June 14, 2000 | Today I want to talk
about piracy and music. What is piracy? Piracy
is the act of stealing an artist's work without
any intention of paying for it. I'm not talking
about Napster-type software.
I'm talking about major label recording
I want to start with a story about rock bands
and record companies, and do some
This story is about a bidding-war band that gets
a huge deal with a 20 percent royalty rate and a
million-dollar advance. (No bidding-war band
ever got a 20 percent royalty, but whatever.)
This is my "funny" math based on some reality
and I just want to qualify it by saying I'm
positive it's better math than what Edgar
Bronfman Jr. [the president and CEO of Seagram,
which owns Polygram] would provide.
What happens to that million dollars?
They spend half a million to record their album.
That leaves the band with $500,000. They pay
$100,000 to their manager for 20 percent
commission. They pay $25,000 each to their
lawyer and business manager.
That leaves $350,000 for the four band members
to split. After $170,000 in taxes, there's
$180,000 left. That comes out to $45,000 per
That's $45,000 to live on for a year until the
record gets released.
Illuminati Top Man, Edgar Bronfman Jr.
The record is a big hit and sells a million
copies. (How a bidding-war band sells a million
copies of its debut record is another rant
entirely, but it's based on any basic
civics-class knowledge that any of us have about
cartels. Put simply, the antitrust laws in this
country are basically a joke, protecting us just
enough to not have to re-name our park service
the Phillip Morris National Park Service.)
So, this band releases two singles and makes two
videos. The two videos cost a million dollars to
make and 50 percent of the video production
costs are recouped out of the band's royalties.
The band gets $200,000 in tour support, which is
100 percent recoupable.
The record company spends $300,000 on
independent radio promotion. You have to pay
independent promotion to get your song on the
radio; independent promotion is a system where
the record companies use middlemen so they can
pretend not to know that radio stations -- the
unified broadcast system -- are getting paid to
play their records.
All of those independent promotion costs are
charged to the band.
Since the original million-dollar advance is
also recoupable, the band owes $2 million to the
If all of the million records are sold at full
price with no discounts or record clubs, the
band earns $2 million in royalties, since their
20 percent royalty works out to $2 a record.
Two million dollars in royalties minus $2
million in recoupable expenses equals ... zero!
How much does the record company make?
They grossed $11 million.
It costs $500,000 to manufacture the CDs and
they advanced the band $1 million. Plus there
were $1 million in video costs, $300,000 in
radio promotion and $200,000 in tour support.
The company also paid $750,000 in music
They spent $2.2 million on marketing. That's
mostly retail advertising, but marketing also
pays for those huge posters of Marilyn Manson in
Times Square and the street scouts who drive
around in vans handing out black Korn T-shirts
and backwards baseball caps. Not to mention
trips to Scores and cash for tips for all and
Add it up and the record company has spent about
So their profit is $6.6 million; the band may as
well be working at a 7-Eleven.
Of course, they had fun. Hearing yourself on the
radio, selling records, getting new fans and
being on TV is great, but now the band doesn't
have enough money to pay the rent and nobody has
Worst of all, after all this, the band owns none
of its work ... they can pay the mortgage
forever but they'll never own the house. Like I
said: Sharecropping. Our media says, "Boo hoo,
poor pop stars, they had a nice ride. Fuck them
for speaking up"; but I say this dialogue is
imperative. And cynical media people, who are
more fascinated with celebrity than most
celebrities, need to reacquaint themselves with
their value systems.
When you look at the legal line on a CD, it says
copyright 1976 Atlantic Records or copyright
1996 RCA Records. When you look at a book,
though, it'll say something like copyright 1999
Susan Faludi, or David Foster Wallace. Authors
own their books and license them to publishers.
When the contract runs out, writers gets their
books back. But record companies own our
The system's set up so almost nobody gets paid.
