Dear Myspace: Please Stop Screwing Us. Sincerely, the Indies

So the New MySpace told the indie label community to, well, go f–k themselves.

Which is part of the reason why Merlin, the global representative for some of the biggest indie labels in the world, is now trying to figure out how to make life even more difficult for this far-fetched relaunch.

“This is a bad one, this is a real bad one.”

At a hastily-arranged meeting with members of the media Monday morning at MIDEM, some of the biggest independent labels were on hand with a very firm message.  That included a redrafted ‘Manifesto’ related to the rights of indies, as well as a discussion of possible next steps.  “I was just in shock over this,” said Daniel Glass, owner of Glassnote Records (Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Childish Gambino, etc.)  “This is a bad one. This is a real bad one.”

The problem is that in its latest reincarnation, Myspace has shown little willingness to license beyond the major labels.  Sounds like their choice, except that there’s tons of indie content already on the site, uploaded by users, and driving traffic and potential ad revenue for Myspace.  But instead of pursuing licensing for that content, Myspace has decided to force labels to pursue DMCA takedowns to remove their content.

Which is exactly the step that Glass is (reluctantly) willing to do.  “We thought this was going to be over in 12 hours,” Glassnote continued.

“But we’re going to start issuing takedowns.”

But are we talking takedown takedowns, or an overwhelming avalanche of takedowns?  The latter has become the enforcement strategy du jour for the RIAA member labels, which are leading the charge to deluge companies like Google with a near-unmanageable level of DMCA takedown demands (and for more on that game, go here).

So ready, set, deluge?  AIM chief Alison Wenham told Digital Music News that indies aren’t interested in drowning Myspace in unmanageable legalities, simply because that’s not the business they’re in.  “We don’t want to be takedown experts,” Wenham said.  “That’s a downward slide.”

But here’s where the DMCA avalanche game gets really interesting.  Because Wenham further noted that the RIAA’s deluge strategy is pushing pirate sites to focus more on indie content, where the DMCA takedown heat is lower.  That’s right, the RIAA’s little war tactic is actually causing a content shift among pirate sites, and it’s hurting the indies.

“They are moving towards safer harbors, we are seeing this grow rather quickly.”

17 Responses

  1. Tim O'Reilly

    Paul-I believe you are assuming we (generic readers) know more about this issue than we do. Can you briefly state how MS is screwing the indies please? Also, if this is what I suspect from the tone (MS playing fast and loose with indie creative licenses), can you please add a recommendation? (the down and dirty of how we pull our original material without an exploitable trace?). Thanks much!

    • Visitor

      it’s not an unmanageable about of DMCA takedowns, it’s an unmanagaeable amount of DMCA VIOLATIONS!
      See here, it’s simply about getting it RIGHT versus GETTING AWAY with it…
      Two Simple Facts about Technology and Piracy : iTunes Vs. YouTube

    • Visitor

      from the perspective of the indies, Myspace is unfairly exploiting a loophole in the law to unfairly make money off of their content without paying anything. Initially, the DMCA was codified into law as a way to protect user-generated and community-oriented sites and technologies from being held liable for every possible offense from a user uploader. The liability and policing was too unworkable, and was deemed a huge win by the tech community. If that protection wasn’t offered, we’d have a very different user generated landscape (to the extent that it would exist).
      Unfortunately, the flip side is that this level of protection has now become part of a rather exploitative business model/loophole. Sure, Grooveshark, Google or whomever are removing content in response to takedown notices, but that content frequently reappears and these sites rarely take proactive measures to prevent repeat uploads and offenses (YouTube is a bit of a unique variation of that, worth a separate discussion).
      So the reason why those people in the picture look so unhappy is because Myspace has taken an extremely unfriendly, and arguably exploitative stance towards these content owners. If you invested in that content, it’s hard to stomach that sort of attitude.

  2. Casey

    No idea what Myspace pays the majors, but based on what other companies pay, I imagine it is a good chunk of money. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the ad revenue made from indie content went toward paying for the major labels content. If that is the case, they won’t be hurrying to pay indie labels anytime soon.

