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Music's value gap? Follow the money trail back to Google

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Google abeds copyright abuse.


You can find almost any hit song from any decade on Google/YouTube.

There just happens to be simple plugin for Firefox that will convert Youtube videos to a sound only MP3 file.

Google music will provide you with cloud storage of your MP3s and even offers an automated backround upload service.

So with Google/Youtube effectively making the selling of hitsongs unprofitable, they drive up the prices of live concerts which have become the only way for musicians to make money now.


Great . .

Sorta kinda with very very big buts.

If the user could not access the music for free on Youtube et al then most of them probably wouldn't access it at all. Which means a high percentage of fewer fans, which means a huge drop in physical, download, and concert sales.

The music industry has simply taken a long time to get its head around the fact that technology has seriously changed its business model. Successful musicians and media companies are making more money than ever. So cut it with the bleeding heart rubbish.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Great . .

I wonder if the fanbase aspect cannot be handled by making songs available at a much lower quality. That way, those who like music still have an incentive to obtain it formally, whereas the "it's only background" crowd couldn't care less and will continue scraping it off Youtube (they wouldn't have spent the money anyway).

Caveat: I use "music" as a generic term here. Tastes differ.

My main issue with buying music is the knowledge that

very little of that actually makes it to the artist, but for some reason it has proven impossible to create a platform where this is done a bit fairer - probably because the likes of Google are quick to either destroy such an idea (as competition), or buy it.

Andrew Orlowski
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Great . .

"If the user could not access the music for free on Youtube et al then most of them probably wouldn't access it at all. "

That isn't really credible - it's an argument of convenience, that the music must be given away. Maybe sweets have to be given away too. Or cars and houses.

Silver badge

Re: Which means a high percentage of fewer fans

And we all know what that means!


Re: Google abeds copyright abuse.

"they drive up the prices of live concerts which have become the only way for musicians to make money now."


I am a big fan of The Rolling Stones. Two years ago I attended concerts in Oslo, Berlin, Düsseldorf and almost Stockholm (couldn't get a ticket as I missed the presale, and found no good scalpers on-site on the day either).

Granted, some time has passed so my memory might be flaky, but I seem to recall that the Oslo tickets were noticably more expensive than the others (for a crappier venue). To me the price seemed to reflect supply and demand. AFAICT scalpers tend to drive up the prices when the artist charges too little, so it kind of makes sense for the artist to ask for more upfront. I also suspect that newer venues (Oslo's arena is a fairly new one) tend to charge quite a bit as well.

Anyway, as a fan I want to archive their songs in the best quality possible. Lately I have bought some of their releases online. A couple through what I believe to be their record company (who can tell these days?) and a couple through Google Play. In both instances I end up having to take care of the backup-part myself. It is not like Steam's service where you can have a library online and simply download the title whenever you fancy. At one point I had to email the seller and beg them to reactivate my download link because my HDD had been pining for the fjords.

And afaict I paid the full price, same as what a CD would cost back in the day.

My suspicion is that there is simply too many people around ("artists") who think they can make serious money from strapping on a guitar and belt out a handful tunes (and quite a few "artists" do not bother even learning to play an instrument and they certainly do not perform live without playback). And there are too many record companies around who expect their 90% cut from that money. But supply is clearly overwhelming the demand right now.

Either way... The solution cannot be to cling on to a 50 year old distribution model. The entertainment industry needs to recognize what century it is.


Re: Great . .

"Maybe sweets have to be given away too. Or cars and houses."

Whatever the rights and wrongs, this argument is nonsensical and unbefitting. Physical goods have to be produced at a significant cost. Digital goods - assuming they were going to be produced anyway do not have a tangible cost to create new versions (copies) especially as the cost of copying is usually borne by the end user.

That is not to say there is no loss of revenue (although obviously isn't the kind of losses expressed by the various licensing companies and labels) or that it doesn't create certain economic and even social abnormalities around the purchasing of the goods. However to create an equivalence with physical goods does not a good argument make.

Alan Brown
Silver badge

Re: Google abeds copyright abuse.

"they drive up the prices of live concerts which have become the only way for musicians to make money now."

The odd thing about the music industry is that the more record an artist sells, usually the more in debt they become (with a very few high profile exceptions).

Many of my jobbing musical acquaintances and friends have done live shows for years as a way of paying for records to be made - and this goes back 35+ years. The whole "making it big" thing has always been something dangled on a string for the gullible, whilst sensible musicians looked at the numbers and took on day jobs to pay the bills.

