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Rock stars rolling towards independence

By imrdkl in News
Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:36:06 PM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)

Late last month the Recording Artists Coalition put on a fundraiser to benefit Artists Rights. There were a number of prominent rock groups and artists there, each one of them expressing their desire to be recognized as "intelligent people", as well as rock stars.

The RAC represents the economic and creative interests of the members. In the past, RAC members have successfully testified before congress to repeal "work for hire" legislation. Currently, the Coalition is working on several other fronts, including standard contracts, and of course, digital rights compensation.

While all of this is great for the artists, they still seem to be somewhat cowed by the RIAA. In fact, the IHT reports that no hip-hop or R&B acts took part in any of the four benefits, and that only Don Henley and Billy Joel spoke directly of the artists' rights movement, during the show. Additionally, most artists were careful to emphasize that they were "participating in the concerts and coalition, but it did not mean that they wanted to see the major label system crumble".

When will musicians realize that they hold the cards in this game, and if they'd only take control of their own creations, we'd happily buy direct?


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Rock and Roll
o all night! 20%
o sure helped me through 20%
o aint noise pollution 17%
o band (everybody's waiting) 7%
o never forgets 2%
o high school 30%

Votes: 39
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Rock stars rolling towards independence | 32 comments (30 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Indie (1.88 / 9) (#3)
by ChiefHoser on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 08:56:20 AM EST

The only good music is indie music. Factory music (read Backstreet boys, Brittney, etc.) is crap and is killing the youth of the world with their conformist dribble.

And we all know that the best indie music is Canadian indie music right?

Chief of the Hosers
take off (none / 0) (#8)
by gauze on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 11:39:40 AM EST

"And we all know that the best indie music is Canadian indie music right?"

actually, no. since you brought it up.

There's nothing wrong with a PC that a little UNIX won't cure.
[ Parent ]
What is indie ? (none / 0) (#17)
by Merkin on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 05:34:49 PM EST

The only problem with this it the definition of indie music.

I am not sure of your definition of it so I am not going to make any assumptions but I'm sure you know what I mean.

Indie used to mean that the artist was signed to an independent label, free from the uninspired, scared to do anything different, constraints of the big 6 (it was 6 then, before the last few years of mergers).

Now it seems that indie music means whatever major labels tell us it means. How are Alien Ant Farm different from Britney other than the fact they they play instruments ? They look hand picked to be the "heavy" band to go on the cover of whatever crappy teen magazine the majors want to advertise in.

There is nothing indie about it, then look at all the korn / Limp Bizkit clones, it's like head of A&R somewhere goes "well, they have one of those bands", go out and get us one too.". Actually, it's not almost like that, it is like that.

OK, I'm ranting now....I'll stop.

Learn to Improvise

[ Parent ]

Re: What is indie ? (none / 0) (#20)
by elemental on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 07:07:33 PM EST

Indie used to mean that the artist was signed to an independent label

Still does. As a descriptive term, it's pretty straightforward. Indie == independant == not under contract with a major label. I've never heard anyone refer to Korn or any of that other mainstream rock as indie (good thing, too).

On the other hand, look what happened to the term alternative about ten years ago.

I love my country but I fear my government.
--> Contact info on my web site --

[ Parent ]
Indie (none / 0) (#31)
by ChiefHoser on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 03:19:45 PM EST

Indie music is mostly the fact that the band/person is signed to a independent label (or unsigned completely). But it can also take to meaning the type of music. For a lot of people Sonic Youth (signed to a major label but can't remember which one) is an indie band but to some they aren't. But there are also some "independent" labels that are distributed by one of the big record companies so that throws off the definition again.

I think that indie music is mostly the fact that the band is true to the music and not to making money. Now a band can stay true to the music while being on a major label, but these types of band are VERY few and far between.

Chief of the Hosers
[ Parent ]
Actually, it's 2nd best (none / 0) (#29)
by davidmb on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 06:27:13 AM EST

But then I'm British, so I know where the best indie is really made...
[ Parent ]
A few points... (4.25 / 4) (#4)
by enry on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:11:18 AM EST

First, the events occurred while the Grammys were going on. Given that these concerts are going on at the same time as the mutual masturbation that is the Grammys, this is a big thing.

