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Archive for October, 2005

EFF Action Center

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

Have you seen the EFF Action Center?. They’re great, and the action center is a good way to get the know the EFF and what they help to do. A reader pointed out how important the anti-Digital Millenium Copyright Act, pro-Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act (HR 1201) is and how easy it is to help. We agree — take action here.

EU Zeroing in on VCL nose

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

In the nose, the European Commission is proposing a pan-European system for promoting music. The article says,

“The Commission published a study on the current position in July, concluding that the absence of pan-European copyright licences makes it difficult for new European-based online services, such as simulcasting (a simultaneous broadcast of programs or events across more than one medium) and webcasting (where a broadcast is uploaded by the sender and downloaded by the receiver), to take off.

In particular, it found that the present structures for cross-border collective management of music copyright – which were developed for the analogue environment – prevent music from fulfilling its unique potential as a driver for online content services.”

They have a good layout of options:

-do nothing;

-improve cooperation among collecting societies by allowing each society in the EU to grant a EU-wide license covering the other societies’ repertoires; or

-give right-holders the choice to appoint a collective rights manager for the online use of their musical works across the entire EU.

Nick, Harvey Danger Releases Full Album Free Online

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

On their homepage, which is very Web 2.0, Harvey Danger has put out their newest full length album for public and free download. The album is the first after a 5 year respite and is called “Little by Little…”. So, guess what? They’re in the know. And there’s no reason for you to not see if you like them.

The question about whether or not one should put their album out for free isn’t just about whether or not free download means bad record sales/donations. Rather, the real question that makes or breaks any album on any filesharing network is, “Is the album good for any reason to you?” When an album is good, people find out about the album and become fans of that music. And with the point of entry at computer-people’s fingertips, how good an album is carries a band a long way. Some of these new people buy the album, some don’t. But some of these new people buy the album! My guess is that for Harvey Danger, these new fans can contribute a lot to their popularity in different ways.

It was wixed easy to donate to them — go here. Welcome to Harvey Danger — listen!

Still, the question here about record sales is really a distracting question from the big, actual answer to what is good for music, bands and fans. It is possible to have a music industry where everyone wins — a voluntary collective licensing system where you pay 5 or 10 dollars a month for completely rampant filesharing capabilities and the money gets divided among musicians by popularity. With VCL, Harvey Danger wouldn’t be going out on a limb and having a fair or unfair advantage over non-“sharing” bands. Instead of, “will people buy my record if it’s free?”, the question will really be about, “is my isht good?” Putting an album on bit torrent won’t be so much about strategy, it’ll be about being findable in the largest music library around. It’s no holds barred, really. Every good band has every opportunity to find their audience and no one would think about danger. Instead these guys feel the pressure to be savvy and make it really easy to buy their cd or donate to them to go with their open fashion. The “Download” tab on their webpage comes before the “Store” tab; they’re conscious of putting their UI design where their mouth is.

These are their reasons for making a move. Important quote of note: “Making the record freely downloadable removes the main barrier that exists between an artist and the world of potential listeners.”

Who wants to meet me at the Newbs in Shoesbury?

Harvey Danger Releases Full Album Free Online

Thursday, October 13th, 2005

Harvey Danger is a 90’s rock band that had a hit 8 years ago with ‘Flagpole Sitta’. They recently re-united and released their entire new album online. From their explanation why:

Given our unusual history, and a long-held sense that the practice now being demonized by the music biz as “illegal” file sharing can be a friend to the independent musician, we have decided to embrace the indisputable fact of music in the 21st century, put our money where our mouth is, and make our record, Little By Little…, available for download via Bittorrent, and at our website… Why are we doing this? The short answer is simply that we want a lot of people to hear the record.

Download the full album Little by Little

The Martian Method

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Charlie Chan is an Australian musician and a very good friend of Downhill Battle. She even let us sleep in her hotel room when we were at conference together– she rules!

Charlie was one of the first musicians on the planet to start selling CDs online and one of the very, very, very first to actually make a living at it. She’s just started an online storing hosting system called Martian Method that gives independent musicians a great way to sell DRM-free MP3s online. We asked her to give us a write-up of what the project is all about.

Read about Martian Method and then check out the Method. They’ve gotten off to a great start.

We love you Charlie!

