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I'm at EMI's headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee this morning. I'm sitting at a black cloth covered table with the president of the GMA (Gospel Music Association), Label Presidents, Distribution Company heads, ministers, researchers, ethicists and artists Warren Barfield and Alisha from ZOE Girl. We're meeting to discuss anti-piracy strategy and research from both a business and spiritual perspective. Or, as our leaders from the National Council of Faith Based Youth put it, we're meeting to discuss the "kinds of efforts that might be successful in educating young people about piracy and positively affecting their future decisions on this matter." 

Specifics to come. I have to look like I'm listening now.

For now, how much do you really care what this panel thinks you need to do or not do regarding music piracy?


Anonymous the bob-o said...

I think that it's important that artists are able to live their lives comfortably. One thing that is nice is that recently CDs have been coming out for $10 or less. This makes me more likely to buy the CD and not go out and "borrow" it from a friend. I love having the entire CD... the booklet, the case, everything. I barely buy anything off iTunes for this reason. So, this panel must realize that to lower the pirating of CDs they need to sell them for less money in an effort to still make money, but so that they can be afforded as well, especially by students (who are part of the core audience in my opinion)

Blogger Cassandra said...

Really, I think the Andrew Osenga/Andrew Peterson method of "feed my kids" works better than anything any panel could think up.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

We as a group unanimously disagreed with both of you. Specifically we believe that "consumers" are not motivated to act "ethically" because the argument is made that acting ethically benefits the artist or the label. In other words we don't believe, based on the research and personal experience, that the average consumer cares if my kids eat or not, or the rationalize away their influence on my kids eating or not. (Truth is my kids don't eat because you buy my music, but because promoters pay me to play; but I'm paid to play because promoters know I sell music - even if it's a little bit.)

I think you guys are right: finances motivates YOU. But we think you're special in that regard.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is a ideological change...if you have a book, when you are done reqaading it, you let some one borrow it...if you like a article in a magazine, you copy it and give it to your friends...where was this when i was making mix tapes off the radio, is that illegal???

So it was no big deal for years (imo) then in the last 3ish years they crack down, but it had become culturally acceptable, its gonna be hard to change that...

1 way, go to vinyl, hard to copy?!?

Blogger introriff said...

If I perform a tune does it violate copyright?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont think that pirating will get better before it gets a lot worse. the industry is like that picture of those two people on the shore watching the tidal wave roll in. It is a question of how to try and ride the wave. Thank God i am not in that depressing meeting. Sorry not much help yet huh.

EVERY TIME that guy gets on the Grammys and gripes about pirating it makes rebellious rock'n roll kids go to their computer and remember that rock and roll is about rebellion and they download a ton of songs. Maybe this will inspire artists and labels to start making "Albums" again rather than a bunch of hit stingles strewn together. Something where it is worth something to actually go and buy the CD- with the art work. People used to copy tapes from their records all the time, but there was something really cool about going and getting the album. You felt more a part of something. Some education would be nice but trying to tell someone NOT to steal is pretty much worse than telling them TO steal. I do agree with bob-o in one way that buying a cd for less is certainly a better option. i would rather buy a cd for 10 bucks than 20 bucks. Somewhere in the 90's it seems that labels got greedy and the prices of CDS went from 12 bucks to 19 bucks in about 6 months. buying it cheaper, thats kind of a no brainer. also there is a new downloading site from a russian server, that is legal, that you can buy entire CDs for about a buck-fifty.

Maybe a gigantic restructuring is in order. In reality, the only MORE stolen music in the industry is rap.

sorry, for me, it just seems that educating seems kinda lame. it seems like some of it works, but the whole, "come on guys, play fair, give me my money" philosophy sort of feels like ... "the man" talkin. Napster became the representative of youthful rebellion and metallica became the whiny moneygrubbers. All that being said, we are supposed to be Christians right? we set the standards, well, instead of educational campaigns, creative ways of using the problem to make some cash. I am sure there is some of this going on, and i dont know jack of what is going on behind the scenes but i guess what really matters is what shows up to the gen. public. and all we know is, Itunes is cheaper, if itunes aint got it, then maybe limewire does.


