What happens to that million dollars?
They spend half a million to record their album. That leaves the
band with $500,000. They pay $100,000 to their manager for 20
percent commission. They pay $25,000 each to their lawyer and
That leaves $350,000 for the four band members to split. After
$170,000 in taxes, there's $180,000 left. That comes out to $45,000
That's $45,000 to live on for a year until the record gets released.
The record is a big hit and sells a million copies. (How a
bidding-war band sells a million copies of its debut record is
another rant entirely, but it's based on any basic civics-class
knowledge that any of us have about cartels. Put simply, the
antitrust laws in this country are basically a joke, protecting us
just enough to not have to re-name our park service the Phillip
Morris National Park Service.)
So, this band releases two singles and makes two videos. The two
videos cost a million dollars to make and 50 percent of the video
production costs are recouped out of the band's royalties.
The band gets $200,000 in tour support, which is 100 percent
The record company spends $300,000 on independent radio promotion.
You have to pay independent promotion to get your song on the radio;
independent promotion is a system where the record companies use
middlemen so they can pretend not to know that radio stations -- the
unified broadcast system -- are getting paid to play their records.
All of those independent promotion costs are charged to the band.
Since the original million-dollar advance is also recoupable, the
band owes $2 million to the record company.
If all of the million records are sold at full price with no
discounts or record clubs, the band earns $2 million in royalties,
since their 20 percent royalty works out to $2 a record.
Two million dollars in royalties minus $2 million in recoupable
expenses equals ... zero!
How much does the record company make?
They grossed $11 million.
It costs $500,000 to manufacture the CDs and they advanced the band
$1 million. Plus there were $1 million in video costs, $300,000 in
radio promotion and $200,000 in tour support.
The company also paid $750,000 in music publishing royalties.
They spent $2.2 million on marketing. That's mostly retail
advertising, but marketing also pays for those huge posters of
Marilyn Manson in Times Square and the street scouts who drive
around in vans handing out black Korn T-shirts and backwards
baseball caps. Not to mention trips to Scores and cash for tips for
all and sundry.
Add it up and the record company has spent about $4.4 million.
So their profit is $6.6 million; the band may as well be working at
Of course, they had fun. Hearing yourself on the radio, selling
records, getting new fans and being on TV is great, but now the band
doesn't have enough money to pay the rent and nobody has any credit.
Worst of all, after all this, the band owns none of its work ...
they can pay the mortgage forever but they'll never own the house.
Like I said: Sharecropping. Our media says, "Boo hoo, poor pop
stars, they had a nice ride. Fuck them for speaking up"; but I say
this dialogue is imperative. And cynical media people, who are more
fascinated with celebrity than most celebrities, need to reacquaint
themselves with their value systems.
When you look at the legal line on a CD, it says copyright 1976
Atlantic Records or copyright 1996 RCA Records. When you look at a
book, though, it'll say something like copyright 1999 Susan Faludi,
or David Foster Wallace. Authors own their books and license them to
publishers. When the contract runs out, writers gets their books
back. But record companies own our copyrights forever.
The system's set up so almost nobody gets paid.
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Last November, a Congressional aide named Mitch Glazier, with the
support of the RIAA, added a "technical amendment" to a bill that
defined recorded music as "works for hire" under the 1978 Copyright
He did this after all the hearings on the bill were over. By the
time artists found out about the change, it was too late. The bill
was on its way to the White House for the president's signature.
That subtle change in copyright law will add billions of dollars to
record company bank accounts over the next few years -- billions of
dollars that rightfully should have been paid to artists. A "work
for hire" is now owned in perpetuity by the record company.
Under the 1978 Copyright Act, artists could reclaim the copyrights
on their work after 35 years. If you wrote and recorded "Everybody
Hurts," you at least got it back to as a family legacy after 35
years. But now, because of this corrupt little pisher, "Everybody
Hurts" never gets returned to your family, and can now be sold to
the highest bidder.
Over the years record companies have tried to put "work for hire"
provisions in their contracts, and Mr. Glazier claims that the "work
for hire" only "codified" a standard industry practice. But
copyright laws didn't identify sound recordings as being eligible to
be called "works for hire," so those contracts didn't mean anything.
Writing and recording "Hey Jude" is now the same thing as writing an
English textbook, writing standardized tests, translating a novel
from one language to another or making a map. These are the types of
things addressed in the "work for hire" act. And writing a
standardized test is a work for hire. Not making a record.
