Monday, September 20, 2010

San Diego Music & Technology Conference - Revisiting Music Distribution

I sat on a panel last Friday that was entitled "Remixes, Production, Distribution & The Law."  As I was thinking about our panel discussion over the weekend, I realize we missed hitting an important point about distribution.  We had Jeff Price, CEO of Tunecore on our panel.  But our discussion just touched the surface.  We - and especially Jeff - hit on the fact that distribution is easier than ever in our high-tech, Internet-centric world.  But the real purpose of distribution, at least for many artists, is to get paid for their work.  In most cases, artists are paying for distribution, but they are not getting paid for their music.  That's because the price for music is free.  At least that's what all those who illegally download and share copyrighted music without paying for it like to think.

But they really do pay something - the money just is not going to the artists and copyright owners.  They pay Internet providers for Internet access, and they pay technology hardware companies for computers/players.  Countless advertisers pay Google and other Internet companies for ads on millions of download pages, tremendous revenues are generated there.  While the illegal - but "free" - downloads take place, someone is making millions.

So you may pay a company like Tunecore to distribute your songs, and you may make a few bucks, but for the most part, that's all you will make.  Because somebody somewhere is illegally sharing your music.  And probably many other's music, too.  That's the way it is.  95% of downloaded music is by unpaid, illegal download. (from IFPI -

There is a great article by Paul McGuinness, manager of U2, in this month's Rolling Stone.  It is worth reading.  Here's a link to the story:

This shouldn't be news to anyone.  Illegal downloads need to be stopped.  ISPs, Internet search engines, music player hardware manufactures and any business that is facilitating illegal downloads should all be paying a portion of their revenues to music creators and copyright owners. 

Even in the context of remixes and mashups, although there may be instances where there is a compelling fair use argument, remixers and mashers should be paying for their use of other's music.  I came up with an analogy I think is apt to try to put it in context:  Painters must pay for their paints.  Similarly, remixers and mashers must pay for their music.

Comments welcome.  Have a great week.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Rolling Stone article. Thank you for posting, Michael!

    I still don't understand why people were so angry with Lars Ulrich. He spent time to create music, he deserves compensation. I'm all for bands releasing music for free BY CHOICE to help get their name out (Napster was wonderful for Afroman) but artists still need to eat and the general public doesn't understand that.

    "Today, control over their work is exactly what young and developing performers are losing. It is not their fault. It is because of piracy and the way the internet has totally devalued their work." This is exactly what I'm afraid of. It's part of the reason I don't want to release anything because it drives me crazy that I can't protect my own music.

    IMO, it is impossible to make people pay for music. The fact is that the internet is a wonderful education tool but it is also an extremely successful job eradication weapon.