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Last November, a Congressional aide named Mitch
Glazier, with the support of the RIAA, added a
"technical amendment" to a bill that defined
recorded music as "works for hire" under the
1978 Copyright Act.
He did this after all the hearings on the bill
were over. By the time artists found out about
the change, it was too late. The bill was on its
way to the White House for the president's
That subtle change in copyright law will add
billions of dollars to record company bank
accounts over the next few years -- billions of
dollars that rightfully should have been paid to
artists. A "work for hire" is now owned in
perpetuity by the record company.
Under the 1978 Copyright Act, artists could
reclaim the copyrights on their work after 35
years. If you wrote and recorded "Everybody
Hurts," you at least got it back to as a family
legacy after 35 years. But now, because of this
corrupt little pisher, "Everybody Hurts" never
gets returned to your family, and can now be
sold to the highest bidder.
Over the years record companies have tried to
put "work for hire" provisions in their
contracts, and Mr. Glazier claims that the "work
for hire" only "codified" a standard industry
practice. But copyright laws didn't identify
sound recordings as being eligible to be called
"works for hire," so those contracts didn't mean
anything. Until now.
Writing and recording "Hey Jude" is now the same
thing as writing an English textbook, writing
standardized tests, translating a novel from one
language to another or making a map. These are
the types of things addressed in the "work for
hire" act. And writing a standardized test is a
work for hire. Not making a record.
So an assistant substantially altered a major
law when he only had the authority to make
spelling corrections. That's not what I learned
about how government works in my high school
Three months later, the RIAA hired Mr. Glazier
to become its top lobbyist at a salary that was
obviously much greater than the one he had as
the spelling corrector guy.
The RIAA tries to argue that this change was
necessary because of a provision in the bill
that musicians supported. That provision
prevents anyone from registering a famous
person's name as a Web address without that
person's permission. That's great. I own my
name, and should be able to do what I want with
But the bill also created an exception that
allows a company to take a person's name for a
Web address if they create a work for hire.
Which means a record company would be allowed to
own your Web site when you record your "work for
hire" album. Like I said: Sharecropping.
Although I've never met any one at a record
company who "believed in the Internet," they've
all been trying to cover their asses by securing
everyone's digital rights. Not that they know
what to do with them. Go to a major label-owned
band site. Give me a dollar for every time you
see an annoying "under construction" sign. I
used to pester Geffen (when it was a label) to
do a better job. I was totally ignored for two
years, until I got my band name back. The Goo
Goo Dolls are struggling to gain control of
their domain name from Warner Bros., who claim
they own the name because they set up a shitty
promotional Web site for the band.
Orrin Hatch, songwriter and Republican senator
from Utah, seems to be the only person in
Washington with a progressive view of copyright
law. One lobbyist says that there's no one in
the House with a similar view and that "this
would have never happened if Sonny Bono was
By the way, which bill do you think the
recording industry used for this amendment?
The Record Company Redefinition Act? No. The
Music Copyright Act? No. The Work for Hire
Authorship Act? No.
How about the Satellite Home Viewing Act of
Stealing our copyright reversions in the dead of
night while no one was looking, and with no
hearings held, is piracy.
It's piracy when the RIAA lobbies to change the
bankruptcy law to make it more difficult for
musicians to declare bankruptcy. Some musicians
have declared bankruptcy to free themselves from
truly evil contracts. TLC declared bankruptcy
after they received less than 2 percent of the
$175 million earned by their CD sales. That was
about 40 times less than the profit that was
divided among their management, production and
Toni Braxton also declared bankruptcy in 1998.
She sold $188 million worth of CDs, but she was
broke because of a terrible recording contract
that paid her less than 35 cents per album.
Bankruptcy can be an artist's only defense
against a truly horrible deal and the RIAA wants
to take it away.
Artists want to believe that we can make lots of
money if we're successful. But there are
hundreds of stories about artists in their 60s
and 70s who are broke because they never made a
dime from their hit records. And real success is
still a long shot for a new artist today. Of the
32,000 new releases each year, only 250 sell
more than 10,000 copies. And less than 30 go
The four major record corporations fund the RIAA.
