Monday, December 22, 2008

Erase the Music

There's almost no better proof of how little the old school media giants understand the non-linear thinking of new media than the fact that Universal Music Group refuses to allow videos from its artists to be embedded into blogs and third-person websites.

Well, there was no better proof -- until Warner Bros. decided to pull all of its music from YouTube.

That amounts to hundreds of thousands of videos.

It's making the move because contract negotiations broke down with Google over content sharing. In an official statement, Warner said:

"We simply cannot accept terms that fail to appropriately and fairly compensate recording artists, songwriters, labels and publishers for the value they provide."

Except of course that YouTube -- not to mention anyone who pulls a video from there and places it on his or her own website -- isn't receiving a service so much as providing one: Each time I post a music video here, I'm publicizing that band and hopefully encouraging people to go out and buy its music. For this, I receive no compensation from the record company; I do it out of a true passion for the music and the artist. What Warner Bros. and its artists have with YouTube is a genuinely symbiotic relationship; each side is benefiting equally.

But of course, Warner and most of the other dinosaur-like behemoths in the recording industry -- including the RIAA -- don't see it that way. They can't. They still think in terms of protecting their fiefdoms at all costs by stringently dictating how the music of their artists is distributed. They believe that any use of their music constitutes them doing somebody a favor when, in reality, it's often exactly the opposite.

In the end, you the music lover are going to suffer a hell of a lot less than the bands you won't be able to see and hear.


Mr. Controversy said...

C'mon Chez, don't you see...these people need to make a living too. I mean, those music videos belong on Xbox Live so the little shits can pay $3.99 to watch them all they want...provided they watch it on their XBox.

Warner Bros. Music...another company, in a long line of companies that needs to remove its head from its ass.

Ike said...

The RIAA just announced they weren't going to file mammoth scary lawsuits against individuals who have songs on their hard drives.

Just be glad that under the circumstances they aren't replacing that with a strategy to go after the criminals who embedded music on their blogs.

And we ALL know what kind of deep pockets people who worked in teevee have... said...

In support of what you're saying, I actually purchased a few tracks of "Black Rebel Motorcycle Club" on iTunes after you posted one of their videos on this blog.

YOU are promoting music. But on the flip side, there are a lot of people/websites/opportunists who are creating websites specifically to profit from those videos and songs through Google Adsense revenue etc, and it's done in a very selfish way...

I think online copyright is a very deep subject, and it's all a matter of degree... If someone uploaded your book you're selling for free online and said it was good exposure for you because some people who read it might buy a hard copy version of it, you might have a huge problem with that; Ultimately, it should be your decision what others can and can't do with your book, not somebody else's.

Take YouPorn for instance; Porn sites try to give away a few freebies to get people to pay for access to more (much like music videos try to get you to buy the album), but with free content sites now having thousands of full-length video clips, it becomes no longer promotion and it becomes just a glut of free content that causes people to not be willing to pay for more (because they've got everything they need for free).

Bottom line: Complicated issue.

Anonymous said...

What you write here about you and youtube doing a service for Warner Brothers isn't entirely true. Youtube does, in fact, make a profit off of the music videos. They do directly benefit from people viewing them. As for you, well you don't get direct compensation but it does help drive traffic to your site (Presuming, rationally I think, that at least some of your readership reads partially or primarily for the Listening Post posts) which in turn gives you revenue via E-book sales and donations. I'm not saying that's your intent, but it is a result.

Now does this complex relationship mean that Warner Music made the right decision? Of course not. You are right that the videos promote the artist, and refusing access to Youtube without providing a similar alternative is bad PR. If Warner were offering the videos on its own site or through a different partner which gave them a bigger chunk of the ad revenue then there'd be no issue. Instead they are like petulant children, the game isn't to their liking so they are taking their ball and going home.

The things that baffle me are A) Do the music companies really think they can stop the digital revolution? Isn't that like a bunch of British people sitting around arguing about the best strategy to use against George Washington and his rebels? Now. In 2008?

B) Why don't ANY music companies care about how their customers perceive them? I don't know anyone who thinks of the major labels as anything other than horrible. This doesn't seem like a good strategy. Even oil companies know that having horrible public perception is a disaster, but the music labels don't seem to get this. They never get out ahead on ANYTHING, and they routinely act like arrogant pricks who are doing their customers a favor by selling music in any format other than 8 track.

Erica Dee said...

Your blog is how I discovered Ludo.
Nuff said.

Michael J. West said...

What the music industry forgets, and they're the ones who know it better than anybody, is that music videos are commercials. And you don't get paid by somebody else for the privilege of running your ads.

Chez said...

A lot of good points all around.

Anon 12:27, you're right about the bad PR. Right now, YouTube is really the only game in town -- and that means that it has the upper hand in any negotiation. Warner should know better.

Robo said...

I would have to think that from an Artist's viewpoint they want all the exposure they can get because they're not making real money on the $0.06 per CD that they get. They make their REAL money touring. That's the name of the game.

