Tag Archives: music industry

NAMM 2010: Take Your Music With You

Cookie Monster is here today, but many big names in the music industry are missing this year from NAMM, (like Apple, and our friends at East West, and I can’t find Protools anywhere!) while many others have really scaled back (TC Helicon rocks a tiny booth, Korg shifts it’s attention to Marshall). With the struggles of 2009 fresh on everyones minds, the focus for new hardware has been turned to small things, and products aimed at the travelling musician.

Roland put on display its line of battery powered electronic instruments and speaker systems with performances by the Battery Band, who rocked guitars, vdrums, axes, and vocal effects all on a couple packs of energizer AAs. Roland also released their new Mobile Studio Canvas to control Cakewalk via USB, complete with a built-in sample set, wheel scrub and transport controls, and built-in effects processing (and it also runs on batteries, USB power, or AC adapter). The Mobile Studio Canvas is the perfect complement to a mobile studio.

New field recorders (perfect for you sound effects producers) lined the shelves at Korg, Tascam, and Sanyo. Take your pick, now is a great time to buy and start expanding your personal live sound libraries. Check out a more comprehensive post tomorrow about these field recorders.

Play and Sing Along

There were several new products released that continued the sing-along/play-along rush geared towards educators and students. Roland/Boss presented its new eBand, a full featured guitar amp and effects simulator with onboard vocal effects. Just plug your guitar in, and a full band plays along with you at any tempo or key — great for learning licks and songs, or performing live. The same company rolled out a vocal effects processor similar to the TC Helicon models that have rolled out over the past few years (yes, TC Helicon has also upgraded their Harmony-G by adding an XT Line of vocal processors), with pedal controls, and real-time harmony, and programmable banks to accommodate full sets.

Fun With Drums

Korg, who normally displays new keyboards and synths, showed off a different side of their product line this year, with tons of new guitars, amps, and drums — notably the wavedrum, which acts as a melodic instrument, with different pitches and sounds triggered by playing a single drum head.

Guitars, Guitars, Guitars

No NAMM show is complete without a dizzying array of new and exotic guitars, and cool guitar toys. That’s where TC Electronic hits the mark this year, releasing the worlds first Poly-chromatic tuner. In English: this guitar tuner can tune your guitar from a STRUM. Simply strum your strings, and the PolyTune shows you on one screen which strings are sharp or flat.

Oh, and Moog launched their new Moog Guitar — kinda cool.

Licensing Previews is Absurd and Just Bad Business

In this article, Greg Sandoval writes about the “plight” of todays artist when it comes to digital music sales:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/09/17/tech/cnettechnews/main5318276.shtml

In my personal opinion, performing rights societies are starting to overstep their bounds, trying to get more from an outdated business model, instead of adapting to the new market. Let’s go through this one point at a time, shall we?

“Songwriters, composers, and music publishers are making preparations to one day collect performance fees from Apple and other e-tailers for not just traditional music downloads but for downloads of films and TV shows as well. Those downloads contain music after all. “

Collecting performance fees from retailers is absurd. They already pay the copyright administrators to carry and sell your product in their sales commission/revenue split. The fees for music included as part of films and TV shows are included in synchronization contracts, and are negotiated at that time. It is ridiculous to charge the vendor of your finished product for your manufacturing costs. That would be like the grocery store that sells Kraft cheese having to pay Kraft’s dairy farmers. That is Kraft’s job. iTunes should not have to pay John Williams every time Star Wars: Episode 47 is downloaded from their store — they pay Lucas Films, and Lucas Films should be responsible for paying John Williams.

“These groups even want compensation for iTunes’ 30-second song samples.”

Charging music retailers a public performance fee for previews is absurd. It would be like charging a store that sells CDs every time a customer picks up a CD off the shelf to see who is on it before they decide to buy it. Currently, 30-second previews are covered by standard digital download mechanical licenses, and are a necessary part of selling the music online. People won’t buy a song unless they know what they are buying — just like I won’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on first. Charging music services for this will undercut digital music distribution in general and is bad business for an already suffering retail music industry. Like another blogger wrote: …”according to ASCAP/BMI’s logic Macy’s should have to pay Ralph Lauren money for people to try on clothes in their store.”

“But these royalty-collection groups say they’re at the bottom of the music-sector food chain and aren’t trying to gouge anyone. They say their livelihoods are threatened and wonder why movie studios, big recording companies, TV networks, and online retailers are allowed to profit from their work but they aren’t. ”
“We make 9.1 cents off a song sale and that means a whole lot of pennies have to add up before it becomes a bunch of money,” said Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters’ Guild of America. “Yesterday, I received a check for 2 cents. I’m not kidding. People think we’re making a fortune off the Web, but it’s a tiny amount. We need multiple revenue streams or this isn’t going to work.”

Articles like this make it sound like composers aren’t getting their fair share. And it is simply not true at all. Any composer who is good at what they do, and has successfully marketed their work, and intelligently structured their contracts, is making a living. And Rick Carnes?? Who has heard anything by Rick Carnes?? THAT is why he only got a check for 2 cents. HE HASN’T WRITTEN ANYTHING ANYONE LISTENS TO!!!! Look him up on ASCAP or BMI. So he’s written a few hundred tunes that no one has ever heard of. SO HAVE I. So have 95% of Americans in the shower. That doesn’t mean he deserves to pay his bills with his music. He simply has not met the demands of the music marketplace with his product. Sounds to me like he is asking for a bail out. Why don’t we try quoting a musician who is actually making music that is in demand by the public?

I agree with Potter’s position — songwriters ARE getting paid for their download — they are getting their mechanical fee, which is 9.1 cents per copy (which happens to be set by law), they are getting their sync license fee for video downloads (which is determined at contract negotiation).

