« Home | Report: 95% of Internet video stuck looking longin... » | Opening television to the Internet » | 2007 is the year DRM died, at least for music » | Verizon's claim to open its network is a celver sc... » | More press coverage by PC Pro » | Free My Phone » | New TVersity release plus making it into the top 5... » | Radio iPods expected on Wednesday » | TVersity on third party content sites » | The wireless industry is stuck in 1994 » 

Friday, March 28, 2008 

Music labels must die. Hopefully, before they do any more damage

In what may be one of the last efforts to maintain a dying industry, the music labels are trying to create a music tax. Read all about it at TechCrunch (the title of this post was taken from that article).

The idea of getting paid with no relation to productivity is preposterous, someone at the labels need to be reminded that communism is not in anymore (maybe they are inspired by the rise of China, who knows). Instead of working hard to re-invent themselves in light of inevitable change the labels are busy trying to devise "clever" schemes that will essentially kill them even faster. It is time for a shareholder mutiny.

Deary me. I just started browsing your blog after finding it while googling. Seemed a bit misguided but generally ok, but then I read this.

You dolt, a music tax is a perfect idea. They've been advocating exactly this approach (well, almost exactly) at downhillbattle.org for ages. Meh, I don't know where to start on this one...

Music Tax is a good thing.

You set a flat fee tax, say a couple of dollars a month for music, which is payed by everyone.

The first consequence is that the music industry gets MUCH more revenue, since EVERYONE paying a small regular amount is a lot more than a relatively small demographic buying records regularly, and a bigger one just buying things occasionally.

The revenue is then divided amongst recording artists/bands based on downloads/radio play per week or month (longer than that would get unfair... daily would be ideal, but that could be problematic). The result here is that bands who have a big hit single get more than they otherwise would, but also smaller bands (who might otherwise lose money on an overprint of their debut album before getting dropped by their label) get to reap the rewards of their small but dedicated grassroots fanbase.

Because the industry would take the same fee every month, regardless of sales/whatever, they'd be under less pressure to make just money, so small new bands would be less likely to be dropped, and the record companies would be more willing to take risks - this way music would move away from the stale, manufactured pop rubbish and established rock giants model, towards a more eclectic, diverse model.

Piracy would end - if you paid a music tax, that would cover everything: download all the albums you want, forever. Piracy ending would be a good thing, because the governments of the West waste a lot of tax-payers' money chasing pirates. Also, if you believe those governments (I wouldn't if I were you) the pirates are horrible horrible people who fund all kinds of horrible things.

Anyways, if music is free, people are more likely to experiment with their musical tastes too, since there's nothing but time to lose by downloading some Icelandic Death Metal or an album of traditional Gregorian Chants.

So people get more choice and more freedom, for less money.

And the Artists get more musical freedom, and more money.

AND the Record companies get more money, which they would then have little choice but to invest in more artists (if everyone can download all they want, everyone will want to download more - companies will have to expand their roster to cope with the narrowing and specialisation of the markets: they won't make a lot of money if they've only Robbie Williams and Madonna releasing an album every couple of years; better to sign up 500 college rock bands with a couple of thousand fans each, who will all download everything they release).

So everyone wins. Its an excellent idea, and you've either not thought things through or you're a reactionary fool to say otherwise.

Oh and Communism wasn't ever really in, but that doesn't make it a bad idea.

And you and TechCrunch need your heads checking if you think the death of the music industry would be a good thing - its evil, but its a necessary evil. Who else is going to invest a lot of money to enable young, talented musicians to spend their time writing and recording music that may or may not turn out to be any good? The Government? That, my friend, would in fact be Communism.

Further reading:

But... you're handing them money so they'll "let" you do something you can already do with a relatively small fear of consequence. It's giving a person money so they'll let you take something that has been free for a decade. There's no really decent analogy, but that has a lot to do with the insanity of the proposal.

On the contrary, Alex. Music has been available online for 'free' for over a decade, but - ignoring (as most of us do) the legal implications - there is still the moral matter of what justifies you listening to music which one or more musicians have poured hours and weeks of blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul into, without giving them anything in return?

The only reason the music industry hasn't already collapsed is that labels rip off bands on CD costs; and the savings there, augmented by the profits from actual sales, make the labels' fat cat bosses enough that they can afford to take a chance on new bands (and pay themselves nice big salaries). So the big acts already subsidise the small acts, and every CD bought helps pays for the fat cats' mansion.

The difference with a music tax would be that you could download whatever songs you wanted, safe in the knowledge that a portion of the tax will go to the artists who worked so hard to make them. Sure, some of the money will still go to the fat cats' car collections, because the labels will always want something for nothing (sorry, something for "discovering talent") but at least the musicians will get a better deal, and the public will get unlimited downloads.

I'm not saying it's perfect, but it's really not that bad an idea. Certainly a good start, from which to start asking who actually needs the label bosses anyway...

And it avoids the horrible situation when good acts don't get the support they deserve because the label has just signed someone (eg Robbie Williams) for silly money, and now that artist has released an album noone wants to buy, so cash is tight. In the tax-based system, everyone earns money based on merit and popularity, rather than an A&R person gambling on who will or won't write the next big anthem.

In this day and age, I don't think the big labels are necessary at all. It costs me nothing to make a song and put it on a website now. If people like it they'll download it...if they really like it, they'll come see me when I perform at their local venue. Pretty soon the buzz will spread enough that I'll have to go to an auditorium, then a concert hall, and finally I can go on tour.

The problem with today's record industry is the same that's going on with the video game industry. It's the people focused on making a profit that determine what we get to listen to (play).