So an assistant substantially altered a major law when he only had
the authority to make spelling corrections. That's not what I
learned about how government works in my high school civics class.
Three months later, the RIAA hired Mr. Glazier to become its top
lobbyist at a salary that was obviously much greater than the one he
had as the spelling correcter guy.
The RIAA tries to argue that this change was necessary because of a
provision in the bill that musicians supported. That provision
prevents anyone from registering a famous person's name as a Web
address without that person's permission. That's great. I own my
name, and should be able to do what I want with my name.
But the bill also created an exception that allows a company to take
a person's name for a Web address if they create a work for hire.
Which means a record company would be allowed to own your Web site
when you record your "work for hire" album. Like I said:
Although I've never met any one at a record company who "believed in
the Internet," they've all been trying to cover their asses by
securing everyone's digital rights. Not that they know what to do
with them. Go to a major label-owned band site. Give me a dollar for
every time you see an annoying "under construction" sign. I used to
pester Geffen (when it was a label) to do a better job. I was
totally ignored for two years, until I got my band name back. The
Goo Goo Dolls are struggling to gain control of their domain name
from Warner Bros., who claim they own the name because they set up a
shitty promotional Web site for the band.
Orrin Hatch, songwriter and Republican senator from Utah, seems to
be the only person in Washington with a progressive view of
copyright law. One lobbyist says that there's no one in the House
with a similar view and that "this would have never happened if
Sonny Bono was still alive."
By the way, which bill do you think the recording industry used for
The Record Company Redefinition Act? No. The Music Copyright Act?
No. The Work for Hire Authorship Act? No.
How about the Satellite Home Viewing Act of 1999?
Stealing our copyright reversions in the dead of night while no one
was looking, and with no hearings held, is piracy.
It's piracy when the RIAA lobbies to change the bankruptcy law to
make it more difficult for musicians to declare bankruptcy. Some
musicians have declared bankruptcy to free themselves from truly
evil contracts. TLC declared bankruptcy after they received less
than 2 percent of the $175 million earned by their CD sales. That
was about 40 times less than the profit that was divided among their
management, production and record companies.
Toni Braxton also declared bankruptcy in 1998. She sold $188 million
worth of CDs, but she was broke because of a terrible recording
contract that paid her less than 35 cents per album. Bankruptcy can
be an artist's only defense against a truly horrible deal and the
RIAA wants to take it away.
Artists want to believe that we can make lots of money if we're
successful. But there are hundreds of stories about artists in their
60s and 70s who are broke because they never made a dime from their
hit records. And real success is still a long shot for a new artist
today. Of the 32,000 new releases each year, only 250 sell more than
10,000 copies. And less than 30 go platinum.
The four major record corporations fund the RIAA. These companies
are rich and obviously well-represented. Recording artists and
musicians don't really have the money to compete. The 273,000
working musicians in America make about $30,000 a year. Only 15
percent of American Federation of Musicians members work steadily in
But the music industry is a $40 billion-a-year business. One-third
of that revenue comes from the United States. The annual sales of
cassettes, CDs and video are larger than the gross national product
of 80 countries. Americans have more CD players, radios and VCRs
than we have bathtubs.
Story after story gets told about artists -- some of them in their
60s and 70s, some of them authors of huge successful songs that we
all enjoy, use and sing -- living in total poverty, never having
been paid anything. Not even having access to a union or to basic
health care. Artists who have generated billions of dollars for an
industry die broke and un-cared for.
And they're not actors or participators. They're the rightful
owners, originators and performers of original compositions.
This is piracy.
Technology is not piracy
This opinion is one I really haven't formed yet, so as I speak about
Napster now, please understand that I'm not totally informed. I will
be the first in line to file a class action suit to protect my
copyrights if Napster or even the far more advanced Gnutella doesn't
work with us to protect us. I'm on [Metallica drummer] Lars Ulrich's
side, in other words, and I feel really badly for him that he
doesn't know how to condense his case down to a sound-bite that
sounds more reasonable than the one I saw today.
