg!

Don't underestimate the power of getting your music into ads, serials and movies.

All these need well connected producers...

Re:The rise of indie (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694132)

Advertising is where the real money is. The people making the money there are the songwriters. Or better: the copyright holders.
These are rarely the artists. They often sold their copyright as part of the deal with the devil.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693696)

Artist's do use these methods, but the RIAA controls the big box store distribution chains and radio play. It is really hard for a local band to go national without RIAA backing. Trust me, we are trying!

Re:The rise of indie (0)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694208)

So why post as Anonymous Coward? Why not with a name and a link in your signature to your website?
There you could place where your gigs are. A place to listen to samples and even download music or buy records.

Unfortunately you just wasted a great opportunity to get some Internet airtime.

Re:The rise of indie (4, Informative)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693720)

- The MafiAA control the booking for 99% of the performance venues that seat more than 50 people. Get yourself to a large enough following, and you'll have problems. Piss off the MafiAA by being independent too long and they'll have you blackballed from performance venues.

- The MafiAA control the vast, vast majority of sound studios. Want to rent time and the equipment to record your album? Their response will be "fuck you, you're not under contract, get lost till someone signs you."

- Likewise, the vast majority of record producers, sound mixers, etc... are under MafiAA control.

- The MafiAA control the "top 40" lists and radio playback. Your music will never get onto the radio or onto satellite radio without them, let alone onto the pre-show movie screener reels or any other of the "combined marketing" channels. And like it or not, that is STILL how most people get exposed to new music these days.

I have several friends who've gone the indie route. Some of whom are merely good, one of whom is a fucking virtuoso, can pick up almost any instrument and give a good accounting, is phenomenal on the guitar, and has a killer instinct for writing earworms. The most he's ever been able to earn in a year, despite these talents, is about $20k - not bad for a part-time gig, but when he didn't have a day job, making a living as an indie was a matter of Just Barely Breaking Even month to month living in the crappiest, cheapest possible apartment and scheduling band practices at - you guessed it - the drummer's garage.

Note I don't say he wasn't being paid well, by most standards, for the gigs (and they had a decent number). But once you count in fuel costs, equipment costs, instrument maintenance, and split the remainder four or five ways, the money for "indie" bands to perform isn't really all that much at all.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693822)

How about giving the name of that virtuoso? Always good to find new things to listen to.

Re:The rise of indie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693878)

Dunno about GP, but up in the Seattle-ish area, I regularly come across this guy and his stuff is pretty good:

http://sodavice.com/?page_id=44 [sodavice.com]

Re:The rise of indie (4, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693830)

And yet even with all those roadblocks you're likely getting more money by staying independent than by selling yourself to the labels and living in slavery. Only the overproduced stars that are pretty much a disposable cog in the music industry and chosen to be advertised big get big money to keep the dream of being a rock star alive and musicians willing to sign up despite getting screwed.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693866)

Is it possible to just sign a distribution deal? I'd like to say that there are plenty of indie artists who aren't signed to majors, but have a wide familiarity among listeners and I imagine distribution plays a part. That familiarity seems to be parlayed into decent sales. I'd *like* to say that, but I don't know enough about the industry outside of the indies I'm aware of (Epitaph, Sub Pop and a handful of others.) I also think of other avenues such as Starbucks. While I probably would have heard about them eventually, I first found out about Broken Bells while standing in line for a coffee one day.

Re:The rise of indie (0)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693924)

You're assuming the MafiAA labels actually compete with each other? That you can possibly find a label willing to sign "just" distribution?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA... you're new around here, aren't you?

Re:The rise of indie (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694040)

What I had already said:

I'd *like* to say that, but I don't know enough about the industry outside of the indies I'm aware of...

You're snarkiness might be funny if I hadn't already said I don't know enough about the industry. I was asking out of ignorance and a desire to know.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694234)

I'm sorry it's just... this has been covered ad nauseum.

