Must Read: @musicbizworld Rob Stringer Interviewed by Tim Ingham

If you don’t have time for any other news this week, make sure you read Rob Stringer’s interview in Music Business Worldwide, which should be read side by side with Jody Gerson’s recent interview with Anne Marie Steele.

Rob Stringer (CEO of Sony Music Entertainment) is a long-time records man who brings that underappreciated touch to Sony.  (And since I agree with a lot of his approach, naturally I think its refreshing.)

Here’s an example.  Every now and then, a label runs across an opportunity for one of their artists that turns out to be a windfall, a true windfall.  Sometimes those are driven largely by the artist’s own reputation and creative patina like a soundtrack, sometimes the label creates the opportunity.  Either way, it’s not budgeted revenue and it’s both nonrecurring and unusually large, so there’s a strong argument for pass through treatment from time to time.  “Pass through” meaning the label collects the money but pays the artist’s share of it out regardless of the artist’s recoupment status.

This generally gives the accountants heartburn, even if done sparingly.  But in addition to being a good artist relations move, it’s also the right thing to do.  I did that with Road Rash 3DO which was the first videogame to use “real” music, i.e., licensed music, and was also the first and last to actually pay a royalty (across all platforms).  (Some games do pay a royalty, but not like the one we got.)  I also did it with a soundtrack that was one of the last truly huge soundtracks and our artist had a featured slot.  Both those instances put 6 figures into the artist’s bank accounts and we made plenty of money, too.  Moral of the story:  Leave some on the table.

The same can be said of Rob Stringer’s decision to “give back” to Sony artists on the sale of Sony’s shares in Spotify (more or less confirming that there was a tranche of shares issued to Sony as consideration for licensing the catalog):

 “We gave back to the artists which was a deliberate strategy because we wanted to say to them, [you’re] the reason we have most of these shares…”

That’s a great attitude.  And of course, is exactly right.  (Sony also bought some shares, which, of course, should be Sony’s money as it was Sony’s risk.)  I’m not so sure that someone didn’t have to…shall we say persuade…others in the company of the correctness of the sharing move, and it is an awful lot of money.  But in the end Rob Stringer got the company to do the right thing, and it’s the kind of thing a good records man would do.

He also makes another excellent point that every artist should think seriously about when considering one of these various direct deals on offer:

“I don’t think Spotify wants to be funding the entire artist development process – we have thousands of people, literally, that we can get to face in the same direction on a global basis,” said Stringer.

“Spotify doesn’t claim to have those thousands of people globally [working in artist development], they are a digital distribution platform… sometimes the lines can become blurred and, quite frankly, we’re both learning as we go along.”

When a major is actually working for you and firing on all cylinders, they really do have that ability to get everyone around the world doing the same thing at the same time in multiple time zones and through multiple distribution channels relevant to their particular market.  Or as Jody Gerson said, “[i]t takes a village to break an artist.”

Amen.

In other news from the Goolag, if you’ve been following the battle over the European Parliament’s passing of the new Copryight Directive, one of the core group of Members of the European Parliament who helped get the legislation passed was the Green Party’s Helga Truepel.  As David Lowery notes in this post on The Trichordist and in many other posts, Big Tech misused political communication tools to spam Members of the European Parliament with the hope of tricking them into thinking that there were actual constitutents who opposed the new Copyright Directive.

Remember that there have been two votes, with yesterday’s victory being the second vote.  Our side lost the first vote following the first astroturf spam campaign.  But–not only did Google get called out about it in The Trichordist, the London Times, FAZ and a bunch of other publications also confirmed David’s research.  Did that stop Google?  Nope.  They did it again in the run up to yesterday’s vote.  As Blake Morgan often says, Goliath never learns.

In a press conference at the European Parliament after yesterday’s vote, MEP Truepel answered a question from a journalist seeking an explanation of why the vote changed so radically–dozens of MEPs actually switched their votes to pass the Directive yesterday.

MEP Truepel said that she thought it was because MEPs were pissed off by the Google-backed astroturf campaign that was so offensively transparent–but not in a good way–that massively backfired on Google.  Of course, not only has it backfired, but Google (and, in fairness, Facebook) was exposed as the prime mover behind the attack, which came right before the European Commission announced yet another multi-billion fine against Google for violating European competition law.

