I’m a Successful Artist. Yet the Digital Music Industry Has Become My Enemy

Benn Jordan is the kind of successful artist you’ve never heard of.

The Chicago-based jazz musician has written for Dove and Verizon, he’s won a number of accolades in Europe including a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.  He’s even scored a Webby Award.

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Jordan encourages fans to enjoy his music for free, yet on the paid side, he has a serious issue that would make any artist feel hopeless.  The problem started when an unknown dubstep artist stole one of his most popular tracks, barely ‘remixed’ it, and then started selling it successfully on iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, Google Play, and a number of other major digital music outlets.  The stolen version simply adds some bird chirps, yet this version – by the ‘artist’ ironically called ‘Inventor’ – shows up first in search results on most major services and even gets ID’d by Shazam (based on his copy).

Here’s Benn’s original, released under the performer name ‘The Flashbulb’…

And, here’s the second, ‘remixed’ version (notice the added bird chirps).

It gets worse.  A cease-and-desist notice to Inventor’s label, Foul Play, was ignored (surprise).  But the digital music industry seems like it’s doing everything to help the ‘Inventor’ scam succeed: YouTube has sent Jordan multiple takedown notices for his own content that was ripped off, and the iTunes Store doesn’t even list his original version in search results.  The same is true for Spotify.  Instead, priority goes to the rip-off artist.

So, Jordan did what any pissed-off artist might do: he contacted every single digital music service with this issue.  And this is what happened, according to Jordan (full blog description here):

Google Play said they are “working on it”.

Microsoft has not responded.

iTunes has not responded.

Rhapsody is “working on it”.

eMusic has not responded.

Junodownload has not responded.

Spotify has not responded.

Beatport, who does not sell Jordan’s music, responded with a letter saying that they’re not responsible for the music they host, while also explaining that takedown removal requires faxing forms and paperwork for consideration.

“So, to resolve something that could be done by any of the companies above with one mouse click, I have to lawyer up and basically sue the entire digital music industry,” Jordan relayed.  “It will take many months to see a result, and it will take years to see any compensation for illegal sales of my music.”

But the sad takeaway seems to be this: if you’re not a label with clout, or an RIAA member, you probably have little chance of getting through.  Universal Music Group can get apps ripped down from the iTunes Store; Jordan can’t get a call back.  “None of these music stores have a department, or even an employee to deal with artists directly,” Jordan blogged.  “When they sell my music, they make money, and lots of it.  I have made these companies 6 figures over my career, yet there’s not one person I can contact to resolve a simple issue such as this.”

33 Responses

  1. Jaded Industry Dude

    What Jordon doesn’t seem to realize (I think) is that he accidentally fell into a loophole. These vendors can easily remove the content, sure they can, but the problem is they don’t know without a shadow of a doubt that Jordon is the originator of the music or owns the copyright. For all iTunes knows, Jordon allowed Inventor rights to his music for the album.

    So Beatport’s response is the most accurate, as they, and everyone else, needs solid proof for this to move forward.

    Jordon’s distribution company should be able to handle this. Most labels/distro’s should be able to handle this swiftly. I’ve dealt with situations like this for years and iTunes is always helpful.

    • Jaded Industry Dude

      Plus, come on, let’s get real here, the real ‘bad-guy’ here is Inventor and his/her label/distro partner. He can (and should) sue them, which in turn would fix the issue.

      In fact, they’d be smart to just make good of the situation, pay him for all the money he’s not gained via the sample, and push it as a company that didn’t know what was going on and thought everything was fine. Good PR.

      • Visitor

        Completely agree — this was a non-story and a non-problem on Torrentfreak, and it’s a non-story and a non-problem here.

        iTunes and the rest can’t do a thing until Mr. Jordan sues the crap of the sucker.

        Beats me why he hasn’t done that already.

      • Visitor

        Sue them?

        Hopefully he has previously registered w the Copyright Office.

        Otherwise good luck finding a pro bono attorney cause if you have to pay legal fees you aren’t going to see adime of any settlement

        • Visitor

          What’s the problem? ‘Inventor’ is going to pay the fees.

          • Central Scrutinizer

            It is my understanding of the US legal system and US copyright law that plaintiffs pay legal fees whether they win or lose.

            However, if the plaintiff/copyright owner has timely registered his work with the US copyright Office (w/in 3 months of pub or before knowledge of infringement) the plaintiff MAY be able to get statutory damages and get their legal fees paid for by the defendant. It ultimately depends on the judge whether to award legal fees.

            If Mr. Jordan has not registered his work statutory damages and legal fees are not available

          • KAK

            Even if Inventor was ordered to pay something, doesn’t mean he will. He could be judgment proof. Damages or an award of damages against someone is meaningless if they have no over the counter pay to garnish, or property to put a lien on, not to mention the option to some extent of bankruptcy.

            The cost involved for the plaintiff to identify the defendant, not to mention court filing fees and so forth could result in him actually spending more then it’s worth – he might be better off using this as a harsh learning lesson and hopefully protecting himself more in the future.

