Why is it that every major label and publisher supported SOPA, yet so many artists rallied against it? Why was one of the biggest hip-hop producers accepting a CEO position at MegaUpload, and still getting support from Busta Rhymes, Diddy, and other rappers?
Part of the reason, according to edgy cellist Zoë Keating, is that the battle over piracy is really one between corporations, not artists. "There are huge amounts of money involved on both sides of this fight, extremely little of it earmarked for artists," Keating commented on Digital Music News last week. "Neither side has my best interests in mind."
Especially the interests of a successful, indie artist like Keating, who has never been signed to a major label, and has never known a musical career without file-sharing in the background. Her interests are completely misaligned from that of say, Universal Music Group. "In that model, file-sharing is a huge threat," Keating told Digital Music News in a subsequent interview. "But in my universe, it's just me and Paypal."
So what is a threat? Keating is actually chasing copyright offenders, just not file-swappers and rogue foreign websites. Instead, she focuses her lawyers on offenders like major broadcasters that swipe her music (and will pay if you pressure them.) "I'm willing to spend the money to send nastygrams," Keating shared. "Because it's not exposure if they don't know it's you."
The rest is all about giving music away and making up the rest in other areas, right? Wrong: Keating actually doesn't sell merch, and makes more than half of her income from recordings, according to breakdowns shared with us. And, before she found a good booking agent, recordings comprised more than 70 percent of income. Here's what the current breakdown looks like, based on her running spreadsheet.
So why not get a merch-machine going, and get that diversified cash? The answer isn't complicated: she doesn't want to, and can get away with it. "I'm an environmentalist and felt I didn't want to create any more junk," Keating told us. "When I went down the route of playing music, I said to myself, 'I'm going to sell music and not t-shirts.'"
But why not expand the touring revenues, and the potentially higher margins that come with it? The answer, once again, is that she simply doesn't want to leave the house for that long, especially with a toddler in the house. "I'm a mother, I can't tour all the time," she said.
Which means a large percentage of her sustaining income comes from recordings, with die-hard fans keeping the lights on. It's a totally different approach to piracy that works for Keating, and one that bucks most DIY prognostication. "I make a living 'selling music,'" Keating told us. "And I know I'm not the only one."
Food For Thought Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Respectfully to Ms. Keating, she's not wholly correct about this. While she is well within her rights to want to give away her music (and not one single effort has ever been made to stop her right to do that) the battle over who is compensated for the use of music (creators or technologists) has everything to do with artists.
It's a convenient and not wholly incorrect position to say that this is about big corporate interests. Afterall, big corporations ARE involved but so too are artists (which goes beyond just musicians). The indie filmmaker Ellen Seidler is one (http://popuppirates.com/).
This is ultimately about creators having a say in how their creations are used (which, btw, includes selling those rights in exchange for BIG $$$ to major corporations like Busta Rhymes did).
Visitors Tuesday, January 24, 2012
What she is implying, I believe, is that the money that has been awarded to rightsholders during notable settlements, has gone to paying legal fees and paying label/publisher staff.
ZZZ Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Actually the article doesn't say she gives away her music, she doesn't. She sells it.
Food For Thought Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Yeah. Sorry. That was a lousy comment/post. Apologies to Ms. Keating for reading but misrepresenting that she wanted to give her music away.
My basic point, however, remains the same: this debate is about artists' rights.
It's a cause I'm passionate about and spend a lot of my life working for which may be why I only focused on her main point that those waging this battle don't have her interests in mind. I know that I do, and I know that many people speaking out about this do. Having lost about 50% of the jobs in the music industry in the last 10+ years I sincerely believe that those of us who are left are (mostly) those who truly care about the artists and the music they create.
Of course our cause would be much more effectively articulated by the artists.
Unfortunately, every conversation I'm involved in about getting artists to speak out publicly is always met with, "They can't. They don't want to be villified as the next Lars Ulrich." That's the #1 reason that the voices fronting this campaign on the creators' side are trade organizations.