Martian Method: Finally Everyone’s Listening

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Charlie Chan is an Australian musician and a very good friend of Downhill Battle. She even let us sleep in her hotel room when we were at conference together– she rules!

Charlie was one of the first musicians on the planet to start selling CDs online and one of the very, very, very first to actually make a living at it. She’s just started an online storing hosting system called Martian Method that gives independent musicians a great way to sell DRM-free MP3s online. We asked her to give us a write-up of what the project is all about. We love you Charlie!

by Jonathan Jaques, for Martian Method and Downhill Battle

Charlie Chan – internationally renowned composer, performer, and the woman about to drop a bomb on the Music Industry that will strike a lasting blow to majors and finally level the playing field for all independent labels and artists. The revolution begins online with Martian Method – an MP3 delivery system developed by Chan to bring equality back to the Industry by giving indie artists and labels all profits from their sales in a swift and legitimate way.

As we already know, paradigms are changing: the Industry is in a state of upheaval, in need of major redevelopments due to the evolution of the Internet and download technologies. And the majors are struggling to keep up. Stuck in business moulds decades out of date, they have been unable to embrace the new technologies and are for the first time truly vulnerable. We know that to change the system for the better, the time to strike is now. Finally there is a mechanism to do so. While corporations like iTunes are shepherding the majors through this time of darkness, Charlie Chan has found a way to cut them out completely.

Chan, a pioneer of early Internet distribution, has been independently selling her own music online since 1996. Last year alone she sold over 400,000 downloads, as well as having personally sold over 75,000 physical CDs in the last 6 years. According to Chan:

“My job now is to inspire other people to see that they can do it themselves! That is where Martian comes in…”

Two and a half years in the making, Martian is a new method of delivering content that short circuits the consumer directly to the creator. The system is comprised of two core elements: Martian Method – the upload/delivery system for artists and labels, and Martian Music – an online store for the consumer. Combined, they form a complete online digital music distribution service where artists and labels earn all of the profit from sales (which means up to almost 70% of GROSS) and are paid fast.

For Chan, the Martian development process was simple. Recognising the significant lack of artist direct-selling services available, she identified the problems in existing services and solved them by addressing what she, as an artist, needed from them to continue functioning independently. The main problems were, not surprisingly, an inequality in the distribution of funds and the prolonged time it takes for an artist to be paid their share.

Generally with online distributors, when a sale takes place, service fees and royalties are deducted. From the remaining NETT figure the online distributor generally takes a 30% commission and remits the rest to whatever record label or aggregator the artist is signed to. (An aggregator is a third party that acts as a go-between for the artist/label and online distributors, and takes a commission for the services they provide.) The label or aggregator then pays the artist from this remainder in accordance with their agreement.

For artists signed to major labels, royalty rates can be as low as 5%; which means they are really getting 5% of the label’s 70% share – essentially 3.5% of NETT earnings. This amount can literally take years before it actually reaches the artist.
A digital music aggregator, on the other hand, may offer an artist or label up to 90%. This 90% actually represents the remaining share after the initial service fees and communication royalties have been deducted, as well as the online distributor’s commission. With the aggregator taking their 10% commission as well, an artist signed to a label with the same agreement as the previous example would be even worse off.

According to Chan, no such inequality can happen with Martian: “Everything is above the line, so everyone is paid above the line. And we don’t take a commission. Everyone is paid straight away.”

Martian’s services include streaming music previews, personalised charts, email marketing and promotional tools, as well as accurate on-demand sales reports, and an easy to use web interface for artists to upload, organise and sell their music. This means that the artists and labels have direct involvement in how their material is promoted and sold, and has access to information about what/when products are selling, straight away!

“Essentially”, Chan asserts, “all that is needed is a direct connection between the artist and the audience, the creator and the consumer. This is what we provide with Martian. It is a communication tool; not a money hungry company. Among our artists, everyone is equal and we all help each other. Martian is what you make of it. The possibilities are endless!”

With what is by far the fairest and most generous royalty distribution percentage in the world, it is no surprise that Martian has already garnered interest from independent music labels and distributors around the world. Having launched in Australia only two months ago, Martian has already signed up high profile labels like MGM (the largest independent distributor in Australia) and Origin, among others, and is currently negotiating with ABC Music.

