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"Is it worth it?" - It used to be.....

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  • Michael W. Dean
    ... wonder why any band would want to sign to a major label... lose all rights to music you wrote, played on, and sang? Is it worth it? ... Sure, if you re a
    Message 1 of 12 , Nov 1, 2006
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      --- In podcasters@yahoogroups.com, Zaldor <zaldor@...> wrote:

      >I know this is off topic...But that reason right there makes me
      wonder why any band would want to sign to a major label... lose all
      rights to music you wrote, played on, and sang? Is it worth it?

      >Is it worth all the money that a big label provided for a short term?
      Sure, if you're a huge band it may be worth it, but for 90% of the
      bands... WHY?

      > -LES

      It used to be worth it.

      Major labels used to give decent signing advances to bands. Which
      meant that not only would the band get a little chunk of change even
      if the record was a commercial failure, but the larger investment
      would make the label work harder to promote you, so they could recoup.
      Nowadays, they sign ten bands for what they used to spend on one, put
      the records out, and quickly drop the nine that don't magically do
      well. Go into any music store in Los Angeles and ask to speak to a
      clerk "who's been on a major label." You'll get five of them.

      The guy serving your coffee at Starbucks probably was signed, too.

      (My band got a high five-figure advance. After paying off the lawyer,
      manager, agent, publicist, previous debts, etc, my cut wasn't that
      much better than the 1920s record company methodology of "Come up to
      my hotel room, sing your songs into this thing, and I'll give you ten
      bucks, a bottle of wine, and get you an hour with a woman.")

      The late 80s and early 90s saw a record business slump. By that point
      labels were basically fat, bloated dinosaurs drowning in their own tar
      pits while chewing on their tails because their brains were too small
      to know what another part of the beast was doing.

      What worked in the 70s did not work in the 90s.

      Then along came Napster and a lot of people got fired. Gigantic
      expense accounts got slashed and fat cats were frightened. (I know the
      expense accounts were gigantic because they got used on my band to
      lure us. The amount six labels spent flying people out to see us, and
      wining & dining us could have put out 50 successful records on a smart
      indie label.)

      I stood up and cheered. I loved that one stoner operating out of his
      dorm room had fucked a system that needed to be fucked.

      (Part of this attitude came from feeling that this system had fucked
      me. I believed in our music. I wasn't in it for the money, I was in it
      for the art. And my band was damn good. Don't tell Bugs Bunny, but you
      can download the whole record for free and hear for yourself:

      (Actually, feel free to tell the Bunny. I could use a fight, and need
      the exercise….)

      Maybe this is all just sour grapes on my part, but I wasn't the only
      who stood up and cheered when Napster happened.

      Business models are fluid, and what works in one decade (or century)
      does not work in another. Major labels are based on an old-economy
      business model whereby the company owns the content and accrues more
      and more of it as if they were storing widgets in a brick and mortar

      Old-economy business is based on owning the means of production, and
      having a factory where peasants ride company mules to work. The
      company owns the houses the peasants live in, and also own the company
      store. Major labels' treatment of new bands in 1990 was a modern
      version of this. Same system, same whip crackers, but dressed up in
      new clothes from The Gap.

      I believe the most important advancements in the last century were, in
      order; penicillin, computers, air conditioning and Napster. (The old
      Napster, not the new, legal neutered one with all the fun taken out of
      it.) I think that Napster's repercussions are still felt today. (I
      somehow don't think there'd even be podcasting without it.) Napster
      kicked the dinosaur in the balls, and helped solidify the
      non-centralized economy where one stoner or smart slacker with a
      laptop can be a serious threat to the huge old factory. And our stoner
      can do it from his or her backpack, from anywhere in the world. Hell,
      a homeless person could probably put Warner Brothers out of business.
      Sounds crazy, but check back with me in five years.

      To answer the question, "Why would you sign away the rights to your
      art?", well, in some situations, it's worth it. I do it with my books,
      and I'm happy with that arrangement.

      I wrote the book "$30 Film School." Then developed my idea into a
      series with "$30 Music School" and "$30 Writing School." For the past
      three years I have made most of my living off of royalties from sales
      of those three books alone. The year before that, I made most of my
      living from the advance for the first book.

      In my contract with the publisher (Course Technology), I had to give
      up "droit moral" (moral rights.) This is a legal term that means that
      if I decided to write "$30 Podcasting School", "$30 Law School" or
      "$30 Medical School" and sold it to a different company, I'd be in
      violation of my contract. It also means that they can do whatever they
      want with my "art", because they're paying me for that right.

      This sounds screwed up, but it is the nature of media business. Media
      business is the business of media, and all they have that they can
      sell IS the media. So of course they want a lot of control on it.

