Music Blogs Vs Rights Organisations

Nialler9, an Irish music blogger (probably the best known here), has just written a blog about a recent development on the music licensing front.  [Here's the article in full]

For the uninitiated, the general gist of it is…. until now, blogs have been operating in a legal grey area.  Music has been uploaded on music blogs for streaming and download, and no royalties are generated for the artists creating the music.  The reason it’s a grey area is because, in music law terms, all of these developments are very, very new, and no-one really has the whole business-model figured out.  (As any of the major labels will tell you!)

IMRO (and their international affiliates) have not chased music blogs for royalties until now.  Mainly, I assume, because artists (who IMRO represent) recognise that music blogs have provided a very useful function.  They are an invaluable cog in the oft talked about new indie model.  If a song on a blog sets the blogosphere alight then, apart from the immediately obvious exposure,  it strengthens a band’s position when they’re negotiating for deals, tours, etc.  Basically, the blogger gets to blog about songs they like, the band gets valuable exposure and everyone’s a winner  (apart from the copyright organisations!).

€150 is essentially the annual blanket fee that the vast majority of these blogs will fall into.  It’s not a huge amount (and in a way I’m surprised IMRO have made it so low – because rights organisations, like the big record labels, don’t have a reputation for being reasonable).  I’m not sure how much small music blogs make from advertising, but I can’t imagine it’s an awful lot, so €150 could be the difference between them blogging, and not blogging.

Nialler9 had a conversation with an IMRO rep who offered some answers to questions about the whole situation.  The answer that most drew my attention was the following :
“If the music you blog is made available through a link elsewhere (ie. deeplinking) then a licence is not required.”

Now, if this is accurate, then I have to ask what is wrong with deeplinking?

  1. Band uploads songs to soundcloud, youtube, or similar large site.  (I’d recommend soundcloud.)
  2. Band sends links to music blogger.
  3. Blogger embeds songs/collection of songs into post/site.
  4. No-one pays any licensing fees.

Benefits of this method would be two-fold as far as I can see.

  1. No licensing fees.
  2. Bands have all the stats for plays/downloads at their fingertips, from EVERY site.  No guesswork.  You can see exactly how popular a tune is.

This doesn’t help podcasters, outside of licenced radio.  But I think the embedding/deeplinking idea is a good one, and should be explored.

Some comments on Nialler9’s site suggested that artists leave IMRO until they change tack…  but to be honest, I can’t see anyone doing that.  I don’t think any band is in a position whereby they can decide to refuse their royalty cheques – ticket sales are down, ticket prices are down, album sales are down, sites like Spotify have offered Lady Gaga approximately $167 for over 1 million plays, …

The debate is probably going to rage for quite some time, but I’d love to know what people think about this particular idea.

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