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What's in iJamming! Music
Fri, Aug 30, 2002
From the Jamming! Archives:
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
The iJamming! interview:
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
The Best Of 2001
Tony Fletcher's Top Albums, Concerts, Singles and Books
Strange Currencies:
R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall
In his room:
Brian Wilson at the Festival Hall
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
Latest album reviews
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
The full iJamming! Contents

Michael Greene's deceitful Grammy speech, a.k.a.: An Invitation to Download
(Links provide source material)
1) Michael Greene is on a salary of $2,000,000 a year. Plus use of a million-dollar home and a free Mercedes Benz among other perks. How many musicians that you know of ever attain this kind of annual income?

2) Record labels frequently make a profit even when the artist doesn't. The record industry itself says that 90% of albums lose money. To which you could ask, 1) Why not keep costs of videos, recording and marketing down to sensible levels? 2) Why not stay better aligned with current music tastes? and 3) How do you define 'lose money'? For an example of how much income can be generated by an album that 'loses money' for its label read producer Steve Albini's well-reasoned, extemely detailed feature here.,or Wendy Day's equally understandable breakdown from a hip-hop perspective here.

3) The music industry's own online subscription services are under Department of Justice investigation. Both Napster and have long argued that by refusing to license them music for downloading, the record industry was restricting the new distribution process - either to forestall the whole notion of people obtaining music online, or else to monopolise the distribution with its own services. Now, ten years after the online revolution started, the big 5 megalabels have finally introduced their own online-subscription services, Pressplay (a partnership between Sony and Universal) and MusicNet (a partnership between EMI, BMG and AOL Time Warner). Unfortunately for them, none other than Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the same judge who effectively shut down Napster when the industry took the online start-up to court, has said of the manner in which Pressplay and MusicNet have set up shop that "it looks bad, sounds bad, smells bad." The Justice Department has opened a preliminary antitrust investigation into the labels' online efforts. (It might seem fair on the surface that BMG only lets you download BMG music from a BMG website, but since when could you only BMG music at a BMG record shop?) And managers and lawyers representing the artists themselves argue that the royalty payments from MusicNet and Pressplay will be mere fractions of pennies.

4) Major artists have had enough, and are forming unions to say so.
The night before the Grammys, some of the biggest names in the music business (including The Eagles, Beck, the Dixie Chicks, Stevie Nicks, Eddie Vedder, Emmylou Harris and more) played a series of fund-raising concert for the Recording Artists Coalition, a new, artist-led organisation seeking to have the musicians' voice heard for once, rather than the recording industry's. The RAC is seeking to challenge all manner of 'standard' record company practices. The most contentious of these centres around a Californian law that limits to seven years the length of time workers can be bound to an employer by a personal services contract. (Most record contracts are filed in the State of California.) Seems fair enough, right? Well, guess which workers are exempted from this law? That's right. Musicians. Artists signed for standard seven album contracts, under current release schedules, are likely to be tethered to their label for 15 years or more, a hell of a long time to commit to an employer, whether or not you make a profit. (Most record company employees,by comparison, including the seven-figure salary bosses, are on contracts of between two-five years, allowing them to hop companies or renegotiate their contracts on a regular basis.) To read an entrirely one-sided defense of this current situation, written, not surprinsingly, by the RIAA, click here. To read the Recording Artists Coalition viewpoint, click here.

5) The record industry is releasing CDs that restrict 'fair use.'
The music industry begun selling music CD's “designed to make it impossible for people to copy music to their computers, trade songs over the Internet or transfer them to portable MP3 players” (quote from the NY Times.) In doing so, many of these CDs will not play on a home computer - which many people (my mother for example) use as their prime listening source. By releasing these CDs, the Industry would seem to be restricting the purchaser’s legal right to ‘Fair Use’. After all, if you buy a CD, why should you not be able to play it on your home computer? Why should you not be able to make an MP3 for your I-Pod? (The same as I STILL make home mix cassettes; sorry I’m so old-fashioned, but it’s exactly the same principle.) Yes, the indiscriminate buring of MP3s and subsequent sharing thereof is theorectically denying artists their royalties, but making CDs that don’t even play on your computer is not the way to win fans to your argument. Click here for a British news perspective.)

6) At the peak of Napster’s popularity, CD sales were up. (11% in 1999, 8% in the first quarter of 2000.) Now that Napster is gone, record sales are down. That’s most inconvenient for the music industry. We could blame a recession, the cost of CDs themselves, the fact that pop albums have returned to being filler and yet that singles have been phased out, that there are so many other forms of entertainment available for young people and so on. But Greene and co. are incapable of looking inward at the industry for any blame. As far as they’re concerned, it’s all the fault of “the World Wide Web of theft and indifference.”

7) You're already compensating the music industry for CD-burning, even when you're not burning music. Since 1992, by law, the manufacturors of recordable CDs (software) and CD burners (hardware) have been required to pay 2% of their revenues to the music industry as “compensation” for potential loss of record sales. Next time you buy a blank CD and use it to store your home-made music, your art files, your family photos or to back up your hard drive - i.e. something that has nothing to do with MP3s or copyrighted music - just remember that the music industry is profiting from it. Do the record labels pass this income on to the artists, the ones supposedly in danger of being ‘marginalized’ by CD-ripping? We should be told.

