[linux-audio-user] [ot] Is DJ-ing commercial use of music tracks?

Daniel James daniel at mondodesigno.com
Mon Jan 26 06:16:26 EST 2004

> But I for one don't have a problem with a share of the money paid
> by punters on the door of the disco going to the people who made
> the music, both the DJ and to musicians back up the "sample chain".

That's fine in principle, but in practice this requires either a high 
degree of automation, or a layer of bureauracy which will inevitably 
siphon off at least some of those resources. Ironically, being a 
member of the 'royalties police', supposedly defending the interests 
of musicians, is probably a more lucrative career than actually being 
the average musician. I'll bet it offers a regular salary, and you 
get to spend most of your working hours in bars...     

> This is what GEMA and other "old-world" collecting societies try to
> achieve, with a varying degree of success.  Usually the venue pays
> a fee to the collecting society, which then distributes the money
> amongst musicians according to arcane statistical formulae to which
> Frank's record-keeping exercise will have contributed.

So let's work out some estimated figures. The bar pays 100 euros 
supposedly to compensate some (dead) jazz musicians, who during their 
lifetime were unable to even pay their own rent, because they had 
signed away their copyright to get a record deal, or were otherwise 
screwed. The guy from the royalty society gets 50 euros towards his 
salary, employer taxes and office expenses. That leaves 50 euros to 
compensate musicians, in theory - but the money actually goes to 
copyright holders, who may not be the original musicians who wrote 
the track, or may not be musicians at all.

According to the statistical formula, this (jazz) bar must be playing 
Britney Spears at least once a night, all year round. So the rights 
holders on her music (whoever they are) get 1 euro. The royalty 
society works its way down the top 50 grossing acts, handing out 

At number 47 in the chart is The Clash, so in theory they get a 
fraction of a euro because statistically, the bar must have played 
London Calling at some point. But Joe Strummer is dead, and Paul 
Simenon doesn't get anything either because he isn't listed as the 
rights holder for that track. (Bass players, along with drummers, 
rarely get writing credits).   

Frank's own compositions, along with everyone else's, are 
statistically insignificant in terms of gross revenue (sorry, Frank - 
mine too) so he doesn't get anything back from that 100 euro, despite 
the fact that he's the one doing the actual live music. 

So how is the rights society helping the musicians here? I'm talking 
about the musicians that actually need the money to go on making 
music, not dead people, ex-managers, or individuals like Elton John 
who can lose a few million dollars and not even notice.      

> How to achieve all this fairly and efficiently is a big open
> question.

True enough. From a band's point of view, the answer we've come up 
with is that we don't play covers at all, and we don't play at venues 
which demand covers - or worse - tribute shows. It's harder, but it's 
better for your creativity...

As far as DJ'ing goes, I think the answer will be automated collection 
of real-time statistics. A high position in a 'club chart' is likely 
to be far more significant to an artist than the small amount of 
money collected per artist.

> I don't think even GEMA would seriously claim that their 
> methods are perfect.

Perhaps not, but there are vested interests here. I predict that any 
royalty collection society will be extremely hostile to libre music 
licensing, as it represents a threat to their way of life. I've tried 
discussing licensing issues with an MCPS representative, and the 
response was like a brick wall.


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