These companies are rich and obviously
well-represented. Recording artists and
musicians don't really have the money to
compete. The 273,000 working musicians in
America make about $30,000 a year. Only 15
percent of American Federation of Musicians
members work steadily in music.
But the music industry is a $40 billion-a-year
business. One-third of that revenue comes from
the United States. The annual sales of
cassettes, CDs and video are larger than the
gross national product of 80 countries.
Americans have more CD players, radios and VCRs
than we have bathtubs.
Story after story gets told about artists --
some of them in their 60s and 70s, some of them
authors of huge successful songs that we all
enjoy, use and sing -- living in total poverty,
never having been paid anything. Not even having
access to a union or to basic health care.
Artists who have generated billions of dollars
for an industry die broke and un-cared for.
And they're not actors or participators. They're
the rightful owners, originators and performers
of original compositions.
This is piracy.
Technology is Not Piracy
Lars Ulrich, Drummer in 'Metallica'
This opinion is one I really haven't formed yet,
so as I speak about Napster now, please
understand that I'm not totally informed. I will
be the first in line to file a class action suit
to protect my copyrights if Napster or even the
far more advanced Gnutella doesn't work with us
to protect us. I'm on [Metallica drummer]
Lars Ulrich's side, in other words, and I
feel really badly for him that he doesn't know
how to condense his case down to a sound-bite
that sounds more reasonable than the one I saw
I also think Metallica is being given too much
grief. It's anti-artist, for one thing. An
artist speaks up and the artist gets squashed:
Sharecropping. Don't get above your station,
kid. It's not piracy when kids swap music over
the Internet using Napster or Gnutella or
Freenet or iMesh or beaming their CDs into a
My.MP3.com or MyPlay.com music locker. It's
piracy when those guys that run those companies
make side deals with the cartel lawyers and
label heads so that they can be "the labels'
friend," and not the artists'.
Recording artists have essentially been giving
their music away for free under the old system,
so new technology that exposes our music to a
larger audience can only be a good thing. Why
aren't these companies working with us to create
There were a billion music downloads last year,
but music sales are up. Where's the evidence
that downloads hurt business? Downloads are
creating more demand.
Why aren't record companies embracing this great
opportunity? Why aren't they trying to talk to
the kids passing compilations around to learn
what they like? Why is the RIAA suing the
companies that are stimulating this new demand?
What's the point of going after people swapping
cruddy-sounding MP3s? Cash! Cash they have no
intention of passing onto us, the writers of
At this point the "record collector" geniuses
who use Napster don't have the coolest most
arcane selection anyway, unless you're into
techno. Hardly any pre-1982 REM fans, no '60s
punk, even the Alan Parsons Project was
underrepresented when I tried to find some
Napster buddies. For the most part, it was
college boy rawk without a lot of imagination.
Maybe that's the demographic that cares -- and
in that case, My Bloody Valentine and Bert
Jansch aren't going to get screwed just yet.
There's still time to negotiate.
Destroying Traditional Access
Somewhere along the way, record companies
figured out that it's a lot more profitable to
control the distribution system than it is to
nurture artists. And since the companies didn't
have any real competition, artists had no other
place to go. Record companies controlled the
promotion and marketing; only they had the
ability to get lots of radio play, and get
records into all the big chain store. That power
put them above both the artists and the
audience. They own the plantation.
Being the gatekeeper was the most profitable
place to be, but now we're in a world half
without gates. The Internet allows artists to
communicate directly with their audiences; we
don't have to depend solely on an inefficient
system where the record company promotes our
records to radio, press or retail and then sits
back and hopes fans find out about our music.
Record companies don't understand the intimacy
between artists and their fans. They put records
on the radio and buy some advertising and hope
for the best. Digital distribution gives
everyone worldwide, instant access to music.
And filters are replacing gatekeepers. In a
world where we can get anything we want,
whenever we want it, how does a company create
value? By filtering. In a world without
friction, the only friction people value is
editing. A filter is valuable when it
understands the needs of both artists and the
public. New companies should be conduits between
musicians and their fans.