8) Artists were withheld CD royalties for years after the medium was profitable. For many years after the introduction of CDs, the record industry took a standard ‘new technology’ deduction from all artists who had signed contracts back in the days before CDs existed. These deductions went as high as 25%. Yet CDs cost the public up to 50% more than vinyl. Were the public told that the artists were not being properly compensated for their work by the labels? Hell no. As the manufacturing cost of CDs went down and down until they became cheaper to produce than vinyl, the retail price stayed the same - and yet the deductions continued to be applied. (Simple maths: at the point that CD manufacturing cost the same as vinyl manufacturing, CDs cost 50% more at retail, and artists got about 15% less in royalty. That means record companies were making approximately 60% more profit on CDs - often for selling you the same music you’d already bought on album!) It took years for even some of the biggest artists in the world to renegotiate their contracts so as to get full payment on CDs. Who made all the money in the meantime? Who do you think? And now the record companies are applying the same 'new technology' deductions for digital royalties - even though there is no manufacturing expense to recoup!

9) I have seen the following figures quoted, though I do not have the source material to back them up. In 99% of cases where an artist has conducted an audit of their record label royalties, they find they have been underpaid. And, think about this if you oppose the idea of filesharing- Only 20% of the music recorded for major labels is legally available at any point in time. An example in point: I just tried to find the CD5 version of R.E.M.’s ‘Drive’ - for a couple of b-sides. But despite being a top 30 hit in the 1990s, it is not available commercially. (I checked cdnow, and amazon So I bought a copy second-hand via Amazon’s z-shops. But that doesn’t put the money back in the artist’s hand any more than had I downloaded the songs for free now, does it?

10) Artists do not own their art.
It is common for artists to ‘own’ their own publishing these days, though record labels often try and get them to waive their statutory mechanical rights. And yet major record almost unanimously refuse to allow artists to own their own recordings. These ‘masters’ remain the property of the record labels even when the records show a profit. The labels can choose what to do with them, how to exploit them, and whether to even make them available. In other words, the artist does not own his art. The labels liken themselves to commercial banks, lending money to a new business. This is true, and there are risks involved for which the labels should be adequately compensated. Indeed, banks frequently take collateral when lending money to a new business; but when the business is financially viable and the loan has been repaid, the bank does not say ‘Hey, we continue to own your business.’ None other than Senator Orrin Hatch has said that "this is the only industry in which, after you pay off the mortgage, the bank still owns the house." No wonder artists have had enough. And no wonder the kids take one look at pious, patronizing, pontificating over-paid suits like Michael Greene on television and say: Who does he think he's kidding?


Look, I am not in favor of whole-sale, free-for-all file sharing, downloading and CD burning. I do think young people should be educated - by fellow musicians, not patronizing liars like Michael Greene - as to the importance of the artists getting paid for their work. (Especially by the labels.) And I don’t hate the music business without qualification. I have my tongue-in-cheek when I rewrite the old cliché to say that ‘some of my best friends work for major labels,’ but it’s true. Many of them genuinely love the music they put out: it’s not their fault that their corporate, multi national employers put beancounters in charge whose loyalty is share-holders first and musicians second. We live in a capitalist society; McDonalds and Microsoft act no differently.

But we all have to wake up. File-sharing and CD-burning is here to stay. Just as audio cassettes came to stay and video cassettes too. The music and film business survived those onslaughts, and they will surely survive this latest one. In fact, at this point in time, it’s very hard for me to see who is really suffering. Certainly not the artists who showed up with their multi-platinum sales at the Grammys. The newer artists trying to break through? When I checked out the web sites for John Mayer and Sugarcult while writing about them, it was clear to what extent the web allows them to bond with their fans, and the fans to bond with each other. The day of the Grammys, I watched an MTV clip on Linkin Park, who had the biggest selling album of 2001. By their own admission, they built grass roots support on the Internet, by going into other artists’ chat rooms, inviting people to their own site to hear their music. In other words, they used the Internet as a street marketing tool, and won enough loyalty to sell 6,000,000 albums last year - on a major label. Why is the Internet always the enemy and never seen as a friend? Simple reason. The music industry can’t control it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Selling albums is no longer the only way for artists to make money. They have other options - publishing, touring, merchandising, soundtrack commissions, TV commercials, Djing or other public appearances, sponsorship. The world changes, especially in a fast-moving capitalist society such as the music industry has always thrived in and exploited. The record labels have to recognise that and adapt to it. The Internet has been here for ten years and for ten years the public have been looking for a way to get music online. The industry has not risen to the challenge. And by using prime time TV to bite the very hand that feeds it, is only sinking in the audience’s estimation. If the record business were to collapse as a result of this new technology (and believe me, it won’t), it would have no one to blame but itself.

Tony Fletcher, March 7 2002

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