Monday, November 12, 2007

Pennies from heaven

They're supposed to get paid 11 cents for every 200 trillion downloads, but they want more. Imagine that.

Probably even WalMart pays better than that.

Oh, and I couldn't resist:

I didn't cross his palm with silver either.


Anonymous said...

It would be nice if there were a way we could pay some representative an get an automatic license, so we could then get revenue from ads or whatever ourselves and not do this for free forever, while giving the producers of content their fair share.

Steve Bates said...

whig, IIRC, you're a musician, and I presume you are or have been a working musician as I once was. You know as surely as I do that Ellison is right. I can't imagine the major studios are any better than the recording industry in how they treat the producers of creative content... writers, musicians, etc. If I had five bucks for every time someone asked me to play for free or cheap, or told me it would be good publicity for me, I could retire now. Being a union member (AFM Local 65-699) moderates the worst of the abuses, but does not eliminate the apparent instinct to abuse the content creators.

I don't know about y'all, but I want a contract, and a share of any use of recordings.

(Harlan Ellison is a certifiable character. He gave a lecture when I was in college, hit on my girlfriend, and I couldn't even be angry at him because he was so entertaining, both on topic and off.)

Anonymous said...

It is not a coincidence that the only way to get what you are due from a media company is to take them to court, because they have some of the most "creative" accounting in the world. If you don't have the resources to go after them in court, your contract is meaningless, and you had better be prepared to wait years for a settlement.

I firmly believe NBC left iTunes, not because they thought they could improve their profit margin, but because iTunes was producing a standard audit trail of downloads that couldn't be fudged.

They don't want any transparency in the system. They want to change the numbers to suit themselves.

mahakal said...

Steve, I'm a programmer, and a music student. I've never made a penny for my music, not even a donation has been tossed into my hat so far.

I do get paid to write code, and I charge a lot for it if the client has deep enough pockets to afford it. I charge less to clients who can't. If I'm not writing code for hire, then I generally release my code for free if it is suitable for anyone else's use beyond my own.

Anonymous said...

That was me.

Anonymous said...

Having said that, and I disagree with Ellison's hatred of amateurs, because I are one, and I love free software too and I believe in free music too. But if you take someone else's work for profit you have to do it according to a license which compensates them fairly.

Steve Bates said...

My point exactly, whig. I have never gone for blood when playing in an orchestra accompanying a church choir in their vanity recording (though I do expect to get paid what I contracted to be paid). And as odd as it may seem to you, I once contributed some s/w I wrote as shareware, back before any of the now-standard licenses emerged. (I didn't make much money from it, but I admit it was satisfying when someone at HP registered it.)

The point is that there are people who do things for a living that others may do as amateurs, and that often enough, those who do it for a living are professional in more than just the commercial sense of the word. (Read the first chapter of the venerable F. P. Brooks's The Mythical Man-Month.) The recording industry (I don't know about the TV studios) has been undercutting its creative artists, sometimes using new media as an excuse, for my entire lifetime and longer. If the TV writers can put a stop to it in this instance, then I very much stand behind their cause.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think we're coming from different perspectives, still. Shareware and free software are really very different philosophies. And I don't think writers who are paid to write are necessarily better than writers who write for free -- and not necessarily more "professional," either, whatever that means. We're not going to agree if you think better paid musicians are always better than poorly paid or unpaid musicians, either.

I believe in the art of writing, and that is something any amateur can be as good at as any paid pro.

With that said, if you write professionally, you expect to be paid for your work, as anyone does. This strike isn't about what Harlan Ellison thinks, after all. If it was, I'd be against it. But it is about people who work for a living and expect to be paid fairly for their labor. I'm for it.

Steve Bates said...

whig - I believe your framing of my position is a drastic oversimplification, but I do not dispute the factual accuracy of much of what you say.

I will clarify one error you made, though: I never, ever said anything like "... better paid musicians are always better than poorly paid or unpaid musicians...". You are correct in noting that that is false; you are incorrect in saying that that is what I asserted. I will assume an honest error on your part.

And please do read F.P. Brooks; he expounds persuasively on the difference between creating something (s/w in his case) in a garage and creating it in a well-thought-out, methodically implemented professional context. I do not disparage either creative activity, and certainly do not deprecate the skills of amateurs just for being amateurs. But there's more to professional behavior than just displaying skills.

Harlan Ellison has an immense ego, and his way of expressing himself here is unsurprisingly very ego-involved. Fair pay for labor is always what it is about for me, but it's more than that: the whole notion of fair compensation in general must be institutionalized (not left to the whim of powerful employers, industry moguls, etc.), and the details of fair compensation in individual cases must be laid out in contracts. As I see it, both of those matters require strong unions and a commitment by everyone to union membership, regular filing of contracts and observation of labor agreements, etc. See Krugman's latest book for some analysis of the consequences of the demise of the union movement in America.