        • paul

          Okay, I’ll bite again. Please tell me, what’s the difference?

          /paul

          • Just another voice in the air

            Not everyone is a spotify subscriber, while the other widgets are open for all.

          • me

            i was thinking the same thing. regardless of their being a free version of spotify or not, seems silly to use a spotify streaming link when there are other, barrier free platforms to use.

  2. just sayin'

    Pull both and then get the proof positive for the right party. I’m sure Jordan would rather wait on getting his track back up ligitimately then to have some yahoo continue to profit on his hard work.

    And yes – this can be done on a case by case basis.

  3. Me

    “So, Jordan contacted did what any pissed-off artist might do: he every single digital music service with this issue.”

    You wanna try typing that sentence again?

  4. DBarg

    I don’t support Spotify for many varied reasons – any chance you can post non-Spotify links?

    • poppin' pills

      Just look at the list, everyone is screwing this artist (and artists). NOt just Spotify.

      That includes SOundcloud!!

  5. PE

    We’ve had to deal with similar situations at the label I work at, however, because we are a well known electronic music label, outlets like Beatport responded very quickly to each of our claims. It’s unfortunate that someone without the same clout, but with a claim just as legit, has to go through this mess.

    Everyone that signs up for one of these services has already agreed to idemnify the site in question from things like this. Sadly, the outlet sees this as an excuse to be completely hands-off in these situations, forcing the rightful copyright owner rather than the accused, to prove their case. Seems a little backward to me.

  6. CB

    I agree that he should be suing “Inventor” if he hasn’t started that process already, but I take issue with the swing of this article.

    Seems like the point is supposed to be “Digital Music Industry hurts us all again because it is digital, easy to rip things off, and hard to navigate”, but it doesn’t read any differently than the problems many people encountered when the record business was printing 45s. This isn’t a digital problem, it’s a problem problem.

    I hope he manages to secure his rights.

  7. R.P.

    Simple matter of not handling the business end of it all properly from the start.

    You don’t need a lawyer to draw up a cease and desist and you don’t need a lawyer to service all of these companies legal departments with the proper proof and paperwork necessary.

    The truth often hurts but it is what it is.

    • Peter M

      agreed 100%.

      So sick of hearing all this talk about lawyers and lawsuits. That is the last resort.

      I frankly disagree with the premise. If my unknown jazz song gets a bigger audience from a remix, I say thank you, and collect half the revenue. If I am refused, then I send out the C&D letters until an agreement is made. What are we talking about; a hundred dollars?

  8. Antho9

    Here in Canada this week a growing group of moms have banded together to rat out cyber bullies and pedophiles after Amanda Todd took her own life at teh age of 15. Already, one mean spirited SOB has lost his job for posting on Amanda’s Facebook page something to the effect of, “It’s about time the bitch died.”

    Perhaps it is time for honest musicians to band together as well and pressure the digital retailers in a case like this. There’s no reason Benn should have to foot the bill for a lawyer.

    Give us the contact info for these companies here on Digital Music News and perhaps we can take care of this one for Benn.

    • thedenmaster

      I’d write an email or two in support.

      Agree about spotify. must stay away until they pay!

  9. Andy H

    Apparently this Foul Play label has a long history of ripping off artists (NSFW):

  10. Visitor

    Dig…Mr. Jordan spanks the plank upside down and backwards like Albert King

    More power to you Mr. Jordan you gotta whack those moles

  11. @lassial

    When user steals music, its #piracy. When artist does it, it’s business. Musicians, befriend lawyers!

  12. @shay823

    This is crazy, shouldn’t there be a code of honor between artists?

  13. I don't get it

    I don’t expect someone who thinks he has a studio because he bought a set of Behringer monitors, to have the alertness to realize that such issues are better solved by his lawyer and his PRO.

    He is signed with a PRO…? Yes? Please, say yes…?

    • I hate trolls

      Obviously (well.. present company excluded),

      He’s with a PRO, as he writes for the likes of Verison and Dove…

      And to those who say he is not ‘handing his buisness’…

      … if you actually knew what you are talking about, tell me… just how long does it take to get ACTUAL paperwork from the LOC?

      (i’ll wait for you to Google the answer…)

  14. LostInDigital

    Welcome to the cruel world.

    1. “Flash Bulb” is a pseudonym, were the metadata sent to the retail stores properly filled in so that iTunes and others can identify that Flash Bulb = Benn Jordan?

    2. “Flash Bulb” is credited in the track from “Inventor”, which means that in theory he should receive some royalties, at some point..in theory.

    3. This is an issue to be raised to M Jordan’s distributor, digital retailers can’t do anything about this / don’t deal with artists (on purpose, otherwise they’d be flooded by such issues).

    4. This is not the responsibility from the retailers to check copyright…etc.

    5. The best way to proceed would be that M Jordan gets in touch with his collecting society organization so that they can sue the “thief”, it’s part of their job

    6. Musicians are so ignorant about basic copyright rules and law in general that this “Inventor” guy probably thinks he hasn’t done anything bad here.

    Also as long as he has credited M Jordan there’s probably no intention to harm here…