Via Retronaut, take a well-earned five minute break to gaze at these wonderful photos of vintage diving suits (1900-1934).
“Record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word – slavery,” Prince told a group of 10 journalists Saturday night, during a meet and greet at his Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis. “I would tell any young artist … don’t sign.”
His pitch to the group was simple: Typical record company contracts turn artists into indentured servants with little control over how their music is used, particularly when it comes to revenue from streaming services playing their music online — and he wants to change that. He (also) advocated seeing artists paid directly from streaming services for use of their music, so that record companies and middlemen couldn’t take a share.
A good, if intentionally hyperbolic, message from The Purple One. His behavior regarding his catalog seems, from the outside, a bit erratic (to say the least) but he appears content in that he’s making these choices himself, and that’s commendable. However, if Prince is really interested in shaking things up then I’d love to see him follow Louis C.K.’s lead rather than hitching himself to Tidal.
Music curation community This Is My Jam is shuttering its service next month. Co-founders Matthew Ogle and Hannah Donovan explained in a blog post that, in addition to wanting to move on to other projects, it became difficult to keep up with changes to services like YouTube, SoundCloud, Twitter and more that the site depends on.
Over 2 million tracks have been shared over the last four years of This Is My Jam’s existence. When it launched, it focused on careful curation over frequent sharing — and that’s what made it special.
If you pull apart some of the backstory behind the end of a service called “This Is My Jam,” you’ll come across an unnerving reality of the way music on the Web is evolving (or devolving).
Apart from This Is My Jam, I still have to think that independent producers and labels ultimately benefit from a more open Web. Embedding players means more data about would-be fans and listens, data that’s hugely valuable to musicians. It means the flexibility to easily get your music where you want it. And ultimately, it means easily facilitated sharing, which is vitally important in an age of abundant music from around the world.
I don’t mean to suggest that we should go back to the tools we had. But simply giving up the possibilities of sharing is a retreat, not an advancement. We ought to be able to do more with the Internet.
I’m probably like a lot of people out there in that I really like This Is My Jam, but I don’t use it that much. That’s too bad as it was a fine, though ultimately flawed, idea. Now and then I’d recall a song that I love and that would inspire me to post it to This Is My Jam, eventually making my account serve as a repository of these great songs that pleasantly interrupted my days. I also know someone who would post a song every morning as a sort of ‘good morning, friends!’ message. Things like this made TIMJ a warm and personable way to share music, a lot more so than what is available on the other music services. Additionally, TIMJ’s main feature which gave you a stream of your friends’ favorite songs — and just their favorite songs, as was the unwritten rule — made for some appealing and educational sonic excursions, especially if you kept your ‘friends’ list limited to those whose musical taste you admired.
But, alas, TIMJ relied on other services that were outside of its control. TIMJ created its stream of music from shares of content already posted on YouTube, SoundCloud, and a few others who are understandably working to drive traffic to their own sites and services. It was an easy peasy work-around from having to cough up licensing fees (technically, it was the host of the original stream paying). So, for reasons described in the Create Digital Music article, TIMJ is doomed as the world of online music becomes more insular within its specific services. Cymbal, who I’ve mentioned previously, will also likely meet this fate.
The oft-repeated moral of the story: relying on all these different services whose only goal is to make profit from your content is sure to end in heartache. I’m not saying to abandon them, but be very aware of your place in their solar system. Rather than having your fan outreach dependent on external services, have them compliment your own self-reliant architecture — preferably based around your own site — which can’t be screwed with.
After calling out the audiophile cable gods, I’d come to settle the score. I’d brought a $340 “audiophile grade” Ethernet cable, and I was ready to put it to the test with the assistance of the James Randi Educational Foundation in front of a live audience of several hundred people. The goal was to find out if (this) cable made any difference when you’re using it to connect a computer to a NAS on which music was stored. To all common sense and science, the answer was “no,” but that hasn’t stopped a certain subset of audiophiles from believing in them—and from other silliness like decrying the efficacy of the scientific method when it comes to audio testing.