I also think Metallica is being given too much grief. It's
anti-artist, for one thing. An artist speaks up and the artist gets
squashed: Sharecropping. Don't get above your station, kid. It's not
piracy when kids swap music over the Internet using Napster or
Gnutella or Freenet or iMesh or beaming their CDs into a My.MP3.com
or MyPlay.com music locker. It's piracy when those guys that run
those companies make side deals with the cartel lawyers and label
heads so that they can be "the labels' friend," and not the
Recording artists have essentially been giving their music away for
free under the old system, so new technology that exposes our music
to a larger audience can only be a good thing. Why aren't these
companies working with us to create some peace?
There were a billion music downloads last year, but music sales are
up. Where's the evidence that downloads hurt business? Downloads are
creating more demand.
Why aren't record companies embracing this great opportunity? Why
aren't they trying to talk to the kids passing compilations around
to learn what they like? Why is the RIAA suing the companies that
are stimulating this new demand? What's the point of going after
people swapping cruddy-sounding MP3s? Cash! Cash they have no
intention of passing onto us, the writers of their profits.
At this point the "record collector" geniuses who use Napster don't
have the coolest most arcane selection anyway, unless you're into
techno. Hardly any pre-1982 REM fans, no '60s punk, even the Alan
Parsons Project was underrepresented when I tried to find some
Napster buddies. For the most part, it was college boy rawk without
a lot of imagination. Maybe that's the demographic that cares -- and
in that case, My Bloody Valentine and Bert Jansch aren't going to
get screwed just yet. There's still time to negotiate.
Destroying traditional access
Somewhere along the way, record companies figured out that it's a
lot more profitable to control the distribution system than it is to
nurture artists. And since the companies didn't have any real
competition, artists had no other place to go. Record companies
controlled the promotion and marketing; only they had the ability to
get lots of radio play, and get records into all the big chain
store. That power put them above both the artists and the audience.
They own the plantation.
Being the gatekeeper was the most profitable place to be, but now
we're in a world half without gates. The Internet allows artists to
communicate directly with their audiences; we don't have to depend
solely on an inefficient system where the record company promotes
our records to radio, press or retail and then sits back and hopes
fans find out about our music.
Record companies don't understand the intimacy between artists and
their fans. They put records on the radio and buy some advertising
and hope for the best. Digital distribution gives everyone
worldwide, instant access to music.
And filters are replacing gatekeepers. In a world where we can get
anything we want, whenever we want it, how does a company create
value? By filtering. In a world without friction, the only friction
people value is editing. A filter is valuable when it understands
the needs of both artists and the public. New companies should be
conduits between musicians and their fans.
Right now the only way you can get music is by shelling out $17. In
a world where music costs a nickel, an artist can "sell" 100 million
copies instead of just a million.
The present system keeps artists from finding an audience because it
has too many artificial scarcities: limited radio promotion, limited
bin space in stores and a limited number of spots on the record
The digital world has no scarcities. There are countless ways to
reach an audience. Radio is no longer the only place to hear a new
song. And tiny mall record stores aren't the only place to buy a new
Now artists have options. We don't have to work with major labels
anymore, because the digital economy is creating new ways to
distribute and market music. And the free ones amongst us aren't
going to. That means the slave class, which I represent, has to find
ways to get out of our deals. This didn't really matter before, and
that's why we all stayed.
I want my seven-year contract law California labor code case to mean
something to other artists. (Universal Records sues me because I
leave because my employment is up, but they say a recording contract
is not a personal contract; because the recording industry -- who,
we have established, are excellent lobbyists, getting, as they did,
a clerk to disallow Don Henley or Tom Petty the right to give their
copyrights to their families -- in California, in 1987, lobbied to
pass an amendment that nullified recording contracts as personal
contracts, sort of. Maybe. Kind of. A little bit. And again, in the
dead of night, succeeded.)
That's why I'm willing to do it with a sword in my teeth. I expect
I'll be ignored or ostracized following this lawsuit. I expect that
the treatment you're seeing Lars Ulrich get now will quadruple for
me. Cool. At least I'll serve a purpose. I'm an artist and a good
artist, I think, but I'm not that artist that has to play all the
time, and thus has to get fucked. Maybe my laziness and
self-destructive streak will finally pay off and serve a community
desperately in need of it. They can't torture me like they could
You funny dot-communists. Get your shit together, you annoying sucka
I want to work with people who believe in music and art and passion.
And I'm just the tip of the iceberg. I'm leaving the major label
system and there are hundreds of artists who are going to follow me.