Buck Wednesday, January 25, 2012
IMHO... Considering the accounting practices and procedures utilized by most labels, very little 'record' money actually makes its way into artist's pockets. That is just the sad truth
Visitor Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Funny, Ms. Keating appears to sell T-Shirts on her website.
Zoe Keating Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Re merch: I resisted selling T-shirts for the last 6 years even though friends, colleagues and professional merch-biz family members (my sister tours with major bands as a merch girl) have been on my case about how idiotic I am. Last year for my first solo tour with family in tow, I knew I'd need to bring in more on the road to cover extra costs (extra people and tours with a baby are slow-moving affairs with lots of days off). So, I bit the bullet and designed a shirt, paid top-dollar for local printing with non-toxic inks and american apparel shirts, paid a small fortune in excess baggage fees shipping them across the country on tour. What I did not sell is now for sale on my site ;-)
paul Tuesday, January 24, 2012
It's a good point, actually Zoe did tell me this in our interview, I sort of glossed over it in the article mainly because it was a limited run. So, totally my omission.
Bruce Warila Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Zoë knows, fans don't buy copyrights, they buy music...
Zoë, here's a venture / tech way of looking at it: I believe you can relate to the physical limitations of generating revenue via performing... Copyrights preserve an artist's ability to scale beyond physical limitations. As you know, on the Internet, anything that can be copied will be; the only thing that puts friction between unlimited, unbridled copying of your music...are YOUR copyrights. It seems as though your copyrights should be precious to you? And, your fans should respect your copywishes because they care about you...
On another note. I finally got around to loading the CD you gave me. Sorry but I lost track of it until several weeks ago. I loved it and thanks! I don't copy it, I tell friends to buy it :)
tomafd Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I can't see anything in there where she's advocating giving it way - in fact, she's chasing the big boys if they're out of order, just not chasing consumers (and besides, there's no point, anyway)
Yes, it's about artists, but in the end it's mostly about old money (the RIAA) defending their 'right' to pay a tiny % of income (in return for development, promo, manufacturing, and an advance) to artists, and new money (Google, ISPs, cyberlockers) defending their 'right' to make money out of filesharing (ad revenue on cyberlockers etc, broadband fees) and give NONE of it to artists.
The artists are in the middle, with little power, and the main players have little interest in them, apart from as cash cows. Big Search, Big Piracy, and Big Hardware all benefit enormously from file sharing, but share none of that cash. And in the run up to SOPA were spending just as money on lobbying their case as the RIAA ...
So in the end - yes, this fight may be about artists, but they have little say in how it'll played out. In the meantime, a lot of us are doing exactly what Keating is doing. Offering our own music on Bandcamp and similar sites, getting 85% of the cash ... but having to be web designers, promoters, social media experts, music licensing experts, art designers, networkers, recording engineers, computer experts, accountants, lawyers, and all the rest of it, as well.
Very very few of us make even minimum wage (or anywhere near that) from all this work. And work it is - and it costs a fair amount of money and lots of time - so we often have other jobs as well. And families.
It's a sad irony that just at the time when the technology could have offered musicians a way out of being ripped off by one distribution system, those who control the new distribution system have exploited that technology to make sure the musicians never get paid at all.
These days our 'distributors' invest nothing in our careers, offer us no advances, no tour support, and no royalties of any kind. And they make a fortune.
I'm told it's all about 'sharing'. Funny how Megaupload didn't 'share' any of that $110 million in their paypal account.
@madktc Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Everyone needs to stop whining about what everyone else is doing and start concentrating on all the wonderful possibilities that surround the music industry in 2012.
This is a beautiful time to be involved in music on many levels.
Maximization is key Zoe! Go find a distributor making shirts out of an alternative or recyclable material! A missed sale today cannot be made up tomorrow.
Still no answer? Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Zoe Keating posted that "My proposed solution would be but to convert file-sharing services to not-for-profits. Real digital libraries".
