[This is a big win for sanity against the Google & Co. shills at American Library Association as well as what sure looks like a proxy price fixing campaign leveraging the huge market controlled by librarians aka Big Tech’s human shields.]
Publishers scored a win yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland when the court granted their request for a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the Maryland Act, which essentially calls for compulsory licensing of electronic literary works to libraries on “reasonable terms”. The law went into effect on January 1, 2022.
If screwups were Easter eggs, Daniel Ek would be the Easter bunny. Right in the middle of Spotify’s crashing stock price, billion-dollar stock buy backs, shenanigans at the Copyright Royalty Board (which grows more chaotic by the day), the Joe Rogan controversy, and an investigation by the UK competition authorities after an investigation by the Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee of the UK House of Commons, here’s another Easter egg that Little Danny missed.
Sponsorship seems to be the way in which Laporta hopes to get the Blaugrana out of the red and into the black.
An agreement with music streaming platform Spotify, which is expected to be confirmed imminently, will see the club receive 225 million euros.
In turn, Spotify will sponsor the men and women’s shirts as well as their training wear. Furthermore, Spotify will have the rights to the stadium for the next three seasons- which has received mixed reviews from fans of the club.
Barcelona expect annual income of 20 million euros from Spotify to sponsor the Camp Nou, which is estimated to be more than Manchester City‘s deal with Etihad – who sponsor their stadium for 15 million euros per season.
That’s right–not one red cent for artists (or songwriters) but millions for tribute. And how did this deal come about do you think? Well, realize that Barcelona is also shopping for a rather large loan to renovate the Camp Nou stadium and they turned to…Goldman Sachs, which happens to be one of Spotify’s investment bankers. So which came first?
Does Goldman think there’s anything unethical about a company that screws creators all the livelong day but spends hundreds of millions on naming a soccer stadium after itself? (OK, I got that out with a straight face, but you can laugh now.) Evidently not, because in the catechism of Goldman, you stop at the fees novena.
And speaking of fees, what is the source of funds for Daniel Ek’s latest self-aggrandizement or whatever you call it? Perhaps a loan from Goldman before interest rates spike this year if the Federal Reserve really does say goodbye to the easy money era that has bubbled up assets around the world?
It’s always worth reading the transcripts from Spotify’s analyst calls if you want to get a picture of the true insanity they have in store for all of us. It’s clear that Daniel Ek has focused on being in the “audio opportunity” (whatever the hell that is). Kind of like being in the “water” space, I guess.
But think about what that actually means. Ek has commoditized music already in his monopoly music streaming platform–but music is just part of the “audio” space, don’t you know. And since he’s telling a growth story to Wall Street (the geniuses who brought you the subprime mortgage disaster, quantitative easing and the dot bomb bubble, just to name a few highlights), how’s he going to grow the “audio” space?
That’s right. Audiobooks.
Ek intends to apply the lessons he’s learned about how to screw over artists and songwriters to book authors. How do we know? Because he told us this week (Feb. 2, 2022) on his earnings call.
Audiobooks in our view is a subset of the overall audio opportunity, but obviously, it touches a very important creator group which is authors. So we’re very excited about that opportunity. And long-term, I think you can look at markets like China, for instance, to look at just the innovation that’s happening in audiobooks there. For me it’s strange to imagine why not more of that type of innovation have come to many of the Western markets as well.
What lessons does Ek want us to learn from China and that “innovation”? He’s not talking about innovative ways for authors to sustain themselves, he’s talking about innovative ways for Spotify to make bank by “innovating” how books are sold. Books are, you see, just another part of the audio opportunity. Let’s see what his partner Tencent, the government surveillance “company” is doing in China with audiobooks.
Tencent recently acquired Lazy Audio, a Mandarin audiobook company which sells audiobooks on a pay-per-title basis, but also subscriptions and–wait for it–advertising. Because books, like lyrics, have a lot of words or as they are known in Silicon Valley, keywords.
