08 April 2009

Paloma Progress and a bit of a rant

Well, I ripped it all out. I've now re-knit and am well close to the half-way mark! I'm up to the part where there are waves, which is fun to knit - seeing them start to appear. I'll post some pictures soon.

Today we went to this event at PRS, sort of a response to what's happening with them and Google. I have to say, it's hard for me to understand Google's position. One of the guys who spoke at the event, who had co-written that Rick Astley hit (can't remember the title right now), said that his royalties for 154,000,000 hits on the song on youtube were... £11. Rog worked out that that's approximately 7/100,000 of a pence per hit. And this is a guy who has done well - so his response was to say, fine, take it off youtube, I don't care. But what about all the musicians out there who need royalties to live on? Is it fair that they're only getting 7/100,000 of a pence per hit? And if their music isn't quite so popular, then what? I think there are a couple of things going on here:

1) People must think it takes about 3 minutes to write and produce a song. Therefore 7/100,000 of a pence per hit is an acceptable payment. People don't seem to understand that it can take days and days to produce just one song. If you can't produce it yourself, you have to go to a studio and hire a producer and an engineer. Even if you can produce it yourself, you still have to be able to either live in a place where you can make a lot of noise, or rent one, and you still have to buy all the equipment.

2) Yes, some musicians are vastly overpaid compared to the quality of their work or their talent. But most musicians don't make enough to live on. Why do people feel, though, that it's okay to look in musicians' pockets? What about the vastly overpaid and undertalented people in the banking industry? Until recently, people didn't look in their pockets - that is, until we started paying their salaries. And bonuses (I'm looking at you, Fred). And that's how it should be. This should be the same for musicians. Don't like their work? Don't think they're talented? Don't buy their music. By the way, this is true of a lot of occupations - there are always a few who are being way overpaid, and they shape public perception, so that the few - those the public know about - become the majority in the public's view.

3) Musicians haven't rallied together. Billy Bragg was at this thing today saying exactly that: musicians need to come together and start to make themselves heard if they want to get paid properly for their work. (Last time I saw Billy Bragg was years ago at uni! He doesn't seem to have changed much - still funny and charming, still working for his cause). If you don't stand up for yourselves, it's very clear that nobody else is going to.

4) This is the thing I don't understand: people seem to be very, very emotional about their "right" to free music. This is a completely misplaced sense of entitlement. We live in a capitalist society. We pay for everything else. Why shouldn't we pay the people who create our music? Why do people respond so emotionally to the idea of paying for music? If employers started demanding free labour from people, they'd flip. Even if it was really good promotion for what good workers they are.

As knitters, I think we understand that if someone creates a pattern we want, and they choose to sell it, that we should pay for it. It shows respect for that person's creativity, it clearly communicates to them that we'd like them to keep creating, and it potentially enables them to keep creating (if enough of us pay for it), by not forcing them into other work. This is exactly the same as with songs.

I'm wondering if it doesn't boil down to this: people don't want to pay for an idea. They'll willingly pay for physical objects that they can hold in their hands and see with their eyes - a beer at the pub which is 10 times more expensive than a song on Amazon (29p!), or a pair of jeans that's 50 times as expensive, or a computer (don't ask me to do the math there). But a song? For 29p? Maybe 79p on itunes? Too expensive? Really? But, when CDs were in vogue, and before that vinyl, people happily paid for their music -because they wanted the thing. I used to love buying records, especially, for that reason - the album cover and the sleeve were an integral part of the work.

I don't know. What do you think?

Rant over. Back next week with knitting photos, I promise.


Kathy said...

You struck a nerve here.
Somebody asked to borrow a knitting pattern from me recently, a copyrighted pattern that is readily available online for a $5download fee. That somebody is herself in the process of writing knitting patterns to sell online.
Yeah, and we wonder how it's possible for musicians to get stiffed for their work. Like you said in your post: Double Standard.

Kathy said...

I've read several opinions on vinyl and how musicians prefer it for the reasons you explained.
In a way, I liken the itunes thing to Kindle books. They may offer convenience for some but so much of the essence of the original medium is lost!
Instead, I love the static visual space a book or album occupies, it's weight on your hand, the satisfying sound and kinesthetic sense of pages turning, vinyl spinning...

Hoxton said...

I think you're right, and Google are doing, or trying to do, the same thing to authors with their bookscan project. Like you say, the people using this service wouldn't work for free, so why should the artists?
And Kathy's right about the same problem cropping up with knitting patterns.