@cheriehu42: Fraud Has Become the Latest Hurdle for Music Streaming

[Editor Charlie sez:  Cherie Hu presents a good argument for why artists and fans should demand the “user centric” royalty, or what Chris Castle calls the “Ethical Pool” approach that he’s working on.]

Fraud is applicable because there’s a tangible price tag involved in the consumption of a song: Labels and other rights owners are paid on a pro-rata basis, according to proportional volumes of on-demand streams. The average per-stream payout may not look like much — $0.004 for Spotify, slightly more for services like Apple Music and Tidal ($0.008 and $0.012, respectively), although exact rates depend on the type of artist or song….

But they can add up. A top hit like Ed Sheeran’s 2017 monster “Shape of You” would distribute millions of dollars in performance royalties to its songwriters and even more to the master-rights owner. Using Goldman Sachs’ projection that the streaming sector will hit $34 billion by 2030, millions of dollars in fraudulently acquired funds could be making their way through the royalty chain. Though unlike Twitter, which wiped out 6% of its users, the number of fake music streamers has not been determined. Says one major label head: “It’s not something we’re currently concerned about, but that’s not to say we won’t be in the future.”

Music streaming payouts are a zero-sum game,” says another industry insider. “It is imperative that services are vigilant and sophisticated in their controls to ensure that streaming fraud doesn’t dilute payments to the artists who have rightfully earned those payments”….

Here’s how “playola” works at playlist-promotion companies like Spotlister: A customer pays the company to secure prominent placement of a song on key playlists, such as those on Spotify. When a track is uploaded, it is analyzed and its metadata is used to send it to the most appropriate playlists.

Read the post on Variety

[Chris Castle says:  Remember that high profile criminal payola cases were prosecuted under state law commercial bribery statutes and not only the federal anti-payola or plugola laws.  Alan Freed pleaded to commercial bribery for actions which are literally nothing compared to what Spotify does every day.  While the federal payola laws apply to FCC licensed radio stations, commercial bribery prohibitions are not restricted to radio–so Internet companies need to take this a lot more seriously.  “Because Internet” is less of a defense every day.]

@cmu: As Copyright Directive campaigning starts up again, article thirteen opponents stung by London Times investigation plan to take to the streets

[Editor Charlie sez:  As David Lowery says, democracy dies in botness.  Even Spotify apologists are skeptical of the Google-backed Pirate Party tactics.]

Before attention formally returns to the draft European Copyright Directive next month, the Pirate Party’s representative in the European Parliament – Julia Reda – is hoping to get opponents to the more controversial elements of the proposals out onto the streets.

The copyright reforming directive has been in development for years, of course. For the wider music industry, the focus has been article thirteen, which seeks to increase the liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube….

Since the vote, the music industry has been very critical of tactics employed by the tech lobby, and especially big bad Google, in the weeks prior to the vote. Their campaigning, it’s argued, misrepresented what article thirteen is really about. Meanwhile opponents presented themselves as mere concerned internet users – when many were in fact funded by billion dollar tech giants – and used technology to artificially amplify their voice.

David Lowery’s The Trichordist website has run a number of articles exploring these tactics, all of which make for very interesting reading. Meanwhile The Times reported earlier this month how “Google is helping to fund a website that encourages people to spam politicians and newspapers with automated messages backing its policy goals”.

The newspaper put the spotlight on an organisation called OpenMedia, which counts Google as a platinum supporter, and which was also analysed by The Trichordist.

The Times wrote: “The campaigning site is intended to amplify the extent of public support for policies that benefit Silicon Valley”, before confirming that “the tools were recently used to bombard MEPs with phone calls opposing EU proposals to introduce tighter online copyright rules”….

While calling on people to join these protests, [Pirate] Reda has also hit out at the claims that automated tools – like those offered by OpenMedia – were used to make it look like opposition to the copyright directive was much more widespread than it really is.

She recently wrote on her blog: “We haven’t won yet. After their initial shock at losing the vote in July, the proponents of upload filters and the ‘link tax’ have come up with a convenient narrative to downplay the massive public opposition they faced. They’re claiming the protest was all fake, generated by bots and orchestrated by big internet companies”.

She went on: “According to them, Europeans don’t actually care about their freedom of expression. We don’t actually care about EU lawmaking enough to make our voices heard. We will just stand idly by as our internet is restricted to serve corporate interests. People across Europe are ready to prove them wrong: they’re taking the protest to the streets”.  [Nobody said that, the Times and Trichordist just said that there were campaigning tools paid for by Google to create a false impression.]

Read the post on Complete Music Update

@zeynep: It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech

 

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Emporers Zuck and Medvedev

 

For most of modern history, the easiest way to block the spread of an idea was to keep it from being mechanically disseminated. Shutter the news­paper, pressure the broad­cast chief, install an official censor at the publishing house. Or, if push came to shove, hold a loaded gun to the announcer’s head….

In today’s networked environment, when anyone can broadcast live or post their thoughts to a social network, it would seem that censorship ought to be impossible. This should be the golden age of free speech….

