Newsletter #71 May 2010
THE RETURN OF PAY TO PLAY
Last week, three of Ireland’s most prominent music blogs, Torture Garden, Asleep On The Compost Heap and Nialler9, were contacted by the Irish collection agency IMRO. This wasn’t a quick chat to pat said websites on the back for their continued and longstanding support of up-and-coming Irish acts, but to demand they start handing over several hundred euros a year each in licensing fees.
Up till now the publishers, described as “sleeping giants” in The Guardian’s coverage, have avoided individual music blogs, and were instead content to focus their efforts on bringing larger services such as YouTube and MySpace to bear. This sudden and unexpected awakening has sent shockwaves through the blogging community as anxious writers wait to see who will be targeted next.
While the legal situation is clear cut, the implications are less so. On the one hand, IMRO, and their global counterparts such as ASCAP, BMI and PRS for Music, are well within their rights to demand a fee from any site hosting, streaming or making available for download, music by its members. That’s the law, plain and simple.
For bloggers who until now have only factored in the costs of bandwidth and the often not inconsiderable time spent on their sites, the prospect of having to pony up what could amount to several hundred pounds a year in licensing fees will give a large percentage pause for thought. For many, this will come as a bolt from the blue. Even those with some idea of the infernal machinations of the music business might be surprised to find that they need to pay the publishers to host a track that they’ve been sent and then begged and cajoled to post by a record label or pr agency.
As it stands, whether the label likes it or not, the publisher still needs their royalty, and, acting on their behalf, collecting societies are only doing their job. The issue is whether enforcement will do more harm than good and perhaps might damage one of the most fast-paced and significant new areas of promotion for artists and labels.
Here I should declare my personal interest, I’ve been involved in music blogs for several years now. The site I currently run has been online for around 3-4 years, and whilst we’re not challenging the mainstream media head on, on a good day we can still get up to 3000 readers. Now the music we cover generally tends towards the more underground side of things, but – with one or two exceptions (the occasional unofficial remix for instance) – every track we’ve written about and posted has been sent to us by a label, pr agency or the artist themselves.
Do we provide a service to the music business? I honestly believe we do, an invaluable one at that, and there are hundreds of other blogs out there that continue to discover and promote new acts, that otherwise wouldn’t have an audience.
Last year, to cover bandwidth costs, we began to run adverts. Again I should point out that we also tend to give away free or very cheap adverts to friends and labels we like. To date we have probably just about covered the running costs of the site, we certainly haven’t made enough to even take our five contributors out for a decent meal.
Saying that, we’re lucky – we’ve been around long enough and have a decent enough reputation that if push came to shove and we were suddenly faced with paying several hundred pounds a year, I could make an effort to sell more adverts and cover our costs. The thing is I don’t want to make that effort, I have a day job, I also run a small record label, manage a couple of bands and I freelance for various magazines. Like the majority of sites out there our blog was never meant to be a business; it was just a chance for us to shout about the music we love and hopefully help a few acts out.
The issues are twofold. First, while the entry level of around £100 is within reasonable limits, this licences just 50 downloads a week. For any music blog achieving a modicum of popularity, the licence fee could amount to several hundred pounds. As with just about all feted online music services, ad revenues have simply not kept pace with licence fees.
The second and possibly more important issue is that many blogs are run on a strictly amateur basis. Even given more reasonable fees, if I had to make the calculation as to whether it was worth my time chasing advertisers to raise hundreds of pounds whilst filling out endless forms (not to mention having to start declaring this new revenue to the taxman), I have to honestly say it’s a tough call but there’s every chance that we would walk away from it all.
It’s taken long enough for the majority of labels to understand the service that blogs such as ours, Discobelle or 20 Jazz Funk Greats provide. Now that the value of quality blogs has been recognised, it would be a disaster if the collecting societies were to set them back years.
Should other agencies follow IMRO’s lead, hundreds of smaller labels and up-and-coming artists could soon lose one of the greatest resources open to them.
