Friday, March 13, 2009

The Songwriters Guild of America on 360 deals and artists' rights

The whole turbulence in the music industry has been brewing for some time. I've already posted about how the music labels are moving toward 360 deals to survive, or deals in which the label gets a cut of everything that an artist does, including merchandising and tours. I've also written two posts on the UK-based Featured Artists' Coalition, which seeks to represent artist rights, as opposed to the rights of the music industry or the Internet industry (e.g., YouTube and MySpace).

In February, the Register published an interview with Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild of America. You can guess where his sympathies lie.

The major record labels are our biggest "commercial" opponents. They have wreaked havoc on the songwriting community by forcing controlled composition clauses into their artists' recording contracts. After them it would be all those companies out there that want to use our songs to sell something else (such as advertisers) and not pay us a dime.

Any time you go on a website offering free music that it has no license to use and it is selling your site visit to advertisers, you are looking at one of the "greatest commercial opponents of songwriters". I wish I could offer you a list but it would be too long to type in one sitting. Besides, didn’t Richard Nixon get in trouble for having an enemies list?

I hear a lot of talk from Google and the big online companies about their “partnerships” with the “music industry”. I find more often than not when you drill down on what that means it is deals with major labels.

And Carnes also mentioned 360 deals in passing.

Most songwriters today are independent operators. Music piracy was the death knell for the day of music publishers having staffs of songwriters. The Brill Building is still there, but the last time I visited it was to talk to the folks at Saturday Night Live. There wasn’t a songwriter in sight.

Business relationships now are with lawyers and managers. They put together the deals and venture capitalists put up the money. The deals are done to get the next big recording artist signed to a label and then everyone gets a piece of the action in some 360 deal.

Used to be you found a great singer then you looked for a great song. Now you find a great deal maker then look for someone with deep pockets.

More here.
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