All that lovely jublly money the record companies shower on new signups? That's a loan - with interest - that's paid for out of artist royalties. All the advertising, manufacturing and distribution costs? That's lumped into the loan too.

The fact that artists get $2 royalties per record SOLD, whilst the label gets $8 and the record store gets $6 - that's just the cost of doing business, don't you know? The real creativity in the music industry is in the accounting department.

The fact is that 99.9%+ of musicians - even sucessful ones - end their careers in debt to the record companies.

The same applies to the movie industry. Ask Sigourney Weaver how much she got diddled out of in royalties for Alien (or Mark Hammill+CarrieFisher+Harrison Ford for Star Wars - or Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

These same accountants (in companies with turnover and network so low that Google could pull a hostile purchase with change found down the back of the sofa) are wielding influence on trade treaties far beyond their actual value.

Ask yourself where the real pirates are - and ponder that it was once said that the perfect crime is one where the victims willingly hand over their money and never realise they've been swindled.

Alan Brown
Silver badge

Re: Great . .

"That isn't really credible"

Actually, it is.

I suggest you acquaint yourself with some history - specifically the 1986 dispute between Television New Zealand and the music industry - the music industry demanded royalties for TVNZ airing music videos in their various programs. TVNZ responded by axing the programs on the basis that videos are "promotional content"

The net result over a 6 month period was a _90+%_drop_ in sales. It underscores just how loudly the music industry was crying "Uncle" that they paid full _undiscounted(*)_ market rates to air Michael Jackson's Thriller video - in the 6pm news adbreak and in several other prime time advertising spots over the following 2 weeks. In addition they'd had to resort to full scale advertising campaigns for most other releases - something that was only ever previously seen for big name "best of" releases.

A few weeks after that, the industry dropped their demands. By that stage TVNZ could have been extracting money from them, as it was fairly conclusively shown that video airtime==sales and radio station airing made almost no difference.

The music industry treads a dangerous line in tangling with youtube - Spain and Germany have already seen what happens when Google goes "Ok, fuck you" on the newspaper front - and that's without the risk of Alphabet exuding another pseudopod which could simply subsume the entire music industry without getting indigestion.

(*) As in a lot of fields, noone ever pays the posted rates for TV advertising. Discounts start at 20% and large-longscale advertisers get at least 50% off.

Unep Eurobats

Let's see if I've got this straight

If I take a music file and distribute it via some file-sharing mechanism, I'm a pirate and SOPA will take me down.

If I use that file as the soundtrack to footage of me dancing round my bedroom and upload the whole thing to YouTube, that's UGC and perfectly legit (insofar as you can describe my dancing as such).


Re: Let's see if I've got this straight

We'd have to see your dancing before we could venture a definitive opinion.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Let's see if I've got this straight

good luck you'd be content id'd as you uploaded it.

Chemical Bob
Bronze badge

Re: @moiety

"We'd have to see your dancing before we could venture a definitive opinion."

Don't go there, could cause Blindness.

Silver badge

Article says Content ID is off by default

So no, he wouldn't get caught by it when he uploaded it.

This post has been deleted by its author

Steve Button

Here's the thing. Most musicians make money nowadays from live performance for this very reason. Is this a bad thing that the old model has give away? I guess if you aren't the kind of musician that can make money by performing then yes.


Value and values

Those kinds of musicians are often the most interesting - an artist whose work doesn't draw a lot of people in any specific location, artists who have physical or psychological reasons for being unable to perform in front of a crowd - is their work without value because of that? If they are using experimental instruments and arrangements that aren't easily transported or created as one-off performances that only exist in recorded form, does that mean they deserve no income, no matter how great their work is?

I suppose one question might be: Where do we derive value from music? I have been to a lot of gigs down the years and enjoyed them a whole lot, but the real value for me has always been listening to recorded music as the soundtrack to my life. If I was to pay by how much I valued it, that is where my money should go, and as an old-fashioned throwback who still buys albums, that is where it does.

I don't think that people derive less enjoyment from music now, but it seems that even the ones who talk a lot about free markets ( perhaps especially those people ) are unwilling to think of that as an enjoyment that is worth any money.

Dan 55
Silver badge

In an age of on-demand and whenever and wherever you want, should you have to go to a performance in another town which might be difficult to get to at a time which might not be convenient for you to support your favourite musician or band or group or whathaveyou?