The Martian catalogue now includes some of the country’s biggest acts, such as John Butler Trio, The Waifs and Endorphin. By only its eighth week of going live, Martian has been so inundated with requests that much of its new content is yet to be uploaded, however, if the last few weeks are anything to go by, Martian is shaping up to become the biggest independent online music distributor on the planet.

Martian’s services are not limited to artists already associated with indie labels or distributors. Martian embraces the philosophy “Everyone’s listening”. This can apply to anyone, so long as they are not a member of the Major Cartel. This includes individuals, as well as labels, ranging from the most obscure and independent of artists, to signed, published and established acts anywhere in the world. Anyone who has music they want to sell digitally can be a part of Martian. Martian is licensed by APRA (Australian Performing Rights Association) and AMCOS (Australian Mechanical Copyright Owners’ Society) – the country’s key collection societies – and offer a discount for their members.

“With Martian”, Chan concludes, “it is ideological and political. We have developed this system out of a social responsibility to bring equality and diversity back to the Music Industry. Martian aims to see artists enjoying the full fruits of their labour; not greedy third parties that dilute the product while embellishing their costs and commissions. We want to break the domination of majors over world wide audiences and stimulate a new era of creativity in music.

“Martian will work because consumers know that artists and their music are our foremost concerns. We provide consumers with a safe and legitimate way of purchasing digital music and directly connecting with and supporting the artists and labels they love, knowing that the money goes to the right people. We won’t sell them out at any cost!”

Jaques is a freelance writer based in Sydney; holds a BA in Communications (Honours), University of Technology, Sydney, and is currently studying a Certificate in Music Industry Business @ Sydney Institute, TAFE.

Fighting Back Against the RIAA

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

There seems to be growing resistance to the ongoing scorched-earth RIAA lawsuit / intimidation campaign. Here’s what’s been brewing:

Northwestern University Law School in Chicago will be hosting a submit about the RIAA campaign. It should be a good gathering point for lawyers and people who want to fight back. Take a look.

In the trenches of the legal battles, there’s been some sparks of hope on our side. Tanya Anderson, a single mom who was sued is countersuing the RIAA for Oregon RICO violations, fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, the tort of “outrage”, and deceptive business practices.

And a Michigan Court outright dismissed a lawsuit against a mother. She won!

As we’ve said so many times before– almost none of the thousands of RIAA suits have ever reached a court, because the cost of fighting is just too much for most families. But now that some are actually coming before judges we may see an unraveling of the private law-enforcement scheme that the RIAA has concocted. If you want to follow the fight, start reading RIAA vs the People. And don’t forget to use your RIAA Radar before making any music purchases.

Stop the Broadcast Flag (Again)

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

The Broadcast Flag is legislation that would let companies control what you are and aren’t allowed to do with your VCR / TiVO / hard drive etc. It’s been successfully blocked by the forces of good in the past, but we have to do it again as the TV and movie lobbyists are mounting another backdoor push.

Below are the congresspeople who are trying to push through the Broadcast Flag. If they represent you, please, please call. Hell, even if they don’t represent you, it would be a big help. And if you can call this afternoon, it make the most difference (it only takes about 90 seconds, really).

John Shadegg, R-AZ, (202) 225-3361

Mary Bono, R-CA, (202) 225-5330

George Radanovich, R-CA, (202) 225-4540

John Shimkus, R-IL (202) 225-5271

Bobby Rush, D-IL, (202) 225-4372

Ed Whitfield, R-KY, (202) 225-3115

Albert Wynn, D-MD, (202) 225-8699

Charles Pickering, R-MS, (202) 225-5031

Lee Terry, R-NE, (202) 225-4155

Charles Bass, R-NH, (202) 225-5206

Mike Ferguson, R-NJ, (202) 225-5361

Frank Pallone, D-NJ, (202) 225-4671

Eliot Engel, D-NY, (202) 225-2464

Vito Fossella, R-NY, (202) 225-3371

Edolphus Towns, D-NY, (202) 225-5936

John Sullivan, R-OK, (202) 225-2211

Michael Doyle, D-PA, (202) 225-2135

Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, (202) 225-2811

Bart Gordon, D-TN, (202) 225-4231

Charles Gonzalez, D-TX, (202) 225-3236

More ways to help at the EFF.