JREF agreed to the proposed collaboration for several reasons. One is that the foundation regarded the claims being made—that the Ethernet cables can make a “plain as day” difference in audio quality—as pseudoscientific, and therefore worthy of testing. Also, one of the foundational principles of scientific skepticism is consumer protection; the JREF says that this is why it engages in debunking other similar pseudoscientific claims of homeopathy or of “power band” bracelets (a version of which the JREF has tested at past events).
But, what if an audience of skeptics—some of whom potentially might see the cable’s failure as a validation of the skeptical point of view—were themselves predisposed to believe they heard no difference?
This is a compelling article that not only addresses the (spoiler alert) fallacy of the $340 Ethernet cable, but also goes into interesting detail on the process and complexity of staging a fair testing environment for something like this.
Writing for FACT, Laurent Fintoni and John Twells have compiled a list of the fifty best trip-hop albums. (Before you freak out, realize that particularly big artists all only get one entry, and the list is confined to the 1990s.) The list is reproduced inside, with links to entry pages, artist info, and (when available) YouTube streams.
Trip-hop is a maligned term but I never had a problem with it. It sort of sums up the sound perfectly … psychedelic hip hop, right? It’s there on the tin. This isn’t a bad list at all, serving to send me down the memory lane of my early DJ days when this was all I would play (I even had a 100 BPM speed limit for a while). The top two are appropriate: no other albums, to me, epitomize ‘trip-hop’ more than Tricky’s Maxinquaye and Portishead’s Dummy. But is Blue Lines really a trip-hop album? Of course I understand the influence of some of its songs on the genre, but, as an album, I don’t feel Massive Attack delved head-on into the sound until afterwards. Also, this list reminds me how much trip-hop was (is?) stronger as a singles / 12″ genre. UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction is an okay album, but it comes nowhere close to touching the trip-hop perfection that is their 1994 single “The Time Has Come” (in collaboration with Major Force). Cue a music break:
Here’s more on “Happy Birthday”, via Boing Boing:
This suit was nearing its conclusion when a thrilling last-minute piece of evidence emerged from Warner/Chappell: an excerpt of a 1927 title called The Everyday Song Book produced by the piano-making firm, The Cable Company. The song, numbered 16, is called “Good Morning and Birthday Song” with the main lyrics under the score, and “optional” words below for “Happy Birthday.” The ostensible copyright notice was blurred in the version supplied by the music company.
Nelson’s lawyer noted it was not the first edition, and were able to get a library to dig up the 1922 version. The same version appears there without a legally required statement of copyright.
This would seem to be the end of the line for “Happy Birthday.” The (plaintiff) should prevail; fees collected starting in 2009, within the statute of limitations at the time the suit was filed, should be refunded; and a clear future would be established for public-domain use. But copyright is a crooked path.
It would be nice to close the book on “Happy Birthday,” but it doesn’t close the book on copyright absurdity. An abundance of material from 1923 is poised to enter the public domain in 2019 unless a further taking of the public interest occurs, as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act did in 1998, adding an unnecessary 20 years to the existing 50 years’ protection past an authors’ death.
I’ve been following this convoluted case for a while, and the article on Boing Boing quoted above is perhaps the best summation of the whole thing that I’ve seen. It also includes background on the sisters who wrote “Happy Birthday” … their story, which I didn’t really know, is fascinating.
The DIY Musician on the controversial practice of retitling:
When you sign a non-exclusive agreement, you may have multiple parties wanting to collect public performance royalties on their specific placements only. The way to achieve this is by registering the song with the performing rights organization under a new title.
(This) usually means that the licensing company collects royalties for those placements in perpetuity (forever). If these royalties are theirs to collect forever, this could impact the value of your publishing catalog in the future, if you enter into a traditional publishing or co-publishing deal. It also causes confusion for music supervisors, studios, and the performing rights organizations when multiple parties are claiming ownership over the same work, which can often lead to content providers not receiving royalties they’re owed.
Before signing any catalog to a music library always specifically ask if they retitle. A lot of libraries have sneaky ways to insert retitling rights into their agreements that you may miss if you’re not used to looking for these sorts of provisions. If you think a ‘non-exclusive’ agreement means the library isn’t retitling then know that you’re probably wrong.