There's an unbelievable opportunity for new companies that dare to
get it right.
How can anyone defend the current system when it fails to deliver
music to so many potential fans? That only expects of itself a "5
percent success rate" a year? The status quo gives us a boring
culture. In a society of over 300 million people, only 30 new
artists a year sell a million records. By any measure, that's a huge
Maybe each fan will spend less money, but maybe each artist will
have a better chance of making a living. Maybe our culture will get
more interesting than the one currently owned by Time Warner. I'm
not crazy. Ask yourself, are any of you somehow connected to Time
Warner media? I think there are a lot of yeses to that and I'd have
to say that in that case president McKinley truly failed to bust any
trusts. Maybe we can remedy that now.
Artists will make that compromise if it means we can connect with
hundreds of millions of fans instead of the hundreds of thousands
that we have now. Especially if we lose all the crap that goes with
success under the current system. I'm willing, right now, to leave
half of these trappings -- fuck it, all these trappings -- at the
door to have a pure artist experience. They cosset us with trappings
to shut us up. That way when we say "sharecropper!" you can point to
my free suit and say "Shut up pop star."
Here, take my Prada pants. Fuck it. Let us do our real jobs. And
those of us addicted to celebrity because we have nothing else to
give will fade away. And those of us addicted to celebrity because
it was there will find a better, purer way to live.
Since I've basically been giving my music away for free under the
old system, I'm not afraid of wireless, MP3 files or any of the
other threats to my copyrights. Anything that makes my music more
available to more people is great. MP3 files sound cruddy, but a
well-made album sounds great. And I don't care what anyone says
about digital recordings. At this point they are good for dance
music, but try listening to a warm guitar tone on them. They suck
for what I do.
Record companies are terrified of anything that challenges their
control of distribution. This is the business that insisted that CDs
be sold in incredibly wasteful 6-by-12 inch long boxes just because
no one thought you could change the bins in a record store.
Let's not call the major labels "labels." Let's call them by their
real names: They are the distributors. They're the only distributors
and they exist because of scarcity. Artists pay 95 percent of
whatever we make to gatekeepers because we used to need gatekeepers
to get our music heard. Because they have a system, and when they
decide to spend enough money -- all of it recoupable, all of it owed
by me -- they can occasionally shove things through this system,
depending on a lot of arbitrary factors.
The corporate filtering system, which is the system that brought you
(in my humble opinion) a piece of crap like "Mambo No. 5" and didn't
let you hear the brilliant Cat Power record or the amazing new
Sleater Kinney record, obviously doesn't have good taste anyway. But
we've never paid major label/distributors for their good taste.
They've never been like Yahoo and provided a filter service.
There were a lot of factors that made a distributor decide to push a
recording through the system:
How powerful is management?
Who owes whom a favor?
What independent promoter's cousin is the drummer? What part of the
fiscal year is the company putting out the record? Is the royalty
rate for the artist so obscenely bad that it's almost 100 percent
profit instead of just 95 percent so that if the record sells, it's
literally a steal?
How much bin space is left over this year? Was the record already a
hit in Europe so that there's corporate pressure to make it work?
Will the band screw up its live career to play free shows for radio
Does the artist's song sound enough like someone else that radio
stations will play it because it fits the sound of the month? Did
the artist get the song on a film soundtrack so that the movie
studio will pay for the video?
These factors affect the decisions that go into the system. Not
public taste. All these things are becoming eradicated now. They are
gone or on their way out. We don't need the gatekeepers any more. We
just don't need them.
And if they aren't going to do for me what I can do for myself with
my 19-year-old Webmistress on my own Web site, then they need to get
the hell out of my way. [I will] allow millions of people to get my
music for nothing if they want and hopefully they'll be kind enough
to leave a tip if they like it.
I still need the old stuff. I still need a producer in the creation
of a recording, I still need to get on the radio (which costs a lot
of money), I still need bin space for hardware CDs, I still need to
provide an opportunity for people without computers to buy the
hardware that I make. I still need a lot of this stuff, but I can
get these things from a joint venture with a company that serves as
a conduit and knows its place. Serving the artist and serving the
public: That's its place.
Equity for artists
A new company that gives artists true equity in their work can take
over the world, kick ass and make a lot of money. We're inspired by
how people get paid in the new economy. Many visual artists and
software and hardware designers have real ownership of their work.