And once you know the keywords that attract people you can serve them more targeted ads with your algorithms. Because that’s why authors use those keywords to create those audio opportunities.
And don’t forget Ek’s Law, derived from Moore’s Law. Every 18 months royalties are cut in half.
The music industry has a sudden interest in being very ESG. The public messaging on the “Music Climate Pact” seems to focus on all aspects of the music business EXCEPT streaming. Now why might that be? It may be because streaming is about the least ESG music and movie distribution method out there. Remember, ESG is a popular acronym that labels a company suitable for investing by people like BlackRock’s Larry Fink (who has been called out for investing heavily in the People’s Republic of China by none other than George Soros, which kind of says it all).
I thought this might be a good time to revisit the “data center lobbying” connection that we first posted about three years ago.
While they like the ESG label, they actually don’t look too hard at what they are applying the label to. A quick refresher–“E” stands for “Environment” which streaming fails for reasons we will discuss on the podcast and are discussed in the Minute Earth video above–especially true for YouTube and TikTok. “S” is for “Social” which company’s like Spotify fail miserably due to their exploitative royalty systems, multibillion dollar stock buybacks that only benefit insiders and income inequality. “G” is for “Governance”, and again companies like Spotify don’t get out of the gate on G because of their supervoting shares of stock that give Daniel Ek and his insider pal Martin Lorentzon 100% control over all Spotify governance decisions regardless of what Spotify’s replaceable board has to say or votes. And we haven’t even mentioned Tencent, the PRC surveillance company or Ek’s own investment in digital munitions.
So there’s that.
But–there’s also a connection in the US (and probably other countries) between the physical location of Big Tech data centers and political power. That’s called Senator Ron Wyden, who just happens to be on the wrong side of every copyright issue (including the unrealized capital gains tax that would crush songwriters and publishers who are selling their song catalogs).
Be advised, then–when they start whinging about ESG, etc., for the music business, we should really be starting with streaming itself, and indeed, the entire Internet. And the political clout that goes with running that network of physical plant.
“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.”
“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.
If you ever thought we were too aggressive in our campaign to end the 15 year freeze on statutory royalties for physical, consider the situation of songwriter Hugh Prestwood and his wife, photojournalist Judy Ahrens. Songwriters and photographers are two occupations that are devastated by the digital blight that has visited apocalyptic devastation on creators.
As Hugh says in their GoFundMe page, his songwriting income was destroyed by the massive change in the economics of songwriting that split apart the album format with no commensurate increase in songwriter royalties. Songs became a major driver of wealth for hardware manufacturers and Internet providers (remember dancing cows chanting rip, mix, burn?) in the 2000s, and streaming drives wealth for catalogs and platforms. The doubling effect of Moore’s Law imposes a halving effect on creator royalties. Hugh and Judy are living proof of what happens to an aging population of creators who could not have possibly planned around the digital blight–other than learning to code, I guess.
The Copyright Royalty Judges need to understand that there are real consequences to real people when they freeze mechanical royalties. While the Judges are not responsible for all the harms that accrue to songwriters in the rigged statutory licensing and royalty scheme, they do play a part and they can make a difference. Songwriters may not expect the Judges to fix their problems, but they do expect them not to make it worse. Freezing rates for 15 years makes it worse.
The Judges should also understand that they have an opportunity to do something to add fairness back into the system that the Judges effectively control. Creators like Hugh and Judy will never appear in their courtroom alongside the well-heeled lobbyists and lawyers who make millions off of the rate proceedings and the black box in what has become a laughingstock.
Congress, too, needs to listen up. It is well past time for a songwriter advocate to be a permanent part of the Copyright Royalty Board proceedings for mechanical royalty rate settings. A songwriter advocate would speak for people like Hugh and Judy. As Linda said of Willie Lohman in Death of a Salesman, “Attention must be paid.” I’m not asking that songwriters should be able to overrule the lobbyists, although that’s not a bad idea.
But at least hear them out before they’re all gone.