Blogger Shaun Groves said...

If you perform a tune in a venue of a certain capacity the venue as to report that performance to it's PRO (performance Rights Organization like ASCAP or BMI). None of that money goes to the label. it goes to the publisher. If the artist owns part if his publishing he gets a cut of that. But no copyright violation is made by performing, as far as I know, if the PRO is paid. Small rooms pay no fees, as far as I know.

ummmm..what was the other question?

The vinyl and radio taping analogy breaks down. First of all it WAS illegal to copy analog music sources (radio, cassettes, vinyl) but it wasn't prosecuted in part because people still had an incentive to purchase the original - the incentive was QUALITY. Quality suffers with each analog copy made. This is not true in the digital copy scenario. Your mp3 of my song is as clean as a legal mp3 of my song, and your CD of that mp3 is as good as the original mp3 as well. No degradation. Same with CD copies of CDs. Digital is a nearly exact copy of the original digital source. No humanly noticeable difference anyway.

So there's no incentive to buy the original unless you want packaging. Legal mp3s from iTunes are getting consumers trained not to want or need packaging though. Wen no one wants packaging THEN what's the incentive to be legal?

That's what we discussed. Why be legal? And is being legal the same as being ethical from a Christian perspective? AND - this is a big one - if tomorrow the US laws changed and abolished copyrights would copying music you did not pay for still be unethical for the Christian?

Good thoughts. Thanks for discussing - even anonymously. ; )

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

So true, Seth.

I'll post some on what's going on behind the scenes soon.


Blogger Stephen said...

I was just having this discussion the other day with a group of composers. We were talking about how, 200 years ago, music was not a product but a service. Should it go back to being a service? If so, how can that be balanced with rewarding the artist for their creations?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is all unethical. ripping music is not right. but there is not much to do to stop it. it is information. your right about the quality, but i still think that the quality of mp3s still sounds crappier. Christian ethics and downloading material doesnt really seem to be the prob to me. in fact if we are talkin about Christian ethics than maybe Christians should talk first about the huge porn prob on the internet, the only thing that is downloaded more than music.

and what if everyone just went back to vinyl!! heck yes. that would solve the problem, and would sound better anyway.

I still wonder if it is more along the lines of taking a problem and turning it into a profit. I mean thats the real issue there isnt it. MONEY. not really ethics. no one really gripes that the gideons give away free bibles. and that the bible is the most stolen item in the world. if no one there was loosing the cash than there wouldn't be a confrence on Christian ethics and the music business educating listeners on how to be better Christians by paying up. Not that making cash is bad. i like it. its fun. a rarity but fun when it happens. so instead of griping about a crappy cultural problem do what we do best. Christianize it.

Itunes, in itself was a huge step in that direction. not Chritainizing it, but riding the wave. everyone is toooo used to getting something for free now to try and stop it. so, patton it and sell it. maybe a huge industry boycott or a massive legal suit like INTERNET vs. the music industry is the only thing that could put a halt to it.

Honestly, i buy CDS because i like the tunes, and sometimes i throw in the idea that I want to support artists. But that only comes into play when artists tell me they need the dough to keep goin'. People download illegaly because they think, "well, they are rich anyway so.." maybe offer an incentive for being honest. ha.

now there are myspace and programs that capture songs that come out of your computer. maybe if there was something you could not get by downloading. at all. sounds crappy, but something to get the attention of buyers rather than a guilt trip from someone they dont know.

maybe labels could offer their own GOOD downloading system and offer one song for free for 1 week, that gets the people to come to the site, then offer to sell them all for the same as itunes directly from their or the artists sites. people will download a bunch of free songs then come back and buy more from the ones they like for the same price and as easy as itunes. then maybe get creative at packaging and marketing. i dont know maybe thats lame too.

anyway, i finish my meager suggestions and go back to work writing songs so they can be stolen.