If you look at what Microsoft Live Arcade is doing for video games (items like Braid or Dishwasher Samurai), you're seeing a return of the indie game developer where the game is novel and unique instead of yet another WWII FPS. And the people reward these developers by downloading their games in droves.

Why can't the same approach be taken in the music industry? Record your own music, put it on the web, burn it to CD, perform at a club and sell it. And let the people reward you for your artistry.

I personally do not care if the artists and labels loose money. They make enough money to buy a new car every week and I can barely afford to pay for a crap apartment. So who's really getting screwed?

Brownie -
I agree you CAN make music, put it on the web, and get a fanbase from that model.

But how do you get the public to find your music if they've never heard of you? You leave it to fate, and what passes for word of mouth on social networks.

That works for some artists, not for others. The only three acts I can think of (in the UK) who have gained mass-exposure via Myspace (to use the most obvious example) are the Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and Kate Nash, all of whom already had a record deal signed, or on the table ready for signing, and therefore had 'employees' promoting their Myspace pages for them. Noone's made it big via the web alone (yet, AFAIK).

Also, what about artist development? How many bands released average or poor first albums, but later went on to make classics? Would they have been able to do so without record company backing? Most likely, no - they would've got tired of living hand-to-mouth eventually and settled down and got 'proper' jobs.

As I keep saying, I'm not defending record companies - they make vastly disproportionate profits, ripping off customers and artists alike. My point is that without some sort of system to support artists and bands financially, as well as in promotion, distribution and networking (try getting a big-name producer on board WITHOUT having a record company behind you), the music ultimately would suffer, and the world would potentially be deprived of the next Beatles/Nirvana/Radiohead/Insert-your-favourite-major-label-act-here.

And my point about the music tax idea is that it would be the fairest way of ensuring that the artists still had the support they need, while customers got better value for money, and the freedom to listen to new music without worrying that they're wasting their money. Additionally, research suggests the Artists would receive MORE money for their music than they do under the current model, even though many customers would be (individually) paying much less - a couple of dollars (or pounds for me) a month rather than $20 for a couple of CDs a month. But they'd get so much more for that couple of dollars - they could download anything they liked. This would obviously mean some people would become more open to listening to things they normally wouldn't spend $10 on, which would stimulate the Music scenes and encourage Artists to take more risks.

As for Microsoft Live Arcade, there have indeed been some indie hits, but how much money has been made by those developers? Will they continue to release indie games, or will they use their success as a stepping stone to working as a developer for a big game studio? I suspect it will be the latter.

The indie ideal is a noble one, but it's main drawback is that it is now so easy to make music that there are millions of unsigned bands on sites like Myspace, all trying to sell their music. The average consumer doesn't have the time to listen to every track by all the bands who try to add them, nor enough money to buy a CD to support every band they like, so most people become apathetic, ignoring the bands who request their support. The reason A&R reps are paid so much (far too much, really) is because they are providing a vital service - they listen to the music submitted, filter it down to the promising stuff, and then (assuming they don't have a Robbie Williams to pay for) sign the act, help introduce them to a good producer, and help them select their best songs to promote the act.

Without labels, every individual consumer would have to do the filtering themselves, and without the time (or the wage) to do so, all that's left is apathy and the small handful of acts they love who they were lucky enough to stumble across.

As for syn's comment - if you read everything I've said (I know it's a lot, sorry), you'll notice my point is exactly the same as yours - consumers ARE getting screwed, and a music tax would be better value for everyone. Besides which, it's only Britney Spears/Madonna/Robbie Williams/Metallica/etc who are big enough to get the record contracts that make enough profit that they CAN afford to buy new cars every week, while other artists on the roster (whose profits are ultimately subsidising that string of cars) essentially end up OWING the record companies money, then get dropped and don't get the chance to write the next Sgt Pepper's/Nevermind/Ok Computer/Yeah-same-point-again.

Sorry if I'm a little ranty, but this is something I'm very passionate about, and I think these arguments show that a music tax would actually be better for the consumers, better for the artists, but worse for the fat-cat label bosses and big-name stars (boo hoo, poor them: they'll have to make do with just the one car a month).

I'd love to hear more of what Ronen, Alex, Brownie or Syn think about what I've said, or anyone else for that matter - if I'm wrong, tell me why (maybe there is an alternative I've not thought of, I'm not pretending to know EVERYTHING, but I've thought about this issue a lot...)

My apologies if this post is somehow satiric that I'm not understanding. Regardless, a "Music Tax" has got to be one of the most absurd forms of "the masses" paying for the DESIRES of "the few". I mean honestly would you walk over to your neighbor and tell him that he has to buy you the latest CD that you now like or he will go to jail? Establishing a tax on everyone (regardless of their view of music) so that those who enjoy music can get it without any direct or equitable cost makes me cringe. Why don't we just set up a tax on all hobbies and interests. We could call it the "I Want That Act of 2009" which would set up a tax on all citizens, and allow me to order whatever I want, whenever I want, and have it delivered immediately.
While you reference communism, I think your theory more correlates to socialism.

2 things to consider:

1) Will this be a World Wide thing, eg - Some Countries and their Citizen are less fortunate than others, how do we make this fair?

2) I personally fear it will be the death of the LP, some Musicians make brilliant Albums, but downloads unfortunately tend to be "songs". If things go this way I doubt we will ever see another Sgt. Peppers' or Dark Side of The Moon or Yoshimi.

P.S. I am in Australia.

Music tax is retarded.

My thing is, I think also that most of these people make too much money as it is. Yes get paid for your creativity but if we put in there just hours of being productive... I work very hard too so why don't I get paid on the same scale?