I have a 14-year-old niece. She used to want to be a rock star.
Before that she wanted to be an actress. As of six months ago, what
do you think she wants to be when she grows up? What's the
glamorous, emancipating career of choice? Of course, she wants to be
a Web designer. It's such a glamorous business!
When you people do business with artists, you have to take a
different view of things. We want to be treated with the respect
that now goes to Web designers. We're not Dockers-wearing Intel
workers from Portland who know how to "manage our stress." We don't
understand or want to understand corporate culture.
I feel this obscene gold rush greedgreedgreed vibe that bothers me a
lot when I talk to dot-com people about all this. You guys can't
hustle artists that well. At least slick A&R guys know the
buzzwords. Don't try to compete with them. I just laugh at you when
you do! Maybe you could a year ago when anything dot-com sounded
smarter than the rest of us, but the scam has been uncovered.
The celebrity-for-sale business is about to crash, I hope, and the
idea of a sucker VC gifting some company with four floors just
because they can "do" "chats" with "Christina" once or twice is
ridiculous. I did a chat today, twice. Big damn deal. 200 bucks for
the software and some elbow grease and a good back-end coder. Wow.
That's not worth 150 million bucks.
... I mean, yeah, sure it is if you'd like to give it to me.
Tipping/music as service
I know my place. I'm a waiter. I'm in the service industry.
I live on tips. Occasionally, I'm going to get stiffed, but that's
OK. If I work hard and I'm doing good work, I believe that the
people who enjoy it are going to want to come directly to me and get
my music because it sounds better, since it's mastered and packaged
by me personally. I'm providing an honest, real experience. Period.
When people buy the bootleg T-shirt in the concert parking lot and
not the more expensive T-shirt inside the venue, it isn't to save
money. The T-shirt in the parking lot is cheap and badly made, but
it's easier to buy. The bootleggers have a better distribution
system. There's no waiting in line and it only takes two minutes to
I know that if I can provide my own T-shirt that I designed, that I
made, and provide it as quickly or quicker than the bootleggers,
people who've enjoyed the experience I've provided will be happy to
shell out a little more money to cover my costs. Especially if they
understand this context, and aren't being shoveled a load of shit
about "uppity" artists.
It's exactly the same with recorded music. The real thing to fear
from Napster is its simple and excellent distribution system. No one
really prefers a cruddy-sounding Napster MP3 file to the real thing.
But it's really easy to get an MP3 file; and in the middle of Kansas
you may never see my record because major distribution is really bad
if your record's not in the charts this week, and even then it takes
a couple of weeks to restock the one copy they usually keep on hand.
I also know how many times I have heard a song on the radio that I
loved only to buy the record and have the album be a piece of crap.
If you're afraid of your own filler then I bet you're afraid of
Napster. I'm afraid of Napster because I think the major label
cartel will get to them before I do.
I've made three records. I like them all. I haven't made filler and
they're all committed pieces of work. I'm not scared of you
previewing my record. If you like it enough to have it be a part of
your life, I know you'll come to me to get it, as long as I show you
how to get to me, and as long as you know that it's out.
Most people don't go into restaurants and stiff waiters, but record
labels represent the restaurant that forces the waiters to live on,
and sometimes pool, their tips. And they even fight for a bit of
Music is a service to its consumers, not a product. I live on tips.
Giving music away for free is what artists have been doing naturally
all their lives.
Record companies stand between artists and their fans. We signed
terrible deals with them because they controlled our access to the
But in a world of total connectivity, record companies lose that
control. With unlimited bin space and intelligent search engines,
fans will have no trouble finding the music they know they want.
They have to know they want it, and that needs to be a marketing
business that takes a fee.
If a record company has a reason to exist, it has to bring an
artist's music to more fans and it has to deliver more and better
music to the audience. You bring me a bigger audience or a better
relationship with my audience or get the fuck out of my way. Next
time I release a record, I'll be able to go directly to my fans and
let them hear it before anyone else.
We'll still have to use radio and traditional CD distribution.
Record stores aren't going away any time soon and radio is still the
most important part of record promotion.
Major labels are freaking out because they have no control in this
new world. Artists can sell CDs directly to fans. We can make direct
deals with thousands of other Web sites and promote our music to
millions of people that old record companies never touch.
We're about to have lots of new ways to sell our music: downloads,
hardware bundles, memory sticks, live Webcasts, and lots of other
things that aren't even invented yet.
