1024 digital tracks are worth $0.23 according to Time Warner
Want to know why I feel no guilt watching big labels bleed a slow death, read this great article from an un-recouped band trying to find out how much money they’re making.
It’s a bit long for a “quick” read but it’s great, and as you’re reading keep in mind this is one of the numerous “little guys” once embraced by the corporation that is now discarded by the wayside. And one of the few who has the abilities to see just how bad their getting screwed.
As I asked more questions (Why do we get paid 50% of the income from all the tracks on one album, but only 35.7143% of the income from all the tracks on another? Why did 29 plays of a track on the late, lamented MusicMatch earn a total of 63 cents when 1,016 plays of the exact same track on MySpace earned only 23 cents?) he eventually got to the heart of the matter: “We don’t normally do this for unrecouped bands,” he said. “But, I was told you’d asked.
Time Warner is the 4th largest media conglomerate. They aren’t a mom and pops startup business in danger of dying so that they have to cut costs to stay afloat. Just a few of TW’s lucrative holdings:
New Line Cinema (Makers of Lord of the Rings Trilogy)
Turner Broadcasting System
Warner Bros. Entertainment (All Harry Potters, Batmans, and Supermans)
CNN (The “Not Fox or that crappy MSNBC” one)
DC Comics (And all the comic book movie moneys they bring)
My point is a company this big an powerful has the ability to do basic accounting of where their money is coming and going; something they are all too quick to point out to say that illegal downloads of music and movies is apparently killing them.
Making money is making money, it doesn’t matter if you’re up $20,000, or in the hole $300,000 income is just as important. The fact that record labels dismiss the income (debt reduction) owed on artists that are un-recouped is just bad as if they cut a recouped band out of a $10,000 royalty check. The artists aren’t suffering because of downloads like the labels say, they’re suffering because the labels are lying to them and cutting them out of the income they are entitled to.
Alternatively we have proof here that the big labels aren’t losing hardly any money on digital downloads at all. If 1,016 plays of a track on MySpace is only worth 23 cents, why are illegal downloaders being fined $80,000 for downloading a digital copy off the internet?
Either way you slice it the conglomerate labels are lying and exploiting their artists and customers.
Simply put, Japan’s attitudes to copyright are baffling.
The news via Ars is that “Japanese RIAA wants server-side music DRM for mobile phones.”
So anytime you listen to music on your phone it checks online with a central repository to see if you have the rights to play the song.
It’s mind blowing on so many levels.
First is the gall of any organization to try to pull this. Second is the massive amount of backend resources to log everybody’s DRM rights. And third the huge potential for failure rendering everybody’s legally purchased music worthless. Even though it’s not addressed I’m going to assume they’re smart enough to ignore tracks ripped from legally purchased CD and played on mobile phones. Otherwise multiply the audaciousness of the above list tenfold.
But what really interests me is how this speaks of the differences between culture in Japan and the US.
That there is even a possibility for RIAJ to suggest this speaks volumes about Japanese culture and the adage “The nail that sticks up is the first to be hammered down.” RIAA in the US would love this kind of thing but they know that the public would eviscerate them the moment they even hint at it as a possibility. In Japan I still don’t think they’ll allow it but nationally people are submissive enough towards authority that it actually makes it on the table. “If it’s the law follow it and change it through low pressure means, don’t make waves.”
Next is the incredibly lax copyright respect given to western music on TV and Japanese media. Watch Japanese TV for 20 minutes and you’ll hear a few music clips from western music; watch another 20 minutes and you’ll hear clips played by bands that most definitely did not give permission for the show to play their music. In the US copyright lawyers start circling the waters if you play as small as a three cord riff from a popular song (which speaks volumes of US propensity to litigate). However I think there may be a copyright law that says that you can sample on TV so long as it’s less than 30 seconds, or maybe that only applies to covering another artist’s works. Either way a lot of indie bands get a lot of uncompensated play in Japan.
Another oddity is the fact that piracy in Japan is so much less of a problem than it is in the US. While it’s not non-existent, Japanese people are generally much less inclined to illegally download music. Which is amazing considering how overpriced the music is brand new: $10 for singles, $20 for albums, $30-40 for limited edition albums!
Possibly tempering this is the fact that Japanese youth are less PC oriented and more Mobile Phone savvy. That keeps the act of running torrent servers more in the realm of the tech geeks rather than the everyday Japanese youth. So why in the world would the RIAJ think of such a restrictive process for controlling music?
But the real mind boggler is the fact that even though few people pirate music, when it does happen it’s quite blatant. In Japan they have DVD rental shops just like in the US, but in Japan they also have CDs for rent at the shops. It’s a prime place to get exposure for all the latest releases and will always have new hits the day they drop.
Ok that’s no so shocking but the kicker is that in additional to all your DVD and CD renting needs, the shops also sell all the blank CD, DVD, and MiniDisc’s that you need.
Put two and two together. It’s like one stop shopping for the CD ripping pirate. The icing on the cake is that they have hourly rentals, just enough time to go home, rip, and come back. I took a picture when I was there to prove it because I just couldn’t believe the audacity.
For more check out this interesting article about why RIAJ looks the other way over CD Rental ripping.
So why, with all things considered, is RIAJ thinking of such a draconian scheme as locking down all digital music copies on Mobile Phones?