The EU has finally settled on the wording of its Digital Single Market copyright reform package, a three-years-in-the-making effort, greeting the agreement with a sizzling rebuke of the “misinformation campaigns” around the measures….
In a press conference today announcing the measures, MEP and Conservative legal affairs spokesman Sajjad Karim said the process had highlighted a disturbing development in the “political culture”.
“The ability of some of the platforms to carry out campaigns [against the legislation] is a good thing,” Karim said. “But the way some of these have been carried out really has been against the grain of how a democratic society should function.”
Individual staff members had been targeted, he said, by “elements that have misled the public about what we’re trying to achieve, and we’re sure will mislead the public as to what we have actually achieved. It strengthens our resolve to make sure we don’t allow European citizens to fall victim to that sort of misinformation.”
Let’s get the basics out of the way early. Influencer marketing is nothing new. Marilyn Monroe being gifted a dress to wear to a media event where she’ll be photographed? Influencer marketing. Every band you’ve ever seen wearing shoes they were gifted for free or paid to wear? Influencer marketing.
The difference now is who the real influencers are… You may be surprised to hear they’re mostly people you have never heard of, that have built trusted online relationships with thousands (or even millions) of people across social networks. They have more influence over what sells or gets into the cultural zeitgeist than just about any TV advert you can name.
In the digital world, it started with bloggers, which evolved into vloggers and then smartphones and social networks combined with advertising and got clever. Now there are thousands of hugely influential people online, globally, every hour of every day.
Jonathan Griffin has another “fake artist” story about Spotify on BBC Trending (see also Laura Kobylecky prescient post from 2017, Making Fake Art: “1984”, The New Rembrandt, and The “Fake Artist”).
Mr. Griffin frames the story:
Mysterious musicians have cropped up on Spotify, racking up thousands of listens and (perhaps) hundreds of pounds. It’s a phenomenon that experts say could indicate a security flaw.
But while Spotify denies that accounts have been hacked, the music streaming site has not explained in detail how the playlists of some users indicate they’ve “listened to” musicians that nobody’s ever heard of.
They have names like Bergenulo Five, Bratte Night, DJ Bruej and Doublin Night. Apart from being musically unremarkable, they generally have a few things in common: short songs with few or no lyrics, illustrated with generic cover art, and short, non-descriptive song titles.
Interestingly, the bands also have little to no presence on the rest of the internet. At a time when social media plays a crucial role in connecting musicians and audiences, these artists have no fan pages, no concert listings, social media accounts or even photos of the actual musicians.
But somehow these mystery artists and a host of similar acts have snuck into people’s Spotify listening playlists, in some cases racking up thousands of listens and prompting a number of users to speculate that their accounts had been hacked.
“Hacked” like “glitch” is a word that hides a multitude of liabilities–particularly when the basic phenomenon of mystery tracks is one that has been around for years. Mr. Griffin offers what I’m sure is an honest technical assessment involving a security breach of the particular incidents of mystery tracks appearing on Spotify playlists. The complex explanation accepts a basic premise–hacked accounts–and overlooks a simpler explanation.
“Hacked” is one of those flexible Gumby words that can be molded to fit a particular situation, but it definitely implies that an intruder engaged in what is sometimes called an intentional possessory taking and carrying away of property not their own, or as it’s known in the trade–larceny. In this case, the common law would struggle to cover a playlist as property, but I don’t think it’s all that difficult. I’m just a country lawyer from Texas and I’m not as smart as these city fellers, and even I can see the analogy.
The more obvious and much simpler explanation is that Spotify did it themselves. They had access and moreover had a financial incentive as Laura pointed out in her 2017 post. Here’s how it works…
Spotify makes it easy for the “artists” on these tracks to upload their recordings. Spotify may buy a batch of these recordings from the “artists” for a flat fee. Laura covered this issue and quoted a Music Business Worldwide op-ed by Vick Bain about Epidemic Sound. As Laura said:
There is another problem with the, hypothetical, “fake artist.” In a second article, (4) Music Business Worldwide addresses the issue of how these “fake artists” could be driving down the “per-stream income for everyone, while lowering the negotiating power of the labels/publishers/collecting societies.” The following chart illustrates that issue:
The problem depends on the “allocation ratio,” or how people are getting paid. The bigger the “total plays” the smaller the “per play rate”. If the total pool of monthly revenue available for royalty payments is divided equally over the total number of plays, that determines the “per play” rate for that month. Each artist or songwriter would get paid for each of their plays based on that rate. (There may be complexities like minimum payments and country variations depending on negotiation power, but the basic math is pretty consistent.)
In other words, artists who are paid a flat fee are included in the allocation ratio, but even though their tracks are not royalty-bearing, they pull down the overall payout. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and may account–so to speak–for the stickiness of fake artists. It’s also probably prohibited by at least the major label contracts by the insertion of the qualifier “royalty bearing” or similar words on what can be included in the “total plays” denominator in the equation above.
