Friday, November 26, 2010

A Legitimate P2P Network?????

Free music has continually been shown as a great way to get a band exposure for their music, and can be utilized to promote sales for independent and signed artists (ie Radiohead releasing ‘In Rainbows’ as a pay what you will to fans). Free music allows fans and potential fans the ability to have a taste of your music at no risk to them, which in the end helps promotes sales, since if a fan truly enjoys your music, most likely they will take the extra step to purchase your music and additional merchandise. Enterprising artists like Jonathan Coulton, David Byrne/Brian Eno, and many more have used the ability of enticing fans with free music and then presenting special bundle packages at higher price brackets to bring in revenue. TopSpin as a service is really good at providing a platform for artists to provide these special products to their customers. In addition, using free music for fan aggregation, (exchanging a free track for an email address), is a very useful tactic for building a fan base using free music.

The whole issue of trying to make file-sharing networks legit is a whole other animal unfortunately. One benefit of making file-sharing networks legitimate would be that publishers would be given an avenue to collect on royalties due to songwriters; an avenue, which previously was completely bypassing copyrights. Furthermore many file-sharing networks (like Pirate Bay for example) are seeking ways to become legitimate, since as an illegitimate service their years are numbered (like Morpheus, Limewire, Napster, Kazaa, etc.) (check out The problem p2p networks deal with is that to launch a legitimate authorized music service, the licensing of music would cost anywhere from $20-$30 million dollars. (per Gigaom article). If the industry was able to come up with a more reasonable cost to licensing their content, possibly more P2P networks could become really legitimate. Furthermore labels would need to be willing to release a lot of out of print material into the public via these networks so that the legitimate P2P networks would truly be the best source for ALL available content. Once the networks were legitimate, there would need to be a good passive way of monitoring the downloading of content, so as to figure out how to pay out artists and labels fairly based on the volume of consumption of their content. Possibly a federal tax could be proposed to charge for the usage of the content provided to the public for free? The more and more I look at this, the more it looks like it will become something like a subscription service like Rhapsody, except that it would allow the ability to download files freely to be utilized as a consumer sees fit.

The thing that is fascinating right now, is a service like Pirate Bay already charges about $6.00 a month for premium members who want to hide their IP addresses in order to escape legal scrutiny. Changing this monthly fee to a membership for using the service is not much different to the users of the service, and ensures that the copyright holders are finally being compensated themselves. (

Possibly a service that P2P networks could provide for musicians and labels, is that every time a consumer wants to download a given track or album, it would require or give the option to the downloader to sign up for the artists email list (like TopSpin’s fan aggregation tactic), and would at least provide artists with lists of potential fans they could try and up sell their special bundle music packages to.

IP Law, Creative Commons and Music

Since I worked in intellectual property for about three years, one of the biggest debates that is interesting me right now regarding the future of the music industry is copyright, and the arguments for eliminating it, or at least reinventing it in Congress. As an original composer I see the advantage of having copyright protection and rely on it to make sure that I have a level of assurance that I will have control over my own pieces of work.

On the other side, I work with a lot of hip hop producers and see how in general they are scalping tracks from other musicians all the time, and rarely are giving proper credit or compensation – however this is how the hip hop community works. When I’ve approached some underground hip hop producers about properly clearing the rights to use the clips and songs on their tracks, they always point out that it is expensive, confusing, and difficult to go through. I can see an advantage to presenting more lax copyrights, or at least an easier way for people to license tracks from a copyright holder without so much hassle, which means the copyright-holders will be compensated for the usage of their tracks, but the whole process should be streamlined.
This would be in line with something like the ‘voluntary Collective Licensing’ idea – which just makes it easier for people to license material from artists. ( Even though the voluntary collective licensing idea doesn’t involve copyright directly, the idea that it compiles things into a simpler administrative system and streamlines things seems extremely important to pursue, especially in this digital age.

Aside from streamlining the process of licensing music from copyright holders, I find the whole movement of creative commons extremely interesting, since it places the copyright holder in control of how they present their works to the public.