[idnsfwiw - I did not shirk, for what it's worth]

Steve Bates said...

Oh, and whig... don't bother putting out your tip jar and playing on the street corner. Been there; done that. You can't feed yourself that way.

Anonymous said...

Steve, as I said, "We're not going to agree if you think..." If you don't think that, obviously, there's no reason to think that I am accusing you of thinking something you do not. You've clarified, and I appreciate that.

Like I said, though, we have different perspectives. I do not like to write for hire. In fact, I usually detest doing so. That's why I think I deserve to be paid well when I do it.

hipparchia said...

i always always tip street musicians, even the bad ones.

Keifus said...

I'd always imagined that Harlan Ellison got older much like Richard Belzer, which is to say skinny and seedy and doing something other than whatever it was they were originally known for. Must be the sunglasses.

I'm not ready to jump into the rest of the argument, though the cheer for fair pay for content distrubition resonates well enough. (Even though getting paid at all to write seems like science fiction to me.)


Steve Bates said...

hipparchia, don't; it only encourages them. :) (Confession: so do I.)

Keifus, I've never been paid to write, and some say that's unsurprising. :) I've been paid to arrange music, to produce workable six-week rehearsal schedules in preparation for a season of concerts (you think five or more musicians can agree even on when to have lunch?), to dash off notes for concert programs that I also had to produce (oops, I suppose that counts as writing), to put my back into lifting one end of the harpsichord, and yes, once in a while, to play the damned thing in public concerts.

The results were worth it. The efforts... and not just mine... were drastically undercompensated, even as we paid scale. And I am unapologetic about saying that such efforts should be well-compensated whenever possible. The indirect successor to the group in and for which I did all these things appears to be doing right well financially, thankyouverymuch, and I couldn't be more pleased for them. Yes, of course, they're union members.

hipparchia said...

if it weren't for SAPs and SOPs and QAPPs and RFPs and bids and grant proposals, i'd have to agree with you, k, about my paid-for writing. then again grant proposals often are their own science fiction.

steve, i'm all about encouraging the arts. even bad art.

the producers of creative content need to be paid fairly for their work. in my book, that means they ought to be paid well, whatever the compensation structure.

then again, like whig/michael, i freely produce some art, and hope that others will consume, build on, or plagiarize to their hearts' content, because sometimes the viral creativity and collaboration are more valuable than the monetary compensation.

Anonymous said...

To me, art is conversation, and my musical interests are in building frameworks that make conversations possible, much as we speak by typing on our keyboards now in a manner our ancestors would think bizarre and impossible.

Theoretically, if I bent my mind to making money, or put my tools to that end, I could be very wealthy, but that wouldn't serve my purpose of making friends now would it?

Keifus said...

Too true, Hipp. Every day here in the bullshit factory is like a slice out of Blade Runner

Steve Bates said...

"Theoretically, if I bent my mind to making money, or put my tools to that end, I could be very wealthy, but that wouldn't serve my purpose of making friends now would it?" - Michael

Michael, it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive, you know. My first and now regrettably deceased musical mentor, Dr. Dorothy Hagan, told me early on that if I ever took up music as a livelihood rather than retaining my serious amateur status, I'd learn to hate it. It is one of the few things about which Dr. Hagan was just plain wrong.

Now I am once again an amateur, for reasons of physical limitations unavoidable by all of us at some age. And I still love it. Michael, no one, and no application of it, can spoil music for you. Trust me on this one. It's OK to make money; your muse will not depart you.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I'm not interested in making music that sounds like every other piece of crap in order to make a buck. No offense and it's not personal as I certainly don't mean to say that there isn't a lot of excellent music too.

My tools are intended to outline and implement a musical language and system within which composition can be made as easily as writing comments on a blog.

Even so, that doesn't make for necessarily good composition, and it might be a decade before I've got a first symphony or something to demo.

Steve Bates said...

That's a bold ambition, Michael, reinventing music and the tools for its... composition? production? not sure which... while living on the good graces of those who feed you. (FWIW, I have done that a couple of different times in my life, feeding and/or housing artistic or literary friends. It's part of why I'm not rolling in dough now. No great loss. Ars longa, etc.)

What are your criteria for a "necessarily good composition"?

Anonymous said...

I think good is subjective to a large degree, of course. And why not be ambitious? Art should be ambitious, otherwise why bother?

It's not enough to make music that sells, for me. Many of the greatest composers never made much money at all. Of course, old man Bach did okay for himself, I think.