This kind of crap happened to Courtney Love [techdirt.com] . (Original Salon story here [salon.com] .
Happened to TLC.
Happened to Lyle Lovett.
Happened to Janis Ian.

Has happened to almost every goddamn band to walk the face of the earth, with the exception of maybe the "chosen few" like Metallica (who are too fucking brain-dead to check if they are getting ripped off)... and even those usually make the vast majority of their money not from their music, but from endorsement contracts.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694396)

That you can possibly find a label willing to sign "just" distribution?

It happens quite often. When Warren Defever of His Name is Alive left the independent label 4AD a few years ago, he started his own label and signed with Sony just for distribution.

In fact, before 4AD and some other British independent labels were distributed worldwide, it was quite common for their artists to sign a deal with a US major label just for distribution in the US.

Re:The rise of indie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694042)

If what you are saying is really true, then it smacks of a de facto monopoly and should be eliminated.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694120)

Defacto monopoly? Yes. Legal monopoly? No. There's another word that might be more appropriate, but I'm too lazy to figure out what it is. It's the same thing as when baseball teams conspire against a player and agree to not sign him. They were accused of it by Barry Bonds and his agent.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694258)

The phrase is "antitrust conspiracy." And Major League Baseball has a specific, congressionally-approved exemption against same.

The MafiAA just gets away with it anyways because they have certain congressional stooges in their pocket. What, you didn't think the Sonny Bono Rape The Public Copyright Act just came out of nowhere did you?

Re:The rise of indie (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694302)

Agreed with other poster, whats his name? I'll check out some of his stuff.

Re:The rise of indie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694392)

99% of venues are controlled by the RIAA? The majority of recording studios are RIAA based? The majority of producers are owned by the RIAA? Want to cite some of this? Seriously, people who modded this up appear to know very little about the music business and you have just thrown in a bunch of plainly made up numbers. Hyperbole is no substitute for facts.
 
The closest this post comes to anything insightful is a case of some indy artists... most of unknown talent and business knowledge. Not every business that fails is the fault of the competition, not every indy artist that fails is being put down by The Man. As a music fan who has listened to mostly indie music for the last few decades I know that local scenes rarely have any real talent as a creative artist. That's not to say that they're not good musicians but most of them never get out of the cover song stage simply because being good at an instrument doesn't make you an artist. And with my years involved with my local scene I have yet to ever see any of these inspiring artist ever get denied studio time or turned down by a producer because they're not signed to a RIAA based label. That's why I'm asking for a cite. Too much of this sounds like guys who should never get beyond the studio musician phase being pissed because they can't get signed for being the millionth Meat Puppets sound-alike band.
 
The reality is that if every guy who picked up a guitar with any amount of talent went on to make a living being an artist we wouldn't have guys to change our oil at the local Jiffy Lube.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

MM-tng (585125) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694412)

Ok so what would you need to build to get around these guys.
* Venues- Start a foundation to aquire some properties. You can become a member and donate money. Or a yearly subscription. With enough members you can buy a lot of property. Build a sound studio in a venue when possible.
* Open source sound studio project. Start a project too build the ultimate sound studio with as much open source components as possible. Develop it further.
* Wiki sound engineers. Assemble the knowledge and learning material too become a good sound engineer.
* Music distribution - solved use the internet.

I think it should be possible. Lets do it.

Re:The rise of indie (3, Informative)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693744)

It is still incredibly hard to become a successful (read: profitable) artist without the help of a (major) label. Big artists like Coldplay and Nine Inch Nails can afford to publish their own albums online without a label coming in between because any product with their names tied to it is guaranteed to sell. Starting artists just don't have the budget, the connections or the know-how on promoting their own music or landing gigs in large venues.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

Methuseus (468642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694092)

Many people seem to forget that successful non-label artists generally were once label-signed artists. They just finished off their contract and then went on their merry way. The problem is that most artists are signed to make X number of albums over Y years, and they either can't come up with enough good stuff so they peter out, or the label vetos the music they want to put on an album. Many artists have their creativity tied down when signed to a label, as well.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694306)

Starting artists need to be known and heard. It is the greedy mentality of the artists to sell, sell, sell that drives them in the hands of the RIAA in the first place.