With the ease of producing the actual hardgoods nowadays I wonder how the Record Companies have even survived this long. I'm truly surprised that not as many "indie labels" (read - Artists with computers) have sprung up.

You can use Mixtape DJ's as an example of what you can do if you just market yourself well.

I understand that NIN is a well known and established band but look at how much press/exposure they just got from releasing their entire new music collection online essentially for free.

And my real issue with the Labels....STOP PRODUCING SHIT and then expect us to buy it. One good song on a full length album is NOT worth $9, $10, or $15.

Maybe it's just because I listen to a lot of Hip Hop... :-)

Anonymous said...

I've listened to many (that's multiple!) artists because of this blog. Some I've enjoyed, others I haven't.

I like to think I'm like most people and numerous others who read your blog have also decided to buy/listen to music you've brought to the forefront.

In the end, the big labels are morons. I work for a company that deals with them, and I can honestly say that most people would be appalled at some of the non-publicized stuff the labels do to companies who actually manage to get deals with them. It's absolutely disgusting.

Steve said...

On one hand, the act of viewing a music video is similar to the act of consuming that music. Unlike say, viewing a movie trailer, the promo would be the product in this case. This may be the mindset of the recording industry.

On the other hand, with regard to music, the concept of "product" is closely tied to context and access. Is navigating to (or discovering) and viewing a video on YouTube or DXM the same as having 24/7 access to the MP3 on your iPod to be enjoyed at a time and place of your choosing? Of course not. Would said online viewing satisfy consumers enough to prevent their purchasing the music? Not likely. If they like it, and want to hear it again, they'll buy it.

So, in spite of the industry's protestations to the contrary, they are losing no income by showing music videos on YouTube.

However, downloading free MP3s for 24/7 iPod access? That's theft, not promotion.

leovil said...

I was curious to see if you had ever considered Youtube to promote sales of your memoir. Then I came across this article at The New York Observer:


Quote: "Subsequently, in an interview with the Observer, Mr. Pazienza said that he was thinking about publishing a memoir about his rise as a young TV producer and subsequent descent into full-blown heroin addiction."

How ironic! Walking papers followed as a consequence of penning a piece on the Huffington Post, while a full-blown heroin drug addiction leading up to the departure had passed unnoticed. Indeed, this memoir must be a great read.

Jonah said...

A lot of record companies have exclusive deals with websites to host their digital content.

What is really scary is that most of these companies are just so far behind the times when it comes to digital they are in the weeds.

Mtv suffered from not getting out in front of the digital wave. They got hit hard by it.

Chez said...

Actually, Leovil, my little ride through heroin addiction hell happened quite a while before I began working at CNN.

Sheriff Bart said...

Another example of how ignorant WB is about the whole situation is they actually think that by taking videos down, they've solved the problem. What they don't realize is that for every video removed, another video gets uploaded in it's place. So essentially,you have YouTube mods playing Whack-a-Mole, banning users only to have those same users signing up under different names and re-upping the same videos. It's a losing battle and everyone knows it.
Well... almost everyone.

Dave said...

I think that Warner knows exactly what they're doing. I think they're petrified that artists might realize, on a large scale, that they don't need the labels. Or don't need them to the extent they do now. If someone can watch the video on youtube, if they can watch it on a blog, if you, Chez, and others like you, are doing their a large portion of their jobs.... then why exactly do they get such a large cut of the purchase price. I think many of the companies that are pulling content "to protect the artist" are doing it to save their own asses.

Stephen said...

This is all well and good, but let's get back to that glut of free porn content.

Eventually the artists with enough clout will leave Warner and get into the business of providing content directly to their fans. I know that "jam band" style music is not featured on this site on a regular basis, but most of these bands allow taping, record all of their own live shows for download, and provide content through their own websites AND youtube. It has worked wonders for them, fans, and the bottom line.
Warner should take a look and see for themselves.

Blade said...

I guess I could point out that nearly the entire library of music videos that exist is in some form or another archived and available at MTV's website?

Elessa said...

i too join the chorus thanking you for exposing me to some wonderful music. i have indeed gone on to purchase CDs by some of the artists. yeah, CDs 'cause i am wary of DRM on my tunes not working in the future.

also, i am glad your walk through heroin hell found you safe and clean on the otherside.

Andrew Smash said...

You have to provide paychecks for all of the parasitic managers and agents somehow, right?

John Eje Thelin said...

WMG, whose stock has lost 90% of its value over the last five years, dropped 10% in the last two days, probably at least in part due to this stupid decision. Admittedly, that only brings the five-year loss up to 91%, but when you're bleeding as bad as the record companies are now, you need every little bit you can get.

Inane and short-sighted, just like pretty much every decision they've made since 1999.

If they lose another couple of percent, YouTube could probably just buy them outright.

tania said...

"The RIAA just announced they weren't going to file mammoth scary lawsuits against individuals who have songs on their hard drives."

Hmmm. Maybe because they realised just how much of a frakking PR nightmare and waste of resources such lawsuits are?
No, wait - that implies they have some sense....