Hidden value: I can see how a creative commons license can be helpful to an artist who is trying to get exposure and share their art with a community. Seeing examples like Metric (which sold stems for their songs for $2.00, and then encouraged people to remix the tracks), is a great example of the hidden value of the power of more ‘lax’ copyrights in general. With the Metric example, within four weeks about 12,000 remixes were floating around, and all of them were essentially ‘free’ advertising for the band Metric. It would be difficult to quantify how well this would convert over to people actually purchasing Metric albums or if those people exposed to the remixes would actually be more inclined to purchase tickets to see them live – however just getting the name out there is still of value to the band (even without a direct monetizing value.)

One thing that worries me about the situation with copyrights is how it will effect musicians who are not in bands, for example, film scorers, composers, and commercial jingle writers. A huge part of the value of the work they do is the exclusivity of it for their clients (at least for film scorers and their relationship with a film studio, or commercial TV/Radio jingle writers); and if copyright becomes too lax, or too easy for people to utilize the piece of music for their own projects (non-profit and profitable projects) without the permission of the artist, the exclusivity is jeopardized, and definitely devalues the music itself. Why would a film studio pay for the exclusivity of a track or piece of music if the artist themselves can’t even guarantee that the piece of music won’t show up somewhere else?

-Andrew D.B. Joslyn

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Response to the 'Internet Debacle by Janis Ian'

Recently I was introduced to an article that Janis Ian wrote about 'file-sharing' and music back in 2002, in an article called "The Internet Debacle". You can find a link to the article here.

After reading the entire article presented by Janis Ian about the debate regarding ‘free downloading,’ I would say for the most part that I agree with her opinions. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is doing a tremendously poor job in addressing the issue of file sharing, and are just further estranging the general consumer from the industry as a whole. Check out this ridiculous situation right here. To date an organization has been created to out rightly stand up against the RIAA and their misguided attempts to stop file sharing (Anonymous.) Personally I can understand the vehemence which the RIAA has been approaching the situation, because they are operating from an old school model. Labels are notorious for gouging the artists as well as the consumers with their contracts, and pricings of product, which screws the buyers. However all this aside, someone needs to at least have an opposing voice against utterly blatant file sharing, and the possible chaos that could ensue. It sucks that the voice of the industry had to come from a rusted dinosaur like the RIAA who are, as Janis pointed out, using skewed tests in favor of their own ulterior motives, which is just to forward the ‘record’ industry’s agenda, NOT the agendas of the artists.

I feel that Janis is right that free downloading is not as harmful to the artists and the industry that the RIAA would like all of us to believe. However, I’m also of the mind-set that free-downloading isn’t totally innocent either. Having some of your catalog available for free for exposure is a lot different than your entire life’s work available for free to the public to ravenously devour without paying for. I totally understand the argument that having your music available for free allows you to get greater exposure, and expand your fan base, and that enterprising artists are making use of this. I think my main point with all of this is just making sure that an artist still has control over what they want ‘to be free’ to the public, but it should never be against their will. It is kind of the same thought-process as the creative commons licenses that are out there – it makes the song/piece of art/photograph available for free, gets the artist exposure for themselves, but it is in the end their choice still. Janis in the end of the article did agree with me on this point when she pointed out, "Please note that I am not advocating indiscriminate downloading without the artist’s permission. I am not saying copyrights are meaningless.”

I like that Janis pointed out that the RIAA instead should have addressed many of the issues prevalent in the recording contracts that artists get screwed in. Even though it doesn’t directly relate to the general topic of the article with file-sharing, these are important problems that are in the end really harming the record labels and their relationships with the artists. I think that by eliminating the ‘shelving’ of albums, the indentured servitude, and the fact that artists cannot retain the rights to ‘out-of-print’ albums, this would greatly improve artist-label relations. Furthermore, if an album can’t become ‘out-of-print,’ people wouldn’t have to be scouring the file sharing networks to try and download that really old Fela Kuti album, or those out of print London String Quartet recordings. At the very least, the artists should be allowed to promote the records themselves.