Blogger Kat said...

These are just some thoughts. I don't even know what *I* think about them:

When asked about why she didn't ask anyone for money for her ministry, Corrie ten Boom said,"I'd rather be the beloved child of a rich Father, than a beggar at the door of worldly men."

Perhaps the Christian Music Industry needs to consider adopting financial pacifism.

What if it's not the consumer's method that needs to be changed (or perhaps even labeled unethical) but that of the Christian Music Industry?

If the Christian Music Industry sells it's artists as people who minister through their music, then why should a Christian artist's income method be any different than, say, a missionary's or a pastor's? Is it just because their method of presenting the gospel is "cooler"?

What if Christian music was a product of the church rather than the "industry"? What if Christian musicians were employed by the church?

Perhaps the Christian Music Industry should be less concerned with the fact that people are illegally sharing songs and more excited about the fact that perhaps, through piracy, the Gospel is being spread to those who need it most.

I realize that these ideas are pretty out there and not very practical for the here and now, but conversations about "what if's" can sometimes produce practical solutions.

Blogger NerdMom said...

I somewhat agree with the last anonymous post. Personnally, I remember being a broke jr high kid and recording a song off of the radio. I like being able to buy 1 song at a time. While and can't always fit an entire CD in my budget(because I want so many) I can fit a song or 2 here and there. But looking to the non-Christian who might not have an ethical issue. As a Christian artist, would you like to get them your message even if you don't make any money? These are probably people who wouldn't ask for free copies if you offered. I know, with the higher CD prices, I don't have the money to give CDs to people who I think they would help.

All said, it isn't my money to decide with. You have to chose because it is yours. And frankly I don't think that you are morally wrong to make either choice.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

stephen, im not so sure that 200 years ago composers didnt want to make a buck also. Beethoven was always working his publishers, sometimes bartering back and forth for better prices, and mozart, even further back was one of the first really successful free-lancers. He just sucked at money-management and had a needy controling father and sick wife. (one paino concerto paid his rent for up to a year.)

Chris Rice is trying this new thing where he makes a song or two off of his album "public domain" he is doing this in order to set a trend or something. I kind of understand his sentiment but at the same time its kinda easier to write "gifts" to the world written from your grand piano from your nashville manor.

Maybe if a spade where called a spade in the Christian industry. It is a ministry, but it is still the entertainment buisiness. And it is filled with song writers. these song writers need to eat. what they do is no different than what your local corporate exec. does. (exept the corporate exec. has to be a little saltier) They write songs about God that inspire and entertain. the church supports and buys their music. That means that the Church is also illegally downloading and ripping the music. ORRR. it could be that the Church is just buying less music and the labels are blaming it on downloading.

So, since your audience is so controlled it would seem like that you have a better grasp and controll of the product.


Blogger Stephen said...

I agree, Seth, that the classical composers also had to make money. It's interesting that if you study their body of work very much, you can tell which pieces were written because they wanted to write them and maybe got support for later, and which pieces they had to write.

Blogger GrovesFan said...

I personally don't download music because I like having the cd, the lyrics, etc. I do however rip my cds to my mp3 player and my computer (as a backup).

It isn't a matter of morals for me so much as preference, but I do think it's wrong to download something you haven't purchased legally.

As for how to fix it, I don't know. I do think however that to ask the unbeliever to hold to the same standard as Christian's is not only futile, but unbiblical.

As for churches employing the Christian artists like they do pastors, etc. is like asking the artist to "starve" even more than they already do! How many churches today honestly meet their projected (and needed) budgets through tithes and offerings? The national statistics say that only about 3% of Americans give 10% of their income to their church. I'm not saying that the artists should live better than their pastors or anyone else for that matter and the majority probably don't. It is safe to say that Christian artists do not make near the income that secular artists do (big name v. big name). I think most of it has to do with terrible radio support and shotty advertising.

