The letter they sent to congress is pretty much bullshit though …
Systems everywhere are breaking down. What once was, isn't anymore, and it's usually congress or lawmakers that have the hardest time keeping up.
Recently, a bunch of artists including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, deadmau5 and other industry organizations signed a letter asking the government to update its laws regarding how companies on the Internet can use music. It's pretty much bullshit, though.
It's only reasonable that people who make original content — that's liked and honestly paid for — get compensated. Nobody credible is going to sit around arguing those artists shouldn't be paid for their hard work. But hearing major labels discuss their perspective of oppression like they're somehow the victim is unsettling.
Just direct yourself to any headline about the industry lately and you'll see how complicated the situation really is. What was once complete power in the hands of a dozen or so major labels has whittled down to a loss of grip, opening everything up instead to independent basement producers and garage bands — able now to reach hundreds of millions of fans if they want to because of the Internet. They can even negotiate their own licensing deals and distribution terms. It's like labels don't even need to exist anymore.
So of course the once-gatekeepers, and the artists they control, want to fight back — opting to cloak the 'battle' under the guise of "protecting the little people."
The letter, which 19 music organizations (including A2IM, AFM, ASCAP, Azoff Music, BMI, Global Music Rights, Kobalt, NARAS, NMPA, NSAI, RIAA, SESAC, Sony/ATV, Sony Music, SoundExchange, Universal Music Group, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell and Warner Music Group) and 180 artists signed, is asking congress to rewrite portions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to dismantle companies like Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud. They, and others like them, are companies that work under the safe harbor provisions — or if a third party is uploading illegal content to their servers, they're not liable for it, so long as they take necessary actions to figure all this shit out with the rights holders.
So far, YouTube has been able to squeak by any action from labels because of its massive following and huge opportunities for artists to promote their material. So why now?
To think that congress, in an election year, would bother with the DMCA right now shows extreme naivety on the part of the labels (and its author, mega-manager Irving Azoff) unless of course context is added. You see, the 3 major labels are in discussions right now to renew their licensing deals with YouTube.
Funny how that works, isn't it?
So as the labels have been able to clamp down on SoundCloud, and Spotify, they're now trying to do the same with YouTube. You'll notice (copied below) that the letter, and its corresponding ad that will be placed in certain media publications, has little to no resolution to the course. It just says, "We're mad and need leverage."
That's all it really needs to say — it's trying to shift public perception and flex what few muscles are left in an old paradigm.
Fortune Magazine's Mathew Ingram said it best: "In a nutshell, the music industry wants digital services to pay enough to replace all the money that used to come from the traditional music sales before the Internet came along. But that’s never going to happen. Spotify and other streaming services are already paying so much that they are incapable of making money even with 75 million paying subscribers, yet the industry argues they still aren’t contributing enough.
In Google, record labels see a rich corporation that can afford to pay them the billions they feel they deserve. But why is it Google’s job (or Spotify’s, for that matter) to recreate the same amount of revenue that used to come from a completely different music ecosystem? Shouldn’t the music industry be the one adapting its business to the new model, instead of trying to force that model to fit its existing business? That’s how innovation works."
Either the artists who signed on to the letter aren't aware of what's going on, or are greedy and shortsighted themselves. But as congress and the aging labels will eventually spar in a fancy courtroom somewhere in the next couple of years together, the industry itself will still be miles ahead — because that's also how innovation works.
DEAR CONGRESS: THE DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT (DMCA) IS BROKEN AND NO LONGER WORKS FOR CREATORS
As songwriters and artists who are a vital contributing force to the U.S. and to American exports around the world, we are writing to express our concern about the ability of the next generation of creators to earn a living. The existing laws threaten the continued viability of songwriters and recording artists to survive from the creation of music. Aspiring creators shouldn’t have to decide between making music and making a living. Please protect them.
One of the biggest problems confronting songwriters and recording artists today is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law was written and passed in an era that is technologically out-of-date compared to the era in which we live. It has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish. Music consumption has skyrocketed, but the monies earned by individual writers and artists for that consumption has plummeted.
The DMCA simply doesn’t work. It’s impossible for tens of thousands of individual songwriters and artists to muster the resources necessary to comply with its application. The tech companies who benefit from the DMCA today were not the intended protectorate when it was signed into law nearly two decades ago. We ask you to enact sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment. It’s only then that consumers will truly benefit.