Play and play well and the record companies will come to you. If you are not good enough, they won't come.

Once THEY come, you have much more to bargain with, because then it is THEIR greed, not yours.

Yes, this means that 99.9% of the bands won't get a label and that is a good thing.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

SatanClauz (741416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693774)

Agree 100%. What benefit is there to a major label these days? Its not like people buy music based on the name. Well, I don't, and honestly never thought anyone else did either. Maybe i'm just ignorant, but there has to be some reason artists still go to them.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694014)

With the ability to distribute online so easily these days, I don't know why artists even bother with major labels anymore.

Publishing != Marketing.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694180)

Publishing != Marketing.

I qualified that bit by mentioning that artists can invest in the marketing themselves. The implicit idea being they could study up on how the business side of music is done, take out some loans and approach it as an investment in their success as much as their art. Either that or find an indie label that has already proven to be successful and work with them.

Re:The rise of indie (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694350)

Why would any non-established artist think they could suddenly market themselves? Why would anybody give them a loan? Why would this be more appealing than a contract with the RIAA that says "We'll handle that for you, you focus on being good at what you do"?

Don't sign it (3, Insightful)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693614)

The RIAA is not fully to blame here. If I don't like a work contract I get it changed or walk away. If someone is too eager to be famous to take the time and negotiate I can hardly feel sorry for them.

Re:Don't sign it (1, Insightful)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693640)

The RIAA is not fully to blame here. If I don't like a work contract I get it changed or walk away. If someone is too eager to be famous to take the time and negotiate I can hardly feel sorry for them.

I totally agree. But then, I never have any problems finding work.

However, it is something of an elitist attitude don't you think?

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693662)

poo

Re:Don't sign it (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693836)

When a single organization controls the distribution channels, you're screwed. You don't have to sign the contract, but you don't have an alternative employer.

Ever tried to work in a strongly union state without being in the union? Ain't happening.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693686)

There is no negotiation, it's a take it or leave it proposition. Kids in bands will sign their life away for a chance at the big time.

Re:Don't sign it (5, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693702)

I agree.

If you don't like the contract, don't sign it.

If you don't like the contract someone else has signed, don't buy their music.

If you want to make a statement, go without . Nothing gets my back up more than the people here on Slashdot who says "this has pushed me to piracy" - grow a pair and go without if you aren't willing to pay for it otherwise you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Yes, the RIAA and MPAA have onerous terms and conditions, if you don't like them then find something you do agree with and support that.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693780)

Thanks for being a complete fucking douche bag.

RTFA....the article was looking at record contracts and noting how record companies are just as much "pirates" as people who pirate music.

The article pointed out that bands can sell millions of records and still make no money because all the profits go to the record company.

The article also point out that record contracts are not clear and simple. The contacts do not point out what the different fees are and how they are calculated. If it was an honest contact it would.

But thanks for supporting corporate piracy.

Re:Don't sign it (2)

linuxwolf69 (1996104) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694004)

I think part of the point parent was making is that if you pirate the music, the RIAA has that as an "excuse" for why profits are down. If people "did without" then it might force the RIAA to realize their business model is old and crusty.

That said, I agree that the contracts are shady. However, I've known about "hollywood accounting" for years, is it really safe to assume that these artists are really THAT stupid that they don't know there is shadyness, and find out what it is, before they sign?

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693996)

I don't think anyone says "this pushed me to piracy"
Those of us of a like mind don't consider it piracy. They do not "take" anything from anyone. No-one lost a thing. Peer-to-peer file sharing has introduced many to music the industry would never have allowed them to hear had they not found their own means to get to the music. The same goes for video.