Yes, the artists are in their respective industries for different reasons, but they all still have bills to pay and obligations to meet.

I'm all for cheaper CD's of course, but I'd rather pay more for quality. I would definitely pay more for a Christian artists' cd than a secular one, just because. But I don't listen to much secular music and nothing that's been put out in the last 15 years or so. I know I'm quite limited in my genre and listening tastes, but that's OK. Going back to vinyl is unrealistic as most people do not carry their turntables with them and are much more mobile today than when vinyl was the norm.

My four kids (only two are old enough yet though) would not download songs because they know it's illegal. My son listens exclusively to Christian music (he's 16) and my daughter (13) listens to a variety (mostly what I'd call "bubblegum" music). The don't buy many cds, but rather ask for them for Christmas, birthdays, etc.

If I want a friend to have a cd (they've listened to mine usually) I buy it for them because I think that furthers the Kingdom and His message as well as making sure the artist and his kids eat well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

RIAA Sues Radio Stations For Giving Away Free Music

LOS ANGELES—The Recording Industry Association of America filed a $7.1 billion lawsuit against the nation's radio stations Monday, accusing them of freely distributing copyrighted music.

RIAA president Hilary Rosen and attorney Russell Frackman answer questions in a Los Angeles courthouse.

"It's criminal," RIAA president Hilary Rosen said. "Anyone at any time can simply turn on a radio and hear a copyrighted song. Making matters worse, these radio stations often play the best, catchiest song off the album over and over until people get sick of it. Where is the incentive for people to go out and buy the album?"

According to Rosen, the radio stations acquire copies of RIAA artists' CDs and then broadcast them using a special transmitter, making it possible for anyone with a compatible radio-wave receiver to listen to the songs.

"These radio stations are extremely popular," Rosen said. "They flagrantly string our songs together in 'uninterrupted music blocks' of up to 70 minutes in length, broadcasting nearly one CD's worth of product without a break, and they actually have the gall to allow businesses to advertise between songs. It's bad enough that they're giving away our music for free, but they're actually making a profit off this scheme."

RIAA attorney Russell Frackman said the lawsuit is intended to protect the artists.

"If this radio trend continues, it will severely damage a musician's ability to earn a living off his music," Frackman said. "[Metallica drummer] Lars Ulrich stopped in the other day wondering why his last royalty check was so small, and I didn't know what to say. How do you tell a man who's devoted his whole life to his music that someone is able to just give it away for free? That pirates are taking away his right to support himself with his craft?"

For the record companies and the RIAA, one of the most disturbing aspects of the radio-station broadcasts is that anyone with a receiver and an analog tape recorder can record the music and play it back at will.

"I've heard reports that children as young as 8 tape radio broadcasts for their own personal use," Rosen said. "They listen to a channel that has a limited rotation of only the most popular songs—commonly called 'Top 40' stations—then hit the 'record' button when they hear the opening strains of the song they want. And how much are they paying for these songs? A big fat zip."

One of the hundreds of radio stations being sued for distributing copyrighted music.

Continued Rosen: "According to our research, there is one of these Top 40 stations in every major city in the country. This has to be stopped before the music industry's entire economic infrastructure collapses."

Especially distressing to the RIAA are radio stations' "all-request hours," when listeners call in to ask radio announcers, or "disc jockeys," to play a certain song.

"What's the point of putting out a new Ja Rule or Sum 41 album if people can just call up and hear any song off the album that they want?" Frackman asked. "In some instances, these stations actually have the nerve to let the caller 'dedicate' his act of thievery to a friend or lover. Could you imagine a bank letting somebody rob its vaults and then allowing the thief to thank his girlfriend Tricia and the whole gang down at Bumpy's?"

Defenders of radio-based music distribution insist that the relatively poor sound quality of radio broadcasts negates the record companies' charges.