To which someone responded with this question - "So, what you are proposing is to allow people to share copies of Ableton Live on these file-sharing services and use that software, as long as the file-sharing services are not making "any money (for example, from AdSense)?"
Since Zoe Keating didn't reply on that thread, I bring up the issue here, because I am interested to hear a clear answer from her.
Zoe Keating Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Patrick Wednesday, January 25, 2012
First of all, Ableton Live is certainly not a highly encrypted software. That's why you could find in on MegaUpload. That's why you can find it on Pirate Bay.
You try to avoid the question, by using Ableton's retail price as an excuse. What about a $0.99 app, then?
A song costs $0.99 on iTunes.
An app costs $0.99 on the app store.
Are you suggesting that $0.99 apps should be publicly and freely available through the fire-sharing services, as long as those services don't make any money?
Zoe Keating Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Sorry, I'll try again to be more clear.
Your question: SHOULD apps/music/etc be freely available as long as file-services don't make money?
My answer: No.
I did not say that anyone's work should be publicly and freely available through a file-sharing service if they don't want it to be there.
I proposed that if file-sharing service are not-for-profit, it would remove incentive for the services themselves to post content and the picture becomes only about users and their motivations.
If a copyright holder doesn't want their content available, they should file a DMCA takedown. I'm asking, if the financial incentives for uploading files are removed, will a DMCA be more effective? Maybe the answer is no, but that's the thought experiment I'm pursuing.
I use Ableton almost every day and their unlock system seems pretty strong to me (I have to contact the company pretty to unlock it whenever I get a new laptop, or my logic board replaced). But I don't know much how one uses a cracked version, because I pay for it I have never tried to get around the encryption!
I'll try to be more clear in what I meant by making a price comparison. Ableton's product is the only end for them. They don't make any other income. They don't give away their software as an advertisement to sell anything else. They would have a pretty strong incentive to remove files from Megaupload or Pirate Bay or whatever and I assume they do that. Music is a product to be sold in and of itself, but it is also an advertisement for itself and the artist. And as everyone likes to point out, there are millions of songs, but no program similar to Ableton Live. While I'd like to think that one of my songs is worth $400, good luck convincing the market at large who believes it is not worth anything until proven otherwise. That is just how things are. Like I've said over and over, copyright law or no copyright law, its my job, and no one else's, to convince a listener that I'm worth 99 cents.
Unlike music, a lot of people will pay for a 99 cent app without having tried it first but shareware distribution has some things in common with music. For example, I use a program called SooperLooper that I love and I make a donation to the creator of the program every year since its worth more to me than what he charges for it ($30 I think) and I want him to keep making updates. He also has an iPhone app he sells called ThumbJam that he sells in the app store. I don't know what shareware app makers think of SOPA, but I will ask him.
K.M. Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I don't think you understand how file-sharing services operate.
Please have a look at what these sites spend for hosting. MegaUpload paid ~$700,000 per month. Others pay similar amounts. That's a lot of cash flowing through PayPal. Millions per month, for all the file-sharing services combined.
If someone is willing to spend that kind of money for hosting, then they are making at least that, every single month. So, you can't have file-sharing services without ads, or database exploit (for example, selling the users' data to third parties).
Take away the money making automation from the file-sharing services and suddently they will all shut down the next day. Noone would pay ~$700,000 a month out of their own pocket...
Oh, and you should be thankful that Ableton managed to find out a way to protect their IP. Otherwise, they could have shut down shop long before you discovered their music making tools. Don't complain that you have to re-authorize a program every time you change your motherboard. That's just silly. How many times are you going to do that, anyway? Once every four years? Big deal.
Zoe Keating Wednesday, January 25, 2012
A not-for-profit doesn't mean you can't charge money. It means you have to put surplus revenue back into the operations of the company rather than pay it out to shareholders.
Did I complain somewhere about Ableton? I was stating how their encryption worked for those who aren't familiar (I have to re-authorize about once a year, sometimes more often).
