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After 35 years as a recording artist John Cougar Mellencamp felt compelled to reflect on today’s art.

People remember when music existed as an art that motivated social movements.  Artists and their music flourished in back alleys, taverns and barns until, in some cases, a popular groundswell propelled it far and wide. These days, that possibility no longer seems to exist.[1]

Distinctions can easily be drawn between calls to action like Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” and calls to complacency like John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change.”  As Mellencamp points out, music is in a sad state.  Furthermore Barlow suggests “[c]reative people may have to renew their acquaintance with humility.”[2] Artists should write songs because they need to, not because they fit in shrink-wrap and generate revenue.

Pitchfork, an uber-respected music-criticism site, playfully rated “Music“ a 6.8 out of 10.[3] According to the review, authored by Pitchfork editor in chief Ryan Schreiber, the popular medium that predates the written word shows promise but nonetheless “leaves the listener wanting more.”[4] While obviously created in jest, there certainly exists some truth behind this point.  Perhaps this young generation of technology embracing pirates are nothing more than the product of the vacuous state of today’s content.  If the record industry provided goods that had intangible social value, as music purportedly used to have, their concerns of declining perceived value would be instantly alleviated. Continue Reading…

The Fall of DRM

In an effort to combat piracy the music industry has experimented with alternatives in the physical medium on which music is sold as well as piracy thwarting technological blocks.  First, the industry tried to upgrade from the standard CD format to more difficult to pirate high audio quality SACD or DVD-Audio albums.  These were largely viewed as superfluous and costly because they often required the purchase of a new player to listen to them.  Next, the industry adopted DRM, a technological system limiting the total number of devices a song would play on. This system failed because fans continued to illegally download millions of mp3s and quickly found ways to convert their DRM protected files to unlocked mp3s. Barney Wragg, head of digital music for EMI and former Senior Vice President for digital music at Universal Music, had an epiphany in summer of 2006, I realized that as an industry we’d kind of been smoking crack.”[1] After eight years of fighting the mp3, major labels were beginning to accept that selling DRM-free music was necessary for survival and, with Mr. Wragg pioneering the way, EMI was the first major label to become DRM-free.  Other major labels were soon to follow.  Universal Music abandoned DRM in summer of 2007, and a few months later Warner and Sony BMG had no choice but to join the movement by making their entire catalogs available DRM-free via Amazon.[2]

Upon realizing that no adequate technological protection system existed to effectively stop piracy, the record industry shifted its approach.  Rather than protecting their music files with DRM or by threat of litigation, record labels would simply provide enough incentives to induce consumers to purchase CDs.  Once such incentive is added value content. Alicia Keys’s hit album As I Am was released in late 2007 chock-full of added content, including: 30-second audio files for ringtones and ringbacks, mobilephone wallpapers, and digital videos, which were also distributed through YouTube and MySpace.  Inducement through added content proved to be a smash for Ms. Keys when As I Am sold more than 3.5 million copies.[3] Ian Rogers, former general manager of Yahoo! Music, articulated it well when he said “[t]he record companies are all realizing they’re not in the CD business anymore.”[4]

Much to the surprise and luck of the record business, another income stream emerged.  Continue Reading…

Too often creative-minded people focus 100% of their attention on their craft and forget to safeguard themselves from crippling legal and business issues that prevent financial success. This site is designed to provide artists of all mediums (authors, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, etc.) with critical legal knowledge and business concepts to further their creative careers by protecting both their work and themselves from potential legal pitfalls and business failures.

In order to provide you – the creative – with relevant content, I am going to need your help. Ideally, each post will serve as a prompt for conversation. If I discuss an issue in a way that’s helpful to you, please let me know. If you would like more information or clarification, leave a comment. In addition, please contact me at any time with questions, suggestions, or ideas as to what topics would be most helpful and interesting.

I am sincerely looking forward to building a community around this site and making an significant impact in the lives of artists. Thank you in advance for your participation, attention, and interest in serving the creative class with me.

Dedicated to your creative success,

Ian Gibson, Esq.