Since the introduction of filesharing the amount of music/video produced has exploded. Would many of these new indie projects exist without filesharing? The Music and Movie INDUSTRIES are dieing... and the art forms of Music and Video production are benefiting from it.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694002)

If you don't like the contract, don't sign it.

Obviously you have never had a dream, worked hard for it, and seen it held out to you on a platter. The alternatives for artists aren't sign/don't sign, but instead are achieve dream/don't achieve dream. Quite the difference.

If you don't like the contract someone else has signed, don't buy their music.

I disagree. The best way to get back at rich bastards is to steal from them. Nothing gets under the skin of the rich quite like keeping them from being as rich as they'd like to be. They do not care if you don't have their product. What they do care about is if you've paid for the product you do have.

Eat the rich.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694016)

I agree with and support piracy.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694090)

Nar, if we don't like the terms, we'll just pirate, thanks. I hope that eats away at your soul and their filthy pockets.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

ArmchairGeneral (1244800) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694270)

I used that argument myself to justify my piracy years ago, and then I quickly realized it was just a convenient lie to get what I wanted. I contemplated about pirating and then sending money directly to the artist, although I'm sure there's a clause in their contract that would require them not to accept it.

Although I will point out that if I have bought a movie I will download the soundtrack, and to hell with whatever they have to say about that. With all the streaming out there however, you can get by listening to what you want for the most part.

Re:Don't sign it (3, Informative)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693706)

You as contractor have a bargaining position. You can afford to walk away. Most artists cannot afford this, simply because in most cases the alternatives are just as bad or worse.

Re:Don't sign it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693770)

What, like a real job like the rest of us?

Re:Don't sign it (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694152)

You as contractor have a bargaining position. You can afford to walk away. Most artists cannot afford this, simply because in most cases the alternatives are just as bad or worse.

What alternatives? How are they worse? Is the artist going to get kicked in the head for not signing or will they just have to rely on themselves for marketing?

We live in an age where musicians don't even need instruments to make music anymore! Don't tell me artists can't afford to walk away from a contract they don't agree with; they always have a choice, even if it means paying the bills by working at Starbucks until they succeed on their own terms.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694250)

Ok, that's really not what I meant and frankly quite a retarded thing to say.
Sure, anyone could go work at Starbucks but that's not what this is about is it? The difference is that anyone with an "ordinary" job will have plenty of other companies that can offer him a similar job at better terms. In the music industry, all major labels will screw you over. In that section of the market, there aren't any alternatives. Indie labels are fine and everything, but possibly usually not capable of getting you a chart topping hit. A DIY solution is not hugely realistic, really.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694410)

The alternative is not being a slave. The alternative is not making a living from music. So fucking what? I am sure the majority of people would rather do something else then they do now for a living.

We have a group. We meet after work in every bar around the world.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

deckitbruiseit (1369769) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693750)

Perhaps, but many times these bands are just so ready to sign to a major label, they'll sign whatever heaps of fine print the label puts in front of them. Do you always read through everything you sign?

Re:Don't sign it (1)

Aryden (1872756) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693888)

Yes, every last word and if I can't understand some legal jargon (very unlikely) I have a lawyer for a father who does. There is no excuse other than laziness for signing any contract without reading it and comprehending it first.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694140)

For you? Yes. For some young kid who has freaking moron parents who never bothered to educate them in such things? Well, they're responsible for their own actions, but I can certainly empathize with how they might make stupid decisions like that.

I feel like you are failing to realize that the people who fall for this thing usually don't see any other way out of their perceived social/monetary situation. They don't realize that they can walk away...and, for some of them, maybe they can't. It may very well be their only probable chance at vertical class movement.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694194)

Perhaps, but many times these bands are just so ready to sign to a major label, they'll sign whatever heaps of fine print the label puts in front of them. Do you always read through everything you sign?