As long as the nominal per play rate for flat fee artists costs less than the per play rate, Spotify has an incentive to play this game.
Particularly if they can chalk it up to a “glitch” on the audit that may never come.
While Mr. Griffin’s explanation is appreciated, there may just be a simpler explanation, and you know what William of Ockham had to say about that.
Ah, Cancun, where the elite meet and the US Consulate is located next to the jail.
Spotify is currently hosting a pricey offsite meeting in Cancun, Mexico, with dozens or more executives and employees participating.
Of course, Cancun isn’t usually associated with getting work done — unless that work involves repeatedly lifting rum cocktails. But this offsite is reportedly focused on assembling content groups from various global offices. Beyond that, we’re not sure of the exact business purpose.
One Spotify executive referred to this as a ‘Spotify Music Conference’. Another source noted that the ‘entire content org’ at Spotify is attending the getaway. Sounds like a lot of people.
There seems to be a strong Latin emphasis among the performers (more on that below), which makes sense given the location. But at this stage, this looks like a broader global content and curator meet-up.
According to one source, the action is happening at the Ritz Carlton Cancun, which is surrounded on all sides by white-sand beaches and light blue waters. According to the resort’s website, room prices start at $439 a night for an ‘Ocean View Guest Room,’ and quickly climb to $1,329 a night for the spacious ‘Club Master Suite’.
Two of the artists performing at the Spotify soiree…sorry, I mean working conference… are Nicky Jam and ChocQuibTown. What’s strange about that is that Spotify can’t seem to find the songwriters for these two artists:
Now Spotify can explain to these artists why their songwriters aren’t getting paid. Good thing we have that Music Modernization Act safe harbor that will put everything right as rain.
Today’s podcast is about the impact on climate of the massive data centers operated in states outside of California and New York by Google, Facebook, Amazon and others. I focus on Oregon and Nebraska, but there are many other locations. These massive building projects enable Google to exercise its lobbying muscle in states you wouldn’t expect and on the federal senators and representatives of those states on issues familiar with our old adversary: Artist rights, profit from human trafficking, drugs and brand sponsored piracy.
Greenpeace “Dirty Data” research. www.greenpeace.org/archive-interna…-greenpeace.pdf
Nature magazine sums it up (www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06610-y):
“Upload your latest holiday photos to Facebook, and there’s a chance they’ll end up stored in Prineville, Oregon, a small town where the firm has built three giant data centres and is planning two more. [Hello, Senator Wyden.] Inside these vast factories, bigger than aircraft carriers, tens of thousands of circuit boards are racked row upon row, stretching down windowless halls so long that staff ride through the corridors on scooters.
These huge buildings are the treasuries of the new industrial kings: the information traders. The five biggest global companies by market capitalization this year are currently Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook, replacing titans such as Shell and ExxonMobil. Although information factories might not spew out black smoke or grind greasy cogs, they are not bereft of environmental impact. As demand for Internet and mobile-phone traffic skyrockets, the information industry could lead to an explosion in energy use.”
According to the National Resources Defense Council www.nrdc.org/resources/americas…ing-amounts-energy:
“Data centers are the backbone of the modern economy — from the server rooms that power small- to medium-sized organizations to the enterprise data centers that support American corporations and the server farms that run cloud computing services hosted by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and others. However, the explosion of digital content, big data, e-commerce, and Internet traffic is also making data centers one of the fastest-growing consumers of electricity in developed countries, and one of the key drivers in the construction of new power plants.
Google emits less than 8 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per day to serve an active Google user—defined as someone who performs 25 searches and watches 60 minutes of YouTube a day, has a Gmail account, and uses our other key services.”
In Google-speak “less than 8” usually means 7.9999999999. So let’s call it 8. As of 2016 there were 1 billion active gmail users. So rough justice, Google acknowledges that it emits about 8 billion grams of carbon dioxide daily, or 9,000 tons. And based on the characteristically tricky way Google framed the measurement, that doesn’t count the users who don’t have a gmail account, don’t use “our other key services” and may watch more than an hour a day of YouTube.Upload today,
January 22nd is #HiHowAreYou Day – a celebration of the music and art of Daniel Johnston and a day of #mentalhealthawareness. We’re celebrating with a free livestream featuring @theflaminglips, @Built_2_Spill, Yo La Tengo + many more! Learn more at http://www.hihowareyou.orgToday is the day. We are all doing our part to upend the stigma around mental health issues. Our challenge to you is to connect with someone and actively listen. The conversation starter is easy, yup you guessed it, “hi, how are you?”. Learn more about how to get involved at hihowareyou.orgWe’ve got an all-star line up and you’ll have the best the seat in the house. On Jan 22nd we’re live streaming Hi How Are You Day featuring special sets from Gavin DeGraw, The Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, Bob Mould, and many more! Tune in for free and rock on for a cause. Check out the lineup and see what we have in store for you: hihowareyou.org#hihowareyou