I don’t think that the world would be better off without labels though. Microsoft, Apple, and many of the major digital distributors of music right now would never step into the shoes of investing in any random band to develop them. No company would be properly set up or see the value in a business venture like this. That is why labels are still relevant and always will be. They provide capital for artists to fully develop their craft, and connect them into the industry and the business in fast ways that a completely independent artist would have a hard time doing. Granted, labels aren’t for everyone – and there are plenty of artists out there that are surviving just fine without ever laying a finger on a contract. But a world without labels too isn’t the answer.

With respect to file-sharing, the labels need to let go and focus on fostering good relationships with their artists and their customers, since they have done a fine job of estranging both at this point, and are obviously hurting because of it.

-Andrew Joslyn

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Copyright Protection/Fashion Industry Vs. Music Biz

I recently was introduced to this interesting video about Copyright Law and how it applies to the Fashion Industry, or actually how it doesn't apply at all! (Thanks to Bruce Houghton of Hypebot ( and Berklee Music for introducing this video of Johanna Blakeley to me.)

After working for three years in Intellectual Property Law, and how it applies to still photography, it is interesting to take a look at an industry like fashion, which operates and thrives on the absolute omission of any copyright protection. At first I was horrified at the presentation that Johanna Blakeley gave about her industry, but then was very piqued by the arguments that she was offering, ESPECIALLY in relation to music, and copyright law in regards to the music business.

A quick overview -- in the past the courts decided that the fashion industry was too utilitarian to be subject to copyright protection. (ie no one should be able to copyright a cuff, or a collar, or a button, etc. etc.) For clothing to function, it needs all of the above, and the omission of any of them would be ludicrous.

So what happens, is a society of complete creative openness. Fashionistas directly borrowing ideas from older fashions and brands, and re-marketing them, re-branding, and embellishing, and upgrading. This is very similar to the old music ideals of classical music from Baroque (1600's) all the way to the early Romantics (1820s). All the old composers borrowed freely from each other, improved on motifs, fugues, movements, styles. There were plenty of older pieces that I played while I was studying classical violin which stated (in the style of Paganini, or the style of Edvard Grieg, and so on and so forth.) One of my favorite newer composers (at least newer for classical), Fritz Kriesler (1875-1962) made numerous references like this - ie his Rondino (which is based on a theme of Beethoven), or his Variations on a Theme by Corelli (in the Style of Tartini.)

However, when you come up to the present state of music, there is a definite static field keeping musicians and composers from borrowing and updating musical ideas in such a fluid way. A great example that I constantly have thought about lately is the case of Joe Satriani Vs. Coldplay in regards to Coldplay's 2008 album, "Viva La Vida."

Long story short, Joe Satriani, (a guitar god in his own right) filed a lawsuit against the English Rock band Coldplay for their chart topping successful track, Viva La Vida, saying that his instrumental "If I Could Fly" was directly copied by their song. You can check out some interesting info about this at:

Regardless of anyone's particular stance on this specific case - in an industry which would have more lax copyright protection, a situation like this would never occur. Johanna Blakley gives a pretty compelling argument for the removal of copyright protection, which could directly relate to music business.

Currently as a musician, composer, and music businessman, it is a hard pill to swallow to think of not having some sort of protection for my original ideas... but maybe this is a outdated canon which needs to be changed? The scary thought though that struck me at the very beginning of Johanna Blakley's presentation was: isn't the omission of any protection at all just going to lead to complete anarchy?

~Andrew Joslyn

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Youtube Vs. Music Publishing

So I recently came across this article written by Eric Beall (from Berklee School of Music) on the current state of negotiations between the music industry and the big wigs at YouTube, and their new owner Google.

It is really interesting to see how non-cooperative Youtube is as a service to provide standard royalty rates to artists and publishers for their music. For some of you, you will have no idea what I'm talking about - so to break it down very simply: Youtube has been ripping off the music industry ever since its inception. Youtube is essentially a service that provides no material of its own - it is merely a conduit for other artists and creators to share their content through the Youtube platform. Youtube argues that they exist NOT to make money, but provide a service... but then they turn around and sell off their service for a couple billion to Google (who want the service for its popularity) and walk away, not paying musicians or their publishers (who help collect money on behalf of the artists from various royalty sources). So... Youtube is not existing to make money? really... (advertising revenue perhaps?)