But there's something you guys have to figure out.
Here's my open letter to Steve Case:
Avatars don't talk back!!! But what are you going to do with real
Artists aren't like you. We go through a creative process that's
demented and crazy. There's a lot of soul-searching and turning
ourselves inside-out and all kinds of gross stuff that ends up on
"Behind the Music."
A lot of people who haven't been around artists very much get really
weird when they sit down to lunch with us. So I want to give you
some advice: Learn to speak our language. Talk about songs and
melody and hooks and art and beauty and soul. Not sleazy record-guy
crap, where you're in a cashmere sweater murmuring that the perfect
deal really is perfect, Courtney. Yuck. Honestly hire honestly
committed people. We're in a "new economy," right? You can afford to
But don't talk to me about "content."
I get really freaked out when I meet someone and they start telling
me that I should record 34 songs in the next six months so that we
have enough content for my site. Defining artistic expression as
content is anathema to me.
What the hell is content? Nobody buys content. Real people pay money
for music because it means something to them. A great song is not
just something to take up space on a Web site next to stock market
quotes and baseball scores.
DEN tried to build a site with artist-free content and I'm not sorry
to see it fail. The DEN shows look like art if you're not paying
attention, but they forgot to hire anyone to be creative. So they
ended up with a lot of content nobody wants to see because they
thought they could avoid dealing with defiant and moody
personalities. Because they were arrogant. And because they were
conformists. Artists have to deal with business people and business
people have to deal with artists. We hate each other. Let's create
companies of mediators.
Every single artist who makes records believes and hopes that they
give you something that will transform your life. If you're really
just interested in data mining or selling banner ads, stick with
those "artists" willing to call themselves content providers.
I don't know if an artist can last by meeting the current public
taste, the taste from the last quarterly report. I don't think you
can last by following demographics and carefully meeting
expectations. I don't know many lasting works of art that are
condescending or deliberately stupid or were created as content.
Don't tell me I'm a brand. I'm famous and people recognize me, but I
can't look in the mirror and see my brand identity.
Keep talking about brands and you know what you'll get? Bad clothes.
Bad hair. Bad books. Bad movies. And bad records. And bankrupt
businesses. Rides that were fun for a year with no employee loyalty
but everyone got rich fucking you. Who wants that? The answer is
purity. We can afford it. Let's go find it again while we can.
I also feel filthy trying to call my music a product. It's not a
thing that I test market like toothpaste or a new car. Music is
personal and mysterious.
Being a "content provider" is prostitution work that devalues our
art and doesn't satisfy our spirits. Artistic expression has to be
provocative. The problem with artists and the Internet: Once their
art is reduced to content, they may never have the opportunity to
retrieve their souls.
When you form your business for creative people, with creative
people, come at us with some thought. Everybody's process is
different. And remember that it's art. We're not craftspeople.
I don't know what a good sponsorship would be for me or for other
artists I respect. People bring up sponsorships a lot as a way for
artists to get our music paid for upfront and for us to earn a fee.
I've dealt with large corporations for long enough to know that any
alliance where I'm an owned service is going to be doomed.
When I agreed to allow a large cola company to promote a live show,
I couldn't have been more miserable. They screwed up every single
thing imaginable. The venue was empty but sold out. There were
thousands of people outside who wanted to be there, trying to get
tickets. And there were the empty seats the company had purchased
for a lump sum and failed to market because they were clueless about
It was really dumb. You had to buy the cola. You had to dial a
number. You had to press a bunch of buttons. You had to do all this
crap that nobody wanted to do. Why not just bring a can to the door?
On top of all this, I felt embarrassed to be an advertising agent
for a product that I'd never let my daughter use. Plus they were a
condescending bunch of little guys. They treated me like I was an
ungrateful little bitch who should be groveling for the experience
to play for their damn soda.
I ended up playing without my shirt on and ordering a six-pack of
the rival cola onstage. Also lots of unwholesome cursing and nudity
occurred. This way I knew that no matter how tempting the cash was,
they'd never do business with me again.
If you want some little obedient slave content provider, then fine.
But I think most musicians don't want to be responsible for your
clean-cut, wholesome, all-American, sugar corrosive cancer-causing,
all white people, no women allowed sodapop images.
