Author Archives: Andrew

Text and Video of Presentation to Canadian Parliament

Project members Brian Fauteux and Brianne Selman recently spoke on behalf of the Cultural Capital Project to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage during the hearing “Remuneration Models for Artists in Creative Industries.” The video of the presentation is available here. Brian speaks at the 11:18 mark and questions to Brianne follow. The text of our brief is below:

 

Good afternoon,

We know that the Committee has a genuine interest in providing livelihoods to Canadian creators. The spirit of our submission is to caution that, in an industry characterized by market consolidation and an imbalance of power between artists and the big business of labels, proposals for legislation that do not address this imbalance may, in the long term, worsen the conditions for those at the bottom. Artists are not always the rights holders and legislation for rights holders does not inherently help artists.

Our submission comes from a research team that includes Dr. Brian Fauteux, Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Alberta; Brianne Selman, Scholarly Communications and Copyright Librarian at the University of Winnipeg; Dr. Andrew deWaard, PhD in Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA; and research assistants Dan Colussi and William Northlich.

This team is working on a SSHRC Insight Grant funded project titled “The Cultural Capital Project: Digital Stewardship and Sustainable Monetization for Canadian Independent Musicians” that is looking at issues of fair payment for creators, as well as ways to encourage new and creative artistic production. We aim to represent everyday users and smaller scale creators and hope to provide a diversity of position.

Everyone, of course, comes before this Committee to argue in what they perceive to be their own self interest. As great as the achievements are of any of these media industries you have heard from, their success is based on the creativity of artists who are themselves users of creative goods. Copyright creates and maintains monopolies, by creating exclusive rights that can only be exploited by the rightsholder. But from its inception, copyright law has always also included limits to those monopolies, in order to achieve a balance with the interests of the general public, and to provide access to the public good of culture and knowledge.

Copyright has been effective at building assets for powerful oligopolies. Canadian musicians and users are at the mercy of non-Canadian media and tech companies: Universal, Sony, and Warner control roughly 86% of the North American recording and publishing market; LiveNation and AEG monopolizes the live concert and ticketing business; iHeartMedia and Cumulus have acquired the majority of terrestrial radio stations; SiriusXM dictates the satellite radio market and has just purchased Pandora; and Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify have come to dominate the digital streaming media sector. There is stunning inequality among musicians and it is getting worse: the top 1% of artists account for 77% of all recorded music income, while the 10 top-selling tracks command 82% more of the market and are played almost twice as much on Top 40 radio than they were a decade ago. It is more winner-take-all in the music industries than ever before and we need to ensure that the middle class of creators have the means to earn a living.

Massive profits are being made in the media landscape, little of which makes its way to artists and performers – a recent Citigroup report found that the U.S. music industry generated $43 billion last year, but artists received only 12%. Much artist revenue has to be sustained by aggressive touring, an option only open to a few and one that is difficult given Canada’s vast geographical area. This market consolidation, combined with vertical integration (where tour promoters are owned by radio stations are owned by record labels) makes it harder for both creators and users to be exposed to diverse, vibrant, and remunerated cultural goods. We wonder, then, what other artist protection provisions might exist and be of benefit to Canadian creators? Like the EU, which is pushing back against the American tech oligopoly with fines and legislation, it is worth considering antitrust solutions that challenge this market domination, or at the very least, maintains space for new entrants into the market. We support recommendations that aim to enable creators to have more control over their creations and their profits.

We recognize that the many industry representatives are in favour of a copyright term extension from author’s life plus-50 to 70 years. We support efforts to make the lives of working musicians more financially viable. However, we caution against having this term extension dominate the narrative of this review and we would encourage a careful consideration of rights reversions as a way to mitigate the ill effects of extension. Recently, Bryan Adams argued for rights reversions with the ability of creators to reclaim ownership of creations 25 years after they have been given away. This suggestion is one that does offer some balance to the historically imbalanced relationship between artists and record labels, where creators are often pressured to sign away their rights for life. Term extensions, however, do not hold up to scrutiny in cultural economic theory – most of the commercial value of a sound recording is extracted in the first 10 years, so a 70 years after death term provides no real additional incentive. Furthermore, it prevents a more vital public sphere to the benefit of major record labels, who get to further exploit an artist’s work after their death. Indeed, studies show that older works in the public domain enjoy greater commercialization than similar titles with restricted rights. Key to creators being able to exercise these rights – and others already granted by the Copyright Act – is clarification that these rights cannot be contracted away. Record labels, publishers, and platforms should not be able to add contractual stipulations that override things like creators’ moral rights, or a hypothetical reversion right.