As ever there are no easy solutions. Whilst one idea that has been raised in Ireland is a waiver for amateur sites, there’s no clear-cut distinction between professional and amateur sites. In our case, yes we do have adverts, so yes we make money from the blog, but we certainly don’t run at anything near approaching a profit.
Another idea raised has been for labels themselves to pay into a pot to cover a notional publishing fee, in much the same way that labels pay the publishing for promo copies they send out. How willing labels would be to entertain this idea is far from clear.
Whatever happens, this issue needs to be cleared up and fast. In his statements to the press Nialler9’s Niall Ryan has been conciliatory, understanding and willing to debate the issue in a sensible fashion. It is to IMRO’s credit that they agreed to talks with the bloggers and despite early appearances are showing some sensitivity towards the situation.
In recent years I have discovered some of my favourite new artists through reading about them on blogs, long before they’ve appeared on the radar of the established music press. Every day when I scan through my bookmarked sites I see some of the most passionate and dedicated music fans out there constantly striving to unearth new gems and help promote musicians who don’t have access to radio, TV ads and the like.
To lose that now, in the blind, unthinking quest for what would, in all honesty, amount to a trifling amount of money, would be a disaster for our industry.
Editorial by John Power
OUT & ABOUT: MusicTank events
Please remember all MusicTank events MUST be booked and paid for in advance! Become a member of MusicTank for just £30 per year and enjoy privileged discounts on all MusicTank events…
MAY 20: Nevermind The Boxset: The Album Post-iTunes
The album – the recordings business’ main unit of currency – ain’t doing too well. Faced with a double whammy of illegal downloaders and those who have adopted a pick ’n’ mix attitude to purchasing, there’s been much talk of the inevitable demise of this bedrock of the recordings business. Still whilst the likes of Ash and Radiohead may have turned their back on the format, there are just as many who are trying to find ways to revitalise the album.
New digital formats such as iTunes LP and Bach’s MusicDNA are bundling the music with a whole host of additional content, record stores, both on and offline, are striking deals with labels for exclusive bonus material, and vinyl continues to defy the doom mongers with a whole new market in deluxe, expensive editions booming and labels such as Warp offering free downloads or bundled CDs with vinyl purchases.
This debate will look at what the recordings industry can do to revive the album’s flagging condition and with the help of strategy consultant Keith Jopling, take a peek at non music brands such as Lego, Filofax and Marvel comics, each having successfully reinvented themselves in the face of oblivion. We’ll also hear from HMV’s Gennaro Castaldowho will help represent the views of major music retailers, many of whom have been clamouring for years about the need for more product innovation.
From the sensible to the extreme we’ll hear from those who believe that technology, design, and marketing can provide a shot in the arm to the format that gave us ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Nevermind’, ‘OK Computer’ and ‘Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em’, and hear from those who have turned their back on the album altogether.
SPEAKERS: Presentation, Future Business Research Group – Emma Pike & Mark Uttley (Sony Music)
Keynote – Stuart Batsford (Former Product Manager and Catalogue Manager at Virgin and Warners) | Panellists –Dagfinn Bach (MusicDNA); Steve Bunyan (Union Square Music); Paul Conroy (Adventures in Music); Keith Jopling (Juggernautbrew); Steven Hill (Warp Records); Simon Singleton (Pure Groove)
DIARY – Date & Time: 20 May ’10 | 18.30 – 21.00 hrs | Venue: Basement Bar, PRS for Music, Berners Street, London W1
Cost: £25 MusicTank Members | £30 Trade Body | £35 Full Price – price includes complimentary drink on arrival and free post-event transcript.
Full details & booking: http://www.musictank.co.uk/events/album-format
All tickets MUST be booked and paid-for in advance – no walk-up on the day!