Nor, on the converse, do we want to be responsible for your
vice-inducing, liver-rotting, child-labor-law-violating, all white
people, no-women-allowed booze images.
So as a defiant moody artist worth my salt, I've got to think of
something else. Tampax, maybe.
As a user, I love Napster. It carries some risk. I hear idealistic
business people talk about how people that are musicians would be
musicians no matter what and that we're already doing it for free,
so what about copyright?
Please. It's incredibly easy not to be a musician. It's always a
struggle and a dangerous career choice. We are motivated by passion
and by money.
That's not a dirty little secret. It's a fact. Take away the
incentive for major or minor financial reward and you dilute the
pool of musicians. I am not saying that only pure artists will
survive. Like a few of the more utopian people who discuss this, I
don't want just pure artists to survive.
Where would we all be without the trash? We need the trash to cover
up our national depression. The utopians also say that because in
their minds "pure" artists are all Ani DiFranco and don't demand a
lot of money. Why are the utopians all entertainment lawyers and
major label workers anyway? I demand a lot of money if I do a big
huge worthwhile job and millions of people like it, don't kid
yourself. In economic terms, you've got an industry that's loathsome
and outmoded, but when it works it creates some incentive and some
efficiency even though absolutely no one gets paid.
We suffer as a society and a culture when we don't pay the true
value of goods and services delivered. We create a lack of
production. Less good music is recorded if we remove the incentive
to create it.
Music is intellectual property with full cash and opportunity costs
required to create, polish and record a finished product. If I
invest money and time into my business, I should be reasonably
protected from the theft of my goods and services. When the judgment
came against MP3.com, the RIAA sought damages of $150,000 for each
major-label-"owned" musical track in MP3's database. Multiply by
80,000 CDs, and MP3.com could owe the gatekeepers $120 billion.
But what about the Plimsouls? Why can't MP3.com pay each artist a
fixed amount based on the number of their downloads? Why on earth
should MP3.com pay $120 billion to four distribution companies, who
in most cases won't have to pay a nickel to the artists whose
copyrights they've stolen through their system of organized theft?
It's a ridiculous judgment. I believe if evidence had been entered
that ultimately it's just shuffling big cash around two or three
corporations, I can only pray that the judge in the MP3.com case
would have seen the RIAA's case for the joke that it was.
I'd rather work out a deal with MP3.com myself, and force them to be
artist-friendly, instead of being laughed at and having my money
hidden by a major label as they sell my records out the back door,
behind everyone's back.
How dare they behave in such a horrified manner in regards to
copyright law when their entire industry is based on piracy? When
Mister Label Head Guy, whom my lawyer yelled at me not to name, got
caught last year selling millions of "cleans" out the back door.
"Cleans" being the records that aren't for marketing but are to be
sold. Who the fuck is this guy? He wants to save a little cash so he
fucks the artist and goes home? Do they fire him? Does Chuck
Phillips of the LA Times say anything? No way! This guy's a source!
He throws awesome dinner parties! Why fuck with the status quo?
Let's pick on Lars Ulrich instead because he brought up an
I'm looking for people to help connect me to more fans, because I
believe fans will leave a tip based on the enjoyment and service I
provide. I'm not scared of them getting a preview. It really is
going to be a global village where a billion people have access to
one artist and a billion people can leave a tip if they want to.
It's a radical democratization. Every artist has access to every fan
and every fan has access to every artist, and the people who direct
fans to those artists. People that give advice and technical value
are the people we need. People crowding the distribution pipe and
trying to ignore fans and artists have no value. This is a perfect
If you're going to start a company that deals with musicians, please
do it because you like music. Offer some control and equity to the
artists and try to give us some creative guidance. If music and art
and passion are important to you, there are hundreds of artists who
are ready to rewrite the rules.
In the last few years, business pulled our culture away from the
idea that music is important and emotional and sacred. But new
technology has brought a real opportunity for change; we can break
down the old system and give musicians real freedom and choice.
A great writer named Neal Stephenson said that America does four
things better than any other country in the world: rock music,
movies, software and high-speed pizza delivery. All of these are
sacred American art forms. Let's return to our purity and our
idealism while we have this shot.
Warren Beatty once said: "The greatest gift God gives us is to enjoy
the sound of our own voice. And the second greatest gift is to get
somebody to listen to it."
And for that, I humbly thank you.
Courtney Love Speech
On Piracy and Music