And sure, it is a golden age of free speech—if you can believe your lying eyes. Is that footage you’re watching real? Was it really filmed where and when it says it was? Is it being shared by alt-right trolls or a swarm of Russian bots? Was it maybe even generated with the help of artificial intelligence? (Yes, there are systems that can create increasingly convincing fake videos.)

Or let’s say you were the one who posted that video. If so, is anyone even watching it? Or has it been lost in a sea of posts from hundreds of millions of content pro­ducers? Does it play well with Facebook’s algorithm? Is YouTube recommending it?….

Here’s how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.

Read the post on Wired

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Michael H. Keller: The Flourishing Business of Fake YouTube Views

Martin Vassilev makes a good living selling fake views on YouTube videos. Working from home in Ottawa, he has sold about 15 million views so far this year, putting him on track to bring in more than $200,000, records show.

Mr. Vassilev, 32, does not provide the views himself. His website, 500Views.com, connects customers with services that offer views, likes and dislikes generated by computers, not humans. When a supplier cannot fulfill an order, Mr. Vassilev — like a modern switchboard operator — quickly connects with another.

“I can deliver an unlimited amount of views to a video,” Mr. Vassilev said in an interview. “They’ve tried to stop it for so many years, but they can’t stop it. There’s always a way around.”

After Google, more people search on YouTube than on any other site. It is the most popular platform among teenagers, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, beating out giants like Facebook and Instagram. With billions of views a day, the video site helps spur global cultural sensations, spawn careers, sell brands and promote political agendas.

Read the post on the New York Times

@GiniaNYT: Uber and the False Hopes of the Sharing Economy

The passage of extensive legislation by New York’s City Council on Wednesday, curtailing the previously unchecked powers of Uber and other ride-hailing services, suggests the extent to which the false promises of the sharing economy are becoming better understood and, how much more aggressively they still could be counteracted.

From the beginning, Uber appealed to drivers on the premise that partnering with the company would allow them to do what they really wanted to do, which was not ferrying 24-year-olds to beer halls or actuaries to the airport as a means of full-time employment.

A series of Uber ads that ran in conjunction with the Grammy Awards this year showed some of the artists nominated, in cars, with drivers who were singers and producers themselves. Other ads introduced us to drivers who were nursing students or aspiring businessmen — Uber could fund your creative and professional ambitions, or make it easier to go to Disney World or buy new appliances.

The reality though appears quite different.

Read the post on the New York Times

@mikehuppe: Broadcast Radio Makes an Ironic Plea for Fairness

SoundExchange’s CEO says it’s time radio starts paying all music creators fairly for their work.

On Monday, a group of radio broadcasters penned a letter in support of the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) push for deregulation of the $14 billion radio industry. Their letter was based on the NAB’s petition to the FCC this past June, in which the NAB sought to allow expanded broadcaster ownership of radio stations (i.e., increased consolidation) throughout the country. The NAB’s justification: broadcasters must adjust their business model to the realities of the new streaming world.

As a representative of the many creative parties who help craft music, we are frequently on the opposite side of issues from the NAB. And while I can’t comment on NAB’s specific requests, I was delighted to find so much common ground in their FCC filing in June….

I agree with the NAB that the law should “finally adopt rules reflecting competitive reality in today’s audio marketplace” and should “level the playing field” for all entities in the music economy.

If radio truly wants to modernize, it can start by taking a giant leap into the 21st century and paying all music creators fairly for their work. Stop treating artists like 17th century indentured servants, just so radio can reap bigger profits. If radio wants to have rules that reflect the music industry of today, then that should apply across the board.

We should resolve this gaping unfairness to artists before we begin talking about allowing radio to consolidate even further.

 

Read the post on Billboard

 

@MelindaNew_man: Top Songwriters Call For Colleagues to Resign From SESAC Over Music Modernization Act

Top songwriters are taking to social media to decry what they believe is an attempt by Blackstone — the owner of SESAC and the Harry Fox Agency — to  torpedo the Music Modernization Act by proposing changes they allege will doom the sweeping legislation.

The writers’ tweets and Instagram posts range from asking fellow songwriters to contact SESAC to voice their opposition to suggesting that writers resign from the professional rights organization and that non-SESAC writers not collaborate with their SESAC-signed colleagues.

The campaign comes after both the Nashville Songwriters International Assn. and the Songwriters of North America have criticized Blackstone, which acquired SESAC in 2017 for more than $1 billion, and alleged its suggested changes insert a “poison pill” into the legislation. Private equity firm Blackstone’s SESAC purchase included HFA, which SESAC bought in 2015….

SESAC’s senior VP of creative operations, Sam Kling, says SESAC has heard from a number of songwriters about the issue, adding “Unfortunately, I don’t feel like songwriters have heard a balanced story yet. What we’re seeing is a coordinated campaign against us that’s being led by two messaging centers in Nashville and Los Angeles. The message they are sending out is very specific and one-sided. The changes we’ve suggested won’t hamper songwriters in any way. We’re certainly not trying to damage the MMA. We wholeheartedly are in support of the MMA’s goals.”

Read the post on Billboard