Retitling is messy business. It may be on its way out of favor thanks to audio identification software getting better and starting to be used by PROs for royalty tracking. If you have a lot of retitled songs in your repetoire then the emergence of audio royalty tracking could make your life hell … the retitled ‘versions’ of your songs could be the ones getting identified, which means the library owning that title will be getting the royalties whether they are responsible for the license or not.
A friend had his tracks retitled by a library that ended up submitting the new titles to a bunch of third parties (something else he overlooked as allowed in the agreement). Somehow these ended up at Shazam. My friend had a semi-popular song that this library retitled, and any time someone would ‘Shazam’ it, the re-title came up rather than the actual title that could be found in stores. He was able to contact Shazam and get this fixed but what a nightmare.
So, yeah … avoid any deals that involve retitling.
The DIY Musician article has a lot of other useful advice for things to look out for when signing catalog to music libraries. I’d also pay close attnetion to #5, “Limit the number of non-exclusive licensing partners you work with.”
Over the past year, major labels appear to have woken up to a crucial fact: when fans are listening on YouTube, they’re not listening on other services… and YouTube isn’t paying nearly enough.
According to IFPI estimates, YouTube and other ‘exclusively free, ad-funded platforms’ contributed $641m to the global record industry last year. Subscription streaming services coughed up $1.6bn.
That fact becomes infinitely more damning when you combine it with this one: YouTube has over a billion monthly users, and they love to play music. There were just 41m people paying for music streaming in 2014. Recent Ipsos research even found that more than a quarter of internet users (27%) listen to music on YouTube without even watching the video.
Spotify realises that all this represents a unique opportunity to debunk a music biz myth that has frustrated the Swedish company since birth. It’s the one that goes: YouTube is a friendly promotional tool, while Spotify is an income-focused commercial service.
One hold-over from the days of physical distribution is that feeling that your digital release should be available in as many stores as possible. I remember thinking this way as well in the early days of digital sales … I felt my music should just simply be available in every digital shop the same as how I wanted my vinyl releases in every mom and pop record store. But then came the realization that not all these outlets paid the same (or even at the same consistent time), and that some that didn’t push or weren’t selling adequate numbers of my label’s music were taking up as much of my effort as those that followed through.
Targeting the outlets that give you the most benefit is wise … sort of a loose application of the Pareto principle. If fans are using YouTube to stream your music, but Spotify or Apple Music are paying more per stream, then by all means you should work at pulling the focus away from YouTube.
One problem: if you or your distributor are providing music to Google for Google Play or their related services then you are probably opted in to the YouTube Music Key program. A static, generic video using the cover art will be automatically created for your song and available on YouTube which could torpedo this strategy of exception. Even the One Direction song referenced throughout this MBW article is on YouTube via Music Key. However, as far as I know, YouTube Music Key videos are not available outside of the US due to licensing restrictions … but I’m sure this will eventually change.
Wire up your nostalgia. Here’s an appealing hour-long playlist that, in the words of Little Records, “explores the role of synthesizers in early post-punk.” There are a few curve-balls thrown in amongst some obvious (but indispensable) choices, and it’s all quite fun to hear on this hazy Friday.
How did we get here? There is always the possibility, suggested by many, that America is sinking into an Idiocracy-style dystopia, but that explanation feels too pat. Rather, the success of Trump’s campaign is at least partly a reflection of the way the news media has changed. In addition to (sometimes literally) providing the candidate with a stage, the media used to act as a filter between candidate and voter, couching the candidate’s unvarnished spiel with context, contrary opinions, facts. This is no longer necessarily the case; instead, the media increasingly tries to collapse the space between the politician and his constituent, thrusting everyone, media included, into a shared chaos known as social media.
You are watching a battle that is primarily being conducted by avatars, in a flattened space about the size of a phone, where everyone, from activists to reporters to campaign flacks to President Obama, is braying for attention. As I type this, dozens of operatives are spinning the debate we just watched, dragging an event from the physical world into the digital realm where we spend more and more of our time, and where every gesture, every upload, every expression of outrage, empathy, kindness, or anger, is simultaneously a performance.