MEP Truepel also announced that she was going to meetings at the Googleplex–aka Spamalot–in the near future to discuss the role of Google in Europe.  Oh, that should just be a bunch of LOLs.

Start at 14:45:10 You HAVE to watch this. When asked why EU Parliament switched from opposing the copyright directive to overwhelmingly supporting it, German MEP Helga Truepel pulls no punches: “I think it’s due to this message spamming campaign. I talked to some of my collegues here [and they] are totally pissed off […]

via “Totally Pissed Off” By Big Tech Spam EU Gives Artists A Copyright Victory — The Trichordist

Hey Alexa, Regift Yourself: Google Overtakes Amazon in Biometric Data Acquisition Tools

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According to the Canalys research outfit, Google has taken the lead over Amazon for the first time in the acquisition of biometric identifying data–aka “smart speakers”.  It should come as no surprise that Google is vastly more interested in acquiring “phonemes” by which to identify users and track them through a variety of means.

The “smart speaker” is the latest step in government contractor Google’s long running campaign to track users and build speech-to-text and speech recognition tools.

The program goes back to at least 2007 when Marissa Meyer said of “GOOG-411”:

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that.

So who do you think the customers are for speech-to-text and speech recognition tools to whom government contractors like Google and Amazon might be selling your biometric data?  The biometrics harvesting tools allows Big Tech to connect your voice print and maybe your fingerprints to all the other data that they have already harvested about you from other means.  And of course when you add in facial recognition or iris recognition it’s game, set and match.

Think about that when you enable your fingerprint, iris or facial recognition authentication or talk to Alexa or your Google Home Mini.   Or you could just ask the Shoe Gazer at the Internet Association.

“Hey Alexa, re-gift yourself.”

 

@nickconfessore: The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

[A teachable moment in activism that’s an important read to see all the swamp monster machinations that Silicon Valley puts us all through.  The post is extremely well-written but does take a bit of a commitment to read to the end.  Highly recommended that you stick with it to the end of the story.]

The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out….

Facebook and Google were following people around the rest of the internet…using an elaborate and invisible network of browsing bugs — they had, within little more than a decade, created a private surveillance apparatus of extraordinary reach and sophistication. Mactaggart thought that something ought to be done. He began to wonder whether he should be the one to do it….

Almost by accident, though, Mactaggart had thrust himself into the greatest resource grab of the 21st century. To Silicon Valley, personal information had become a kind of limitless natural deposit, formed in the digital ether by ordinary people as they browsed, used apps and messaged their friends. Like the oil barons before them, they had collected and refined that resource to build some of the most valuable companies in the world, including Facebook and Google, an emerging duopoly that today controls more than half of the worldwide market in online advertising. But the entire business model — what the philosopher and business theorist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — rests on untrammeled access to your personal data. The tech industry didn’t want to give up its powers of surveillance. It wanted to entrench them. And as Mactaggart would soon learn, Silicon Valley almost always got what it wanted.

Read the post on The New York Times.

Must Read: @AnneMarieSteele: An insightful interview with Jody Gerson about songwriting and breaking artists

[This interview is one of the best statements of what signing and breaking a songwriter or an artist is all about.  When I was reading Jody Gerson’s interview I remember when I asked David Anderle once why we didn’t do bidding wars at A&M.   He said quite simply that A&M helped compelling artists make great records and then stuck with them until they found an audience.  They didn’t all work out but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  That had nothing to do with bidding wars.]

I think it is a difficult time for songwriters who aren’t writing massive hit songs. When I first came into the industry, you could write a cut on a big album, like for Whitney Houston, and it would sell a lot of records, and you could make a lot of money as a songwriter. But unless you’re writing hit singles or you have pieces of songs on enormous numbers of streamed product, it is very difficult right now….

A lot of people are relying on data today. I don’t go in that direction. I judge music based on what I feel. Does it move me? Is that a lyric that articulates a feeling that I have better than I can articulate it? Is there a driving beat that makes me want to move? Is there a melody that makes me want to sing along? I have found in my career anytime that I have trusted my instinct, I’m right….

What everybody’s missing is the role of the record company. There’s talk about whether artists need to be signed to a record company. I would like you to show me one streaming platform that has broken an artist, made a major investment in breaking an artist. It is not easy.