When it concerns my career, yes. The moment you put your signature on a document you lose all bargaining power so taking those five or ten minutes to read what you're getting into when you can still back out really pays off.

Re:Don't sign it (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693764)

If I don't like a work contract I get it changed or walk away.

Now imagine that the "work contract" includes a no-compete clause that you can't look for other employment or even strike out on your own. One way the MafiAA keeps "artists" in limbo is by forever delaying an album. They sign you to a 4 record deal? Three records down, you're a fairly popular band, working on the fourth... they'll start exercising a "discretion clause" to keep sending it back and disapproving it over and over and over until you finally break down and re-sign with them.

And you CAN'T go anywhere else. Want to go to another label? Whoops, there's already a contract, we can't sign you. Want to go solo? Unless you have the following of The Weirdo Formerly And Then Again Known As Prince, you're going to have to leave your name and all your previous material behind, never even be able to perform it on tour again.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693794)

Than again, IF the contract is stalled out too long (like any contract between boss and employee), the boss (RIAA in this case) can walk away. Since the world is in a downturn right now, it is a Manager/boss's market. Yes, There should be some negotiation between the two but should not be stalled to long (IE American Football lockout negotiations right now).

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693814)

What the Hell? Thats like saying that our politicians aren't to blame for ruining our economy, because we elected them. You are failing to realize that the ball is in the recording industry's park, and the potential artist has no other real options. Healthy capitalism promotes fair competition, but the labels dont have to be competitive because they own most of the market share and power of advertising here. Therefore, you have a faulty business model destroyed by greed. You can't go to the "competition" because there isn't any (real competition).

Re:Don't sign it (1)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693896)

You are failing to realize that the ball is in the recording industry's park, and the potential artist has no other real options.

How about get a day job? You make it sound like artists are homeless and destitute. Perhaps they are, as the saying goes, 'starving' but there is always another job out there. It may not be as glamorous as a record deal but there is still a choice to be made.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693988)

They are going for a record deal because that is what they want to do. Getting a day job does not complete this goal, so that is a moot point. I never said anything about starving or destitution, you simply chose to read between the lines. So, comprehend that when i say "no other real options" I mean no other real recording options. Sure, there's indie, but comparing indie to big label, is no comparison. You seem to be on the side of the broken recording contracts, which need to be fixed, which is just part of my point.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693850)

A problem is that these contracts are likely so obfuscated that you'd need a lawyer to even notice you're about to get fucked six ways to Sunday.

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694404)

Don't sign, require that it is rewritten in an understandable language.
The contract is between you and the record company, not between the lawyers. If only the lawyers can understand it then the contract is obvoiusly not for you.

Re:Don't sign it (1)

Garwulf (708651) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693934)

Well, it's not that simple. From what I remember reading of this (which, granted, was at least five years ago, so perhaps...HOPEFULLY...some of this has changed), the recording industry is set up to shaft recording artists upon entry.

Let me put it this way - I am an agented author. So, when I deal with the publishers, I have an agent on my side who will play hardball if she sees the need. My agent works for me - she gets a cut of what I receive, so it is in her best interest to ensure that I get the best possible deal. This is how it is supposed to work.

In the recording industry (around five years ago, and hopefully not today) many of the lawyers involved in the contract negotiation on the artist side are in cahoots with the labels. So, a bunch of stuff that should get caught and removed from the contract isn't. And, there's a trick that often gets used where the initial offer is a contract in disguise - a "letter of understanding" - locking in the recording artist before a proper negotiation can even take place.

To cut a long story short (I know, too late), it's not a situation of read the contract offer, negotiate to take out the bad stuff, and walk away from it if the other side isn't reasonable. It's often receive the offer, take it to an entertainment lawyer who is secretly working against your interests, and later find out that you've agreed to terms that leave you going platinum while making less than you would if you were working at a Macdonald's.

(At least, that's how it was when I was reading about it around five years ago.)