Second, Don Henley and Billy Joel were the two biggest people that I recognized from the list of performers. Given that I don't think the RIAA members are going to quit avertising BJ or Eagles CDs, they have the ability to sit back and let the money roll in and criticize the way they got their money. The other performers that participated would probably be hurt in some way if they were more vocal.

Good point (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by imrdkl on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:32:16 AM EST

as I said, they seem cowed by the RIAA. The IHT article even mentions that there has been another organization started up, just to discredit the RAC. Scary stuff, I suppose, for the artists who want to speak up. I thought it was kind of cool, tho, that the rock and rollers were the ones to show up.

[ Parent ]
Cards (5.00 / 6) (#6)
by Woundweavr on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:51:32 AM EST

The musicians have the cards yeah. But the MPAA has the casino, table, chips and dealers. A massive strike might do something but do you think Pink, Destinys Child, Eminem and Dave Matthews band are going to put their livelihoods in jeopardy? Some of the older performers (Billy Joel for one) and some of the more indie mainstreamers (Radiohead) might be willing, but the industry would be able to take such a loss. Any of the current teenyboppers and most rap and R&B groups can be replaced on a days notice. They don't write their own lyrics, their voices are enhanced, and they have all the promotion in the world behind them. There are alot of people who can carry a tune, dance a little and look good. Older bands (Aerosmith, Madonna) are scared that they need the promotions to stay afloat. Many of these bands would be washed up in a year or two without major label support. Has anyone heard what Prince is doing lately?

The only way it'll change is if the "work for hire" classification is lifted from musical recordings.

Yea, I guess that pretty much sums it up (none / 0) (#13)
by imrdkl on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:41:07 PM EST

I had hoped for some more discussion on this thread, especially w.r.t. artists selling their own music (I know many do, but it hasn't hit the mainstream yet). With a little bit of organization and the explicit rights in their contracts to resell digitally (retention of digital copyright), perhaps they could find a way to take some of the power back?

[ Parent ]
My take as a pro musician (none / 0) (#14)
by lb008d on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 03:44:58 PM EST

When will musicians realize that they hold the cards in this game...

Actually, a lot of musicians do realize this - the result of which was the formation of the Musicians' Union, one of the largest unions in the world. I am a member of the AFM and I perform professionally with the Spokane Symphony.

A lot of the discussion regarding the distribution and piracy of recorded music here has made me come to the only solution to this problem: professional musicians must band together and stop recording music. Now, before you get in a huff about this, let me explain why only such a drastic measure will put the control back in musicians' hands.

It's no secret that up until this century the only way for music to be heard was through a live performance of some kind - either self-performed or at a conert. That was it. The net result of this was that musicians could be fully compensated for what they did (whether or not they were is a completely different issue). Now that performing musicians have the ability to be paid fairly for their work, through the contracts and legal support provided by the union, banding together to halt recordings can actually work.

Any of the current teenyboppers and most rap and R&B groups can be replaced on a days notice

That actually is a good thing, since those musicians who I would expect to implement and support a recording ban would be those most difficult to replace - orchestral musicians, studio musicians, jazz performers, and other musicians with real talent. If Joe S. can only buy mass-marketed music, perhaps he'll begin to see why he needs to attend a live performance to hear something worthwhile.

Note that I also do not support the internet as a means for musicians to distribute their music. Why? Because for the simple fact that as soon as a musician is recorded, the potential for them to lose control of their work exists. The advent of digital recordings and the ability to make 100% exact copies only exacerbates this problem. Also I know copy control can't remedy this because eventually all copy protection will be broken. That is a simple fact of digital information.

The upside of live-only music will be a re-enrichment of the role of music in our society. The connection between audience and performer will be re-forged, and the best music ever created by mankind will be the end result. If the current state of the industry further devolves, I imagine a bleak future filled with no-talent amateurs marketed to the lowest-common denominator listener, and no place whatsoever for the talented, trained professional. That is not a future I want to be part of.

