Digital Rights NZ/UK

Some news that might not seem immediately edifying, but might have far reaching implications. The Intellectual Property Office in the UK has issued a ‘Scoping Document‘ attempting to assess the potential role of a Digital Rights Agency. Given what’s currently happening between the PRS and Google, the rights of artists to benefit from the exploitation of their music online is quite a hot topic at the moment.

More rumblings in the same region of the law are sounding in New Zealand, where Google has deposited it’s two cents in a discussion being held by the Telecommunication Carrier’s Forum – a think-tank organised by the TeleComms and ISP comapnies in that region to decide how to monitor and deal with digital copyright violations. Google has come in on the side of the consumer, saying that the idea of banning users who are caught infringing three times from using the ISP’s services – in effect cutting them off access to the internet as a whole – was too heavy a penalty. They also chime in with approval of measures designed to protect ISP’s from the consequences of copyright infringement perpetrated by their customers. Google is in a pretty unique position to provide a balanced opinion, given that they are operating a service across every nation in the world, but their ultimate position is always going to be pro-internet and pro-traffic of information, including music, because that is essentially pro-Google. More pageviews, more ad revenue.

How then, to deal with copyright violation on the net? The RIAA is abandoning it’s programme of coming down heavy on individuals in the hope that it will act as a deterrent to other pirates, as sending threatening letters and scaring little old ladies seems to be generating more negative publicity for them than deterrent effect on the pirates. Perhaps prosecuting people like middle-aged Mavis from New Hampshire in their fearful absence is not quite the shining moralistic proof that pinching a devious little ferret of a computer scientist with a server-filled basement of porn and Michael Jackson albums might be, but then he’d have used proxies and covered his tracks, and would be much harder to catch.

Ultimately this blogger just hopes all the legislation and discussion and arguing and imprisoning of housewives helps us home in on the inevitable. It is inevitable that consumers on the net will find a way of quickly and conveniently getting hold of the music they want, through filesharing, paid downloads, ad supported models or whatever other method they can. It is inevitable that artists must profit from the consumption of their music, directly or indirectly, because otherwise they won’t be able to afford to make music, and we’ll all have to listen to U2 and the Beatles for evermore, and no-one wants that… So we must, eventually, inevitably arrive at a solution that bridges that gap; that provides a way for music consumers to get what they want cheaply, quickly and conveniently, and for artists to profit from it. Some sort of commercial, digital radio… I’m going to go and listen to Spotify while I think about what that perfect solution might be.

Coca-Cola’s Open Happiness Track Debuts Online

Coke first previewed a new album during Midem in January which collaborates members from Gnarls Barkley, Fall Out Boy, Panic At The Disco and Gym Class Heroes. Now Coke has properly debuted tracks in TV ads, while also being heavily promoted online and sold through iTunes.

The Continuing Decline of the Music Industry

It can be a bit difficult to keep perspective when all you hear is bad news. The music industry may be in turmoil, but it always has been, and change breeds creativity rather than destruction. Here’s Frank Zappa more than 20 years ago, explaining just what was causing the decline of the music industry back then (and a bit about masturbation, for some reason). Given that so much great music has been made since then, and how diversity and innovation are flourishing more richly than ever before due to the internet, I have to raise an eyebrow when I hear about the industry’s decline.

Kutiman – Thru You

Now this is the kind of innovation I love to see, especially when it produces something as full of feeling and funk as these tracks from Israeli producer Kutiman. He’s gathered toghether a mass of miscellaneous ‘objets trouvee’ that others have uploaded on YouTube, and made some really varied and fantastic tunes with them. He explains it thus:

And here are the videos themselves, in handy playlist form. Please do watch them all: YouTube must need the traffic after removing all the commercial videos from their site…

Please also check out Kutiman’s own website and sent him some love if you like his work: http://thru-you.com/

Memotone – Space Ritual

space-ritualWe’ve recently distributed a new offering from Memotone, one of the notables who’s kind enough to let us do his digital distribution for him. This new single is called ‘Space Ritual’, and seems to be a marked progression from his other work. It is more experimental and avant-garde, and perhaps some of the tracks on the four-song bundle, in particular the voice-jumble of Brelipomy are less approachable for that, but Memotone’s mission is to create impressionistic soundscapes from things taken from the world around him, and with that in mind, Space Ritual is an effective piece. There’s a depth and richness reminiscent of the Cinematic Orchestra in ‘Space Ritual’ and ‘The World Is Too Busy Ellen’. Listen to one of the tracks from this release here, but realise that the release has got much more to it and check out the rest of Memotone’s stuff!

If you like what you hear here – swing over to Memotone - Space Ritual 2009 - EP and show him the money, or drop a comment on Memotone’s myspace by clicking here.