Re:Don't sign it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694264)

Doesn't work that way. You see, the monicker MAFIAA isn't there for fun, it's because it works like organized crime. Organized means they have taken measures so that if you walk away from them, all the others will close their door to you. MAFIAA infiltrated stores, venues, radio, studios, etc. The only thing they couldn't and never can control is the internet. They tried suing it but it won't work. They're dinosaurs (filthy rich ones) that want to fight the last fight not to become extinct. It's just a matter of time before it happens, unless they repent and find a new business model (adapt).

Buy Used (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693632)

This is all the more reason to buy used CD's when possible. Since the artist wasn't going to get their money anyway, you might as well ensure that the label also goes without.

Re:Buy Used (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693716)

I used to go this route when I was younger and living in the San Diego area. There was a small chain of used CD stores and about once a month a group of us friends would all jump in a car and drive around the county hitting them all looking for "new" stuff. It was a nice way to build a collection and get some stuff that at the time might have been hard to find.

Where's the news? (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693650)

This stuff has been known for a long time

Re:Where's the news? (4, Informative)

multisync (218450) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693738)

True enough. Courtney Love schooled [salon.com] the RIAA years ago on this very subject.

Re:Where's the news? (0)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694370)

Yeah, the "We should tip" article from a broad who leveraged music that she lucked into thanks to a shotgun shell and a large dose of heroin into a 30 million dollar fortune through the same folks she's decrying in an article from ten years ago. The artists that contributed to Nirvana's work get dick compared to the woman that just so happened to end up with the publishing rights.

Steve Albini Wrote About This A While Back (3, Informative)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693666)

http://www.negativland.com/albini.html [negativland.com] Major labels have always screwed their artists, which is why I've always attempted to go it alone - even though I've so far been fairly unsuccessful, that's still better than going with the majors.

Lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693676)

I won't let them touch my music.

Hollywood Accounting (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693682)

It ain't just for Hollywood.

FRIST sTOP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693718)

Exemplified by troubl3s of those

David Lee Roth had the best advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693740)

- things that many musicians simply won't know about or understand when they sign their contract.

Years ago, and I don't remember where, Roth said something to the affect of: "You've been a poor and struggling musician all this time. Don't sign the first contract that the record company puts in front of you. Hold out."

These days with these "360" contracts where the artist also has to pay the record company a chunk of their touring and merchandise revenue, they're totally screwing themselves. Lady Gaga has one of those contracts and that's why a few months ago she was complaining about her finances. It wasn't so much her spending habits as it was her shit deal she cut.

This is one of those times where a lawyer who specializes in your business is worth his money.

Shooting themselves in their feet (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693754)

Most of us are happy to pay artists who have done good work. Very few of of are happy to pay thieves. Those labels are the very reason that so many people happily copy movies and music.

I really do think that everyone (probably inlcuding the labels) would do better if there was more decency and respect in the business, as much more people would be willing to pay for products if the money went where it was well deserved.

Greed (1)

cmdr_klarg (629569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693804)

When dealing with greedy people be prepared to be bent over a table and f***ed. Or don't deal with them at all.

So who signs with the RIAA ? (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693806)

So there appears to be no reason to sign with the RIAA now that small artists are able to quickly make a profit by being independent.

The accounting should become as public as possible so that anyone who retains a lawyer to sign the RIAA contract should be advised by their lawyer not to sign the contract. If despite the public information the lawyer stills says sign then you get "paid" out of the lawyers insurance as the lawyer was not acting in your interests.

This is nothing new (1)

Rougement (975188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693812)

http://www.negativland.com/albini.html [negativland.com] this is an older article but still remains the definitive word on recording industry practices.

Well lets just look at the history (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693834)

Between the 1930s and 1960s the major labels also were money laundering companies for the US mob, guess nothing has changed.

This is nothing new... (2)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693840)

Hollywood's been doing this for years, they call it Hollywood Accounting. For instance, Rain Man, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Batman (1988), and Forrest Gump all lost money on paper, despite the fact that they took in HUGE amounts of money at the box office.

