Stand up for artists – introducing the #artistcopyright initiative



There are two major components to why this situation exists; innovation.and corporate bottom line.

Innovation, it’s simplest definition is change.  Change driven by technology is the underlying force for both musicians and photographers. While i am a strong supporter of technology that enables things once thought impossible and positive disruption, there is a dark side as well. Digital cameras have forever altered the imaging business.  It has decimated the film production industry. However, digital photography has also lowered the cost of quality images for everyone.  The affordable form factor of compact cameras, cell phones/smartphones, etc., has encouraged people around the world to express their creative selves. However, in the process it has also dramatically lowered the barrier to entry in the professional photographer space and the industry responded. Lowered costs to produce leads to the expectation of lower price points for content; thus the birth of microstock libraries – which pay the photographer very little for their content.  Of course, there are photographers who are making a living in microstock,  and there are others who saw the opportunity to expand the photography seminar circuit and offer to the newly creative expressionist tips and tricks to better photographs. Unfortunately,  for a majority of professional photographers digital imaging resulted in a decline of thier livelihood due to the significant drop in how much their customers were willing to pay for images.

The recording industry has been disrupted by technological innovation at a level unfathomable just over a decade ago. Steve Jobs and Apple Computer took the simple concept of digital music sales and sent it into the stratosphere.   As dramatically captured in the award winning documentary Artifact, Jared Leto‘s tale of struggles with 30 Seconds To Mars former record label, record companies were unable to see the trends and were too inward focused to adapt to a changing industry.  However, this inability to change is not the only problem in the recording industry, corporate bottom line is a major component.

Corporate bottom line is what matters. It is not a secret that most major corporations’ mission statement includes increasing shareholder value. Sometimes this leads to unethical behavior, sometimes worse. Artist struggles with their record label are also not new, but are as common today as they were at the birth of the industry.  The record company offers an artist recognition,  but expects (contracts and binds the artist) a great deal in return. Unfortunately, one of the rights that many artists give away is the ownership of the copyright of the music they create, to a corporation (formed as part of the deal) or to the record label itself. One of the most notable and long running disputes, between Prince and Warner Brothers, was recently settled.  In 1996 he changed his name from Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson full name) to a symbol (the artist formerly known as Prince) and declared that he was a “Slave” of the record company. Warner Brothers owned his master recordings and according to him essentially controlled his actions.  The artist and label did recently state they have come to an agreement in which Prince will obtain his masters and release a new album. This is very timely of course because the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain is coming up.  However, it is too soon to tell if this is good for both parties, but as pointed out in Forbes, Prince has not been nearly as successful since the dispute started and he was on his own. They also point out, artists trying to make it on their own face a new list of struggles and responsibilities in learning the business (marketing, funding tours and merchandise sales to name a few).

Again #artistcopyright is meant to bring attention to the artist and their desire to be seen and heard and PAID. We will discuss the issues, share information and highlight the good things that happen.  You are encouraged to share or debate, what are your thoughts, what do you see going on? Do you know of others on the same type of crusade?

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