"Radio doesn't have the same sound quality as a CD," said Paul "Cubby" Bryant, music director of New York radio station Z100, one of the nation's largest distributors of free music and a defendant in the suit. "Real music lovers will still buy CDs. If anything, we're exposing people to music they might not otherwise hear. These record companies should be thanking us, not suing us."

Outraged by the RIAA suit, many radio listeners are threatening to boycott the record companies.

"All these companies care about is profits," said Amy Legrand, 21, an avid Jacksonville, FL, radio user who surreptitiously records up to 10 songs a day off the radio. "Top 40 radio is taking the power out of the hands of the Ahmet Erteguns of the world and bringing it back to the people of Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting. It's about time somebody finally stood up to those record-company fascists."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish there was an answer to the question. Unfortunately, there isn't, or it would already be in action.

I look at it like speeding. Most everyone speeds. How do you stop it? Unless you really cracked down on drivers speeding, they will keep on speeding. Most people know where speed traps are, and they don't speed through that area.

The fear with cracking down on people about downloading music is that they will get mad and just not buy it at all. That's crazy. That's like saying "because police are now ruthless about catching anyone that goes 3 over the speed limit, everyone has stopped driving." That would never happen, and if the music industry really cracked down, people would eventually conform. Unhappily, most definately, but eventually, they would.


Anonymous Tim said...

"kinds of efforts that might be successful in educating young people about piracy and positively affecting their future decisions on this matter."

I don't think its ever gonna be successful cause "cool" & "me" is what matters to most young people. I remember when i was in high school, our mindsets was "we just didn't care", even knowing that downloading and distributing of mp3's was same as stealing. We were young, foolish and selfish it was all about what mattered to "me". So i guess there is the maturity factor too.
Anyways just throwing my incoherent opinion.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, this is random. I am still linked to the gnostism series and when you last left it- you said that you had found where Christianity had proven itself and would soon present this to your readers... just wondering if its still a work in progress or a forgotten piece?

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Not forgotten.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If executives at EMI are just now having this conversation, it's already too late.

I admit that when Napster first came out, I downloaded it to see what the big deal was. I had a brand-new high-speed Internet connection, and being able to sample or download music that was new or unfamiliar to me in a reasonable amount of time was a revelation. Truth to be told, though, Napster wasn't that great if you were specifically looking for a certain album at a certain quality with all the tracks intact. Napster was great for trying out new things. But it didn't stop me from buying music, because Napster wasn't that useful when I knew exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it.

Fast-forward to today, and Apple has just announced the sale of the one billionth song on iTunes. The service has been a huge success, and it is growing exponentially with no slow-down in sight. Why is this?

It isn't because iTunes sells music at super-duper-high-quality, because it doesn't (and when I want CD-quality, I buy a CD). It isn't because of the fancy artwork and jewelcase that you get with your download, because you don't. It isn't because you can more easily pirate/give away music downloaded over iTunes, because in most cases, you can't (after all, iTunes does use digital rights management, albeit a more reasonable implementation than most other services). The answer is quite simple.

Among the younger generations, the CD is dead. And in spite of the fact that the CD is dead, labels still sell them at exhorbitant prices in spite of ever-shrinking manufacturing costs, and when nobody buys, piracy is blamed.

The truth of the matter is that most people my age don't care that CD audio might have better fidelity than a 192kbps AAC file. What they do care about is being able to have their entire music library at their fingertips in a small, elegant package. What they do care about is a smart, coherent way to manage and add to their music library without having to deal with "antiquated" things like CDs. And one thing they especially don't like is a label telling them how they can listen to their music after they've purchased it, and installing a rootkit on their computer just to make sure that they don't try to put it on their iPod.

Really, what the music industry is preaching right now is the same kind of hysteria that Jack Valenti was espousing when he went before Congress in 1980 and said that VHS would destroy the entertainment industry. We all know how that turned out.