      For instance, Course Technology recently got an offer from a company
      in Japan who want to translate "$30 Film School" and put it out over
      there. Course Technology did not have to ask my permission to do this.
      It would be crazy, given their business model, to have to do so. In
      dealing with fickle people who consider themselves artists, such as
      myself, a company has to protect themselves from the whims of these
      unkempt content creators. If they needed to ask my permission to put
      out a Japanese volume, and I said "No", they would be losing some of
      their investment. Editing, printing and distributing three
      five-hundred page books costs a pretty penny, and the company wants to
      recoup on it. And I don't blame them. And when it comes out in Japan,
      I'll make some more money. (And I'll get a box of copies of a book I
      wrote that I can't read. How cool is that?)

      The reason I don't mind signing over rights to some of my work is that
      the company's administration of my product allows me to wake up at
      noon and work on my patio in my skivvies eating a bagel while the
      kitties lick cream cheese off my fingers. I can nap in the afternoon
      if I want. I can NOT work for three months and just podcast full time.
      So yeah, let 'em own that bit of my "art."

      (Note: I've been an artist all my life. But have only made a living at
      ART for the 18 months I was on Warner Brothers. I do not currently
      make a living at art. I make a living writing books teaching others
      how to make art. I'm a professional art school teacher who got kicked
      out of high school and flunked out of community college. Which brings
      me back to my previous question, is anyone on here actually making a
      living at podcasting, as opposed to teaching podcasting or
      administering podcast directories? That's not a challenge, it's a
      genuinely curious query.)

      Book publishers are based on old-economy ideas too, but I don't mind
      them, compared to dealing with music business people. It's like
      dealing with hip librarians vs. dealing with heartless gangsters in
      suits who sport tiny pony tails they can tuck under their collar for
      business meetings, but let down to look "cool" when they meet with bands.

      Of course there are new business models slipping in. I do work now and
      then for O'Reilly, and with some of it they've actually given me
      rights to reprint stuff elsewhere, with credit, for free. But then
      again, this is a company whose very bright, very hip CEO considers his
      company to be a "technology transfer company" rather than a publisher.
      And some of the main folks working there helped start Wired magazine.
      O'Reilly is smart. They're not your father's tech publisher.

      A lot of other new business models involve not *owning* media, but
      rather cataloging it on a non-exclusive basis, and then sticking ads
      in the catalog. That's a lot of what Google does. It's what podcasting
      directories do. It's what MP3.com did.

      It's also what a lot of dot coms tried to do in the late 90s. You can
      buy many of their domain names now, quite cheap.

      Advertising-based economy may be the wave of the future, and I'm not
      sure it's preferable to someone owning your content, and paying you
      quarterly for it. I HATE most advertising. I mute commercials on TV. I
      stop visiting websites with flashing crap. I recycle mailers in my
      P.O. box unread.

      If I want to buy something, I'll go on the Web and research user
      reviews, or ask you guys.

      And many successful new economies are based on giving people space to
      spam each other, not just with commercial offers, but with random
      thoughts, idiotic quizzes, and forwarded cookie recopies. When my
      friend goes on her MySpace account and she says "I have 885 friends"
      and laughs (she doesn't even know 885 people) I say, "No you don't.
      You have 885 low-self-esteem cyber stalkers who want to say nice
      things about you so you'll say nice things about them."

      I recently heard that a lot of people on MySpace use bots to add
      friends. Bleah!! "My computer is friends with your computer." "My
      computer has 885,000 friends. I must be a good person!"

      I still say that all economy and all technology is headed toward
      computers selling to other computers, and eventually locking us out of
      our "smart homes" to die, because we're no longer needed.

      Is anyone here up for the task of creating a new business model that
      does not involve advertising? If so, count me in.

      >>Michael W. Dean

      --"Clone The Homeless" podcast

      --"Submission and Coffee with Dollie Llama" podcast

      --Casa De Llama Studio

      --My books and films:

      --other assorted crap:
    • Kimberly Goza
      Thank you all for your input, which pretty much reiterated what we were thinking. So we kept it. Nice to have you all to bounce off of. We will be looking for
      Message 2 of 12 , Nov 3, 2006
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        Thank you all for your input, which pretty much reiterated what we
        were thinking. So we kept it. Nice to have you all to bounce off of.
        We will be looking for you at podcamp west!

        Act!vatedly Yours,

        Kimberly Goza
        The ever-nomadic Act!vated Storytellers are currently haunting San
        Jose, California
        * Mummies, tombs, and hieroglyphics. In this episode from San Jose,
        California we visit an Egyptian Museum and tell the story of "Isis and
        the Seven Scorpions". http://activated.libsyn.com/ Listen @
        * FOTR - http://www.FamiliesOnTheRoad.com
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