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Musicians seek control of rights

August 18, 2011

Have a read of this BBC new item:

Musicians seek control of rights

We’ve been saying for years that the traditional music industry sucks arse bigtime for the iniquity of its traditional contract system.

A musician signed with a label. The label took the copyrights to songs written. It took ownership of recorded masters. It decided what was released, when it was released and how it would be marketed. The label took control of the artist’s looks, lifestyle and career direction. All of this was paid for from the artist’s share of any royalties earned from selling albums or singles. Costs were all ‘recoupable’ and ‘repayable’. Effectively, all labels were was money-lenders who lent at a very, very, bad rate of interest and who owned the musicians.

An album didn’t sell enough. The label decided to stop promoting the artist. They wouldn’t let the artist record for anyone else. They wouldn’t let them take their recordings to another label – the artist didn’t own them despite paying for the recording. Very often, artists have had to fight to even get the remaining royalties that were owed to them. In many cases, artists were still paying back all the money that had been ‘invested’ in them.

How many artists that you have liked over the years have suddenly seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth? Now you know what probably happened. Record labels killed their careers and wouldn’t let them carry on elsewhere or on their own because they were tied by their contracts.

Now it looks as if a few big names, who have the financial resources to fight avaricious record labels, are using an American law to try to get back what is, by any standards of common sense, theirs. The idea that Bob Dylan and Tom Petty do not own the rights to the songs they write is ludicrous but that’s the way the traditional record industry works. Good luck to them!

The record labels claim that the artists were ’employees’ at the time of writing and the music therefore belongs to the labels. Unfortunately, my observation of the US legal system is that it seems always to side with big capital whenever there’s any claim by individuals to get or maintain their rights – but I hope this is a case where justice is done. There should be an acknowledgement that traditional music business contracts were iniquitous, restrictive, dishonest, and insulting to musicians. I hope these big names win and that the legal precedent allows smaller, poorer, musicians to get back some of what’s theirs too without losing any gain in lawyers’ fees.

The big labels are dying because of their inability (and unwillingness) to operate in the modern age and work with artists to maximise opportunities for all without screwing the artists or the public. They continue to show a blockheaded, stubborn stupidity that can only hasten their long overdue demise.

In the meantime, there are thousands of netlabels working with artists to produce cutting edge new music, with the artists retaining all rights under Creative Commons licences. Search for netlabels in Google and see what you find.

BDR

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 22, 2011 1:37 pm

    It seems a member of Village People has joined in, trying to regain rights to tunes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-14611832
    The most surprising thing in this news item for me was the fact that he’s married to a woman! 😉

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