Rob Gr

"I guess if you aren't the kind of musician that can make money by performing then yes."

Some forms of music lend themselves well to live performance, others not so much. Massive Attack, for example, were absolutely dire live, but their studio albums works of genius.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

I prefer live music... however... there's nothing easy about studio recording, engineering, mastering, etc. It's an art unto itself. Hard work, too.

If there's any excuse for piracy, it's that the record industry generally doesn't reward artists & technicians for their hard work. But that doesn't apply to indies with their own labels, for example.

Thumb Up

Re: Value and values

"Those kinds of musicians are often the most interesting" - THIS. One of my favourite albums was and is "Drunk With Passion" by The Golden Palominos , who were largely a studio only project, but able to call on artists like Richard Thompson, Bob Mould and Michael Stipe to fantastic effect, in no small part due to the fact that it was a studio-only deal, and they didn't have to take it on tour. Yes, live performance is great, but if that were the only way to finance making music, albums like that would never be made and we'd all be the poorer for it.

Silver badge

So what's new?

Simply that it's Google (Orlowski's bete noire) rather than the traditional liggers at the records labels, AFAICT.

I ain't Spartacus
Gold badge

The record companies paid their artists, and would organise their marketing and studio time for them, if they wanted. As well as hunting down new talent and offering these services to them. Including taking a punt on new acts, and giving them free access to studio time for a first album. OK, not free, they'd pay out of the sales, but not a loan either, as the record company would eat the losses if the album stiffed.

Sure the record companies sliced off profits, some of which got spent on cocaine and hookers. But they actually put real money into developing new bands, and provided some services. And they weren't the only game in town, you could go off with the independents, or self-publish.

They can't have done too awful a job either, because top bands stayed with them, who had the ability and finance in place to go completely independent if they so chose. But obviously decided it was less hassle to let someone else do this stuff, but get less cash.

So they were at worst symbiots, rather than parasites.

John Lilburne
Silver badge

Bad as they were the record labels did occasionally turn up with a new caddy. Google might send you a cheque for $15 for a million plays.

Pascal Monett
Silver badge

"the record company would eat the losses if the album stiffed"

That would have been nice, but history shows that the record company would bill everything to the musicians anyway thanks to contractual clauses concerning advances. I urge you to take a look at the linked article, specifically the paragraph concerning said advances.

Then remember one thing : the majors are not in it for the music, they're in it for the money. Anything they can do to avoid paying, they will.

Silver badge

Re: "the record company would eat the losses if the album stiffed"


If you think the fact that we have sold in excess of 2 million records and have never been paid a penny is pretty unbelievable, well, so do we. And the fact that EMI informed us that not only aren't they going to pay us AT ALL but that we are still 1.4 million dollars in debt to them is even crazier. That the next record we make will be used to pay off that old supposed debt just makes you start wondering what is going on.

James 51
Silver badge
Joke FTW!

On a slightly more serious note has their spring sale on. DRM free and mp3/FLAC depending on what you're willing to pay.


That is all well and good

But Prestige Boots would use a take down request to prevent anyone else selling a pair of wellies which looks similar to theirs, or any type of foot coverings to protect their interlectual property. Giving companies these tools has already shown them to be untrustworthy so how would giving them more power work?

Andrew Orlowski
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: That is all well and good

"But Prestige Boots would use a take down request to prevent anyone else selling a pair of wellies which looks similar to theirs, or any type of foot coverings to protect their interlectual property."

Are you drunk? What are you trying to say?

Silver badge

Re: That is all well and good

"Are you drunk? What are you trying to say?"

Multidimensional metaphor manipulators and analogy algebraists perhaps shouldn't produce petrified projectiles regarding the clarity of analogous manifestations.

Especially when you know full well he can only be talking about DMCA misuse, and you could answer him, but instead chose to do something more.. satisfying.

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Philip Storry

Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

Andrew, Andrew, Andrew...

Such a poor metaphor. It's the 14th of April, 2016. Not the 1st of April. And definitely 2016. So can we please stop trying to equate intellectual property - the ownership of an idea or a record of the expression of that idea - with physical property?

Because it really doesn't help. At best, it muddies the water, and at worst it makes people write simplistic comparisons that actively mislead people.

Let's try a different metaphor. One less stuck in bovine faeces than the wellies you struggled with here.

Imagine that you are a writer. And your writing has value. It can entertain people, inform people, even enlighten people. And you're proud of the results of your efforts, and want a simple exchange - that people give you money in order to have access to the fruits of your efforts.

