Monday, February 11, 2008

With the Strike over, a New Struggle for Writers Emerges

While news that the Writers' Strike may be nearing an end by Wednesday with the most pressing issue, royalties for digital distribution being there seems to be another fight brewing between another set of writers and a familiar litigant, one whose trail of destruction is legendary.

You see, the RIAA has been trying to get a reduction in royalty rates for songwriters on digital content for quite some time, and now, they have an unlikely ally: the digital distribution networks they once sought to destroy.

Yes, Napster and the RIAA are now fighting on the same side against those greedy, greedy artists who insist on having their fair cut on the action. I mean, where do these artists and publishers get off demanding around 9 cents a song, a figure which they split 50-50 between the two. So that end up being about 45 cents of royalties for an artist on a full album, give or take a dime.

Now you might say to yourself, that sounds like an OK amount given the number of downloads some of these artists get. But then, when you compare what an artist gets on a CD against what they are getting off these predatory download royalty schemes, it becomes obvious that they are getting the raw end of the deal.

You see, while the CD may be an outmoded distribution channel, for the same content for around the same price nets the artist that made it around 2 or 3 dollars, which is certainly a fairer rate than a downloaded album. And yet, both the RIAA and a large group of digital distribution companies have the audacity to claim that the 9 cents they are paying the publishers and artists together is making them fat while the record companies are dying, nut when you look at that breakdown of what a Weird Al album makes for all the parties involved, you see that the labels(who are really the entities that the RIAA is designed to protect) are making a mint from the enterprise. And yet they still want to say that in fact, 9 cents is too much to pay the people which make the product they are selling a reality.

To me, the whole argument is ludicrous just from the breakdown alone. And as more artists see how successful they can be distributing their own work, nickel and diming the talent is going to be a very dangerous thing to do. Because if you were an artist and you had a choice between getting 4 cents per track from the distribution channels a label has set up and 45 cents on something you've set up, even if you sold a few less units, which do you think will become the more attractive option for you?

Now, I don't have enough information about the scenario that digital streaming sites(which I assume include net radio organizations) count as performance and not sales, so I cannot really comment on their arguments in this case. Perhaps one of my readers can shed a little illumination on this particular subject.


Arjan said...

the RIAA is just a criminal organization trying to make money over the backs of the artists and consumers in the name of 'protecting copyright'.

A big 'f* them' would be appropriate.

MC said...

Yeah, but unfortunately, they have both the time and the money to fight any kind of action like that.

There are stories that artists are now suing the organization to get a cut of the judgments they have received from downloaders... and they don't want to pay up.