iTunes UK and the NMPA

Apple have threatened iTunes-listening Britons with the closure of their iTunes store.

I think this is unlikely to happen, but if it does then the P2P networks will get rather more traffic, thereby providing even more proof that the publishing industry just doesn’t understand what’s happening. Every time they try to throw their weight around like this, it make them weaker and the darknet (1Mb Word file) stronger.

Be that as it may, now might also be a good time to point out an inaccuracy in the BBC’s reporting on this. They say:

Apple pays an estimated 70% of digital music revenue to record companies which in turn pass on a percentage to artists [my emphasis]. It is that percentage that is expected to be changed on Thursday.

Actually, I think the National Music Publishers’ Association pays this percentage to songwriters and composers of works via the publishers that the NMPA represents. And (surprise!) the publishers cream off between 3 to 15%. In many cases the composers are not the same as the artists that perform the works, and many will in fact be dead (the money goes to their relatives, estates or licensees, or nowhere if these cannot be found).

But who cares? The way the money works in music is – to say the least – opaque. With the exception of a tiny minority of super-stars like Cliff Richard and Simply Red, when you listen to your favourite band, you are listening to indentured servants. What will happen when we realise that the copyright system overall is completely iniquitous? In 1994 (MMC, 1996), 10 UK composers received more than £100,000 (from performing and mechanical royalties). How many people working in the UK music industry that year who were not composers earned more than £100,000?

I’m betting that it was rather more than 10.