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The EU is offering the music industry a unique chance to help shape the structure of the online business that is so vital to the future of the recorded music industry. We can stick our head in the sand and hope that the current decline is a passing issue and that if we ‘hang tough’ it will all go away and everything will be fine.

Clearly the EU does not think this, nor anyone else who is not dependant on a large salary from a record (or other ‘content’)   company, or else is living in a time warp. The internet is a totally different method of distribution and reproduction, which relies on the end users manufacturing or storage capacity for reproduction and their broadband subscription for distribution. Furthermore each copy increases the total supply of files and this growth in the supply has no limit.

Forcing the legal and administrative system that was developed along with the growth and change in the music distribution schemes of the pre digital age into the digital world has clearly broken down. So much so that the EU has recognised it. So fundamental is the inevitable change in the market, and so incapable of being resolved by reference to traditional copyright and administration that they have asked for help. This call for help is broader and more daring than anything I have seen from any governmental or administrative body.

As an industry we need to respond in the same bold way

We need to ask what the industry could look like if we had our way in five (or ten) years time. Can we all find the humility, and collegial recognition of our collective mutual dependance to present a picture of the future which the bulk of the industry could imagine being  politically, socially and economically viable for all the parties?

Let us try to forget our disputes and discuss like grown ups how we could shape anindustry that rewards the creation of recorded music, the investment in it and  the marketing and promotion of it.  The EU wants a quick response, as the matters are urgent, but we need to make suggestions for structures that can provide the new music that the public want to hear and that makes enough money for everyone who needs to be involved to be able to make a return on their investment of time, money and creativity.

But this will need to be a flexible structure that can adjust to unimaginable
changes in the next decades. The old copyright system evolved over a couple of hundred years and adjusted to huge changes in technology, but it has finally hit a wall. Are we capable of finding answers for the next 10 years, let alone the next century?

One thing is for sure: the whole industry needs to look at the possibility of  new models that could work for all sectors in principle.Then we would all need to haggle over how any spoils should be divided. Radically new models require
radical new thought about how any net revenues should be divided between creators and enablers, and between recording and writing.
The old splits are a reflection of the varied contributions in terms of investment by the various parties involved, albeit as far as I am concerned imperfect ones.

We all need each other, writers, performers, recording companies, distributors, promoters, publishers, retailers etc, but we need to have grown up discussions about how the responsibilities, investment and creativity should be rewarded in the new digital environment, and how in turn we all interact with the digital distributors and the public, so that they too can live with the necessary compromises. One thing the industry will have to recognise is that control is severely limited in the new world and that moral rights need redefining in the new environment. These major changes in our rights will be hard to make, but financial compensation may make the pain less unbearable, but that price must be high.

table discussion* at MIDEM looking five to ten years ahead and trying to see whether any agreement can be reached about what the industry of the future might/should look like.

Admission will be by invitation and limited in numbers, but I do not think it should just be for people I happen to know,  so if anyone would like an invitation to attend let me know and I will try to enable as many to come as is possible- but first come, first served.

By the way the IAEL book is promising to be thought provoking, and relevant to these discussions.

*Sunday, January 24, 12.00-13.30 MIDEM 2010


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About Author

James Martin

James Martin is Head of Social Media for Midem organisers Reed MIDEM. This includes defining and rolling out Midem's social media strategy, editing midemblog, influencer outreach, developing Midem's fanbase of 75,000+ music professionals and more.

1 Comment

  1. Give copyright back to the authors
    Actually, copyright law itself is not that complex. The structure behind it is. Collecting societies, music publishers and record companies, who knows what they are doing? Imagine, you’re a small artist who wants to be famous. Sign here, sign here and sign here. Before you know it you don’t have any rights left, including income from gigs and merchandising. It used to be evident that we wanted to reward the creativity of people. Nowadays, it’s not that obvious anymore. My idea is that we should not discuss copyright law, but how to protect the performing, reproduction and any other rights of the music authors. Luckily I’m not the only one who is worried. It can’t be any coincidence that the Featured Artists Coalition was founded. They want the artists to have more control of their music and a much fairer share of the profits it generates in the digital age. But there is also another way. The internet is a promising marketing environment, fit for individual management of copyright and the delivery of rights on demand to users. In these circumstances the music authors are in full control of their rights. And is that not what it used to be all about? Giving the advantages of being creative to such persons? I hope the authors will be more and more aware of the fact that they have a strong legal position.
    Website for D.I.Y music copyright: http://www.villamusicrights.com

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