FYI: I'm going off to work now and then France tomorrow, so I won't be responding to any more posts for a week or so. In other words, if I don't answer a question please don't take it personally. ;-)
Geoff Thursday, January 26, 2012
There are some of us who get exactly what you are talking about. Can an idependent artist afford to put their time and resources into trying to stop the weed like sprouting of the never ending barrage of Mega Uploads of the world? The answer is no. We realize that our time is better spent in trying to develop our fan base that will pay to support our careers and creating the music that makes that possible.
The other issue is how many of these downloaders would be actual paying customers if the illegal downloading wasn't available. The Harvard/UNC study gave an answer that the industry didn't like but much like freakonomics makes sense when you dig just slightly deeper. The answer is the bulk of the people downloading music would not purchase what they downloaded for free at any price.
In addition to writing music for a living, I also have teach Music Industry Studies. I had a student brag once in class that he had downloaded over 100,000 songs from P2P sites. My first question was, "Have you listened to all 100,000 songs?" "Are you a real fan of these musicians?""IF it wasn't available for free, would you have bought any of this music?" The answer of course was 'no'.
The Ableton question is actually similar. Would any of these people have spent $400 on a DAW if they couldn't have downloaded it for free? Doubtful that it is a significant number. People who invest in software at $400 are buying in so they can buy in for the long term. The learning curve to really use those programs is too steep for a casual user. Plus as fast a System software changes, it becomes unusable too fast to be of great value to someone who is serious about using it. Chances are those who are serious will buy in to the program at some point to maintain current version status and to have support available.
I'm not saying illegal downloading is a good thing. I'm not saying it's right. I'm not saying I approve. I am not saying that it isn't resulting in some lost revenue. I am saying that the impact in practical ways is less than a 1 to 1 ratio in saying an illegal download is a lost sale. As the Havard UNC study asserts, it may actual spur sales in a bizarre way.
Film companies may have a bigger beef with Mega upload than anyone else because the cost of a DVD or digital copy of a film sits at a price point that is a bigger bite to the consumer than music and the file size/storage required and download time make it more likely that the illegal downloader will actually watch the movie and therefore it is more likely to represent a lost sale/rental than music.
But when it comes to independent music, the primary focus of the independent artist is developing a relationship with their fanbase where the fan wants to support the artist not chasing random downloaders who in any case will not support their career. I believe that is what Zoe was trying to say. I believe she said it eloquently and for those of us in the same boat, her willingness to state it was refreshing.
Ed Thursday, January 26, 2012
FarePlay Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The RIAA and MPAA are paid by and represent the entertainment industry, not the individual artist. So the question becomes, if online piracy is hindering your career, why not take personal responsibility for creating change?
If you are a creative or work in the creative community, your skill set is communication. Why not use it?
Whether you support SOPA and PIPA or not, the controversy over these bills along with the high profile take down of MegaUpload has brought national attention to the challenges of online piracy.
If you want your core business to be a musician and not a t-shirt manufacturer, right now is a great time to speak out for your right to determine what happens with your work.
Strike while the iron is hot.
Speaking of $$$ Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I would like to ask Zoe Keating if she would support the idea of leaking the Google Search algos online, for the public to freely use, experiment, adapt, e.t.c.?
Surely a nice list of artists would be benefitial to this cause.
@jnglobal Wednesday, January 25, 2012
A great look into DIY artist revenues!
Trainwreck! Thursday, January 26, 2012
Zoe Keating doesn't have any idea what she is talking about. Please stick to what you know, don't pretend to be an expert on everything, just because you got yourself a Twitter account.
#### Thursday, January 26, 2012
More nonsense from wannabe experts who feel entitled to share their bullshit with the rest of the world, because they got "twitter followers".
You can't even keep your own albums' pirate links out of Google Search, with a simple DMCA notice...!
Visitor Thursday, January 26, 2012
With all due respect, what was the point of this article? What is Keating's "totally different approach to piracy"? She is clearly anti-piracy, as any artist who makes a living recording should be.