We agree that public funding is and always has been crucial for independent Canadian creators, but we are extremely wary of this burden falling on users in the form of a smartphone tax. The variety of uses for these devices are numerous, and the vast majority of these uses are going to be for necessary connectivity, not piracy related activities at all.

Copyright reform should not place unnecessary limits on user and artist freedom in an effort to remedy the financial issues that have come from an imbalance of power in the media industries. Instead, we encourage efforts to provide artists with higher payout rates via streaming and online music services. We caution against the technological optimism shown in the recent EU copyright changes, which encourages the enforcement of copyright law by technological algorithm, which is an incredibly blunt instrument to apply to the general public. The additional costs of overly aggressive regimes of copyright enforcement provide ever greater barriers and costs for new entrants into the market. The recent example of Sony trying to require takedown of all recordings of Bach is a good one for showing how expanding notice-and-notice into a regime where companies can unilaterally request takedown of content could have a significant harmful effect on the public. Small creators would unfairly feel the burden of this blunt style of regulation. When it comes to designing a balanced copyright system, there is no need to use a hammer, when we can cut like a knife.

We wish to end by restating that a concentration of power creates power imbalances that require solutions that extend beyond those that benefit the rightsholder. We sincerely thank the Committee for taking the time to hear us today.

SSHRC Insight Grant 2018

“The Cultural Capital Project: Digital Stewardship and Sustainable Monetization for Canadian Independent Musicians” has been awarded an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a two-year research study. The current team is Brian Fauteux (University of Alberta), Brianne Selman (University of Winnipeg), Ian Dahlman (Canadian Heritage) and Andrew deWaard (University of California, Los Angeles).

Future of Music Summit 2013 in Washington, DC

CultCap was pleased to attend the Future of Music Coalition’s annual summit in Washington, DC this past week. A non-profit formed to advocate, educate and research on behalf of musicians in the digital age, the FMC “works to ensure a diverse musical culture where artists flourish.” They certainly lived up to their mandate this week; FMC did a superb job of organizing two days of enlightened presentations and vibrant discussions among a diverse group of industry professionals, advocates, politicians, musicians, and students.

The summit kicked off with a presentation by Jean Cook, the Director of Programs at FMC, summarizing the findings of a detailed survey on the many different avenues of artist compensation in the digital age. It was particularly noteworthy how much non-musical revenue streams (i.e. teaching, selling merchandise) account for an artist’s overall income. This statistic raises an important question about labour: What are the additional tasks or skill sets enable an artist to be financially sound in the contemporary music industries and should we require this additional labour from artists?

FMC-revenues

Revenue streams were a recurring theme throughout the conference, particularly the controversy over the negligible amounts of compensation artists receive for streaming music. Spotify has received a lot of negative press lately, with popular musicians like Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, David Byrne, and the Foals all bemoaning the lack of adequate compensation. Spotify (and similar streaming services such as Rdio and MOG) received a lot of criticism at FMC as well. Eddie Schwartz, President of the Songwriters Association of Canada, relayed the per stream rate he was seeing for the artists he represents: $ 0.000035, a number so negligible it was often just rounded down to zero for his smaller, independent artists. Schwartz advocated for his association’s concept of Fair Trade Music, an initiative that strives to achieve fair and transparent compensation for musicians, similar to the broader Fair Trade movement.

FMC2013-piracyvsspotify

Melvin Gibbs – bass guitarist, composer and producer – also advocated passionately on behalf of the artist and fair compensation. “Musicians do not exist to justify a business model,” commented Gibbs, challenging the implicit commodity logic that often accompanies discussion of musician compensation. Peter Jenner – producer and manager of Sincere Management, whose clients have included Pink Floyd – provided a historical perspective, reminding the audience that intermediaries have been problematic in the music industry for at least 40 years, and this wasn’t necessarily an issue of old or new industries. The desire and need to shift power and agency to artists is an ongoing concern. Adding a bit of levity to the proceedings, Jenner also recommended that the audience stop being so “precious”: not all musicians will be successful and get paid. Music won’t move beyond a hobby for many artists and that is the historical norm.