Plus historically music hasn't always been a big money business, nor were many people doing it for much money. Before electronic devices to record or broadcast music on you had to work hard to make money by showing up in person and perfecting your gift b/c you did it for a small audience in person. No one talks of the minstrels of old being rich. There are other examples but I don't think its necessary to go into that b/c you know what I mean.

I too don't think that labels are needed as they are currently. What the smart label would do is become just a dedicated music marketing firm that is used by artists that want to increase their downloads or "buys" by getting the exposure for them. That's what will distinguish themselves, but neither will it preclude others from doing the same thing.

I mean also, we don't directly pay for radio, but basically that's the same as listening for free. I remember when I used to record songs on tape from the radio and then listen for free (minus the cost of the tape). The only difference now is that its easier, faster and more cost effective for us to do the same thing. So its not like the industry wasn't aware of things like this before.

Also, someone mentioned that a tax meant that labels are less likely to drop bands then. I think it won't happen that way, however I also think that to have good quality music then the garbage has to be vetted by someone if the masses are to hear it. If not then that band can become a good niche group through their own good marketing. That happens now anyway, but I don't need every Joe and Jane wannabe making a band just so they can get a buck from this tax. If there was a tax for music just to feed cash into one industry that is shared than I am going to become a musician too, even though my skills are limited to Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Karaoke parties....I may suck, but I'm getting paid.

A music tax is the worst idea ever. If they adopt that than I want a white color analyst tax too for me.

Gemal B - I think you're misunderstanding how a 'music tax' would ideally work...

The revenue would be distributed amongst artists according to popularity/downloads. Therefore, deciding that you are a musician won't guarantee you a slice of the money - you'd have to get people to download your music (not to mention actually making some music) before you saw a profitable return.

I agree the big stars of the music industry are disproportionately overpaid, but a more egalitarian tax system would address this - bands and artists wouldn't get the same enormous cheques, just for signing to a label; they'd actually have to shift some albums too.

As for your point/question "I work very hard too so why don't I get paid on the same scale?", I think the major difference is that (unless your job is very unusual) you work a regular shift, and your work is objectively measurable. Artists (of all kinds) could be said to always be working, since anything they happen to be doing might inspire them to create something. The current (and correct, in my opinion) way of dealing with that distinction is to reward artists on the merit of what they ultimately produce, rather than paying them a wage (some recording contracts do pay wages, but they're very few and far between - the standard is for artists to get advances on sales profits, which they then repay from their royalties).

A music tax wouldn't really change the system a lot, except by ensuring that all artists are on a level playing field - if you get as many downloads as Britney, you earn as much as she does in that month, whether or not you're as 'marketable' as she is. Admittedly, this means the public pay a flat (monthly or yearly) rate, but in return they get all the music they want, for a fraction of what they'd pay now (most estimates reckon it'd be between $1 and $3 a month). Remember - the money wouldn't be going to artists regardless of whether they'd released anything good, it'd be paid out according to success, with a portion going towards A&R, development and production costs.

I agree the record companies need to adapt to their new position as 'filters' for them to stay relevant - we all know how rare it is to find a genuinely good unsigned band on myspace. But this is not incompatible with a music tax, and may even happen quicker if a tax was introduced.

Personally, I think it'd be good if we all had 'free' access to all art (music/film/books/etc), but there has to be SOME incentive for the people who create that art to keep doing so - I'm not talking about them getting their guitar shaped swimming pool, I'm talking about them earning a living. In that context, I don't think a small flat fee is that much to ask of people.

As I've said in my other posts, I think opening up downloadable music to everyone would stimulate the music industry (because more people would be more willing to try new music, since it'd wouldn't cost any extra to explore), leading to more (and better) music, and bringing an end to the superstar system that's stifled creativity since the mid-90s.

I can see how people might argue that they don't want to pay anything, because they don't download anything, but I don't think there's really an argument that a music tax wouldn't be more fair (on artists and consumers) than the current system.

Definitely still don't agree that everyone should be paying a tax that is not a general service to all and is highly objective.

How much do we decide that the artist is paid? What's to stop someone from doing download fraud just so they can get a bigger pot of money? We all know how great our government is at oversight, and how greedy our private corporations can be, or maybe I should say "creative," as in creative accounting (accountants should get paid for their creativity there).

Plus I would rather never listen to music again unless it was freely given to me than pay a tax for them. Just because a bunch of teenagers are into Jonas Brothers doesn't mean I want to support them with my tax dollars.

Why not have a tax for painters, photographers, and other fine arts? They are often more creative than any musician, yet there is no clamour out there to get them the same treatment nor do they get the same cut of the pie for their creativity (you have to be really good to make a portion of Britney Spears money). In those fields there also the haves and have nots, and if there weren't then who would care about Divinci, or monet or Picasso? There are plenty of starving artists out there but you either stay in it out of success or for your passion. Not b/c you are getting a download-based welfare check. I mean most of those artists made a decent living but did not become overly famous until they died. The way you are putting this tax, it is not a way to earn a living, its a gimmick and it is an insult to even the basic tenants of capitalism, and that's also in a very socialist environment too.
It will stifle true art and lend to gimmicks that just create popularity and downloads. Some of the best music never reaches the ears of all the masses. yet is still recognized as GREAT.

You say "this means the public pay a flat (monthly or yearly) rate, but in return they get all the music they want, for a fraction of what they'd pay now (most estimates reckon it'd be between $1 and $3 a month)."

I say that's ludacris. What of the deaf or those that don't want to listen to all but one band or type of music and is happy with hearing 2 songs a year? Again, what if I don't download or pay for music now as it is? I think the point too is that the cost of music is too high anyway. I think the "illegal" download is so high because people's value on music is going down while those making and producing it are trying to fatten their pockets just as much as they used to. Plus, if you give a "level playing field" for all musicians then you are just going to saturate the industry with fat and you are going to get people who desire the product less. I think people want the variety because they have the access to it, but most people would rather support something they have an interest in. I mean i agree that something has to change with the system, but the answer is NOT a tax.