Attend this event for FREE by signing up to Creative Futures and commiting to participate in a complimentary programme of business support for a minimum of 12 hours over the next 3-years. Creative Futures is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
More… mailto:email@example.com | T 020 8357 7317
JUL 10-12: Apple Logic Course
Based on the authoritative book ‘Logic Pro 9 and Logic Express 9’ by David Nahmani, this three-day, Apple-accredited short course will provide a thorough insight into professional audio production with Apple Logic Express and Apple Logic Pro 9 (101). Taught by Gary Bromham – one of only three Apple-selected Distinguished Professionals (APD) in the UK – this course combines in-depth lessons with accompanying book and DVD material to provide a comprehensive introduction to audio and MIDI production, including setting up a studio and building and mixing a song, as well as preparing the ground for Logic Pro 9 (301) Professional.
Gary has worked with many high profile artists including Sheryl Crowe, George Michael, The Editors and Graham Coxon. He brings a high level of experience, practicality and professionalism to the training – not to mention a 90% student pass success rate – and will guide you through the necessary knowledge needed for attaining Level 1 certification.
DIARY – Date & Time: 10-12 May ’10 | 10.00 – 17.00 hrs | Venue: University of Westminster’s Apple Lab, Harrow Campus, Watford Road, Harrow, HA1 3TP
Cost: £549 MusicTank Members | Earlybird £569 ends May 07 | £579 Trade Body | Full price £599. Price includes Level 1 certification, book and DVD.
Full details & booking: http://www.musictank.co.uk/events/apple-logic-course-jul-10
MUSICTANK LOUNGE: New-to-site, partnership
MusicTank event podcasts and transcripts can be found in both the Podcast section on this site, and on events pages themselves. MusicTank event podcasts and transcripts can be found in both the Podcast section on this site, and at the bottom of the events pages themselves. This premium content is only available to MusicTank Members who pay a small annual fee – £30 – to subscribe. Membership confers other benefits, too. To join or to read more about our Membership offer:
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Jazz And The Beeb: A Love Supreme Or Kind Of Blue?
MYKAELL RILEY: “In an effort to connect with the audience there’s a massive job of work to be done to flag up what, how when and where…Youth see radio as a key way to connect people, yet jazz is not clearly signposted.”
ROGER WRIGHT: “The BBC probably doesn’t make it easy enough to flag jazz across a range of services, not just within an individual station…What should a public sector organisation like the BBC be offering in a fast-changing world?”
LEWIS CARNIE: “Radio 2 does about 250 hours of live music broadcasting per year, a huge amount, and of that about 20% is given over to jazz. It’s a key genre for us, we’re keen to support it, we do support it and we are right behind it.”
PETER SCHULTZE: “British jazz has been too concerned with aligning itself to the US rather than Europe.”
CHRIS SMITH: “The BBC needs to re-connect with the incredible jazz scene. It’s not about creating stars; it’s about the BBC helping musicians earn a living”
STUART NICHOLSON: “…in relative terms there is still so little jazz on radio despite what we’ve heard and I think there should be a bias towards British artists…There is certainly enough space within existing schedules for the best of what we’ve got.”
Noted jazz musician Tim Whitehead has written an open letter to the BBC following his particpation in MusicTank’s 19th January event and the subsequent publication of the Jazz Services report on which this event was based. You can read it here: http://www.musictank.co.uk/reports/tim-whitehead-open-letter
Jazz Services have launched a campaign that seeks to increase UK jazz exposure over the airwaves. You can sign-up here: http://is.gd/c44eW
Meanwhile, time is fast running out to give your views to BBC Trust’s Strategic review of the BBC’s activities, with May 20th the deadline. Contribute here: http://is.gd/c4bxn
CATCH UP WITH…
Big in Bangalore, Big in Beijing – Sat May 8 & 15
With the rise of India and China as economic powerhouses, complete with growing middle classes, are these now the new territories for bands and artists to target as they seek new audiences and revenue streams?
