Brendan Whitt


Blought #33: DMCA vs Music Pt. 2

In part 1 of this piece I explored my legal understanding of the DMCA and what it means for the music business. The concerns of piracy and illegal distribution of content has led to the increasingly strong push for digital only music. Streaming also seems to be the industry’s fix a flat approach to curbing piracy.

Personally I believe this is a bit of a twist-arm approach. On one hand subscribers have access to millions of songs by countless artist. On the other hand not all content is available through all services. For example Jay-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt is not available on Spotify.

The streaming industry is enjoying exponential growth as competition increases. Companies like Pandora and Spotify have been joined by Apple Music and Tidal as the newest horses to the race.

To me streaming is cheapening the value of the music. This past February Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA released a statement saying that the RIAA would now recognize streams for certifications. An artist would only need 1500 streams to equal ten single sales or one album sale.

After only 30 seconds of listening to a song that counts as one stream. Tim Ingham of Music Business World likened the new rule to skimming a book. If a person skims one chapter of a book does the author get credited with a book sale? He continued by saying that the new formula “takes far less commitment on behalf of the customer.”

The final nail in the coffin for my dislike of music streaming was Chance the Rapper’s latest project Coloring Book. For years Hip-Hop built itself on mixtapes. You had an up and coming artist, he or she would release a couple of mixtapes (usually free), next thing you knew that artist would be on the cover of Vibe or XXL and then onto BET’s 106 and Park pushing an album.

In 2007 DJ Drama, one of Hip-Hop’s most influential figures and premier talents and his then protégé Don Cannon were arrested and held on $100,000 bond under Federal RICO (Racketeering Influenced by a Criminal Organization) charges. The lawsuit claimed that Drama was distributing and profiting from stolen copyrighted material.

A mixtape would usually a feature a rapper rapping over another artist’s beat. Much like a rock or R&B cover. Labels tried to portray the legal battle as a fight for artist’s rights. The only problem was that Drama received endorsements from the majority of the artists he worked with. The lawsuit was later thrown out by a New York judge in 2009.

Coloring Book was free but was only available through streaming. If an artist makes a project free then it couldn’t be submitted for Grammy consideration leaving me to fish for a download. No matter how much I dislike streaming I can’t argue the fact that it is the wave of the future. Today many mixtape rappers have stream only content.

The music business hopes to cash in on streaming the way television and film has. In America Netflix has over 75 million subscribers. As of June 16th of this year Hulu and Netflix ranked 64th and 10th respectively in their US Alexa ranks (the official ranking agency of website vistis). Netflix also ranks 37th globally.

I believe that eventually streaming will be the only option for music consumption. Jay Z’s Tidal wants to do away with freemium streaming which Spotify claims that 80% of their subscribers came from. Ad based streaming is also becoming unflavored because it reportedly does not yield much after the advertiser has been paid. This could also explain why Youtube has created their subscription service Youtube Red.

No matter what happens we may all be forced to shelling out $10-20 a month to listen to our favorite artists and watch their videos effectively ending consumer music ownership. The only question that remains is what service will you choose?