Just because a song is on a digital platform doesn’t mean you’re breaking that artist. The companies that put the most into the development of artists are still record companies. The investment in breaking artists still is something that we can’t underestimate, and platforms do not do that.

Hit artists, superstars, are never flukes. It just doesn’t happen that way. It takes a village to break an artist.

Read the post from the Wall Street Journal

Labels Follow BMG Rights with Lawsuit Against Cox Communications for Massive Infringement of Sound Recordings

Some of you may recall the resounding victory scored by BMG Rights against Cox Communications challenging the gaping holes in Cox’s alleged repeat infringer policy as documented by Rightscorp.  (Read the hilarious transcript from BMG v. Cox case denying EFF’s amicus brief as quoted in the Supreme Court amicus brief filed by David Lowery, Blake Morgan, East Bay Ray and Guy Forsyth in the current cy pres case brought by Ted Frank.)

In a follow on from the BMG Rights case, a group of record companies are essentially drafting behind BMG on the sound recording side in their own lawsuit against Cox.  This, of course, was to be expected since the evidence unearthed by BMG reflected such a cavalier disregard for the company’s repeat infringer policy and what infringes the song also infringes the sound recording.

Why is that repeat infringer policy so important?  In an oversimplified (but accurate) interpretation, no repeat infringer policy, no safe harbor.  That is enough to send the shredders humming all over the world and explains why the EFF was so interested in trying to influence the outcome of the case.  It also explains why Rightsflow’s investigative services are so important to rights holders as they were instrumental in proving the basic case (although Cox did a very good job of measuring the rope and testing their own noose all by themselves).

It also must be said that Cox never participated in the Copyright Alert System (to my knowledge) which could have gone a long way to helping them getting their repeat infringer policy in line with something that existed in the known universe.  They had a chance.  One final point is that it is an odd thing that BMG is to date the only publisher to enforce their rights against an ISP that I know of, although I’m happy to be educated otherwise.

If you think lions are lying down with lambs, think again.

According to Celebrity Access:

The plaintiffs allege in their suit that Cox is not effectively policing their subscribers who are violating copyrights, even when those alleged violators are brought to their attention by rights holders.

Per the lawsuit:

“Cox deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its Internet services to infringe on others’ copyrights—even once Cox became aware of particular customers engaging in specific, repeated acts of infringement. Plaintiffs’ representatives (as well as others) sent hundreds of thousands of statutory infringement notices to Cox, under penalty of perjury, advising Cox of its subscribers’ blatant and systematic use of Cox’s Internet service to illegally download, copy, and distribute Plaintiffs’ copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file-sharing services.”

The lawsuit takes issue with a provision of the DMCA, a law passed in 1998 that creates a safe harbor for online service providers such as Cox against copyright infringement liability, provided that they have an effective plan in place to deal with infringers.

The lawsuit cites a previous suit brought against Cox by a group of labels led by BMG. In that case, BMG Rights Mgmt. LLC v. Cox Communications, Inc. and CoxCom, LLC, BMG made substantially similar accusations against Cox, claiming that the company did little to deter rampant copyright infringement taking place via its service.

In 2015, a jury agreed with BMG Et Al. and awarded them a $25 million dollar judgment in that case. The judgment was later overturned on appeal, but the appeals court largely sided with the label’s challenge to Cox’s implementation of the DCMA rules.

Must Read: @WebSchauder: Anatomy of an Assault on Politics

[Appropos of the MTP post: Factiness EU Style: A Dedicated Group of Like Minded People Carpet Bombs The European Parliament (which gave historical context to the latest manipulation of governments by Google), Volker Rieck at WebShauder gives the view from the ground in Europe of how the assault was manipulated.  In a post-Cambridge Analytical world, no one with a brain can believe this was just spontaneous.  Plus, the methods are nearly identical to those we have seen in “protests” going back to 2009 at least and pointing to the Obama Administration’s practices on not basing policy choices on unreplecatable and unreliable casual polling, anonymous email campaigns and social media.]