I know people have to make a living too, but if I am failing at what I am doing to make a living, then i have to move on to something else that I am more successful in... the same should be with musicians. The real great musicians do it b/c its what they like to do first, and the money comes second. If you want a tax than make it a voluntary opt-in tax or fee. I'd rather spend my money to put in savings to enrich my life by traveling the world and experiencing different cultures, learning about different art, hearing stories and learning our history, or pay our teachers more and provide more money to school systems so that our kids have better access to learn about art and music and other subjects. I guess my point is, there are TONS of other better uses of this money than wasting it on a niche industry that is consider a luxury more than a necessity. And don't tell me without musicians there will be no music... take some time and take in the beauty that is around you. Take a trip to the country side and listen to the melody of the birds, the whimsical tunes of the wind, and live by your own beat.

There's no way the people of the united states would ever agree to a tax on music. Thats absolute blasphemy, through and through. There's a better chance of marijuana legalization than a tax on intellectual property. Whats next, a tax on cell phones? A tax on vehicle usage? A tax on internet access? Come the f*ck on.

Industries can't just tax the entire public when they aren't making revenue. The economy sucks right now.. if it's the music industry's time to die, let them die damnit. Think about it... Music Industry falls under... No more labels, just free roaming artists who get paid based on their performance. That's what it's about. Convey your message, through music, in such a way that you inspire the many, causing emotional uprising(on varied scales of course). Is that not one of the many points of creating music? Is that not why they get paid(Promotions and publicity aside)?

If the artist's are THAT good, then they WILL sell out on tickets, regardless. If the band sucks, well then they fail at making money - - because they suck... Let them fail at life like everyone else that sucks, does.. I work hard at my profession to make money. How about I turn my company into an industry, and then decide I want 50 Dodge Viper's to form a circle of awesomeness around my house. Wait ! WAIT! I Know.. I'll tax the american citizens to pay for it! Yea! Great Idea. LOL You people are stupid.

There's no way people are going to fund crappy music equally as much as good, especially via the government.. As I said.... absolute blasphemy..
I'm done talking here. lol, this
is a waste of time and breath...

Thank you Jared!

Jared, you obviously haven't read what I've written about the music tax idea. Fair enough, I've rambled on enough.

But to address your arguments (in no particular order):

1) "No more labels, just free roaming artists who get paid based on their performance. That's what it's about."

Right. Should we do the same with the film industry too? How about other industries - have roaming software programmers who get paid as and when they solve an individual's problems? You're talking about reverting to a pre-industrialised model of business, which sounds lovely in an ideal world, but would only lead to more starving artists, which would lead to less good music being made. I don't think that's a good idea.

2) "There's no way people are going to fund crappy music equally as much as good, especially via the government."

That's not the idea at all. The revenue would be shared fairly, based on popularity (ie - download figures). So crappy music gets nothing (or next to nothing) and good music gets a fair share.

3) "Whats next, a tax on cell phones? A tax on vehicle usage? A tax on internet access?"

Er... All of those taxes exist, either included in the cost of the product, or in subscription costs, usually paid directly by the manufacturer, with the cost handed down to the consumer.

4) "Industries can't just tax the entire public when they aren't making revenue. The economy sucks right now."

The idea predates the economic downturn, and I agree now seems like a bad time to be introducing more taxes. But the entertainment industry is rather different to most other industries, in that people can freely take its products at no expense (illegally, obviously). You can't just take a new car or computer, but people can and do help themselves to the latest music and film releases. So the options are either to try and stop people from illegally sharing the 'products', which costs a lot of money, rarely does any good and generally pisses a lot of people off; or you find a way for people to continue to share the products for free, whilst still raking in some cash to reimburse the people who made them...

Or your third way, which is to let the industry die and enjoy years of good art not getting the recognition it deserves. Imagine if Beethoven and Mozart and Bach hadn't had their benefactors. Or if The Beatles and the Stones hadn't had record labels to bankroll their expensive recordings and tours...

Noone's trying to force a music tax on anyone, but it'd be nice if people began to talk and think about how such a thing could be introduced fairly, and whether it could be a more effective model for both consumers and creators alike, rather than just knee-jerking at the mention of the word 'tax'.

Calling it a tax does conjure up negative connotations. But the truth is that a significant chunk of the population will no longer pay money for a good that is copied at a marginal cost nearly at zero, and that a gigantic, global network is their distribution venue.

The solutions proposed so far have been, generally:

Protect the dying industry unwilling to change its business model,

Have the industry adapt/quit raising a ruckus about file sharing.

The methods for the former are naturally debated, but they have, historically, involved curtailing user rights significantly (including spying on them and controlling how they use their connection and using accusations as ground for a permanent disconnect), changing terms of purchase and putting DRM on players and in formats, and pursuing sharers with legal action.

Most people would like to see this industry destroyed by the most powerful explosives available, myself included.

Setting up another, mandatory, population-wide licensing scheme (the music 'tax') and have that endorsed by the governments seems ridiculous, especially when you consider that you're handing money to an organization that a huge number of people would describe as evil.

The music industry hasn't earned that money, it doesn't deserve it. It's a horrible idea, and it spits in the face of capitalism. And yes, the United States is on a mixed economy, and that is irrelevant. Capitalism has its place, and winners and losers get chosen in the market, generally, in our system.

