RIAA moneygrab helpful for Creative Commons Music ?

According to this interesting article at ars technica, the RIAA seems to be going after what some would consider to be their best marketing arm. From the article:

The “Performance Rights Act” has been introduced in both the House and Senate with the goal of forcing US radio stations to start paying artists whose music is played on the air. Labels are pushing hard for the idea, but radio stations could hardly be more upset.

I sincerely hope that the fee for playing RIAA music will be very high, and the paperwork exceedingly onerous. Because that just might make radio stations take a longer and harder look at alternative suppliers for recorded music. Front and center for non profit radio might very well be Creative Commons (CC) licensed music, even more so than it already is. And for profit radio stations with low profit margins might start taking a hard look at such music next.

If this takes place, low cost and easy to administer music licensing hubs might become even more attractive than they already are for many other commercial users of music. And the CC Attribution license might become more attractive for artists to get their music onto commercial over-the-air radio.

While I have deep admiration for Prof. Lessig and his justified drive for meaningful copyright reform, I also often wonder, what would happen if we all just let the dinosaurs legislate themselves into oblivion.

Maybe a hint of things to come: CBC, the Canadian public broadcaster is frequently (increasingly?) using CC licensed music in their programs (and announce that fact clearly) not only in their web offerings and the progressive CBC 3 channel, but also on their primary CBC 1 radio channel, which has excellent reach across the country (and beyond).

BeatPick.com – music label and licensing hub

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m very fond of Magnatune as a model of a music label, which attempts to treat both artists and music consumers with courtesy and fairness. There’s another label with a similar premise: BeatPick. The “information” section on their site explains what they are trying to achieve.

While there are some similarities including use of Creative Commons licenses, the ability to sell DRM free music to consumers as well as making commercial licensing rather easy, there are also quite a few differences between the two, from their historic origins to how they are marketed.

Suffice to say, that I believe that it’s good for everyone to have a larger ecosystem of companies and consumers who provide positive alternatives to the traditional music industry.

Creative Commons License Compatibility

I just happened to be exposed to the question of creative commons license compatibility in a couple of different contexts. It isn’t entirely trivial, but anyone who has done meaningful research into licensing will know, that overall copyright law and resulting licensing requirements are complex, tedious and mostly still highly jurisdictional (country by country differences), to say the least.

The Creative Commons licensing approach has been of immeasurable help to give non-lawyers a fighting chance to share and license some of their works without having to give up all ownership control over those works. Another huge benefit of standardizing some licenses, is the possibility to create derivative works, remixes and mashups, which would be otherwise entirely impractical, because every derived work author would have to contact and strike individual deals with every individual owner (or license management organization) of a previous generation work, which has been used to create the new work.

However the Creative Commons licensing approach deals (at least so far) only with non commercial licensing. This is still a very big deal, because it allows sharing, dissemination, remixing in non-commercial contexts.

But still, not all creative commons licenses are compatible – simply speaking that is, because the owners of the works using the licenses have different objectives in mind. Wishing that away is in my opinion a bit naive or a bit too militant, so I’m not one to advocate total uniformity in licensing. That would be as bad as total uniformity in languages, dress, operating systems, search engines or blogs 🙂

So for those who are remixing, deriving and mashing up like I do, generally with creative commons licensed materials, here is a key page you will want to bookmark: A creativecommons.org blog entry pointing to two CC license compatibility charts. One is an interactive tool from the CC in Taiwan, the other is a text link to a chart in the creative commons FAQ.

Music licensing made easier – Pump Audio

Pump Audio provides online music licensing. They’ve just been acquired by Getty Images, a big player in the digital stock photography licensing business. From their about page: “Founded in 2001, Pump Audio is a new kind of agent for independent musicians, digitally connecting them with buyers in the mainstream media. With Pump Audio, artists can license their music into productions without giving up any ownership, while TV and advertising producers can discover new music ready for use.”

While the ability to make money with music sales to the listening public may very well be shrinking rapidly, the possibility to make money through music licensing for television advertising may continue to exist for a while longer. However, it will be interesting to observe, if good music will soon be licensed even for such purposes for free. Will music makers in the ever increasing competition for exposure start giving away their work for free even for commercial purposes? If most of the money is being made through live performances, then arguably everything else becomes valuable advertising for one’s live performance.

licensing your work to upload sites

When uploading your work to sites, you may want to have a good look at what you are agreeing to. Different websites have very different licensing agreements. Some websites only ask you to agree to a license to host and display you material while you are keeping it in your user controlled area. They will stop hosting and displaying your material when you decide to delete it from your user area. That seems sensible and fair.

However, there are other sites, where you have to give them a much broader license. One that may give them the right to re-distribute your songs forever, maybe even charge for it, or to create derivative works, even long after you deleted your song from their site. This may be ok for you, but I would not be happy if someone created a ringtone from one of my songs, and started to make lots of money from it without giving me anything.

One such example of a very broad license is at mp3.com, which used to be a very cool site for musicians to host their songs, but has changed ownership and now is something very different. The site now belongs to a publisher of many paper based and web based publications, called CNET.

From the terms and conditions at mp3.com: CNET Networks – Editorial – Site Terms of Use: “You hereby grant us, our affiliates, and our partners a worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free, nonexclusive, sublicensable license to use, reproduce, create derivative works of, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, transfer, transmit, distribute, and publish Your Content and subsequent versions of Your Content for the purposes of (i) displaying Your Content on our sites, (ii) distributing Your Content, either electronically or via other media, to users seeking to download or otherwise acquire it, and/or (iii) storing Your Content in a remote database accessible by end users, for a charge. This license shall apply to the distribution and the storage of Your Content in any form, medium, or technology now known or later developed.”

I generally do not like to upload any of my original work to sites like that. In any case, as original artist, always try to make sure to read and understand not only how the site licenses materials to you, but also how you license your material to them.

Rumblefish Song Licensing

UPDATE 2018-05-22: Looks like they changed business model, so the info below is no longer accurate.

Original post:
Rumblefish is a one-stop (song writing and mechanical) music licensing agency alternative to some of the traditional country specific agencies. To get signed up as an artist is free, however they do select whom they want to represent. From their artist membership page: “Consider licensing your music through Rumblefish. We offer a non-exclusive agreement that you can opt-out of if necessary. We will not be your promoter, manager, agent or publisher, but we will license your music into projects like TV and film, videogames, commercials, and an incredible variety of creative marketing and branding campaigns. And we will share the license fees equally with you.”

Does the word “equally” imply a 50/50 split of revenues?

To apply for inclusion, one needs to send a physical CD of one’s materials to them.

YouLicense – Online Music Licensing Marketplace

The creative commons licensing mechanism is a very efficient, and thus our favorite way of dealing with giving away selected rights for music. However, music creators, remixers, aggregators, distributors and institutional consumers everywhere still need much more efficient licensing and payment mechanisms to create modern business models for recorded music. The old models with their country specific legislation, regulations and payment mechanisms are failing the technical and commercial realities of today’s global music economy.

While a number of evolving sites and services are targeting the retail consumer market place, it is much harder to license materials for remixing, distribution, soundtracks, and institutional use.

This is where YouLicense may be able to fill a much needed role. From their “about” page: “YouLicense is an online music licensing marketplace. We have developed a platform which enables artists and those seeking musical content to conduct business directly with one another in a safe and secure environment. Our unique search engine and standardized contracts allow for a quick and easy process.”

It’s clearly still early days – as of this writing the site is still by invitation only. And to do this well is not trivial by any means. But if this effort even gets a few things right, it could become a much more efficient wholesale / institutional market place for recorded music than we have now.