While concerns over the uncertainty of new musical platforms were common, an alternative perspective on the newfound possibilities and opportunities in the digital age were another recurrent theme throughout the conference. David Macias – president of Thirty Tigers, a music label that works to return the vast majority of royalties back to its clients – talked about the success their business strategy was achieving for their musicians. His stance on the streaming services debate was more conciliatory, and claimed a much higher rate per stream than Eddie Schwartz had reported earlier, raising an important distinction in the streaming music service royalty debate: there are huge discrepancies among the negotiated rights for artists. Retaining your own publishing rights as an artist is a key strategy in the digital realm, one shared by Emily White, the co-founder of Whitesmith Entertainment, Readymade Records & Dreamfuel.Me. White stressed the importance of Brendan Benson (co-founder of Readymade) retaining the rights to his most recent music, which has resulted in a much more significant percentage of the royalties compared to his earlier work with a big label. The labour and difficulty involved in running your own label and controlling your own rights can be high, but so too are the possible returns.

Connecting more directly with fans and forming a more intimate community with one’s fanbase was another recurrent theme at FMC, an opportunity amplified for smaller musicians by new technologies. Crista Kende, the performing arts specialist for Indiegogo, spoke about crowdfunding platforms not just as interfaces to raise money, but rich opportunities to build a community and engage with your fans in a less commercial manner. Crowdfunded artists are not just selling a product, but participating in a more personal relationship built on direct communication. The final panel of the conference featuring a variety of musicians also reflected on this opportunity for technology-facilitated community, with the advantages (and some disadvantages) of social media being touted as a significant development for new and smaller artists. Simply connecting with fans across the merch table while on tour is something that the musicians also touted.

Here at the Cultural Capital Project, we believe that the artist-fan connection must be a key part of the equation for monetizing digital music. This relationship should not be controlled by intermediaries; rather, artists are the ones who must wield power in the digital music economy, determining their own relationships with intermediaries. There are exciting opportunities for establishing and sustaining a more direct artist-fan connection, in how fans share their favourite artists’ music, but more importantly, in how they compensate artists for their creativity. As a dynamic community of musicians, labels, producers, writers, and fans advances the discourses and debates surrounding how digital music industries might operate, we will continue to advocate for artists’ rights, equitable compensation, and a fan’s capacity to share culture and music. We’re glad that the conference provided us with the opportunity to hear so many bright, innovative ideas, and to have made some new allies and colleagues to help us move forward.

Publication in IASMP@Journal – “The Cultural Capital Project: Radical Monetization of the Music Industry”

Dahlman, Ian, Andrew deWaard, and Brian Fauteux. “The Cultural Capital Project: Radical Monetization of the Music Industry.” IASPM@Journal 3.1 (2013).

Abstract: The fundamental flaw of previous attempts to monetize digital music has been the industry’s insistence on treating music solely as a commodity. The digital revolution demands music be shared culture, and successful monetization will require music be treated as such. This article outlines the ideas behind Cultural Capital, a collaborative research project that explores the theoretical trajectories, legal ramifications and technical components involved in creating a non-profit patronage system uniting musicians and fans. Cultural Capital operates on three fronts: first, a social network of user-generated listening and sharing habits; second, opt-in tracking software that harvests the musical consumption of users, then facilitates equitable compensation to creators; third, a legal intervention aiming to provide a legitimate space for the digital consumption of music. Incorporating the multitude of individuals who propel the cultural industries, this essay argues for establishing a ‘radical monetization’ of the music industry based on connectivity and sharing.

Plenary Presentation in Gijon, Spain – June 27, 2013

The Cultural Capital Project was honoured to be invited to give a plenary presentation at this year’s annual conference for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music in Gijon, Spain. To a crowd of hundreds — by far the largest audience we have yet addressed — we outlined the technical basis and theoretical implications for our project. Discussion following the presentation raised some important issues, such as state funding possibilities, legal ramifications, and practical considerations. At the reception following and in the days ahead, we received a lot of great feedback, and based on some of the impassioned responses, we seemed to have ruffled some feathers as well. Mission accomplished!

Download a pdf of the presentation paper here, which corresponds with the powerpoint presentation embedded below. The presentation summarizes the main points of our recent publication in the IASPM@Journal, which is available here.

Some photos from the presentation:

Plenary presentation in Gijon, Spain

Plenary presentation in Gijon, Spain

Before the big presentation

Before the big presentation

From left to right: Brian Fauteux, Ian Dahlman, Andrew deWaard

From left to right: Brian Fauteux, Ian Dahlman, Andrew deWaard