Nokia Announces Their “Comes With Music” Service will be Opening in Mexico, Italy and Sweden

Nokia has announced that it will be launching it “Comes with Music” offering in Italy, Sweden and Mexico in the coming months. Nokia initially launched their Comes With Music service in the UK and Singapore and its already announced it will launch in Australia later this month.

The company has also announced three new music phones in its XpressMusic range: the 5730, 5330 and 5030. The first two of those will be Comes With Music handsets in selected markets.

YouTube Baulks at PRS Rates

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In what may prove a revolutionary move, YouTube is refusing to pay the increased licensing fee that the MCPS/PRS alliance has demanded for the right to stream music videos for signed artists in the UK.

Music licensing can be a knotty problem; while most of the copyrights necessary to permit streaming for tracks belong to the record labels that have direct agreements with YouTube, there are other authorship rights that artists and songwriters can retain, or assign to be protected by the MCPS/PRS, which will attempt to collect revenues on their behalf whenever a song is played.

The previous licence that YouTube had negotiated with the PRS has expired, and the asking price for a new one is larger by many multiples. On top of this, the PRS has declined to specify what rights and what songs are actually covered by the agreement they’re offering to sell YT. In effect the PRS is demanding to be paid for a mystery box, which may or may not contain anything that YouTube actually needs.

The PRS have a different take on this, of course. They claim to be outraged on behalf of both artists and consumers that Google/YouTube have taken the drastic step of shutting down official access to music videos in the UK.  Personally I find this quite unbelievable, since all they would need to do to permit the consumers to see these videos is set out exactly what rights they’re selling, and agree a reasonable price, rather than pulling a number out of the air, for an undisclosed package of rights and expecting it to be paid without question.

As we ponder all this, let’s think back to Jan 2008, when the MCPS/PRS forced Pandora, an online radio site that is nothing to do with Microsoft, to shut down UK operation. Pandora said they couldn’t operate sustainably if they had to pay the fees demanded of them. Do these sound like instances of the PRS looking after the rights of consumers and the artists they represent, or is it more like the stifling of new technologies and ways of consuming music, and why can’t the PRS specify what they’re actually bringing to the table in a deal this important?

What is sure is that while the content that’s being wrangled over is unavailable through more legitimate channels, the consumers will be looking elsewhere for their entertainment, to sites like the Pirate Bay to direct them to torrents that generate zero revenue for the artists concerned.

A lot of people are losing revenue and losing their jobs as the whole geography of the music industry, and the entertainment industry at large is gripped in the seismic change the internet is facilitating, and you can’t blame groups like the PRS and the big labels for trying to retain control. This said, perhaps stifling new channels like YouTube and Pandora is cutting off their nose to spite their face, and they would be better off supporting innovation, and creating new ways to generate revenue and help people enjoy the great music that their artists are creating.youtubelogo

45,000 People Downloaded The New u2 Album via Torrent Sites in 2 Weeks

Music Ally has reported that over 445,000 people illegally downloaded the new U2 album. All these downloaded were alleged to happen between the 18th of February till the 3rd of March from BitTorrent sites.

The chart supplied by the company shows the spike in downloads following the album’s leak in February, apparently due to it being accidentally made available for sale on an Australian digital music store ahead of its official release on 2nd March.

The debate is always would these people have purchased the album if it wasn’t leaked on BitTorrent clients? No one can really answer that question, but I’m sure that certain sales would have happened because of this.

Overall this does make me think that the claims of the Pirate Bay in the last couple weeks that “80 percent of all their torrents are legal”, cant be true.

The Beatles will be on Rock Band coming September 9th

Harmonix has confirmed that its Beatles-themed music game will be released on 9 September this year, and will be called The Beatles: Rock Band. An official site has gone live today inviting gamers to sign up for alerts when pre-ordering begins.

It’s a big deal – the game will launch simultaneously in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other countries, and will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii.

The game will include support for guitar, bass, mic and drums, but will also offer “a limited number of new hardware offerings modeled after instruments used by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr throughout their career”.

Universal Music and YouTube Partner for New Music Vide Website

CNET and the Wall Street Journal are both reporting that Universal Music Group and YouTube are in final negotiations to create a new music videos website, with the working title of Vevo.

The site is intended to feature music videos, artist-related content and interviews. The aim of course is to bring in more high profile brands who arent necessarily interested in advertising on YouTube because of its user-generated content.

It has been mentioned by CNET that the three other major labels have all been approached to join the Vevo service. Im sure this would all work in the same way as Myspace Music in which the major labels all have an equity stake. Myspace Music has amazed me that so many independent labels have come on board with the solution, because they should realise that part of their profits are still going to the major labels. However, with Myspace Music most independent labels need to have their music on the site, so why not make some revenues in the process.