Selecting winners in the entertainment industry is ludicrous. It's unfair to smaller, independent labels (and if you think the big labels won't be the largest, if not the sole beneficiaries of this tax, you're lying to yourself), and it's offensive to assume that a person would want to fund music creation for what they don't want to listen to.

It's an illogical, silly thing to say. People who are bad at business, especially a business that is not integral to the world economy, should not be rewarded for being terrible at their jobs.

"the truth is that a significant chunk of the population will no longer pay money for a good that is copied at a marginal cost nearly at zero, and that a gigantic, global network is their distribution venue."So all music should be free? And the artists who make that music which touches us so deeply should be expected to find other ways to make money besides selling their art? What if The Beatles had to hold down part-time jobs to make ends meet? Would we have still had Sgt Pepper?

I have to agree that, historically, the attempts to stop file sharing have been heavy-handed, and have often only exacerbated the problem. But now even the industry itself is beginning to realise that targeting sharers is futile, expensive and pointless. So they are trying to adapt, but whenever a viable solution is forwarded (like subscription P2P or a music tax - both of which are the same model essentially, and offer the end-user the same freedom of downloads, but require a small (relative to current prices) fee to enable the artists to earn some money), freetards burst out with reactionary drivel about 'bad business' - what exactly constitutes good business in your mind, Alex? Giving everything away for free? It's amazing that you should talk of spitting in the face of Capitalism in the same breath.

"Most people would like to see this industry destroyed by the most powerful explosives available, myself included."That should be easy enough, given that most of the major labels have some ties to the arms industry. I'm not suggesting for a moment that the big labels are faultless here, or that they deserve a bail out - for decades, record labels have made massive profits selling their artists' work at huge mark-up and keeping most of that money for themselves. They are, superficially, cold, artless bastards who do indeed deserve to be destroyed. But the ideal world you seem to be living in does not exist. There are millions of bands on Myspace alone - how would we hear the good ones without labels (both major and independent) to sort the wheat from the chaff? For all its evils, the music industry provides a necessary function, and without it, we would simply be inundated with shitty bands we had no interest in, inviting us to befriend them, buy their CD and come to their gigs. And the artists would lose out - none of us has the time to give a fair listen to every band that's out there, so many would go unheard, unrecognised, and would ultimately have to give up music altogether, or just do it as a hobby. Music would suffer, and the consumers would lose out too (not that we'd know about it).

"Setting up another, mandatory, population-wide licensing scheme (the music 'tax') and have that endorsed by the governments seems ridiculous, especially when you consider that you're handing money to an organization that a huge number of people would describe as evil.

The music industry hasn't earned that money, it doesn't deserve it. It's a horrible idea, and it spits in the face of capitalism. And yes, the United States is on a mixed economy, and that is irrelevant. Capitalism has its place, and winners and losers get chosen in the market, generally, in our system."
Again, this is a total misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the idea of a music tax. This is not a bail out - no one is handing money out to evil organisations, and no one is spitting in the face of Capitalism (an absurd comment, frankly, since it describes precisely your 'everything for free' angle). The tax would be a very small fee for the individual, and the revenue would be shared ACCORDING TO POPULAR MERIT.

This means that it wouldn't be remotely unfair to independent labels - it'd be much fairer than the current system, in fact, since presently indie labels cannot afford to advance their artists anything like the money the majors hand out, and they can't recoup big profits since their distribution deals are too expensive (because the majors essentially own the high street) and even when people do buy their CDs, they're too few and far between and the bands eventually have to sign with a major just to make ends meet. A music tax would change the face of that entirely, since a band could sign with an indie label, take a small advance on studio time, record a ground-breaking new album, and then release it online. The label, convinced of the album's brilliance, would invest some cash in promotion - TV and online campaigns - which would in turn boost downloads. Because everyone pays their music tax, it wouldn't cost them anything to download the album and check it out for themselves, and if they like it, recommend it to their friends (they don't have to burn them a copy, since their friends can download it at no added cost too), and before you know it you have a giant feedback loop causing an otherwise unknown indie band to top the charts and take the lion's share of tax revenue for that week/month/quarter/year.

So it's a level playing field in that regard. But it wouldn't just be a cash award for the most popular artists - the money would be divided proportionally, based on downloads. So imagine the band I just described came out of the studio with their first album and it wasn't so Earth-shattering - maybe a couple of songs show real promise, but they've not quite got there yet. They release their single and make some decent money, maybe breaking the top-40 downloads - it's not enough to make them rich, but their label is reassured that they're on to something, and maybe with time they'll get there. The album doesn't make the top 40, but they still shift a few thousand copies and the label breaks even with a bit extra to pay the band.

In the current system, this band would almost certainly be dropped - they haven't made any money, and the label isn't positive that they can make the brilliant album they're hoping for, so the safe, businesslike decision is to drop them and consider yourself lucky sales weren't worse. Under a music tax, there's no need to do so - they've already got a modest fanbase, so downloads of the second album are more or less guaranteed, and even if it really bombs, the label won't loose too much since there's no manufacture/distribution costs to worry about. So they release the second album and it turns out to be The Bends, and is followed by Ok Computer.

Radiohead weren't signed to an indie label when they released Pablo Honey, but if they were, it seems unlikely they'd have been given the time and money to record a follow up in the present system.

A music tax wouldn't change your notion that "winners and losers get chosen in the market", and it's main effect would be to cut (not increase) the overall revenue taken by major labels. The consequence of this would most likely be a restructuring - more money is on offer if a label can spread its bets and offer a varied roster of different acts, so more money would be invested in A&R people (we all hate them, but they're a necessary evil) to scout for new talent, and less money would be spent on keeping spoiled 'super stars' and their entourages happy. And the industry would become less of a cash cow, so the suits at the top would eventually have to take pay cuts.

