Right On Cue! “Musicians Sing for a Cause That’s Their Own”

As if they felt the burning need to respond to my last post about musicians and royalties, The New York Times joined the chorus of those complaining about how darn unfair royalties are.

You can read their blurb here, but I’ll give you a couple of my favorite lines.

Marc Ribot declares that “[the creation of the Content Creators Coalition] is possible now because musicians and artists are fed up.” No mention of listeners being fed-up with tyrannical companies and organizations that treat them like criminals even when they aren’t breaking any laws.

Blake Morgan shares this original trinket of thought: “The U.S. has the distinction of standing on a very short list of countries — including awesome ones like Iran, North Korea and Rwanda — in this particular policy.”

With a straight face, John McCrea says, “It’s not about Spotify. It’s about what’s coming in five years if we don’t have a collective voice.”

Mega-star David Byrne warns that “the Internet will suck all the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left.” I almost feel bad for joking about it.

So, there you have it. If you don’t start emptying your pockets for musicians then all creativity may come to a screeching halt in five years. And worse.

Just for kicks, what if we applied the same standard to everyone in the name of fairness? If a mechanic repairs your car should he continue to receive royalties every time you drive the car? After all, without his work you wouldn’t be able to drive it. If you buy a sculpture for your home should you continue to pay royalties to the artist every time you look at it? What makes musicians so special that they should be able to make money in perpetuity for work that was done one time? It doesn’t make sense.

I would also like to know how much writers are paid for music sales. How is the money divided between the artist, the writer, the record company, etc.? The argument is that music played on broadcast radio only pays royalties to the writer of the music and not the performer. So how much of the cut goes to the writer for concerts performed? There is a very simple solution, which none of these genius musicians ever mention: If you would write your own songs this wouldn’t be an issue.

I’m all for people earning money and being able to keep it; however, when they treat you and I like criminals and then complain about how unfair it is that they aren’t being fairly compensated, I think it’s worth at least mentioning that David Byrnes is worth $40 million and Mike Mills is worth $245 million. Is this close to your net worth? Do you think you should continue to pay them over and over for work only performed once? If this isn’t a good reason to bring up the issue of intellectual property then what is?

As I mentioned before, this is a complicated issue and these people are not giving it the respect it deserves. There are lots of things to read, but for fun try watching some of these videos.

Thanks to Drepa Rugl for encouraging me to look for some new ideas about intellectual property. There are multiple good arguments on several sides of the issue. Honest debate can only help.


  1. Drepa Rugl   •  

    So then, let’s debate this!

    I feel strongly that IP is really another tool of the state. When seen from the simple perspective of property rights, IP becomes everything but property and ends up as a way for someone else to control my property and property rights.

    Artists of all kinds need to be paid for the product of their labor. That doesn’t mean they should be paid over and over again. Many book authors already know this, as they find that publishing companies pull in the lion share of all sales. So authors find themselves making time for speaking engagements, live readings, and, of course, follow up books.

    There are a few industries that do not have IP at all, and they do more than fine. Jeffrey Tucker spoke once of the fashion industry’s lack of IP. This is a billion dollar industry that is extremely competitive and is constantly changing. It also seems strange that you can find the same high-end style at Walmart (for pennies on the dolllar) a few months after the article of clothing came out for hundreds of dollars. This is another benefit for consumers, and the creators of these fashions are multimillion dollar entities – so they’re not hurting.

    Great post, Brad!

  2. NevadaBrad   •     Author

    People should realize the scam when they buy music or movies that can only be used in a very limited way. I’ve been concerned about the move to procure other items digitally, such as books. When you “purchase” a book from Google’s store, it comes with the following notice: “You may not lend or co-own any of your Books on Google Play purchases with another person.” So, what did I buy? At least Amazon has a mechanism for loaning and borrowing, sort of like a private library.

    These “artists” love to talk about how Aretha Franklin was never paid anything for performing “Respect” since she didn’t write it. Yet, according to CelebrityNetWorth.com, she is worth $60 million. Congratulations to her, but I fail to understand how they think they are somehow being cheated of their fair share. It feels like they aren’t only demanding to be paid for IP, but multiple times for the same thing.

    I’m still struggling to formulate an opinion on this. Your point about the fashion industry is a good one, though.


  3. Drepa Rugl   •  

    The solution to their “not paid enough” issue is contract negotiation. The complaint that an artist didn’t get paid enough for some chart topper is testimony to poor agent representation, poor negotiating skills, or 20/20 hindsight (I should’ve asked for more than that!) – all of which are pathetic excuses that the consumer need not pay for.

    When it comes to digital books, the only way I like to go is .pdf or Gutenberg.org. Both of which are free an easy to use, share and pass on to others for free.

    Speaking of which, Gutenberg.org is on the side of increasing the dissemination of knowledge through shortening or killing the copyright restriction outright.

    With many digital media, what is sold is a glorified rental contract. This is wrong and should not be, but that is what they are peddling. I like physical books. Then I at least have physical property to hold onto.

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