Just look at a video like Oren Lavie's innovative video using stop motion photography:

Back in the 80's and 90's Mr. Lavie would have had a hard time as an independent getting this video on MTV (possibly), but with the ease of Youtube - users can post their own video and garner a world wide viewing audience with the help of some viral marketing! So it cannot be denied by Youtube provides a valuable service to developing artists and existing artists (you can now get your video out there and get some attention for it by using the Youtube platform they provide); however Youtube should AT LEAST recognize that music is one of the biggest services that they provide, and least 25-45%.

Take a look at this article:

For some Youtube users, who have a built in audience and have tons of visitors and viewers for their videos, Youtube pays out some of them up to 6 figure numbers for advertising with them... so if Youtube can make this happen for these users, what about the artists and musicians whose videos are being hosted on the site?

I'm not sure what will be the future of royalty payouts with Youtube now that a conglomerate like Google has taken over.. but hopefully they will recognize the value of music a lot more than Youtube's previous owners.


Andrew D.B. Joslyn

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Everybody is a Music Maker

As some of you may know or not - within the last couple of months, I re-emerged myself into academics and have been studying music business at Berklee College of Music, and have also fully immersed myself in a career in music with my own business. Moving forward, since I haven't written for a long time on this blog, I'm going to continue doing music reviews, but also include interesting news articles, videos, etc. that I get exposed to on a weekly basis through my studies at Berklee.

To start, I think a great video to just check out regarding the 'Future of the Music Industry' is below:

Interesting points in this presentation from Dave Haynes. If this comes across as a little boring - no worries, I'll get some new music reviews up relatively shortly.


Andrew D.B. Joslyn

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Duke Special - I Never Thought This Day Would Come

So I was just recently introduced to this artist by a co-worker- this morning actually - and his style and album "I Never Thought This Day Would Come" piqued my musical interest.

From the cursory information I could glean from his Myspace, Wikipedia and website (I really go in depth with my research - ha ha), Duke Special aka Peter Wilson is an Ireland native and his music is described as: "having a theatrical style inspired by Vaudeville and music hall, and often incorporate 78s played on an old-fashioned gramophone, or sound effects from a transistor radio."

His music would be an enjoyable excursion for fans of the Decemberists, Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground, Elliot Smith, or musical theatre. His sound has a very music hall, vaudeville style to it - especially tracks such as the title track "I Never Thought This Day Would Come" which has a rusty waltz feel to it - and "Digging an Early Grave" which is a creepy upbeat, jaunty show tune.

There are a huge variety of sounds on the album, and with some amazing orchestral arrangements and production work like a Broadway musical-- however by and large the strongest part of the album is the first half. The poppy track "Sweet Sweet Kisses" is reminiscent of UK alt-pop personality Patrick Wolf. The love of orchestral arrangements and the grandiose abound on the album.

Wilson's vocal qualities drift from the murky styles on "Flesh and Blood Dance" (sounds like Elliot Smith), "Mocking Bird Wish Me Luck" (sounds like Colin Meloy of Decemberists) to the upbeat "Sweet Sweet Kisses" which also sounds like Rufus Wainwright. He has a wonderful ability to convey darker songs with sincere and gorgeous melodies which is his winning combination.

UK Reviewer Nic Oliver of MusicOMH stated this about Duke Specials newest release:
"Oddly enough, Sweet Sweet Kisses is by and large in a category of its own on I Never Thought This Day Would Come. The rest is largely downbeat fare, epitomised by the first track Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck. This haunting piano ballad has the cojones to open the album with the line "I'm so unsure of myself", which is oddly reminiscent of Elvis Costello's lead-in to Armed Forces - "Oh I just don't where to begin."
By the time the listener reaches the third track Those Proverbs We Made In The Winter Must End the modus operandi of Wilson becomes readily obvious. Swirling orchestral arrangements backing nagging piano-driven melodies, with literate, articulate lyrics that never lose sight of popular appeal." - Nic Oliver (read the all article here at

Overall - the album was a wonderful oddball pop record to stumble across in the AM. Strangely enough his music is a perfect accompaniment to the chilly Seattle fall weather. Check out the youtube video below for a taste of his style:

~Andrew D.B. Joslyn