Catch part 1 of this facinating 2-part documentary on iPlayer here: http://is.gd/c4m3L
Part 2 is 10.30 hrs, Sat 15th May, BBC Radio 4
REVIEW: Brands, Bands & Social Media Savvy – Apr 28
Taking place in the glass-panelled conference room of the Internet Advertising Bureau, brand e-biz’s mini-conference drew 120 of the great and good of music and brands, from giants like Coca Cola and MySpace through to agencies like Heartbeats, KLP and Frukt, and innovative new businesses like Mixcloud and MXP4.
The simple format – a brief presentation by the panelists and an extended Q’n’A – worked well. The key learning is to really understand your fans, their communities and their preferred hang outs – be they social media, blogs or elsewhere. Once identified, the next step is to engage them with compelling content on those platforms – in a way that doesn’t force the brand onto people.
Sony Music’s Fred Bolza making an interesting point about the record businesses’ cyclical nature; whereby fan communication would start at the beginning of the album campaign and eventually peter out during the tour. He argued the social media world is forcing labels to be more long-term in their thinking and more continuously engage fans outside of the release-tour cycle – if they didn’t want to risk losing them.
There was plenty of time (and alcohol) for networking. This seemed to work particularly well, with many attendees actively making helpful introductions between people. All told, a well-focused event.
MUSICTANK AND CREATIVE FUTURES – FREE CREATIVE BUSINESS SUPPORT PROGRAMME
MusicTank and the Creative Futures group comprising Portobello Business Centre, Julies Bicycle, New Media Knowledge, London Film Connection and Portobello Film Festival and the Paddington Development Trust have formed a London-based support and innovations network for businesses working in the creative sector. We’ve done this in response to the huge changes taking place in the global economy and our need to collectively respond to both threats and opportunities thrown up in the madness.
If you’re a developing or an existing business model, seeking new markets, wanting to improve existing performance, looking for investment capital, designing new products or services, analysing energy consumption or designing a green base into your business, the Creative Futures programme is here to help.
Costing only your time, membership is FREE and includes complimentary access to consultancy, seminars and workshops spanning everything from social networking to product development and technology, through to opportunities to participate in pitch camps designed to attract investors and angels, specialist business advisors, customised business planning support and opportunities to develop growth potential.
Starting in the summer, MusicTank will deliver a series of events throughout this three-year project that will facilitate higher-level debate, provide incisive music industry intelligence and opportunities to engage with a rapidly changing industry.
Throughout this initiative, participants are encouraged to sign-up to a tailored itinerary of business support and related activity including workshops and seminars from a range of specialist providers, facilitators and advisors. Creative Futures is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Can you afford to miss out?
MUSICTANK’S PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMME
MusicTank is encouaging FE and He institutions to join its University Partnership Programme that’s been established with the aim of bringing UK music business closer to all colleges and universities with relevance reaching beyond those teaching or studying core music subjects. Media, law, computer science, technology and business courses potentially have much to gain from engagement with MusicTank, too.
It is our intention that this initiative will become an important component of MusicTank’s longer-term mission: to improve access to music industry knowledge for all in further and higher education, irrespective of status.
The University Partnership Programme is designed to provide its member organisations with secure, privileged access to relevant music industry information and valuable resources, as well as providing advanced and exclusive access to MusicTank’s own content pool, research outputs and event outcomes and discounts for all MusicTank events. Institutional membership also provides a unique opportunity to become a partner in MusicTank’s work, too.
Interested? For information and pricing, please contact mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Commercial partners are sought for our think tank events with a range of packages available, to suit all budgets – we’re also inviting sponsorship enquries for our newsletter, too.
If you or your company are interested in helping sustain the network in this way we’d be pleased to hear from you, in which case, please contact mailto:email@example.com
MUSICTANK POSTS & TWITTERS
MusicTank has a facebook Group and a Twitter feed. Visit us at:
UK Music: Meeting The Skills Gap – An Industry-Wide Audit
UK Music has launched an online industry-wide skills audit in a bid to understand, evaluate and anticipate potential skills gaps across the commercial music sector. Accessible via the UK Music website and via the link provided below, the audit will run until the end of June.
