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.

8 thoughts on “iTunes UK and the NMPA”

  1. They are today! It will be interesting to see how artists benefit from the new “consume as much music as you want” Nokia phone. Certainly got me thinking.

    Of course combined with the Featured Artists’Coalition it feels like the future is still very unclear for the music industry.

    Not sure that granularisation of rights is the answer either mind you from the perspective of long-term reuse of IPR. Though of course the likes of Wobbie and the Cheesy Chiefs will always have an agent to represent them – unlike the 99.99% IPR producing rest of humanity.

    Perhaps I could be your agent for Webtorque??

  2. Yes short blasts are working. Longer pearls of wisdom not it would appear.

    What I said was that I think it is interesting to see what will happen with the “eat as much music as you want” Nokia phone – might get me buying not sure if it will lessen P2P. But innovative business models is where it’s at so the industry is thinking about this – while of course taking the Northumberland police force to court for playing radios in the station.

    There is also:

    While the likes of Wobbie and the Cheesy Chiefs will always have an agent, the rest of the 99.9% IPR producing world doesn’t so I always view the granularisation of rights as not such a good thing – if I think long term reuse of IPR that is. Of course the vast majoruty of copyright produced material has no commercial value.

    Can I be your agent for webtorque?

  3. Woops – your original comments got caught in the spam filter, which I’ve just de-spammed. So now you have duplicates.

    Can I be your agent for webtorque?

    Consider yourself appointed.

  4. Let’s see if this long comment gets through.

    I’m surprised it’s taken so long for The Featured Artists’ Coalition to emerge, but I suppose most artists are concerned with making music rather than running a business to maximise profit – and their publishers aren’t going to encourage them to see it otherwise. Prince’s acrimonious split from Sony seemed a flash in the pan at the time, so maybe this will be too. I recall he wrote the word “slave” on his head or something at the time which (were it not for the fact that he’s incredibly rich) isn’t the exaggeration it appears to be.

    If artists are to make any more money (in the short term) from deals like the Nokia one, they’re going to have to think more like the FAC about it. Otherwise there’s no reason to suppose the publishing industry won’t just treat them like shit as they always have.

    Incidentally, I’d love to know whether illegal downloading has affected failure rates. We hear a lot about artists at the top end getting less money (assuming for the moment that’s really the case), but I wonder how it might also affect the trajectory of artists at the other end of the scale? Do new bands gain bigger audiences quicker? Do they lose them faster? There are all sorts of questions to be asked about the emergent end of music which the likes of Sir Cliff’s moaning is drowning out. God I hate that man.

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