Right now the only way you can get music is by
shelling out $17. In a world where music costs a
nickel, an artist can "sell" 100 million copies
instead of just a million.
The present system keeps artists from finding an
audience because it has too many artificial
scarcities: limited radio promotion, limited bin
space in stores and a limited number of spots on
the record company roster.
The digital world has no scarcities. There are
countless ways to reach an audience. Radio is no
longer the only place to hear a new song. And
tiny mall record stores aren't the only place to
buy a new CD.
Now artists have options. We don't have to work
with major labels anymore, because the digital
economy is creating new ways to distribute and
market music. And the free ones amongst us
aren't going to. That means the slave class,
which I represent, has to find ways to get out
of our deals. This didn't really matter before,
and that's why we all stayed.
I want my seven-year contract law California
labor code case to mean something to other
artists. (Universal Records sues me because I
leave because my employment is up, but they say
a recording contract is not a personal contract;
because the recording industry -- who, we have
established, are excellent lobbyists, getting,
as they did, a clerk to disallow Don Henley or
Tom Petty the right to give their copyrights to
their families -- in California, in 1987,
lobbied to pass an amendment that nullified
recording contracts as personal contracts, sort
of. Maybe. Kind of. A little bit. And again, in
the dead of night, succeeded.)
That's why I'm willing to do it with a sword in
my teeth. I expect I'll be ignored or ostracized
following this lawsuit. I expect that the
treatment you're seeing Lars Ulrich get now will
quadruple for me. Cool. At least I'll serve a
purpose. I'm an artist and a good artist, I
think, but I'm not that artist that has to play
all the time, and thus has to get fucked. Maybe
my laziness and self-destructive streak will
finally pay off and serve a community
desperately in need of it. They can't torture me
like they could Lucinda Williams.
You Funny Dot-Communists. Get Your Shit
Together, You Annoying Sucka VCs
I want to work with people who believe in music
and art and passion. And I'm just the tip of the
iceberg. I'm leaving the major label system and
there are hundreds of artists who are going to
follow me. There's an unbelievable opportunity
for new companies that dare to get it right.
How can anyone defend the current system when it
fails to deliver music to so many potential
fans? That only expects of itself a "5 percent
success rate" a year? The status quo gives us a
boring culture. In a society of over 300 million
people, only 30 new artists a year sell a
million records. By any measure, that's a huge
Maybe each fan will spend less money, but maybe
each artist will have a better chance of making
a living. Maybe our culture will get more
interesting than the one currently owned by Time
Warner. I'm not crazy. Ask yourself, are any of
you somehow connected to Time Warner media? I
think there are a lot of yeses to that and I'd
have to say that in that case president McKinley
truly failed to bust any trusts. Maybe we can
remedy that now.
Artists will make that compromise if it means we
can connect with hundreds of millions of fans
instead of the hundreds of thousands that we
have now. Especially if we lose all the crap
that goes with success under the current system.
I'm willing, right now, to leave half of these
trappings -- fuck it, all these trappings -- at
the door to have a pure artist experience. They
cosset us with trappings to shut us up. That way
when we say "sharecropper!" you can point to my
free suit and say "Shut up pop star."
Here, take my Prada pants. Fuck it. Let us do
our real jobs. And those of us addicted to
celebrity because we have nothing else to give
will fade away. And those of us addicted to
celebrity because it was there will find a
better, purer way to live.
Since I've basically been giving my music away
for free under the old system, I'm not afraid of
wireless, MP3 files or any of the other threats
to my copyrights. Anything that makes my music
more available to more people is great. MP3
files sound cruddy, but a well-made album sounds
great. And I don't care what anyone says about
digital recordings. At this point they are good
for dance music, but try listening to a warm
guitar tone on them. They suck for what I do.
Record companies are terrified of anything that
challenges their control of distribution. This
is the business that insisted that CDs be sold
in incredibly wasteful 6-by-12 inch long boxes
just because no one thought you could change the
bins in a record store.