This survey was developed in partnership with Creative & Cultural Skills who will analyse the data collected. This will subsequently be used to help meet recommendations on skills and training made in Liberating Creativity, UK Music’s recently-published manifesto for the commercial music sector.
May 17 & 19: Westminster University Industry Showcase & Final Year Show
An exciting showcase of musical talent from the final year Commercial Music Performance Department. From Rap to Metal, Jazz to Avant Garde, all genres will be tried and tested to create a grand mix for all tastes. Taking place at Cargo, London, both nights promise to be a major spectacle for music lovers and those who just want to chill out after work.
Doors open at: 18.00 hrs | Show start: 19.00 hrs | Cost: £3
For further information, contact Mark De-lisser mailto:M.De-Lisser@westminster.ac.uk
JOE POX: Simon Fuller
So Simon Fuller and his company 19 Entertainment have “powered” 160m downloads on iTunes. It’s mostly to do with America Idol, of course. As the show yawningly unfolds, they wheel out mawkish and squawking covers by the final group of contestants to buy within hours of the songs plopping out of their mouths into the toilet bowl of popular culture. Fuller is nothing if not the czar of the aggressive sales message.
The Spice Girls were just a trial run for what was to come. They’d endorse anything (cameras, crisps, scooters), knowing that the clock was ticking on their threadbare “brand” and now was the only time to make cash. (In many ways, The Saturdays are their spiritual heirs, with an endorse-everything dead-eyed agenda but without any of the, you know, hit singles.)
Yes it’s great that people are buying music and this helps support labels’ less commercial signings and blah blah blah. It’s just odd that they’ve chosen 160m as a “landmark” to celebrate. Did they ‘forget’ when they hit 150m? Are they scared they’ll not make 200m before the whole, hollow bandwagon goes over the cliff?
And therein lies Fuller’s genius: why let logic and tradition stand in the way of a lap of honour around the stadium? You have to admire his marketing chutzpah but ignore the fact that every song he’s ever been involved with sounds like someone trying to put hope in a half nelson. Maybe he can wheel out Eric Bristow for when he hits 180m downloads. It’s just about all that we all deserve.
WISE MONKEY: How much musicians earn
How much musicians earn…
Recently, the UK government passed The Digital Economy Act which included measures to combat online music piracy (including withdrawing broadband access for persistent pirates). Much was proclaimed about how these new laws would protect musicians and artists revenue and livelihoods. But how much money do musicians really get paid in this new digital marketplace?
Granted some information is incredibly hard to come-by, and the figures don’t include income from publishing, however, this excellent pictogram does make for sobering reading and presents the data in an easy-to-digest format.
Based on an assumed American national average minimum monthly wage of $1’160, it translates the number of album sales, streams and downloads an artist would have to achieve to equate with this basic national minimum wage average. From self-pressed $9.99 cds sold at gigs through to high street retail – read *considerable*; for streams you’d need to achieve on Rhapsody (US only) – read *enormous*; For Spotify – read *virtually unattainable*.
That's all for this issue - 'til next time...
If you have any queries regarding any of our events or activities, please call us on +44 (0) 20 8357 7317, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily condoned or shared by MusicTank. MusicTank is a non-profit organisation owned and operated by University of Westminster. University of Westminster is a charity and a company limited by guarantee. Reg Number: 977818, England. Registered Office: 309 Regent Street, London, W1. MusicTank is based at University of Westminster, Watford Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 3TP
Sections Below:OUT & ABOUT: MusicTank events
MUSICTANK LOUNGE: New-to-site, partnership
JOE POX: Simon Fuller
WISE MONKEY: How much musicians earn
That's all for this issue - 'til next time...
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