The battle cries of “upload filter” deployed in opposition to Article 13 of the directive were not much better. Upload filters were not and are still not mentioned in the directive, but the term is eminently suited to stoking fear. And Reda [the sole Pirate Party MEP] did indeed succeed in her efforts to fool some of her supporters into believing that EVERYTHING on the internet will be filtered in the future if the directive is adopted in its current form and that memes – yes, even people’s much-beloved memes – will all be banned.

While this was completely at variance with the actual content of the directive, that appeared to be of merely tangential interest. What the directive proposed was that platforms (and only platforms) would be strongly encouraged to enter into license agreements with rightsholders covering user uploaded content.

Responsibility for taking out licenses would rest with the platforms, and end-users would be completely in the clear. The idea was simply that platforms would have a duty to maintain transparency to ensure correct licensing and the proper distribution of payments made for licenses to rightsholders. Under the directive, operators of a platform which had not concluded a licensing agreement would have been liable for unlicensed content on their platforms. How operators chose to keep their platforms clean would have been up to them. But preventing copyright violations would have come within their remit of responsibility.

And which platform would be most affected by Article 13?

[C]ontent-sharing platforms [are] the real issue here, let us look at one of the most successful ones, YouTube. The directive is interested only in regulating platforms like this, not in open-source platforms or sales platforms.

For years now, YouTube has been using its Content ID system. This system allows rightsholders who submit content to determine what should happen when users view it. The available options span the gamut from monetization (an end user uploads a video with music, for example, and the rightsholder gets a share of any advertising revenue generated) all the way to – please be brave now, Sascha Lobo and Julia Reda – blocking the video. The primary purpose of this system is to prevent third parties from generating revenue with content they have no entitlement to exploit.

But what about the protests?

This brings us nicely to the issue of the rallies against the new directive. A demonstration was held, of course. It took place on 24 June 2018 in Berlin. Rather unfortunately for the protesters, it rained that day; otherwise they would have been able to count the usual hordes of tourists at the Brandenburg Gate among their numbers. Under the circumstances, only those who had turned up to protest were counted, an estimated 150 people. As with an earlier demonstration focused on the ancillary copyright of press publishers, the turnout was so low that there were presumably more press photographers than activists in attendance.

This is of course exactly what we have seen with so many “protests” mobilized by groups like Fight for the Future and the EFF.  Nobody shows up.  That’s why they need the bots.

And here is where the investigation is required.

What came now was the hour of the bots, the automatically generated emails, the automatically placed phone calls and the miraculous multiplication of protest, or rather its simulation….[T]he inboxes of EU parliamentarians were flooded with automatically generated emails. Some EU parliamentarians reported having received 60,000 emails. In total, 6 million emails appear to have been dispatched to EU parliamentarians in this fashion. Compare that number to the handful of protesters in Berlin.

Almost all the emails were identical in content, phrasing and formatting, and many even came from one and the same sender, presumably following the logic that more is better. A very large number of them were sent from the domain Opendata.eu.
This site has no content. It was registered by an English limited company which is in turn a majority holding of a US Inc. that trades in domains and provides services. No civil rights initiative appears to be involved.

Did accepting responsibility for the relentless online bombardment of parliamentarians seem too risky?

The picture was repeated on Twitter, where accounts were flooded with spam, but also threats.

What had happened? Sites such as Saveyourinternet.eu had made tools available that enable this kind of email carpet bombing.  The supporters of this site include an array of internet lobby groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Anyone who believes that the EFF are a grassroots civil rights movement should take a look at this report.

Same stuff, different day.

And this is why, of course, the Google Shillery is on the attack from multiple corners.  The talking points email has already gone out, no doubt.

This is a must read post by Volker Rieck, and should prompt a complete investigation of the attack.  The crimes, if any, were not committed by the handful of real citizens communicating with their government with good intentions.

The crimes were committed, no doubt, by multinational corporations using the well-intentioned as human shields by manipulating the democratic process in Cambridge Anaytica-fashion.  And the one corporation that stands the most to lose is Google and they should be the first ones under the microscope, particularly since they just got socked with another multi-billion dollar fine by the European Commission.

Read the English translation of the post on WebShauder for even more justification.

ERRATA:  Unfortunately, we didn’t correctly attribute the post to Volker Rieck in the initial draft but thanks to a reader we got the correct information and deeply apologize for the oversight.