The music industry and its lobbyists often claim they protect the right of artists with their copyright extension plans and anti-piracy efforts. In reality, however, they tend to ignore the people who actually create the music, while making sure that a steady flow of cash goes into the pockets of the label’s bosses.
In an attempt to have their voices heard, a group of leading musicians have started their own lobby group, the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC). The group includes members such as Robbie Williams, Radiohead and Travis and aims to end the extortion-like practices of the record labels and allow artist to gain more control over their own work.
Last year, Travis experienced the aggressiveness of the labels first hand. When the band encouraged fans to share one of their songs with friends, IFPI went after a fan who posted the song on his website. The IFPI realized that it made a mistake and backed off, but it clearly shows that the labels are out of touch with reality.
Unfortunately, the example above is just the tip of the iceberg. In Europe, music industry lobbyists have managed to strike deals with Internet service providers to go after those people who download music illegally. The artists were never involved in these negotiations though, and many of them oppose the aggressive stance of the labels which turns fans into criminals.
“The digital landscape is changing fast and new deals are being struck all the time, but all too often without reference to the people who actually make the music. Just look at the recent MoU on file-sharing between labels, government and the ISPs. Artists were not involved,” Brian Message, co-manager of Radiohead said.
Similarly, Europe is currently planning to extend copyright on audio recordings from 50 to 95 years, gently pushed by music industry lobbyists of course. Again, the musicians prefer a lowering of the current copyright term to 35 years instead.
The artists feel that the record labels are using copyright on the artists’ work to their advantage, restricting free access. “It’s like taking out a mortgage on a house, paying off the mortgage and you still don’t end up owning the house,” Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien said.
Another worry for the artist is the revenue on digital sales. Quite often, the deals record labels make for selling music online are vague and the artists don’t get paid at all. Last year we already reported on one such artist who found his music on iTunes, but never received a penny. Frustrated, he decided to upload his music onto BitTorrent sites so people could download it for free.
According to Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, who’s also a member of the newly formed lobby group, this is not an isolated incident. “The music companies did a deal with Nokia recently, so they could launch phones with access to all sorts of music. We think they all received advances from Nokia, but nobody is saying who got what – and we think some of that money should go to the artists,” he said.
The newly formed lobby of top musicians hopes to set the record straight, and is demanding fair compensation for all artists. They believe musicians should have control over their own work instead of being the puppets of record label bosses. We can’t say that we blame them.