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

Edward Barrow ej at selandre.co.uk
Mon Jan 26 09:03:32 EST 2004

On Mon, 2004-01-26 at 11:16, Daniel James wrote:
> > 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...  

But not, usually, when they're jumping - mostly it involves going round
bars, shops and hairdressers and anyone else who plays music in public,
trying to find the manager/owner, and getting them to sign the form and
pay for a sticker in the window.

> > 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. 

The collecting societies publish their operating expenses and are always
under pressure to reduce them. But most have ratios well under 50%.

> 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.

This is true. But then again (veering further OT) the original copyright
holder was the composer, and when he sold the copyright, the price paid
by the purchaser was in expectation of future cash-flow. And in Germany,
the copyright can't be sold.

> 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 
> euros. 

By far the biggest influence on distributions is radio-plays, because
the broadcasters pay by far the largest amount to the societies. Radio
stations' restricted playlists don't help. 

> 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. 

This is true; see the radio playlist issue above. The system is weighted
against minority 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.      

The societies are collectives; musicians own and control them. But most
musicians just sign over the rights when they get their first tune
published and don't bother voting. (Bit like  citizens at elections: if
you don't vote, you shouldn't be too surprised when you get the govt you
didn't vote for.)

> > 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...

Yes, but that doesn't help you if the venue has already paid its annual
GEMA or PRS licence. It means you can lawfully play unlicensed venues.

> As far as DJ'ing goes, I think the answer will be automated collection 
> of real-time statistics.
That's an awful lot of data matched, as you point out earlier, to not a
lot of money. Sampling ( er.. statistical) saves the cost of universal
data collection. Radio station play logging is already automated - the
collecting societies have been investing in the technology for some time

There is a compromise between accuracy and cost.

>  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.
Anything that improves the present system is good. I just think the
better strategy is change from within rather than either tearing down
the old or attempting to create a new Utopia isolated from the old.

> > I don't think even GEMA would seriously claim that their 
> > methods are perfect.
> Perhaps not, but there are vested interests here. 
As everywhere.

> 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.
There will be resistance to change. But "adapt or die" applies to them
as it does to the record companies and everyone else who does business
in this digital environment, and the collecting societies know this.

>  I've tried 
> discussing licensing issues with an MCPS representative, and the 
> response was like a brick wall.

> Cheers
> Daniel

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