While the music industry tries to grab harder on the wet, breaking branch of its current royalty system, artists are seeking ways to strengthen their grip on their own careers. Like it or not, the music labels are losing the hold they once had. Whether the issue is deciding who pays (and how much) for song royalties, who controls album distribution, or who’s allowed to see live music, record labels, distributors, artists and fans are still trying to figure out what end of the stick they’re holding.
Most recently, the artist currently known as Prince is shaking up the music industry with news that he will release his next album, Planet Earth, for free with the July 15 issue of U.K. tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday.
In response to the giveaway, Sony BMG dropped its plans to release the album in the U.K., with a spokesperson stating, “we decided it was ridiculous to have a UK deal when two million albums are going out free with papers.” According to Reuters, the co-chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association, Paul Quirk, wittily chimed in, “The Artist formerly known as Prince should know that with behavior like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores.” It should be known, though, that he is just as likely to be called “The Artist Who Sold Out 15 Of His 21 London Performances In Mere Hours.” In fact, during the first 20 minutes when only 7 shows were on sale, the fury of phone calls and internet inquiries caused 140,000 tickets to be sold (at about $62 a pop) and several servers to crash.
Prince is hardly the first to give it away for free. The Crimea have done it, Harvey Danger has done it, and now The Format are doing it. You can now download the entire album Dog Problems until July 16 as part of “The Dog Problems 1 Year Anniversary Offer” on the band’s website, where you can also find out when they’ll be in your neck of the woods during their current North American tour. Download an album, buy a ticket.
And if you’re into free stuff, head over to The Tripwire, where you can find three free remixes of Fields., whose excellent album Everything Last Winter is fully streamable on their MySpace page. Here’s the Ewan Pearson Remix of “Song for the Fields”: Fields. – Song for the Fields [Ewan Pearson Remix] (MP3)
The Copyright Royalty Board debate continues and recent news shows that Congress seems less likely to get involved. Business Weekreports that during the House of Representatives hearing on June 28, Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez stated, “I really don’t think Congress would be the best type of vehicle to resolve this type of issue” and expressed her wish for the two parties to work things out on their own. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the debate might actually be more meaningful without the input of a group who think of the Internet(s) as a “series of tubes.”
DJ Ted Stevens Techno Remix: “A Series of Tubes”
Less than two weeks remain for any kind of resolution to occur. SoundExchange, the company that collects royalties due to the music labels, has previously offered lower rates to smaller webcasters, but the proposal was rejected for defining those small webcasters too narrowly. One possible solution might be for broadcasters to pay a share of their revenue as do the satellite stations. Hopefully, more smaller labels will get involved in the debate, since without the smaller broadcasters, many of their musicians might never see airplay. Hey, they can’t all be Interpol or Arcade Fire! Stay tuned.
As the larger labels lament declining sales, smaller labels have seen a resurgence and are gaining market share over the last few years. Perhaps it’s the current climate that has allowed others to return. Athens-based label Kindercore, who helped define indie rock with a roster that included Of Montreal, Dressy Bessy, Maserati, and I Am The World Trade Center, has risen from the dead after a disaster resulting from its former partnership with The Telegraph Company. According to founder Ryan Lewis, on the resurrected website, “This is a very different Kindercore than the one you might be used to. Time, age, experience and a three year legal battle have left their scars and changed our temperment, outlook and values.”
Seattle is no doubt like a lot of other cities in its woefully inadequate all-ages scene. Unless they sell liquor, clubs in this city are unable to provide music to the all-ages crowd for any length of time. In the past, venues like RCKNDY were able to host fresh young bands like Modest Mouse and Radiohead, but without the booze revenue, they just could not stay afloat. Underground and house parties, like those provided by Healthy Times Fun Club, have attempted to fill the void but are proving to be similarly temporary, as Atlas Clothing recently discovered. The semi-secret shows at the store’s back warehouse featured local acts like Partman Parthorse, Fall of Troy, and PWRFL Power. As the shows became popular and earned more exposure, though, the Fire Department stepped in and shut down the venue for zoning violations. In a perfect example of shooting the messenger, fans of the shows have lashed out at Eric Grandy, a music author at The Stranger, for writing about the venue and thus drawing undue attention, even though Atlas Clothing itself has actually solicited such attention in the past by posting to KEXP’s own Club Calendar, for example. Posted today in The Stranger’s Line Out music blog, Atlas Clothing has taken full responsibility and insist that they’re not ready to quit yet. Here are a few tunes for them to hum along to while they’re filing the proper paperwork:
PWRFL Power – Tomato Song (MP3) Partman Parthorse – Bang! (MP3)The Fall of Troy – Semi-Fiction (MP3)
If you have any other music news to share, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.