Which seems fair.

But now imagine that there are only two ways you can get your work out to people. The first is via small-scale printing, locally distributed. It's messy, the end result is a little ugly, and it doesn't scale very well. Only people within a few miles of where you live will ever get the opportunity to see your work. The second is to sell your work to a big national publishing of newspapers or periodicals. They have the scale in both production and distribution - and they'll help you with editing and have access to stock images too! Unfortunately, the downside is that they pay pittance and they insist on the right to re-use your content whenever they like, however they like. And you lose editorial control.

It seems that there's only one option - take the pittance, and make up for it in volume of works. Hopefully you can grow an audience, then demand more money from the publisher. Meanwhile, your growing body of work is being owned or licensed to a company that may not share your values, and merely views you as a line on a profit or loss statement. But hey - in a way you're one of the lucky ones. There are plenty of talented writers who never got the chance to reach as wide a public, because these publishers are quite conservative in their editorial policies - - unless it's "hot", they like to avoid controversy, seeing it as a risky investment. And new things are often controversial...

But you suck it up. Because, after all, there is no other game in town. There's no technology that can fix this for you.

But wait - what's this? A technology that interconnects networked computers! Let's call it the conwork. Or internet. No, conwork is better. Let's use that.

Well, you have loads of fans. And now you could take your work to them on this new frontier!

Except your publisher doesn't care. They're too busy selling physical books and periodicals - which is profitable, and has an existing and well tested supply chain - to bother investing in this risky new technology. And you've signed away your rights to your own work - past, present and future - to the publisher, so you can't take your work to your fans yourself. Which is crazy, but who could have predicted the conwork, eh?

Meanwhile, your most dedicated and most technical fans are starting to transcribe your works so that they can enjoy them on their conwork'd computers.

And there are new, smaller publishers popping up that use the conwork technology. They may not have the big artists, but the ones that they do have aren't constrained by the editorial policies of the big traditional publishers. They can write stuff that their fans really enjoy, and they're less fussed about being banned from vendor conferences. The world is changing, and these smaller conwork sites are getting big readership.

Except for your publishers, who still refuse to sell your works on the conwork... For them, the world is static.

Finally, the publishers - after much negotiation with a company in the technology industry - get round to selling your works to people over this conwork.

But it's too late. People have spent so long trading your work on the conwork for free that the value of it has been changed. They'll never pay what your publisher wants. They're also now used to just getting the article that they want, without a load of lesser articles packed around it and cranking up the expense.

Also, your contract with the publishers still only pays you pittance for each work sold, despite the fact that the publishers now add less value than ever and how much lower overheads than ever.

However will the publishers defend this? Why, by attacking the customers on behalf of the writers - the writers will hopefully not realise they're being ripped off, and the fans won't be listening to the publishers anyway - only shareholders and the artists do.

So you tell yourself that just as soon as your current contract is up, you'll renegotiate a better one. If they'll let you. And if not, you'll have to go to one of those smaller labels, I guess. Maybe. Seems scary though. After all, they still control the old media, so you'd be losing that.

Maybe you'll just stick with the big publisher. They love you, after all, right?

Hang on. My analogy seems familiar... It's almost exactly what the movie industry, the book publishing industry and every other IP industry has been trying NOT to repeat ever since the music industry really missed the boat.

Seriously, your analogy sucks because it misleads people. Conflating physical goods with IP won't work. You could have told a decent story here. Instead, you put out something that's barely fit for this new-fangled conwork thingie...

(And ironically, you did it on one of the new-fangled conwork thingies. I'm still unsure whether it was genius satire, or genuine idiocy.)

I'm not even going to talk about how DMCA takedowns are being filed in bad faith by automated machinery, or how the big music companies believe that they have some divine right to own everything and anything, and fair use be damned.

I'm all for artists getting a better deal. But I know where they won't ever find it. And I'm not going to attack fans or technology companies for the mistakes of an industry. That, it appears, would be taking your job...

Andrew Orlowski
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!


Pat Att

Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

Upvoted for the invention of the Conwork. It could go far.....

The rest of the post is good too.

Steve Graham

Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

Silver badge

Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

Except for your publishers, who still refuse to sell your works on the conwork... For them, the world is static.

Finally, the publishers - after much negotiation with a company in the technology industry - get round to selling your works to people over this conwork.