[ Parent ]

Past Recording Ban (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by Woundweavr on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 04:51:54 PM EST

It didn't work before. The AFM from 1942-1944 had a recording ban. Then it was over playing records on the radio, royalties and an unemployment fund for musicians. Instead of going back to live performances, people listened to old recordings. In fact, it was a big reason that modern 'pop' music cained control over jazz, since people like Sinatra sang a cappella and gained popularity.

Wishing we could be back to pre-recording of music might be a nice pipedream, but thats all it is. I know and you know that live music is superior. However, its basically the choice between listening to the occassional band or having 1000s of songs on demand. Add that jazz and classical musicians record their music and depend on it almost as much as manufactured music and the plan becomes impossible. Also, without recording, music can not be experienced so widely. Any genre who refuses to record is signing its own death warrant.

[ Parent ]

Good points (none / 0) (#16)
by lb008d on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 05:12:07 PM EST

I was not aware of the AFM ban.

However, the majority of professional musicians do not make much income from recordings - they make their livings through live performances and teaching.

As for genres that refuse to record - people will play and listen to music they love whether or not it is recorded, and will continue to do so indefinitely. I would say that music's wide availabilty has devalued the art itself over the last century.

[ Parent ]
I'd hazard the opposite action might work better (none / 0) (#22)
by Wah on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 07:14:40 PM EST

if the idea is to get people to buy music. Release everything digitally. Crap tracks, mussed recordings, live shows. Put it all out there, and name it the same. Some people will put up with the crap and download what they want. Others will quit the hassle, make a strong economic choice, save the time, and buy the music.

You won't get people to ever give up recorded music, but you can keep them paying for it.
Choas and order, flowing down the drain of time. Ain't it purdy? | SSP
[ Parent ]

A quick question or two (none / 0) (#24)
by andrewm on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 07:22:06 PM EST

It's no secret that up until this century the only way for music to be heard was through a live performance of some kind
How much will you charge to sing to me on demand, any time of the day or night, at home, in my car, out walking, etc, etc?

In other words: live performers are somewhat lacking in convienence and portability. Even if they have legs, there just aren't that many people who want to follow me around singing. Dunno why that is.. But getting a CD player to follow me around is really easy.

let me explain why only such a drastic measure will put the control back in musicians' hands.
Ah, control should be in the hands of the musician, not the listener? And yes, only 'allowing' live performances will prevent me from choosing what I want to listen to and when I want to listen to it. Even the RIAA gives me more control than your proposal would - at least they'll allow me to play a CD both at home and in the car (well, for now, anyway.) Oh, you already have lots of control over what you write - it's called 'copyright' and unless you voluntarily sign your ownership of your work away, it's still owned by you. If the Evil Empire(TM) won't distribute it unless you sign a contract, well, you have to choose how much you value their distributing it, compared to how much you hate the contract.
The upside of live-only music will be a re-enrichment of the role of music in our society. The connection between audience and performer will be re-forged, and the best music ever created by mankind will be the end result.
Can we say 'elitist'? I thought we could. (I don't care if you don't like particular music - if I like it, I'll listen to it.)

[ Parent ]
live music (none / 0) (#27)
by mikelist on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 11:42:46 PM EST

The problem is that there is another party involved with what once was an experience for the musicians and the listeners(or dancers or whatever). The recording industry is technologically irrelevant, yet it continues to generate tremendous amounts of money for itself. What the guy was saying was more like, quit recording through industry facilities. Home recording is more possible than ever before and the sound quality can easily be better than people expect from a radio. Self promotion is a distinct possibility using web sites, and for most musicians, live performances are where most of the money is. If you play good music, record it, make a site, let 'em download low sample rate recordings for free, and sell downloads of better quality formats, or hawk CDs directly off the page. If you are as good as you think, you'll sell a few, see a lot of the freebies downloaded, and demand for live performances increase, and that's where the real money comes in. If a musician really believes he deserves a millionare/billionaire lifestyle just for playing music on a couple of albums, he probably also thinks he plays better on drugs.

[ Parent ]
How shortsighted are thee... (none / 0) (#25)
by catharsis on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 07:38:03 PM EST

...let me count the ways.

