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(:E cries at...

Hernan's Blog of Hate!

[ Sunday, November 02, 2003 ]


Electronica for dummies 6: It's not a good time to be a musician. (Post inspired in viralex's conpiracies)

And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? we call it "Riding the gravy train" , sang Roger Waters in "Have a Cigar", about the music business, back in 1975. This post's intention is not to disencourage anyone to get into the music business but, as a former music releaser and victim, I feel the need to communicate the war from my point of view.

Claim your copyright share in Colombia

Musicians should be meant to compose, rehearse, record, perform and earn according to their level. We all know this is far from a reality, because there's much more to the music business than the music. There's a full legal system behind it all to learn so, like in many businesses, the science of getting money out of it depends on your ability to exploit it. And you would be surprised at the amount of money stolen from people who dont even know a bit about music, but know the system.

I was once told "your band's music is now on rotation in this radio station". Naturally I had some satisfaction out of it, what everyone wants at first is some recognition, and I got a bit of it, I've met people who have heard my music and liked it, and it can really make your day. Anyway, I've failed to understand the true meaning of that phrase.

When you create your music, you can use scoring software to generate the scores or you can write them down, so you can get a copyright for the songs, and give sense to the "All rights reserved" statement in your demo CDs. Some guitar or piano, the voice melody and the lyrics will work. Next step after having your songs copyrighted is to get some assistance from a competent lawyer to collect the money generated by the songs when they are "on rotation" on some radio station. Radio stations pay a monthly fee to the state (in Colombia, they pay it to "SAYCO") for the songs aired, and they provide a full listing on the songs, so record companies can have their "editor" companies poking around on those lists to see what corresponds of the fee paid to their respective companies.

But the share of that paid fee for many songs (from independent artists) are not collected, mainly, because of the ignorance of the artists. A time passes, and if it is not collected, the "editor companies" simply steal it. The way to claim for your money is, in Colombia you need to be admitted as a partner to SAYCO to claim your share (go to SAYCO's site, spare the flash intro, click on "Beneficios Sociales" then on "Admisiones"), among the conditions stated, you need to have at least 10 registered songs. Maybe someday you'll claim 7000 USD like Rafael Escalona.

Selling music on the Internet

This is sometimes the preferred medium used by young musicians to publish and sell their music, through sites like mp3.com, or the new napster, but to sell big you need to be noticed, and featured, and that's publicity which costs a lot more than recording the music! Others simply post their music and wait for people to donate through PayPal.

War is waged this days in the Internet and in real life, where the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America, composed by the biggest music labels, Warner, Sony, Arista, EMI, BMG, Virgin, etc.) has fighted against piracy in the form of mp3 files through Peer 2 Peer networks primarily, first by taking down the mediocre Napster, then by hurting significately the music fans around the world by taking down the great Audiogalaxy (where I found the strangest songs and demos, and even found my own music which I didnt upload), and now against Kazaa. The problem with Kazaa is that it has no offices in the United States, but instead their servers are spread through the world, even in "countries" (and islands) that have no regulations for that kind of matters. So the new strategy is through terrorism, instead of attacking the companies and servers, they went for the end-user. The RIAA has announced that it will be issuing lawsuits against individuals in a monthly fashion (read here), people who the RIAA found out (how? sounds like privacy invasion) who shared 1000+ mp3 files. It all started in September with 204 lawsuits, a process famous for a sued old woman who happened to have a mac computer (macs dont run kazaa), and a sued 12yo girl.

This month, the RIAA targeted 261 individuals more. The strategy wants you to log into kazaa, and get reduced links to download music, at real slow speeds, thus killing the network. FastTrack network is the target now (clients like kazaa, grokster, morpheus, etc), I think if it works they'll go after eDonkey2000 and gnutella's network (Anyway, I think there's gonna always be a new P2P software and network to share files).

So, in an attempt to give music fans a legal and fair-priced alternative the monster of software are jumping after the crops of music. In this moment, 3 companies are after it, namely Roxio (with the new napster software), musicmatch and now Apple (with the iTunes software). When iTunes for Windows was launched, it only took 3.5 days to sell 1 million songs, and you can laugh at Micro$oft's reaction here. Napster is even launching pre-paid cards for people to buy music! So now you could say the big software companies are aggressively after the artist's money, the premise of these companies is "creating a system that gets virtually all of fans' money directly to artists", but as stated here, the musicians are getting paid a really small fraction of the whole sale and, as the cited article says, iTunes music store is like a web facelift for the same corrupt music industry.

How much you get from this selling method depends on how big you are, as usual, but it will never come close to what record companies and now software companies get from it. It's kind of a dead-end, huh?


This wars have damaged severely the quality of music. Through the 90's we saw how the music business began killing the genres and the tastes by getting formulas for music, and getting out bands and artists that sounded the same. People slowly decided to stop buying music because there's not much innovation in comercial (and advertised) music these days, the RIAA companies spit out new artists every day that sound and look like the former ones, and flood tower records with them, and good honest music from independent labels gets harder to get in real life.

Time will tell and we'll probably get to know how it all ended, and how music was damaged in the process.

Hernán [2:14 PM] -

the hatemachine,
according to svigle