“In 2005, ASCAP entered into a rate-court proceeding to set licensing fees for the music services of Yahoo, AOL, and RealNetworks. A U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York delivered a blow to composers and songwriters by ruling that downloading music from a Web store was not a music performance. On the other hand, the judge found that streaming music was subject to a performance fee.

“The songwriter gets a performance fee if the song is streamed without the video,” Carnes noted. “But if it is downloaded within an audio-visual work like a movie we don’t get a performance fee–same song, no money.”

Carnes is manipulating terms here, making it sound like the judge’s ruling was unfair. Songwriters don’t get performance fees from VHS or DVD sales either. No one complains about that! That’s because they get their mechanicals and sync fees, which they are (or should be) getting from downloads of those same movies. A download is a physical product sale, not a performance. Streaming is different than downloading. Streaming implies a real-time broadcast. In other words, if a download is a performance, then why am I still paying sales tax (tangible personal property tax) on a downloaded product? Artists have no right to collect a performance royalty for a product they are already being paid for. If the artists want more, they need to change the terms of the mechanical and sync payments. Change the mechanical fee to 15 cents a copy. Negotiate for better splits on sync rights. Don’t take it out on the consumer who has made you popular in the first place.

The moral of the story here is that ASCAP and BMI (and others), with all their good intentions to protect the intellectual property rights of their members, are now crossing the line and are further destroying the business of retail music, blaming it on technology, rather than embracing new media distribution channels. They are diminishing product availability, which hurts the two groups that ultimately pay the songwriters’ paychecks — the retailers and consumers.

Copyright Law – Are Artists Asking For More Than Their Fair Share?

This from TechDirt:

The main backers of the online video site Hulu, NBC Universal and News Corp., are two of the stronger supporters of our copyright system, and have, at times, been known to push to make it even more stringent in order to “protect” their works. So, it’s interesting to see them discovering that draconian copyright rules can come back and bite them as well. We were just covering some of the problems various TV shows have had being put on DVD due to licensing problems, and now it appears those same problems are making it difficult to get some shows up on Hulu — despite the fact producers would like those shows online.

One of our readers, named Mark, wrote in to let us know that he and his wife had been watching the old TV show The Pretender on Hulu, when they realized that some of the episodes were simply missing (including the entire final season). He wrote to Hulu to ask why, and was told:

“Thank for letting us know that some episodes from The Pretender appear to be missing from our lineup. Individual episodes are sometimes held up due to rights issues, quite often related to music used in the show – and that’s the case this time – some of the music in episodes 17 and 18 couldn’t be cleared for online streaming. We’ll continue to request them from our content partner, but at this time we can’t offer them though we’d love to.”

It’s still difficult to understand why we would ever design copyright law and licensing policy in this manner. After all, having certain songs included in a TV show is never going to hurt the commercial viability of a song.

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The question being asked by many non-musicians and non-artists consumers (mostly who just want to buy the complete season of CSI on DVD) is this: are musicians and composers asking too much to be paid each time their song is aired in a TV show? If a piece of clothing is sold, for example Ben buys a shirt, the clothing designer only get paid once, even though the shirt may be worn hundreds of times by Ben. So why should a song in a TV show generate a royalty for each broadcast and subsequent DVD of the same show? Should composers be paid once, up front, for the usage, and then let that be it? What about when the TV show get’s put on DVD? Is it the same product still? Are artists and copyright law correct in demanding additional compensation? Do the laws need to be changed?

I, for one, am a proponent of intellectual property rights. A copyright owner should be able to sell and license a work as he or she sees fit. If a consumer cannot afford the cost of one artist’s work, move on to the next offer, or write your own song. An artist should be compensated for the time and expertise it took to create such a high-demand piece of art. If TV networks are unwilling to pay the cost of licensing, they have the ability to move to the next option on the affordability chain. It’s their responsibility to balance cost against the demand of their audience.

Film Composer Survival Guide

I recently found this “white paper” from Filmmusic.net while perusing the filmandgamecomposers.com forums:

http://www.filmmusic.net/dlx/Getting_Your_Music_Into_Film_TV_in_Economy_Today.pdf

Mainly, it explains that, in today’s economy, the value of custom work is being diminished daily by over-saturation of talent and declining budgets and spending. The key to success in the creative field of composing relies heavily on a little financial savvy and a whole lot of networking.

While it’s an excellent practical guide for career survival in today’s marketplace, I have to disagree with their notion that music libraries are partially to blame for the devaluation of custom scoring work. Custom work and library music serve two distinct market segments that have traditionally been separated by budget and deadlines/production process. Low budget films, student projects, fly-by-night radio ads, low budget and local tv commercials, all call for quick, low-cost solutions that simply cannot be met by a composer who specializes in custom work. Extend that to personal slide shows, corporate office presentations and the like. The meetings, spotting, and time commitment, not to mention creative mind-power required for custom scores are simply not worth the allotted budget for these types of projects. Hence the need for low-cost library music. On the other hand, scoring a feature film, or a national commercial campaign, or a mass-market video game release all call for a huge time commitment and a high level of expertise.

The mentality that composers should avoid the music library business is ridiculous, especially if one wants to survive in today’s business climate. Creatives should embrace the opportunity to diversify their business, and expand into new creative markets. If devaluation is a concern, Productiontrax.com gives all of our contributors full price control.

It is true that there are a ton of composers and songwriters today, and it seems as though everyone with a Mac is a musician. But media buyers, music supervisors, and film directors are not stupid — they have ears for musical quality as well, and for both library music and custom scoring jobs alike, there is always room at the top for the uniquely qualified and super talented.