Let's not call the major labels "labels." Let's
call them by their real names: They are the
distributors. They're the only distributors and
they exist because of scarcity. Artists pay 95
percent of whatever we make to gatekeepers
because we used to need gatekeepers to get our
music heard. Because they have a system, and
when they decide to spend enough money -- all of
it recoupable, all of it owed by me -- they can
occasionally shove things through this system,
depending on a lot of arbitrary factors.
The corporate filtering system, which is the
system that brought you (in my humble opinion) a
piece of crap like "Mambo No. 5" and didn't let
you hear the brilliant Cat Power record or the
amazing new Sleater Kinney record, obviously
doesn't have good taste anyway. But we've never
paid major label/distributors for their good
taste. They've never been like Yahoo and
provided a filter service.
There were a lot of factors that made a
distributor decide to push a recording through
How powerful is management?
Who owes whom a favor?
What independent promoter's cousin is the
What part of the fiscal year is the company
putting out the record?
Is the royalty rate for the artist so obscenely
bad that it's almost 100 percent profit instead
of just 95 percent so that if the record sells,
it's literally a steal?
How much bin space is left over this year?
Was the record already a hit in Europe so that
there's corporate pressure to make it work?
Will the band screw up its live career to play
free shows for radio stations?
Does the artist's song sound enough like someone
else that radio stations will play it because it
fits the sound of the month?
Did the artist get the song on a film soundtrack
so that the movie studio will pay for the video?
These factors affect the decisions that go into
the system. Not public taste. All these things
are becoming eradicated now. They are gone or on
their way out. We don't need the gatekeepers any
more. We just don't need them.
And if they aren't going to do for me what I can
do for myself with my 19-year-old Webmistress on
my own Web site, then they need to get the hell
out of my way. [I will] allow millions of people
to get my music for nothing if they want and
hopefully they'll be kind enough to leave a tip
if they like it.
I still need the old stuff. I still need a
producer in the creation of a recording, I still
need to get on the radio (which costs a lot of
money), I still need bin space for hardware CDs,
I still need to provide an opportunity for
people without computers to buy the hardware
that I make. I still need a lot of this stuff,
but I can get these things from a joint venture
with a company that serves as a conduit and
knows its place. Serving the artist and serving
the public: That's its place.
Equity for Artists
A new company that gives artists true equity in
their work can take over the world, kick ass and
make a lot of money. We're inspired by how
people get paid in the new economy. Many visual
artists and software and hardware designers have
real ownership of their work.
I have a 14-year-old niece. She used to want to
be a rock star. Before that she wanted to be an
actress. As of six months ago, what do you think
she wants to be when she grows up? What's the
glamorous, emancipating career of choice? Of
course, she wants to be a Web designer. It's
such a glamorous business!
When you people do business with artists, you
have to take a different view of things. We want
to be treated with the respect that now goes to
Web designers. We're not Dockers-wearing Intel
workers from Portland who know how to "manage
our stress." We don't understand or want to
understand corporate culture.
I feel this obscene gold rush greedgreedgreed
vibe that bothers me a lot when I talk to
dot-com people about all this. You guys can't
hustle artists that well. At least slick A&R
guys know the buzzwords. Don't try to compete
with them. I just laugh at you when you do!
Maybe you could a year ago when anything dot-com
sounded smarter than the rest of us, but the
scam has been uncovered.
The celebrity-for-sale business is about to
crash, I hope, and the idea of a sucker VC
gifting some company with four floors just
because they can "do" "chats" with "Christina"
once or twice is ridiculous. I did a chat today,
twice. Big damn deal. 200 bucks for the software
and some elbow grease and a good back-end coder.
Wow. That's not worth 150 million bucks.
... I mean, yeah, sure it is if you'd like to
give it to me.
