I don’t watch a lot of music videos on YouTube. But I know that a lot of people do. So the dispute between the UK Performing Rights Society and YouTube is an interesting one.
In short, YouTube are blocking premium music videos in the UK, because the PRS is demanding a hefty increase in royalty payments. In other words, PRS have scored what must be the ultimate music revenue own goal.
By taking an aggressive stance and trying to squeeze everything they can out of an online service in the interests of its rights-holding members, they’ve managed to trigger a response that means that songwriters will get nothing from this important source because nobody here can watch their clips.
This is not an ad. Well, yes – obviously it’s an ad, but Microsoft have not paid me to place this here. I bring you this just to spark a discussion about the endgame of music performance and production in the digital age.
Because although this is absolutely excruciating (I struggled to make it right through the video) – and it might just be the FrontPage of music making (and you have no idea how much I detest FrontPage) – there’s certainly something to be said about the idea of Garageband or Logic in every home. Isn’t there?
This is not a discussion about Apple versus Microsoft (unless that’s what you’d like it to be). It’s a discussion about the place of music professionalism in the face of technologically-enabled amateurism. If it’s cheap and easy for everyone to make music, then what?
Why play at smoky bars, and schlepp around the country in clapped-out vans, when you can turn up to someone’s house, play a private concert to thirty of their closest friends, earn more than you ordinarily would in a month, get fed, stay in a comfortable bed, and then move on, in style to the next town?
Concerts in your home connects musicians who want to play live in private houses with people who have private houses in which they would like to host musicians who want to play live.
There are so many musicians putting their music on the internet these days. Some of them are consummate professionals who have high production values and years of experience and practice behind them. Some are posting YouTube Videos entitled Me, Learning to Play the Guitar – Day 2.
Prior to the internet, the finished recording was the minimum standard for releasing material to the general public via media platforms. You could always take your guitar into the street and play it at passers-by, but if you wanted people to hear your music in their living rooms, there was an automatic selection process and fairly stringent entry criteria.
Punk taught us that you don’t need to be a virtuoso to play music to other people. But with no real barriers to access to a lot of musicians getting their stuff out there (and, let’s be honest, some truly awful stuff out there) – how do you know when to start letting people hear what you’re working on?
As part of Swn Festival (pronounced ‘Soon’) in Cardiff this weekend, I was on a panel discussing independent and DIY music business in the digital age. One of the questions asked (and it comes up a lot) was about whether localism and local scenes still play an important role in music.
It had been a very orderly and polite seminar up until that moment, and so when the music-manager-for-bands-you’ve-heard-of answered in the negative, citing the globalising impact of the internet as his evidence, I took the opportunity to be a bit provocative, and piped up with “you’re very wrong”.
But before I get to my main point, I’d like to tell three short stories of recent live music events and how a little bit of local knowledge changes everything.
In the last post, a lot of interesting issues were raised and contentious points made. This is exactly what New Music Strategies should be about and I’d like to thank everyone, including (indeed, especially) those people who did not agree with the points I made, for their valuable contribution.
One of the themes that emerged over the course of that discussion was one that comes up rather a lot, so I thought I’d throw it into the mixed bag of Questions I Keep Getting Asked About Music Online.
It’s the one about revealing things about yourself personally. On the internet, what should remain private? Can you still be an elusive and enigmatic artist if you have a blog? Is Twitter just a step too far into an Orwellian world of mutual surveillance? And should blog comments ever be anonymous?
Its aim is to provide useful resources, advice and strategies for innovation and success in the independent music sector in a rapidly changing technological environment.
NMS examines emerging technologies (and buzzwords) such as AI, blockchain, metaverse and 'Web 3.0', but focuses primarily on sustainability, music as a tool for social change, participation, equality and inclusion, and the ways in which music technologies can build better worlds.