Author Archives: Caroline Strickland

The Sway of Artist’s Rights

The Sway of Artist’s Rights

November 30, 2015

Caroline Strickland

The atmosphere within the music industry is arguably as convoluted as ever. The industry is infamous for “ripping off” an artist by using their work as content, while paying little to no royalties out. This story is as old as the dawn of the 18th century when player piano companies were not paying royalties to artists when they programmed an artist’s piano piece into the piano. At the time, Congress declared that only music that could be read by the human eye (read: sheet music) would be protected by copyright. That decision was later appealed in favor of requiring a copyright for each mechanically reproduced song.

One could say that the wheel turns, but nothing ever changes. However, such is not the case here. Today’s playing field is vastly different in that the technologies used are infinitely more advanced and an artist’s work is infinitely more widely spread. As soon as any song is uploaded to a single website, it has the capacity to permeate thousands of websites, webpages, streaming services, etc. by the next day. Thus, royalties today are not nearly as simple as a player piano company copying down a song into their machine. It is a matter of defining who is responsible for an artist’s royalties, what portion of royalties is distributed to the artist themselves versus the others involved, and how ethical current practices are in the face of plummeting album sales for most artists in the industry.

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Artists like Adele, who are highly influential in the music industry, have the ability to pull their albums from various streaming services with stock-moving influence. (Photo Credit: http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2012/02/13/146786971/adele-sweeps-the-grammy-awards)

Some people have speculated whether or not the few major artists’ decisions to pull or keep their albums from streaming services is a trend. However, it is important to note that there is a big difference between the power held by the “big guys” and the “little guys” in the industry. The highly influential artists like Adele, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé have enough clout to hold back albums and actually make so much of a difference that they can directly influence stock prices. They stand to lose enough that pulling an album is a viable option. For instance, the year Taylor Swift pulled her album 1989 from Spotify, she was on track to make $6 million from the streaming service. Contrast that to the fact that Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer” streamed 6.5 million times within the course of a year, and only brought in $110 in royalties for the artist and his two co-writers. However, the industry has very few of these artists. The rest of the crowd is made up of less influential bands everywhere in notoriety from Maroon 5 to St. Lucia. These bands don’t have the power to pull their albums from streaming service, so the “trend” created by the big artists are little more than individual choices. The following video is from ABC News and helps one to fully grasp the numbers involved with these artist’s choices.

 

 

Although the country star has “shaken off” spotify, the real trend here is still barreling toward streaming services. . . Unsurprisingly, artist’s rights are still being mauled in the process. The hope of streaming services “[making] music cheap — or free — for consumers while assuring that the artists who created the songs would be fairly compensated,” as quoted from Rolling Stones, is just not coming into fruition.

My forecast at this point in time is that, in the near future, artists will feel enough pressure from streaming service’s drain on their profits. They will migrate to a new breed of content-sharing: direct-to-peer platforms. In this way, they will share their content directly to fans without the third party that is SoundCloud and iTunes. Most often, changes in the industry has come when artist’s rights have been infringed upon so substantially that millions of dollars are being lost because copyrights aren’t being applied to their work in some capacity. Largely, that has been due to new technologies.

 

Mentioned Sources:

The Wall Street Journal; Adele Says Hello to Pandora

The Motley Fool; Adele’s “25” Isn’t on Spotify or Apple Music–Here’s Why It Doesn’t Matter

CBS News; Songwriters: Spotify Doesn’t Pay Off. . . Unless You’re a Taylor Swift

Billboard; Official: Adele Breaks *NSYNC’s Single-Week Record U.S. Album Sales Record

Rolling Stones; The 10 Biggest Holdouts in Digital Music

YouTube, ABC News; Taylor Swift Shakes Off Spotify

The Music Industry: The State of the Union

The Music Industry: The State of the Union

November 30, 2015

Sean Reagan, Megan Gordon, Ryan Stetz, & Caroline Strickland

 

 

The music industry itself can be likened to a very intricate song. As with any industry, it has various moving parts. If a song melds the sounds of percussion, brass, woodwinds, and strings, then the music industry strives to find the balance between artists, producers, consumers, and content-sharing platforms, whether those be streaming services such as YouTube and SoundCloud or a physical device, such as the iPod. As with any song, a single point in time may find  one section overwhelming the others, thus momentarily taking control of the song’s ambiance. Likewise, there is an ebb and flow of power between the industry’s different players. It crescendos in the form of major policy changes and content-sharing disruption. It becomes adagio when the industry settles into a new technology for a while, such as the introduction of radio and vinyl, which dominated the markets without significant challenge for many years. In this, the Music Industry Team’s Final Podcast, we illuminate the song that we feel the industry is playing at present. Most importantly, we forecast how the song is likely to develop.

This podcast is largely focused on Adele’s new album, 25, and her decisions to allow or disallow her music to be played via streaming services. From this conversation, we stem into more general topics that diagnose the music industry at present. We speak about the rights of the artist, the surprisingly positive affects piracy has on competition within the industry, and we make our final remarks (for now) concerning how the industry will proceed and which major players will be driving the change. Will it be the consumer, the record label, the artist, or some new center of influence that will emerge through technology-based disruption? Do you suspect a crescendo will be coming soon? We encourage you to listen and share any thoughts you may have concerning the analysis.

As always, the Music Industry Team hopes you enjoy the thought provoking points that stem from this discussion, and we thank you for your thoughts.