Tipping/Music as Service
I know my place. I'm a waiter. I'm in the
I live on tips. Occasionally, I'm going to get
stiffed, but that's OK. If I work hard and I'm
doing good work, I believe that the people who
enjoy it are going to want to come directly to
me and get my music because it sounds better,
since it's mastered and packaged by me
personally. I'm providing an honest, real
When people buy the bootleg T-shirt in the
concert parking lot and not the more expensive
T-shirt inside the venue, it isn't to save
money. The T-shirt in the parking lot is cheap
and badly made, but it's easier to buy. The
bootleggers have a better distribution system.
There's no waiting in line and it only takes two
minutes to buy one.
I know that if I can provide my own T-shirt that
I designed, that I made, and provide it as
quickly or quicker than the bootleggers, people
who've enjoyed the experience I've provided will
be happy to shell out a little more money to
cover my costs. Especially if they understand
this context, and aren't being shoveled a load
of shit about "uppity" artists.
It's exactly the same with recorded music. The
real thing to fear from Napster is its simple
and excellent distribution system. No one really
prefers a cruddy-sounding Napster MP3 file to
the real thing. But it's really easy to get an
MP3 file; and in the middle of Kansas you may
never see my record because major distribution
is really bad if your record's not in the charts
this week, and even then it takes a couple of
weeks to restock the one copy they usually keep
I also know how many times I have heard a song
on the radio that I loved only to buy the record
and have the album be a piece of crap. If you're
afraid of your own filler then I bet you're
afraid of Napster. I'm afraid of Napster because
I think the major label cartel will get to them
before I do.
I've made three records. I like them all. I
haven't made filler and they're all committed
pieces of work. I'm not scared of you previewing
my record. If you like it enough to have it be a
part of your life, I know you'll come to me to
get it, as long as I show you how to get to me,
and as long as you know that it's out.
Most people don't go into restaurants and stiff
waiters, but record labels represent the
restaurant that forces the waiters to live on,
and sometimes pool, their tips. And they even
fight for a bit of their tips.
Music is a service to its consumers, not a
product. I live on tips. Giving music away for
free is what artists have been doing naturally
all their lives.
Record companies stand between artists and their
fans. We signed terrible deals with them because
they controlled our access to the public.
But in a world of total connectivity, record
companies lose that control. With unlimited bin
space and intelligent search engines, fans will
have no trouble finding the music they know they
want. They have to know they want it, and that
needs to be a marketing business that takes a
If a record company has a reason to exist, it
has to bring an artist's music to more fans and
it has to deliver more and better music to the
audience. You bring me a bigger audience or a
better relationship with my audience or get the
fuck out of my way. Next time I release a
record, I'll be able to go directly to my fans
and let them hear it before anyone else.
We'll still have to use radio and traditional CD
distribution. Record stores aren't going away
any time soon and radio is still the most
important part of record promotion.
Major labels are freaking out because they have
no control in this new world. Artists can sell
CDs directly to fans. We can make direct deals
with thousands of other Web sites and promote
our music to millions of people that old record
companies never touch.
We're about to have lots of new ways to sell our
music: downloads, hardware bundles, memory
sticks, live Webcasts, and lots of other things
that aren't even invented yet.
But there's something you guys have to figure
Here's my open letter to Steve Case:
Avatars don't talk back!!! But what are you
going to do with real live artists?
Artists aren't like you. We go through a
creative process that's demented and crazy.
There's a lot of soul-searching and turning
ourselves inside-out and all kinds of gross
stuff that ends up on "Behind the Music."
A lot of people who haven't been around artists
very much get really weird when they sit down to
lunch with us. So I want to give you some
advice: Learn to speak our language. Talk about
songs and melody and hooks and art and beauty
and soul. Not sleazy record-guy crap, where
you're in a cashmere sweater murmuring that the
perfect deal really is perfect, Courtney. Yuck.
Honestly hire honestly committed people. We're
in a "new economy," right? You can afford to do
But don't talk to me about "content."
I get really freaked out when I meet someone and
they start telling me that I should record 34
songs in the next six months so that we have
enough content for my site. Defining artistic
expression as content is anathema to me.