First up, let me make the rather unfounded assumption that the majority of a symphony musician's money comes from salary, not recording royalties. If this is the case, then it makes some sense that you would advocate avoiding an activity from which you receive little return. If it's not the case, you're even more shortsighted than I think you are.

So. Let's assume for the moment that you can only give away recorded music; that due to rampant copying of perfect recordings and the inherent greed and lack of scruples of all mankind, you will never sell a single copy of a recording. You'd still be insane not to do it.

The fact is, assuming that you're even remotely talented, people who listen to your music will always prefer hearing you live to listening to the recording. There are also people who will pay a fair amount to see a live performance who would probably never bother to buy a recording by the same artist. In this case, your recordings act as advertising, and grow the size of your audience. Bigger audience, more people come to hear you play, you make more money. Even in the worst case scenario you come out ahead.

Okay, keeping in mind that everything above remains true, let's get a little more realistic and say that some people will pay for a recording even if they can get that recording for free (I do, so there is at least one of us). Let's further assume that you're reasonably intelligent and a distribution medium which costs you relatively little is one you'd use. Therefore, you make your music available online.

Because it's not too hard for people to make perfect copies, you'll want to be setting the cost per download at a reasonably low level. What is that? Depends on your audience. Let's say you set it high enough that in a group of friends, only one person buys your recording and then shares it with everyone else in their circle. Unless your audience is prohibitively small to begin with, you'll still make more money than if you hadn't recorded. Now you've made money from recording two different ways.

I could actually go on like this for quite some time, but the point is that the "I won't record because of those thieving pirates" attitude is a knee jerk response. In the internet age, it may very well be true that being a popular recording artist no longer means you can create one hit and live off of the proceeds for the rest of your life. You know something? That's a good thing. Besides, the average musician is more likely to hit the lottery than have that happen, so what the hell do you care?

Additionally, despite what Hillary Rosen and Michael Eisner would have you believe, copyright law in the United States has never given the copyright holder total control over his work. Ever. As a matter of fact, a little reading of some history will show you that copyright came within a hair's breadth of being explicitly outlawed in the Constitution (it turns out to be a good thing that didn't happen; the "no copyright" thing was tried after the French Revolution, and it was a disaster).

Basically it comes down to this: if you record, yes, someone will hear your music without paying for it. Get over it. Even if you don't become a millionaire (and if you're thinking that being a musician somehow entitles you to that, you're already in fantasy land) you'll make more money by recording than not unless your audience is so small that it doesn't matter anyway.

[ Parent ]

InTune (2.66 / 3) (#7)
by Smirks on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 11:13:42 AM EST

This is totally off-topic, but could you post this story to InTune?

[ Music Rules ]
please feel free to repost this story yourself (none / 0) (#9)
by imrdkl on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 12:17:10 PM EST

I dont have an account there.

[ Parent ]
Make one (none / 0) (#10)
by Smirks on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 12:23:30 PM EST

If you like music and discussing music, then you'll enjoy that site. I'm not going to repost your story for you. I just feel this story will generate more discussion there.

[ Music Rules ]
[ Parent ]
Fund-raiser (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by Delirium on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 12:58:06 PM EST

I find the idea a little backwards. These are rock stars who, despite their whining about being screwed over by the music industry, are nonetheless millionaires (for the most part). Yet they want me to support their cause - I'm supposed to pay $50 for a concert that's raising money for what's essentially a lobbying group to get them more favorable contracts. Don't you think they could donate some of the money themselves? They certainly have more of it than I (or most of their fans) do...

you don't understand.. (none / 0) (#21)
by andrewm on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 07:08:37 PM EST

..how hard it is for them. If you wanted, you could just become a multimillionaire overnight, but it's virtually impossible for a multimillionaire to give away all that money.

Well, something like that, anyway. I may have gotten the two a little mixed up.