"Selecting winners in the entertainment industry is ludicrous."I agree, and again, that's a total misrepresentation/misunderstanding of what the idea of a music tax means. The consumer democratically elects the winners, but even the losers get a (proportionally representative) share of the revenue... At least, the 'close but no cigar' losers do - the shitty, sold-no-records-this-year losers (like Robbie Williams, for one) don't continue to get bankrolled at the expense of their label mates.

So if you think big labels will be the largest, if not sole beneficiaries of this tax, you're misunderstanding how it would work.

No one is rewarding bad business, it's about rewarding good art. And I'm frankly appalled at some of the freetard doublethink people are spouting here. I don't think this is a perfect solution - it won't solve all the industry's problems overnight, but it will gradually effect positive change - and it's quite alarming that people seem so indignant about the idea of paying to subsidise the creators of art.

I would NOT want a music tax.I agree more with some of these others in that yes there needs to be a change made, but taxing everyone is not the answer. NOT everyone listens to music. not everyone wants to download music. taxing people is taking away their choice, and forcing them to support something they may not wasnt to support. under this tax system, If i understand you correctly, I would pay say $2 a month. and could download ulimited amounts of music for free. right? am i getting this right? and the artist get paid on how many time their music is downloaded? ok so here's what I'd do. I'd make some crappy songs, and a crappy album. upload it, and then I would write a program that would automatically download my music all day long, bouncing around from server to server, and downloading MY songs over and over and over and over...I'll be RICH!!!! i can see it now! YES!! lets tax everyone! I can make millions off of the backs of everyone else!!! muhahahahahah!!!! I'll then sell this auto download program to all my friends so they can upload and make their own music, then download it and make lots of money too!!!! free money!! I can just sit back and enjoy the wealth created by my creativity in writing the program, and in the sales of this program to my friends. btw, I dont listen to music unless one of my friends has heard about it, or told me. I dont listen to labels. I do occasionally listen to radio stations. we dont need labels to promote bands, when word-of-mouth is so much more effective. I have a lot of bands that I like and most of those I heard from my friends. if the band is any good, they will play shows, small venues, bars etc...build up a fan base, thats how it works, if the band is no good no one will buy thier music, and they will quit and get real jobs they can do good at. if this tax happens you will open this up to every joe blow who has a computer and garageband software. there will be a problemn on the other end, too many "artists" how would you seperate the good few from the MANY bad? you would still have to rely on someone or something to tell you this is good bands to listen to, or these are crappy artists. you would flood the market with mediocre people with dreams of stardom, who...let be perfectly honest...aren't good enough to make it. but you would have tons of people with ideas like mine of creating music then cheating the system. it'll happen.

Durlon- good points.

Word of mouth vs Labels - Word of mouth doesn't reach all that far, it relies on everyone who hears from their friends actually checking the band out online (or wherever) and passing on the recommendation to other friends. Labels provide the filter for crap music, and a reputable source for people to discover the music - the WoM approach is just as important, but without a label, there's nothing to stop people scamming the way you describe.

Your point about writing a program to automatically download your own tunes (great idea, incidentally) only highlights the necessity to have labels (or something similar) to arbitrate and determine what constitutes a genuine music product and what's just garbage. In the suggested music tax scheme, someone (whether the labels, or an independent third party) would do that job, vetting whether stuff is suitable for release as music (sorta like the Apple app store) and keeping an eye out for misuse. The app store system is obviously not perfect, but it's much better than nothing.

I'd argue the whole 'play gigs, get fans, get signed, release record, rinse and repeat' model is outdated for modern music. For one thing, small-scale gigging is expensive, and many talented artists and bands just can't afford to tour enough to establish a decent fanbase. Secondly, much of modern music is impractical to take on tour - it's made on computers, so the musicians either take the computers on tour (which break, at great expense) or employ a load of extra musicians (at even further expense), or just stay at home (and don't get the fans, or the label). On top of all that, music has long been moving away from 'live' being the focus - since the mid-60s the recording has been the point, and lots of artists/bands simply don't tour at all for whatever reason. At the moment, unless they're already established somehow, or are lucky enough to attract label-attention purely on the back of their recordings, these artists remain largely unheard.

I agree that perhaps not everyone should have to pay the tax. Over here in the UK, everyone pays a TV license, which pays for the BBC content (TV, radio and online), and for the most part people just pay it and don't complain... But introducing another mandatory tax may not go down so well. It wouldn't be too hard to allow people to opt-out, if they really didn't want free music, but I reckon as time went on, more and more people would opt back in, since almost everyone likes some music, and a small fee to access it all isn't unreasonable.

I just think in the long term society is moving towards a model where all data is readily available to everyone - but you can't just make it all free, since the content would dry up if there was no profit in making it (ok some would still be made - artists aren't just in it for the money - but it wouldn't be as much, and less time and effort would have gone into it since they'd have to do other things just to earn money to survive!) - so the only sensible solution (besides going socialist and massively taxing the rich to pay for it - which wouldn't be very fair) is to introduce a flat tax that entitles everyone to everything.

At no point have I been suggesting this should happen immediately (there's still a lot of people without broadband, at least in the UK, so it'd be very unfair to tax them for something they couldn't use) but I do think in the long term it's the best thing the entertainment industries can do to combat piracy without pissing people off with DRM and price-hiking.