Why it's allowed, I have no idea. Just another sign of corruption in our regulatory bodies and government...

The money's in the moichandising (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693898)

Rapmasta F-U the lunchbox, Rapmasta F-U the colouring book, Rapmasta F-U the flamethrower.

Well, t-shirt sales at concerts anyway, books, movie rights, that jazz. If you're too dumb to know that before you take an "advance" from a label, then you're going to get ripped off by a 419 scam sooner or later anyway.

Advances (0)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693900)

I really hate stories that moan "publishers are evil, they take your advance out of your royalties"!

There's a reason they're called "advances". You're getting advanced on (potential) future earnings, why is this scandalous?

Music publishers make a killing out of CD sales at the expense of the artist. This has always been true. That's not the only way artists get money though.

However they also get you on the radio where there's a straight 50:50 split of the royalties between the writers and the studio for the song. Then there are the concerts where artists make the huge amounts of money. Without publishers promoting you, you stand little chance little chance of getting a venue with a 5 figure capacity.

Pirate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36693982)

Had the artist hired an attorney to review the contract, their attorney would have informed them that they would have screwed.

The labels aren't in the business for the love of music -- they are in it to make money.

As a practical matter, it is difficult to help ignorant people. Since they are ignorant, they don't know need they need help on the business side (e.g., somebody experienced in these matters). FYI -- because your buddy's friend was an assistant manager at a KFC doesn't make him a good business manager for your band.

Finally, when you deal with the devil, expect to get burned.

They are a big thievery corporation (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36693984)

is actually getting closer to 2.5% through various tricks placed in the contract

Of course- this is just one of the reason they have armies of lawyers. And they also lobby to not give you a chance to go elsewhere. Unfortunately as far as I can tell, this has been the norm for all things publishing; also applies to book authors, not just music artists. And this "artist==poor as f**k" common perception further encourages an "2.5% nets more than I could do on my own" attitude.

If the system ever works, and these corporate asswipes start being taxed the hell out of (as they should, but they are not) then maybe they will replace their lawyers with accountants and their attention will be focused elsewhere.

It gets better, RIAA can't even process... (5, Interesting)

Kirgin (983046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694078)

I've worked as an IT professional on an royalt processing system for the 3 of the biggest labels. The project failed because the royalty processing algorithms needed are so convoluted and the backlog of unprocessed royalties so large that you would need supercomputer level processing to get through it. Fact #1: Royalty processing systems of today are 25 years old, based on midframe/mainframe technology and would take 3 months to process the monthend of all their artists. What does that mean? They selectively choose what artists they calculate royalties for (read new artists) and shunt the others to their backlog of billions of unpaid royalties. Fact #2: Current system is album based, even a per song sale requires an album in their system, this adds to the complexity. Fact #3: Because they've already collected money for royalty but not processed the artist portion, they are sitting with billions and billions of unpaid royalties...A lot of artists have to sue their own labels for their royalties and the ARTISTS have to prove the royalties were owing. Only then will the label get off its ass, do an emergency processing of royalties for that artist and then pay it out.

I use bittorrent and then ask artist for paypal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694222)

unfortunately it's rare to actually be able to contact the artist and then have a means to pay him without one of the dinosaurs taking all the money.

Why are artists still putting up with it? (1)

Dharkfiber (555328) | more than 3 years ago | (#36694260)

Digital distribution is easy. The biggest problem I have seen is the artists' inability to treat it like a business venture. Therein lies the real problem.

hate to say it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36694330)

...but how much exposure and success (in the recogition sense - also important) would they get without the labels?
How many indie labels get their work out to a mass market audience? I know we can all quote a few, but really widespread? Major labels are the only way to go.

It't not like piracy makes this better...piracy makes the labels even more paranoid and they take even bigger cuts from the artists because they are afraid of the days when no one pays for music.

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