What the hell is content? Nobody buys content.
Real people pay money for music because it means
something to them. A great song is not just
something to take up space on a Web site next to
stock market quotes and baseball scores.
DEN tried to build a site with artist-free
content and I'm not sorry to see it fail. The
DEN shows look like art if you're not paying
attention, but they forgot to hire anyone to be
creative. So they ended up with a lot of content
nobody wants to see because they thought they
could avoid dealing with defiant and moody
personalities. Because they were arrogant. And
because they were conformists. Artists have to
deal with business people and business people
have to deal with artists. We hate each other.
Let's create companies of mediators.
Every single artist who makes records believes
and hopes that they give you something that will
transform your life. If you're really just
interested in data mining or selling banner ads,
stick with those "artists" willing to call
themselves content providers.
I don't know if an artist can last by meeting
the current public taste, the taste from the
last quarterly report. I don't think you can
last by following demographics and carefully
meeting expectations. I don't know many lasting
works of art that are condescending or
deliberately stupid or were created as content.
Don't tell me I'm a brand. I'm famous and people
recognize me, but I can't look in the mirror and
see my brand identity.
Keep talking about brands and you know what
you'll get? Bad clothes. Bad hair. Bad books.
Bad movies. And bad records. And bankrupt
businesses. Rides that were fun for a year with
no employee loyalty but everyone got rich
fucking you. Who wants that? The answer is
purity. We can afford it. Let's go find it again
while we can.
I also feel filthy trying to call my music a
product. It's not a thing that I test market
like toothpaste or a new car. Music is personal
Being a "content provider" is prostitution work
that devalues our art and doesn't satisfy our
spirits. Artistic expression has to be
provocative. The problem with artists and the
Internet: Once their art is reduced to content,
they may never have the opportunity to retrieve
When you form your business for creative people,
with creative people, come at us with some
thought. Everybody's process is different. And
remember that it's art. We're not craftspeople.
I don't know what a good sponsorship would be
for me or for other artists I respect. People
bring up sponsorships a lot as a way for artists
to get our music paid for upfront and for us to
earn a fee. I've dealt with large corporations
for long enough to know that any alliance where
I'm an owned service is going to be doomed.
When I agreed to allow a large cola company to
promote a live show, I couldn't have been more
miserable. They screwed up every single thing
imaginable. The venue was empty but sold out.
There were thousands of people outside who
wanted to be there, trying to get tickets. And
there were the empty seats the company had
purchased for a lump sum and failed to market
because they were clueless about music.
It was really dumb. You had to buy the cola. You
had to dial a number. You had to press a bunch
of buttons. You had to do all this crap that
nobody wanted to do. Why not just bring a can to
On top of all this, I felt embarrassed to be an
advertising agent for a product that I'd never
let my daughter use. Plus they were a
condescending bunch of little guys. They treated
me like I was an ungrateful little bitch who
should be groveling for the experience to play
for their damn soda.
I ended up playing without my shirt on and
ordering a six-pack of the rival cola onstage.
Also lots of unwholesome cursing and nudity
occurred. This way I knew that no matter how
tempting the cash was, they'd never do business
with me again.
If you want some little obedient slave content
provider, then fine. But I think most musicians
don't want to be responsible for your clean-cut,
wholesome, all-American, sugar corrosive
cancer-causing, all white people, no women
allowed sodapop images.
Nor, on the converse, do we want to be
responsible for your vice-inducing,
liver-rotting, child-labor-law-violating, all
white people, no-women-allowed booze images.
So as a defiant moody artist worth my salt, I've
got to think of something else. Tampax, maybe.
As a user, I love Napster. It carries some risk.
I hear idealistic business people talk about how
people that are musicians would be musicians no
matter what and that we're already doing it for
free, so what about copyright?
Please. It's incredibly easy not to be a
musician. It's always a struggle and a dangerous
career choice. We are motivated by passion and
That's not a dirty little secret. It's a fact.