I can and do agree with most of your reasons for having a tax, and I can see possible benefits from having it as well. I just dont think it should be mandatory for everyone. if it is the greatest and most fair way and it really is cheaper in the long run, then let people join a subscription type thing. but I do believe people need/require a choice in the matter. make one system for everyone to subscribe to. for example let take the itunes store. you setup an account, say you have a choice to make, subscribe to a monthly fee at say $2 a month. or you can just buy a single song or album on a per song basis, or per album. also add an extra fee if you would like a physical cd to have sent to you with lyrics, band info etc that come in cd cases. that way people can choose to do the subscription and not feel likes its forced on them. I personnaly would like a subscrition plan like that, but would not like to have it forced on me. yeah it might be the greatest thing since sliced bread and man learning to bang two rocks together to make a beat...but I would still like that choice. makes me feel like I have more control over my life/music/finances etc than pay-tax-or-go-to-jail. there are too many other criminals and bugets and national issues for the government to deal with/take care of than to have to pursue tax evaders for not paying music tax.

I agree with Durlon, and as I believe I might have said before... Music is entertainment which is a luxury, and this is just another unnecessary luxury tax where the money could be better used elsewhere. With diseases, energy issues, lagging education, poverty, crime, and other important things going I don't think there would ever be a good time for this tax unless we are at an absolute super high renaissance era where everyone is prospering.

Plus I don't get Bish sometimes. You want good music but then at the same time you sound like you want to keep afloat tons of bands that can't make it. I'm not talking about Major vs indie label bands. Survival of the fittest. If the music is good, then it will survive.

I've got a solution. Why not pay all musicians on an annual salary like most people say starting at 30k per yer. If they do well then they can get a promotion. If not they either stay in their dead end job, or quit on their own and find something they are actually good at. Then they can be just like the majority of everyone else and stop bitchin. Or let them work on commission... they go out there and sell more themselves and then everyone benefits from the work.

Gemal, the number of good bands and artists I've seen get signed to labels, under-promoted, and then dropped to compensate the label re-signing one of their 'stars' (or pinching one from another label), who then sits on their lazy fat arse doing nothing for three years before releasing an album that everyone agrees is rubbish...

Survival of the fittest does not work in the music industry. It would be wonderful if it was a perfectly egalitarian system where good bands were kept and bad bands were dropped, but the record companies care only about money and prestige. They will not waste money promoting their new indie bands, so unless those bands write a hit single (Teen Spirit, Creep, Yellow, etc) they're doomed to have a cult following that lasts until they get dropped (usually after sales haven't increased too much for the second album) and have to split up and start again, because they owe the record company a small fortune for their advance.

So the bands that prosper are the ones that can write a catchy pop hit that'll make mums and dads buy their record, as well as the kids at school. Having discovered this formula, most bands find themselves repeating it ad nauseum, until the world gets bored, the record company stop turning a profit, and they're dropped, OR they struggle for years kicking against the record company people trying to make them write another hit, to the point that they alienate their entire fanbase by making music that no-one really likes.

As for the idea of wages, yeah it's a great one, but under the current model, record companies can't afford to pay all their artists a wage, since they're already paying their star signings a fortune. Copyright law doesn't allow for earnings to be shared among a label's roster, so instead the record companies give all their (non-star) artists a very big loan, and all the profits they make on the few successful recordings goes towards clearing the debt lost by unsuccessful recordings, and paying the stars their big-money. So there's nowhere for that 30k a year to come from.

Now, as for keeping afloat the bands that can't make it - there are lots (and I mean LOTS) of bands who could have modest success and turn a decent profit if they didn't get trapped into the traditional record company plan of record/tour+promote/repeat, and if they had a little more money spent on the promotion side when they did tour. Just because a band hasn't made it into living rooms nationwide does not mean they suck, and they shouldn't be dropped because they're selling less units than the stars - but under the current model, that's exactly what happens.

I dunno where you get your optimism about the music industry being a fair and egalitarian place, but it really isn't. There's a lot of info out there about this - start off with any site hosting Steve Albini's famous "The problem with music" article, and go from there.

Last but not least, your argument that the world is in too much of a mess to invest in art. You make a good point, but I'd argue it's a chicken/egg scenario - I'm not saying financing art will solve the world's problems, but historically societies have flourished when they've made it possible for people to work on art without worrying about putting food on the table. The current global economic crisis requires state-spending to improve infrastructure, reward growth in the right areas, and - just as importantly - improve public morale. If your cinema ticket was just the price of the seat (rather than offsetting the perceived losses due to piracy) or exhibitions and gigs were less than half their current price, and all CDs/DVDs were available online, legally, for (essentially) free, we might move some of the way towards cheering people up, since they could have a bit of fun without worrying about savings. But that side's just my opinion, and I understand where you're coming from on that argument...

Oh and @Durlon - the problem with making it an opt-in subscription, as opposed to an opt-out tax, is that you're putting the responsibility of organisation on a business, which will have to operate within the framework of current copyright and publishing laws, which are inherently skewed to make the most profit in the current system - the business likely won't be able to agree deals with all labels, won't have a full archive, won't be able to persuade enough people to sign up (except by spending massive amounts on advertising) and will ultimately go bust. Legislate it, and the record companies simply have to adapt to the new system and find ways to profit from it (which they would, easily - they just need throwing in the pool). Besides, opting out would be easy enough, and it's the same degree of freedom as opting-in.

Oh and you mentioned people chasing after music-tax evaders - if the system just required a simple log-in, tied to your social security or whatever, there'd be no need to chase after those who didn't pay - you'd just cut their access until they started paying again.

I've said time and again, I don't think it's all easy and effortless to implement, and I don't pretend to have all the answers about it, but I do think in the long run subsidising arts/entertainment via tax is the best way of ensuring a broad range of art is available for everyone to enjoy (the bits they like, that is) and avoids the current situation where some musicians are rich beyond their ability to spend, and others are working several jobs just so they can afford to gig.