But it's too late. People have spent so long trading your work on the conwork for free that the value of it has been changed.

This is exactly what happened. The industry tried to pass a law against the tides and were left high and dry instead of doing what everyone was doing and surf the waves.

To mix metaphors, that horse has left the barn.

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

TL/DR = poor writing / editing


Silver badge

If you want to use YouTube’s channel to market but prefer to use another advertising supplier to monetise your work more effectively: tough. You can’t. If you refuse to sign then Google won’t turn the Content ID filters on

I might be wrong, but I believe there is a third option: you can tell Google to turn ContentID on, and use it to remove any infringing video. And contrary to the boots story, this removes not only one video, but all videos infringing your work, and they won't be coming back.

Andrew Orlowski
(Written by Reg staff)

No, Google won't turn the filters on unless you do business with Google, on Google's terms.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Yes it's outrageous that Google is profiting from music piracy.

Piracy should be free / not for profit.

I ain't Spartacus
Gold badge

Surely piracy be about the dubloons!

Mark 85
Silver badge

Surely piracy be about the dubloons!

And rum... and, oh yes.. wenches!!!

Paul Crawford
Silver badge

Rum, sodomy, and the lash?

Damn, need two icons!

Doctor Syntax
Silver badge

"Streaming revenue has risen to $2bn, while digital downloads fell ten per cent to $2.9bn. Ad-supported streaming services bring in just $680m."

What does this tell you about the popularity of on-line ads and the value of ad-supported content?

x 7
Silver badge

so why the heck don't the copyright holders simply complain as a group to the various countries trading standards / consumer protection groups? If UK trading standards laid into Youtube it would quickly get shut down


You reckon?

What would UK Trading standards shut down?

Alan Brown
Silver badge

" If UK trading standards laid into Youtube it would quickly get shut down"

Closely followed by the record labels due to lack of sales.


Yes, but we aren't selling Wellies are we? We are selling licenses to enjoy music at home and other licenses to perform our recordings in a commercial context. For some venues, we used to pay them to choose our license. Incredibly, they resist when now we say that we need to be paid from those venues because our factory workers, no, not the ones we laid off in the 90s who really were factory and warehouse workers, but our current stable of work-for-hire creators need more money otherwise they'll disappear and we will be stuck selling licenses to these 40-year-old Wellies — returning to our analogy — and thank goodness and lobbyists, we just got an extension to be sole source for our 50+ year old Wellies.

Meanwhile, unsold Wellies take up no storage space and have near zero cost of manufacture for the second and all later customers. On the other hand, lots of people seem satisfied with 30 year old "footwear" which never wears out, except through the cycles we call fashion and aging. From that supply and demand consequence, we would be hard pressed to figure out why this is a better business than in the old days when we had factory workers, warehousing that required real decisions regarding keeping things in print and stored, and our footwear wore out or was thrown out. Still, then, most people consumed through radio play, rarely an efficient converter of listens to sales, but the most cost-effective way there was. That's why the answer would be yes when the question was "Payola?"

In 1980, it was home taping that was destroying the music industry. It was more about a recession and competing modes of entertainment. But then, music videos, CDs, and Boomer hegemony revived the business. Mr. Orlowski continues in his mission of reducing the music industry's current problems to Google. I don't argue with his premises regarding copyright law and how it works. I just suggest that nearly all with a stake understand that the actual revenue to be realized is not worth the effort to collect. After all, the infringers are not Google, but people who put up unlicensed content and people like me who wants to check out an episode of The Young Ones, as I did the other day. Yes, the law recognizes contributory infringement, and why stop at Google? Quite a few parties collected fractions of pennies from me so I could watch that 35 year old episode.

Were Google the primary existential threat, the industry would be be tireless in pursuit. I have intellectual property. It is my responsibility to protect it or hire agents to protect it, not Google's, and I have little patience for the tears about those who are already more successful than I and who have the resources to pursue options of collection and litigation. Maybe the majors are practically disengaged because they already worked out a deal; there's efficiency in being an oligopoly and if DMCA inefficiency is the reality that lowers what they can get, so be it. 0.5% of something is still superior to 100% of nothing.

Call DMCA and safe harbor an imperfect attempt to balance overlapping interests and move on, Mr. Orlowski.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Artists like Prince are quite successfull at keeping their music off of youtube.

maybe the next bussiness-model could be one where womeone procduces software that takes part of the legal earnings and scans for illegal streaming of the work & sends dmca requests.


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