Something that you have to remember whenever this discussion comes up is that -- even though this isn't what the laws in the United States say -- once someone buys music, they believe that they own it. Now you can argue from now to eternity that this isn't how things really are, and that what we need is to "educate people about intellectual property." Good luck with that. The fact of the matter is that people will still buy a CD from the store or download a song from iTunes and believe that they own it. And since they own it, they should be able to listen to it however they want to, on whatever device they want to. And I can sympathize with that view, because it is becoming increasingly evident that the RIAA's goal is for everyone to buy another copy of the music they already own whenever they want it in another format. Ultimately, the only way they will be able to enforce this is by suing customers who don't comply. Doesn't that sound like good business sense?

I realize that I have deviated somewhat from your original question, but I'm going somewhere with this. It is my belief that the real problem right now lies in the industry's unwillingness to change. The RIAA and its labels have been blindsided by technology, but they still want to try to force an outdated business model down the throats of their customers.

Now you might say that you aren't worried about the iTunes people, because they are paying customers, after all. But iTunes is a perfect example of what is wrong, because unless you have an iPod, iTunes is useless. What about kids with a computer and a different brand of MP3 player that have to use another service? Their choices are extremely limited. There are some subscription-based services, but in that case, you're paying a lot of money over an extended period of time without actually owning anything in the end. And then there are the services that use the draconian digital rights management "features" in Microsoft's WMA format, which from the get-go treat the customer like a criminal.

Really, aside from iTunes (for people who happen to own an iPod), there aren't many good options when it comes to digital music, and yet digital music is what people want. Aside from iTunes and the other less attractive services, the only other option is piracy, or buying a CD and ripping it into the format of your choice, both of which the RIAA claims are illegal.

Ultimately, I don't think you can have a realistic debate about how to curb piracy unless the labels that make up the RIAA get their act together and decide to make digital music easy to buy, easy to download, and easy to manage (in other words, digital rights management "features" don't completely cripple it and leave the buyer banging their head against the monitor). After all, if a customer is honest enough to buy the music in the first place, why is the RIAA so paranoid that they will turn around stick their music in their "Shared Folder"? It's questions like this -- and the RIAA's answers to them -- that make me think digital rights management is less about piracy, and more about controlling the content.

You'll never be able to eradicate piracy. Fourteen-year-old kids with too much time on their hands will always be one step ahead of the RIAA's latest protection schemes. And the more brazen the RIAA's attempts become to control the content, the more likely that we will see a Supreme Court showdown over Fair Use laws in a digital age. Yes, I said "Fair Use" laws. Remember those?

Only time will tell how this plays out, but I've got a pretty good hunch, and my money is on the technology and the consumer. The RIAA and the labels will have to adapt or die. It's how things work in a free market.

Make digital music available to consumers at a reasonable price, in a reasonable format, without requiring them to own an iPod, and you will eliminate most piracy. Sticking with an antiquated business model and suing your customer base is not the answer.

I really do wish you luck in trying to educate Christians on this issue. My gut feeling though is that they'll be as different from the rest of the world as the Christian music industry is from the secular music industry. Sigh.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@grovesfan: Keep in mind that the RIAA claims that ripping a CD that you personally own is illegal, whether for your iPod or backup purposes. This is the sort of behavior I'm referring to when I say that the music industry certainly knows how to encourage piracy.

@Barry: I can't really agree with your post. For most people, driving is a necessity. For most people, big-label music is not. The RIAA can't force me to conform if I don't buy their product. Indeed, I have already boycotted all CDs that don't conform to the Red Book audio CD standard. The Sony rootkit fiasco is a perfect example why. Copy-protected CDs are a violation of the audio CD standard, and in the case of Sony's CDs, they also caused millions of dollars worth of damage to computer networks. (Exact numbers are still pending. The full extent may never be known. And this whole fiasco was because of a copy protection program that could be defeated by simply disabling "auto-run" in Windows. Big thumbs up, Sony!).

Please, just let me listen to my music in peace, whether it be on my iPod, my computer, or my car stereo. And if you won't let me, you won't see another dollar.

- Jon

P.S. The last post was also by me.


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