Take away the incentive for major or minor
financial reward and you dilute the pool of
musicians. I am not saying that only pure
artists will survive. Like a few of the more
utopian people who discuss this, I don't want
just pure artists to survive.
Where would we all be without the trash? We need
the trash to cover up our national depression.
The utopians also say that because in their
minds "pure" artists are all Ani DiFranco and
don't demand a lot of money. Why are the
utopians all entertainment lawyers and major
label workers anyway? I demand a lot of money if
I do a big huge worthwhile job and millions of
people like it, don't kid yourself. In economic
terms, you've got an industry that's loathsome
and outmoded, but when it works it creates some
incentive and some efficiency even though
absolutely no one gets paid.
We suffer as a society and a culture when we
don't pay the true value of goods and services
delivered. We create a lack of production. Less
good music is recorded if we remove the
incentive to create it.
Music is intellectual property with full cash
and opportunity costs required to create, polish
and record a finished product. If I invest money
and time into my business, I should be
reasonably protected from the theft of my goods
and services. When the judgment came against
MP3.com, the RIAA sought damages of $150,000 for
each major-label-"owned" musical track in MP3's
database. Multiply by 80,000 CDs, and MP3.com
could owe the gatekeepers $120 billion.
But what about the Plimsouls? Why can't MP3.com
pay each artist a fixed amount based on the
number of their downloads? Why on earth should
MP3.com pay $120 billion to four distribution
companies, who in most cases won't have to pay a
nickel to the artists whose copyrights they've
stolen through their system of organized theft?
It's a ridiculous judgment. I believe if
evidence had been entered that ultimately it's
just shuffling big cash around two or three
corporations, I can only pray that the judge in
the MP3.com case would have seen the RIAA's case
for the joke that it was.
I'd rather work out a deal with MP3.com myself,
and force them to be artist-friendly, instead of
being laughed at and having my money hidden by a
major label as they sell my records out the back
door, behind everyone's back.
How dare they behave in such a horrified manner
in regards to copyright law when their entire
industry is based on piracy? When Mister Label
Head Guy, whom my lawyer yelled at me not to
name, got caught last year selling millions of
"cleans" out the back door. "Cleans" being the
records that aren't for marketing but are to be
sold. Who the fuck is this guy? He wants to save
a little cash so he fucks the artist and goes
home? Do they fire him? Does Chuck Phillips of
the LA Times say anything? No way! This guy's a
source! He throws awesome dinner parties! Why
fuck with the status quo? Let's pick on Lars
Ulrich instead because he brought up an
I'm looking for people to help connect me to
more fans, because I believe fans will leave a
tip based on the enjoyment and service I
provide. I'm not scared of them getting a
preview. It really is going to be a global
village where a billion people have access to
one artist and a billion people can leave a tip
if they want to.
It's a radical democratization. Every artist has
access to every fan and every fan has access to
every artist, and the people who direct fans to
those artists. People that give advice and
technical value are the people we need. People
crowding the distribution pipe and trying to
ignore fans and artists have no value. This is a
If you're going to start a company that deals
with musicians, please do it because you like
music. Offer some control and equity to the
artists and try to give us some creative
guidance. If music and art and passion are
important to you, there are hundreds of artists
who are ready to rewrite the rules.
In the last few years, business pulled our
culture away from the idea that music is
important and emotional and sacred. But new
technology has brought a real opportunity for
change; we can break down the old system and
give musicians real freedom and choice.
A great writer named Neal Stephenson said that
America does four things better than any other
country in the world: rock music, movies,
software and high-speed pizza delivery. All of
these are sacred American art forms. Let's
return to our purity and our idealism while we
have this shot.
Warren Beatty once said: "The greatest gift God
gives us is to enjoy the sound of our own voice.
And the second greatest gift is to get somebody
to listen to it."
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article you want to comment on. Wes Penre.
Wes Penre is a
researcher, journalist, the owner of the domains
Zionist Watch and is the publisher of the
same. He has been researching Globalization and the New World
Order and exposed the big players behind the scenes for more
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