  3. Josh

    There are no ad’s on the New Myspace so you’re already a bit off. The site is still in beta and before you go posting that anyone’s being “screwed” you should wait until the final version of the site is released and it’s out of it’s testing period.

    • Casey

      Most beta products don’t have ads. But if there isn’t now, there will be.

  4. Who else is bitchin?

    As far as I know, only Merlin seems to be complaining? I may be wrong but who else is bitching. Also, to answer the first comment, Merlin sent this letter out….

    “As you may have seen, MySpace relaunched its music service yesterday. Whilst Merlin has been in discussions with MySpace regarding a new deal (addressing amongst other things the issue of major label ownership interests in the service), we have as yet been able to agree acceptable terms.

    Given the difficult history of Merlin and MySpace, and the fact that there are now well (and better) established companies, including Rdio and Spotify, in the streaming space that understand the value of our content and reward us accordingly, (and in which Merlin has equity stakes alongside our major label competitors), we would have hoped that the new owners of MySpace would have worked harder to have closed a deal with us pre launch. We can only conclude that they either misunderstand the nature of Merlin’s repertoire or are deliberately excluding us.

    We have also begun to monitor repertoire on the service and despite the fact that Merlin’s MySpace agreement expired over a year ago, it appears that Merlin member repertoire remains available on the service on an on demand basis without the owner’s permission. We continue to investigate this issue and will take appropriate steps to protect our members’ rights.

    Merlin cannot support any business that appears to offer our major label competitors the opportunity to benefit from the use of our members repertoire, without our members having a reciprocal opportunity. Merlin’s members’ rights are not inherently inferior to those of our competitors and as we have seen in the first iteration of this service, services that fail to offer their consumers the most comprehensive set of independent repertoire are likely to fail.

    In view of this, Merlin is going to continue to work on behalf of its members to protect their rights and to negotiate a deal that fairly compensates us for the value we bring to the service.

    As ever, Merlin members remain free should they wish to negotiate their own unilateral deal with Myspace, as they are clearly entitled to do under Merlin’s membership agreement.”

    • paul

      Well, I’m not sure if they were ‘bitching’ (maybe that depends on the perspective though), but others present at the press conference and on media paperwork included Impala, A2IM, AIM, AIR, and WIN, and I’m sure there are others.

  5. Andrew

    Ad revenue? Are you guys nuts? Have you even looked at the new Myspace? How many adverts do you see? Hmm?

  6. Cameron

    Its worth noting here that MySpace may already have individual agreements with many of Merlins members. I’d suggest its more financially viable to deal directly with the indies than with a ‘4th major’. Merlins holistic rate will be higher than an individual label rates so, if MySpace are in the game long term, a more stable business model would involve individual agreements. Its inevitable that if someone is able to get a cheaper rate than the one Merlin is chasing it will piss Merlin off…….just sayin’.

    • Visitor

      Good point if it is true.
      Maybe Merlin has to look at it’s own.

  7. Visitor

    Paul: there is a *world* of difference between telling the indie community to “go f–k themselves” vs. not coming to terms with Merlin. You need to stop equating the two.

  8. @MusicBizGuy

    I get it that whoever owns the rights to something wants to get paid. Certainly record companies want to suck up money from any possible revenue stream. Given their antiquated business model, I don’t blame them. However, if I am a midlevel or below serious artist, I much rather would want the exposure any site can give me to help me build a monetizable fan base over the chump change I would get from that streaming service. This assumes that the money a record company collects from this particular revenue stream is ever shared with the artist in the first place. In the grand scheme of things as the new music business evolves and record companies control less and less, this entire discussion will hardly matter to any artist that is able to build a substantial fan base and monetize it.

  9. SocialSoundSystem

    What about established artists trying to sign up for their new platform? After jumping through hoops and work arounds… I finally was able to get a new account for Slightly Stoopid. We can’t port over any of our old content or followers, so we have to completely reupload our catalog and videos.
    Only to be denied because our content is flagged for copyright issues for songs and releases we own all the rights and publishing for.

  10. Rob

    Try The only site that offers a complete rev share on the revenue, artist, fans and the platform provider!

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