 

Sources Mentioned:

Fortune; 3 Questions for Musicians After Adele’s No-Streaming Strategy

PBS; Chronology: Technology and the Music Industry

Business Insider; The REAL Death of the Music Industry

The Wall Street Journal; Adele Says Hello to Pandora

The Motley Fool; Adele’s “25” Isn’t on Spotify or Apple Music–Here’s Why It Doesn’t Matter

Billboard; Official: Adele Breaks *NSYNC’s Single-Week Record U.S. Album Sales Record

The Detroit News; Adele’s Record “25” Sells 3.38 Million Copies, Breaks Record

Rolling Stones; The 10 Biggest Holdouts in Digital Music

Rolling Stones; Mid-Year Music Updates: Streaming Is King as Downloads Fade Away

Digital Music News; Apple Says Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube Are “Building Their Services Off the Backs of Artists”

AUX TV; Music Industry Executives Say Artist Aren’t Treated Fairly

CBS News; Songwriters: Spotify Doesn’t Pay Off. . . Unless You’re a Taylor Swift

University of Washington, Foster School of Business; The Upside of Digital Piracy: Greater Investment in Quality

 

 

The Recording Studio’s Heritage & Demise

The music industry of today finds itself split into two distinctive camps. The industry has often been found in this precarious position. It was once the battle of the radio versus the vinyl. Then it was the cassette versus the CD. More often than not, evidenced by the aforementioned struggles, the divide is that of technological preference. Through the massive overhauls in music recording, distribution, and listening, the losing side has always been those that resist change until they’ve dug in so far they are incapable of bending to prevailing market forces.

There are a few areas that we could examine. Those are:

  1. Recording
  2. Distribution
  3. Personal Use

This installation on the DT&L blog will focus on recording. The issue of recording preference and strategy is at the core of the music industry for one glaring reason: it IS the music. The two camps of today are: analog and electronic. To put it more simply: that’s difference between the compositions of Aerosmith and Skrillex, respectively.

 

Analog:

The aforementioned divide in the music industry today is not only born out of practicality, that is to say what method of recording an artist or studio feels most comfortable with, but also of style. Analog, put most simply, is any type of recording that is not electronic. The most recent heyday of analog recording was the “classic rock” era of the 70’s and 80’s. Picture the fabled rock stars in the smoky and ambient recording studio with their dedicated team of engineers. The members of this camp cling to the “old ways” as much for comfort as they do for heritage. Unlike other industries such as Healthcare or Personal Computing, the music industry does not relish the idea of immediately relinquishing technology as soon as its successor comes along. In fact, it does the exact opposite. The “legends” of the industry recorded in analog settings. Recording studios, like The Magic Shop, in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, have been the birthplace of some of the most well-known songs in our pop culture. Notably, these purely analog studios are becoming somewhat boutique in current days and many are facing issues staying open as their clientele dwindles. Many studios are beginning to straddle the line between analog and electronic systems. Purely analog studios are slowly becoming part of a niche of performers that refuse to relinquish the past.

One such studio is Akron Analog, an analog studio in Akron, Ohio constructed from the ground up by Indie-Rock group The Black Keys lead-singer Dan Auerbach. Auerbach was quoted as commenting as follows:

“Most of the equipment is analog. I’ve got tape machines that I use, and my console is custom-made, 1950s tube style. The room was built from the ground up and it’s acoustically correct, you could call it. After I built the studio, I could really record stuff the way I wanted it to sound.”

The studio is boutique in nature and caters to a select group of artists, many of which are brought in selectively by Mr. Auerbach. In 2009, the studio was the birthplace of Auerbach’s 2009 solo album, Keep it Hid. Although it was recorded in-house at Akron Analog, the album require partnership with a larger label, Nonesuch Records, to propel it into view of a larger audience.

Electronic:

Electronically produced music requires a word of clarification before it is fully explored. Upon seeing the word “electronic” in association to music, the tendency is to gravitate toward the idea of electronic or EDM (electronic dance music) music. While Skrillex, an EDM artist, is cited here as the example, it is extremely integral to realize that all genres of music can and are being produced electronically today. That is because the capacity of today’s personal computers makes it easier than ever to record sound and “bounce”, or transfer it, from production software to a shareable medium.

There are multiple electronic platforms that allow artists of today to work. Whether the artist be pre-established or just beginning, the widespread availability of electronic production tools has significantly lowered the barrier of entry to the music industry. Instead of playing every night in small venues and hoping a producer would hand one a break, artists of today can flood platforms like Tumblr, SoundCloud, and iTunes with their original, self-recorded pieces. Software like ProTools and Ableton allow artists to easily record their pieces, master them, and then share them. The implications of these practices are huge.

Namely, it is cost effective at both ends of the process. Electronic recording, especially in a non-professional setting, saves on studio and equipment rentals, engineer costs, mastering costs, and distribution costs. Furthermore, if an artist elects not to tangle with a major label, they aren’t going to loose 60% of their profits to the label. The fan experience is also altered in intense ways. Streaming becomes increasingly easy and an artist’s ability to reach out to a fan base with new material is more efficient than ever.

 

 

Ultimately, the difference between analog and electronic production is that of style, an interesting characteristic of the music industry not shared by any other industry that is examined with the DT&L Blog. A likely trend that we will see continuing is the decline of serious analog recording studios and a rise in boutique, stylized analog studio. However, that rise is what will keep the analog studios around, as most major labels are switching to electronic methods to cut their cost. Electronic production will increase competition within the music industry, as increasingly user-friendly production software is introduced.

Thank you very much for visiting the Disruption Technology and Law Blog. I would encourage the reader to explore the other industries represented here and to look out for increasingly macro takes on the trends of technology within the United States and globally.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/nyregion/a-beloved-recording-studio-may-be-priced-out-of-soho.html?ref=nyregion&_r=0