Right, I must've written the better part of a thesis in these comments, so I'm shutting up once and for all. Thanks to everyone for reading, even if you didn't (and still don't) agree with me.

bish... this is a quick reply.

One, I never said the labels were great or the current system works... maybe they should be forced to start from square one and rebuild. B/c the part I hate about the music industry is the overpaying of everyone from the CEO to the drummer (same for other entertainment industries). However, if they did pay by salary or commission to just about everyone in the industry they would have to be selective. Also, on the same point I don't think you'd have as many people lingering around trying to "make it" if they weren't looking to get overpaid. So maybe another way for truly good music is to look for those that want it b/c they have passion or for the fame. I just think there are definitely too many people trying to get into it for only one reason.

"So the bands that prosper are the ones that can write a catchy pop hit that'll make mums and dads buy their record, as well as the kids at school." Ha this doesn't sound like it would go away with your tax/download scheme though.

Anyway, I dig art and I love it. But Music is a medium that I think is over rated than other art forms that don't get enough play in my opinion.

I didn't have time to listen to all of this right now but maybe it has relevancy to this topic?
"Do Record Labels Matter?"

ok gotta respond really quick myself. I'm not disagreeing with you on why a tax would be a good idea at all, I'm just disagreeing with you on the method. there is no reason why the government cant enact legislation to force the music industry to adopt a opt-in model.it doesnt even have to be government run, the government of choice could setup a subsidized or even contract it out to a third party company that has to follow government oversight. it would hopefully be an impartial company with no ties to fat cat bosses, so there is no undue influence, but it would have the legal power of the government to enforce the rules. keep it very simple. a small monthly fee to join and enjoy all the music that you could possible want. or not join, and pay a much higher price, but be free to choose. that is the real down-to-earth-nitty-gritty issue here. I would say the vast majority of people would have a major issue with a "tax" forced on them. yeah I'm sure it would work, and I'm sure it would make things better in the long term, but it can be packaged in an acceptable manner that the majority of people would be able to understand, and most of all have the freedom to choose. freedom to choose is a VERY powerfull phrase. you can do almost anything as long as people feel that they have the freedom to choose whatever they like. yeah maybe its all semantics since the bottom line is the same, and the end result is the same, but it can be made much more palatable to everyone just by telling them they can choose. you do need to make the "right" choice very obvious...eg much higher prices if you choose not to join. eventually people will join of their own free will. and those people like my in-laws who only buy a cd once every two-or three years or so, they can be happy not having to pay another tax no matter how small, and they can pay the higher price more willingly because they have a choice.

How To Make money with affiliate programs Today. Affiliate marketing is the easier and probably the most effective method to make money from the internet. It is basically, a kind of selling technique where potential buyers from your website are directed to the websites of sellers. For every click, the website owner gets a small commission.


And what mystical solution will you employ when the marketing infrastructure evaporates as well?

Hope you enjoy the pre-booth sound of bar bands.

A universal music-tax is a terrible idea and would accomplish nothing useful.

Why would you presume that artists would benefit in any way if record labels are involved? The record labels would simply change how they write contracts so that they control that money.

My biggest laugh today was reading that the record labels filter the content for quality. The number of crap artists with record deals is dwarfed only by the number of talented ones who will never have reocrd deals. Money interests labels, not talent. If they thought a CD of someone snoring for an hour would sell, one would be on the shelves by morning. They often bypass talent because the artist doesn't sound like the last megahit. Extrapolating from the last megahit is likely pointless, however -- often it was just a statistical anomaly due to unusually strong sales in the market segment of those who previously owned 10 CDs, now own 11 (but aren't likely to buy number 12).

The prime justification for the tax appears to be the assumption that rampant piracy is bringing down the major labels and bankrupting musicians. I greatly doubt it. Ethics aside, most piracy is irrelevant. If it ended tomorrow, I doubt sales would change much. The "casual" fan seeking to avoid paying is less a fan than a self-serving opportunist. I'm a music collector. My CDs number in the thousands. People who care about music shouldn't be killing the chicken which lays the golden records and I know many collectors who shun illegitimate copies for just that reason. (On the other hand, the DMCA is such an evil, corrupt, unfair, and dangerous law, I somtimes think it may be my civic duty to violate it as often as possible). It may differ for megastars, but for most working musicians, I suspect that collectors are their bread and butter, and personally, I take supporting them very seriously. For the struggling artists I frequently buy several copies of their CDs and send them to other collectors -- if they become fans and do the same perhaps it means the artist keeps making music rather than throwing in the towel.

Ultimately, a tax would not bring equity and is unnecessary anyway. The market has changed -- equity is coming, just not the way some wish. Artists have a greater chance of finding an audience than ever before. Large numbers of Small and niche artists are performing, publishing, and making money, however modestly, from plying their craft. With the Majors' talent-bandwidth more restrictive than ever and partly due to my revulsion to the RIAA's tactics, most of my current buying goes toward indie labels and independently-published titles. I used to depend mainly on word of mouth to find new music. These days I mostly use automated recommendations from Amazon, CD Baby, Pandora, etc. and the breadth of artists covered is staggering. TO be sure, self-publishing or indie labels won't have the same potential as signing with a major label, but few artists on major labels ever hit those peaks anyway, and it may come at great cost. For the few who do, the label may provide the conduit to a larger audience, but it is talent, hard work, and fate that will make it pay. Dethroning the record labels is a big score for equity --- they cannot command the same sales because of competition they never dreamed and because their greed has lost them more business than it has saved. Consequently, superstar artists may find it harder to make the same demands., and may not see the same sales-levels they might have in another era. IMHO, it is probably for the best and has a lot less to do with piracy than a changing marketplace.

Post a Comment