Still, it amuses me that the RIAA is always going on about the poor starving artists they're defending, so this isn't entirely without merit. :)

[ Parent ]

That's rich (3.75 / 4) (#12)
by quartz on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 01:36:00 PM EST

each one of them expressing their desire to be recognized as "intelligent people"

How cute. "We sure don't act intelligent, so let's all explicitly demand to be recognized as such. Yeah, that should work." 'Cos everyone knows that you don't actually have to be intelligent, you only have to convince a large enough number of people to say you are. Poof! Instant intelligence.

Gotta love entertainers.

Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
The noose is 'distribution'. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by rebelcool on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 06:48:57 PM EST

It's good the artists stand up against the RIAA machine. Unfortunately the RIAA's members are the only (current) way for artists to get their music to the general public.

They rely on the distribution machine of those companies to publish, print and truck the discs to your local record store.

Solution? I believe a non-profit, artist-ran organization devoted to distribution is the best way.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

exactly (none / 0) (#28)
by imrdkl on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 04:16:13 AM EST

but distribution is no longer a noose. That's the whole point. Electronic purchases have the potential to outpace and eventually crush CD. And it doesn't take a marketing behemoth to sell electronically, just a name, and a common location.

[ Parent ]
theres just something about owning a CD... (none / 0) (#30)
by rebelcool on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 10:25:06 AM EST

I dont know. I prefer CDs to mp3, really. The sound quality, the physicality of it, the artwork that comes with it. It adds to the flavor of the music.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Artists and I mean Artists (none / 0) (#19)
by VoxLobster on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 07:03:13 PM EST

the IHT reports that no hip-hop or R&B acts took part in any of the four benefits

Not very surprising, considering that these people really aren't artists. To be an artist, you create some volume of artistic work.

"One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts."

L8r kids

Your friendly neighbourhood VoxLobster

I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar

ah dont be so generalizing. (none / 0) (#23)
by rebelcool on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 07:16:25 PM EST

I can think of plenty r&b and hip hop acts that are quite talented. None of them are well-known or get radio play. If you want really good hip-hop, find anything with Del the funky homosapien in it and Dan the automator.

Those you hear on the radio and on mtv are the britney spears of r&b and hip-hop - manufactured crap.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

not really generalizing (none / 0) (#26)
by VoxLobster on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:26:19 PM EST

the statement was made about R&B/Hip-Hop acts on the major labels that Artists want respect from...I thought that was implied.

Sorry if it wasn't


I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar
[ Parent ]

Rock stars (none / 0) (#32)
by stpna5 on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 03:56:35 PM EST

If you want to believe all the other music style monikers (mostly perpetrated by large record labels and their minions) and the concerts were mostly "rock artists" why is it surprising that no hip-hop or R&B people were involved? The younger crop of people who perform "that" music when it involves actual chord changes and melodies instead of only drum machines and sample loops are now dubbed "neo soul" and like jazz musicians a half century ago they didn't label themselves thusly. I realize since the era of corporate rock and the dawn of the Britney millenium it has become a slippery slope with this 'artist' term. Is 'country artist' or 'rap artist' an oxymoron? Not if you listen to Hank Williams, (Sr.-- he died at 28 in the early '50's)or De La Soul, or Kris Kristofferson or Big Daddy Kane. But certainly many a performer in pop music is only an artist in the most stretched-to-the-limits-of-language devoid of meaning in some debauched, mutant-cheerleader, mouseketeer-jailbait, pederast fantasy;viz Ms. Spears {'I'm a hooker,yes but an enterpreneur first--respect my business skills.'}Ho hum. Many years ago Marshall McLuhan wrote of the artist moving from the ivory tower to the control tower. It seems that the only artists who actually get control over their work are those who start their own recording labels like Ani DeFranco for instance.(Or their own theater, film company, gallery, publishing house.) If you don't need airplay, or exposure or a publisher or distribution you can create till the cows come home and nobody will ever hear of you or your work. There were say, 20, 30, or 40 years ago actual people at big labels and such looking for actual talent to actually develop and distribute. Not true nowadays.This is how the dumb beast oligarchy of corporate America wants it, and ideas are dangerous things to them. They are exporting this business model to other climes as fast as they can.

Rock stars rolling towards independence | 32 comments (30 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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