Amazon won’t keep you in the dark with Audible credits anymore

Sick of losing your credits before you buy a new audiobook with them? Audible want to get you listening more giving you more time to decide.

As someone who doesn’t use Audible the fact that this is an update that needed to happen came as a shock. But now, the credits used to buy audiobooks on Audible that you purchase, get given, or hit rollover limit will last up to a year before you use them.

Before this update credits would only last 6 months and if you hadn’t purchased an audiobook with them in that time then say goodbye to your credits. The new time-limit follows a class-action lawsuit against Amazon’s audiobook platform, claiming users might not be aware that they’d lose their unspent credits.

It seems that Amazon cleanses credits regularly as part of their monthly memberships which add credits to your account once a month. To prevent “stockpiling” credits expired after 6 months, meaning many users lost credits they’d paid for because they didn’t use them soon enough.

Amazon’s extension of Audible credits’ to 12 months also introduces some other measures to make sure users are aware of what happens with their credits. Members will receive a monthly email statement detailing their credits and when they expire.

Members can use their unused credits to gift a book to friend or family if they haven’t got anything to purchase with their unused credits. Amazon will also now allow memberships to be placed on hold between 1-3 months once a year.

Whilst it still seems ridiculous to me that they would have a time limit on credits people have paid for, it’s good to see Amazon responding productively to criticism (a nice way of saying a criminal lawsuit).

Can music copyrights go too far? This one lyric may cost $300 million

Music copyright is a treacherous sea that even the most weathered of captains can have trouble navigating through. Is it too strict?

The latest in big-name music lawsuits: Miley Cyrus is being sued for $300 million over a line in her 2013 hit ‘We Can’t Stop’. She has just lost an appeal to dismiss the lawsuit so it seems that the copyright case will go forward in court.

She is being sued by Jamaican songwriter Michael May who claims that ‘We Can’t Stop’ infringes on the copyright of his 1988 song ‘We Run Things’. In his song he sings the lyric, “We run things/Things no run we”, and in Cyrus’ track she sings, “We run things/Things don’t run we”.

U.S. Magistrate judge Robert Lehrburger recommended the dismissal be denied, saying: “Defendants’ arguments to a large extent are predicated on an incorrect assumption the the Phrase merely is a trivial adaptation of a well-known, pre-existing Jamaican saying. While that ultimately may prove to be true, the court cannot make that determination on this motion.”

Expanding on the English-Patios hybrid phrase, Lehrburger says: “May’s attorneys recognise that the phrase, at some point, became ‘commonly used’ and ‘a part of Jamaican culture’. It is not clear how far back use of the phrase of its variations go, but there is no dispute that the phrase was widely accessible from multiple sources prior to the release of We Can’t Stop in 2013.”

Whilst Lehrburger has refused to throw the case out on Cyrus’ dismissal request, he admits that a preliminary analysis of the fair-use factors strongly suggests the case will end in Miley Cyrus’ favour.

Regardless of the fact it’s likely that Cyrus will win the case it raises an issue with music copyrights over what becomes copyrighted when it is put down into a recording. If we are now copyrighting phrases, it restricts the creative freedom of lyrics. There are of course blatant infringements of copyrights with lyrics but can we put trademarks on phrases? What about a single word if it features prominently in a song?

It reminds me of a case between Radiohead and Lana Del Rey last year. Radiohead sued Lana over her track ‘Get Free’ which Radiohead’s lawyers say copied their hit ‘Creep’. The song does use the same chord structure and progression and melodically resembles the song heavily – but does that mean it’s stolen?

With the sheer number of recorded tracks out there it’s near impossible to come up with a 100% original composition which begs the question, how do we decide if something is stolen or just accidentally similar.

The sweet irony of that case was that Radiohead had already been sued over the melody of Creep. The Hollies sued them for copying their song ‘The Air That I Breathe’ and won meaning that royalties for Creep are now split with the Hollies. So where does it end?

Of course music copyrights are incredibly important to protect people’s art but the lines can so often be blurred to the point of obscurity. Copyrights are tricky to navigate at the best of times but it seems increasingly worrisome in the music industry.

What are your opinions on cases like this? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Lets have a discussion.

Are playlists the new album in the age of music streaming?

Music streaming has brought music from every time and every corner of the globe into our homes, but it’s also changing the ways we experience music.

There was a time, not too long ago, when an album of usually between 30-90 minutes was an artists primary output. Singles would accompany the album, often featured on the album, but the release as a whole mattered. It was where you went when you wanted to listen to an artist and often times was created meticulously; the sounds, track selection and ordering, themes and tales all playing into the project as a “whole”.

Slowly times began to change with greatest hits albums, and then compilations. Then the music industry got flipped upside down with the birth of music streaming which made almost every album, EP, and single available wherever you were – and cheaply at that. With this constant, unlimited access it’s transforming the way we listen to music and that’s where playlists come in.

Playlists are the digital equivalent of a Now That’s What I Call Music CD, except being digital there are no limits. Playlisting is now one of the most important tools for influencers and artists with thousands of playlists across services raking in millions of streams every single day. Their power is in their freedom; they can follow any theme, feature any music, and take any shape and listeners love it. In 2016 the Music Business Association found playlists to be more popular than studio albums.

Getting featured in one of Spotify’s top playlists will probably do more for your popularity now than getting a spin on your country’s top radio station. It’s a learned skill now to create a good playlist with a solid theme, appropriate content, flow, originality and diversity. But with the playlist becoming the new way to listen, rather than an artist’s album we’re seeing a priority in tracks and whilst full projects are losing the care and attention that makes them ‘albums’ and not just a collection of their music.

But whilst playlists can create a theme, even conjure up a narrative in the more skillfully made ones, they aren’t the tailor-made package of a singular artist or group that offers a complete experience to them. Albums are a whole, they act as a separate entity to a singular track though they are made up of them. It logs a point in time, an artist’s specific expressions, it might tell a story, each track may work in a harmonial conjuction – whatever it is that makes a good album whole, it can’t be replicated.

But does this mean that playlisting is bad? I think the complete opposite is true. Whilst playlists may be changing how we experience music I don’t think that it will ever replace the album. Playlisting works for a lot of artists, particularly pop acts whose singles represent their popularity more than their collected works. But that will never replace the experience of an album and, I hope, will never fulfil the true album experience for listeners.

I believe we’re moving towards a future where albums and playlists can live side by side, because the beauty of streaming is in it’s versatility. Artists can continue to make incredible albums, other artists can continue to come out with killer singles, and thanks to streaming services they both have a home.

What do you think will happen to albums as the age of music streaming unfolds? Let us know in the comments below.