The proposed deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable is the latest in a wave of major media mergersdrawing public concern and scrutiny from the feds. Deals like AT&T’s reported acquisition of Direct TV for $50 billion and Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion, along with last year’sMaker Studios buyout by Disney—also near the billion dollar mark—are part of a larger trend of corporate consolidation. The Comcast Time Warner deal itself could be upwards of $45 billion, but is not the biggest deal Time Warner has been a part of. The Time Warner/AOL Online deal in 2000 was the largest merger by value ever announced, coming in at over $186 billion.
Beyond the staggering dollar figures are very real antitrust and public policy concerns. Let’s look at what it means for creators and fans when just a few companies control so much of the media, technology and entertainment universe.
On July 24, the House Judiciary Subcommitee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and The Internet continued its ongoing review of copyright law with a hearing on the topic of Remedies. US Copyright laws give creators a number of exclusive rights controlling how their works can be used, but when one of those rights are violated, they must have options for recourse. As Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) noted, the legal maxim goes “there’s no right without a remedy.” That’s what this hearing addressed, and while there was consensus that the current system leaves plenty of room for improvement, a wide range of views were presented on what problems currently exist, and how to solve them. (You can watch the full hearing and read written testimony at the House Judiciary website.)
If you’re seeking lyrics to your favorite songs online, you now have two fewer sites to choose from. That’s because back on May 21, the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) filed lawsuits against two unlicensed lyrics sites, SeekLyrics.com and LyricsTime.com, as the latest step in an ongoing effort to ensure that publishers and songwriters get compensated when lyrics are reproduced and transmitted online. Since then, these offending sites have disappeared from the internet. But don’t worry; you probably won’t notice they’re gone, and you can instead choose from one of the plethora of licensed and legal alternatives.
Today, news broke that Merlin—a global rights agency representing independent labels—entered into a deal with Internet radio leader Pandora that seems to align the incentives of both parties while maintaining direct payment to artists.
Overall, we are glad to see a major music service commit to better serving indies using technology, and with a shared goal of growing audiences for that music (and thereby generating more revenue).
In the lead up to this past weekend’s Newport Folk Festival, reports surfaced on social media of an all-too-familiar tale: a musician once again encountering problems while attempting to board a flight with a musical instrument. Last Wednesday, it was John McCauley, singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Rhode Island-based Deer Tick who was refused entry to his flight in Philadelphia by U.S. Airways. The reason? He wanted to take his guitar on board with him. read more
It used to be that big companies were able to define the parameters for debate about music industry issues, and make all the big decisions. What was good for corporate media and big money, we were told, was good for the artists, and for the music industry as a whole.
The desire to tell a more complete and accurate story centered on the needs and experiences of musicians was a big part of why Future of Music Coalition got started 14 years ago. By now, more people understand that the agendas of a handful of giant music companies may sometimes align with artists, but not always. In fact, these companies are very capable of misdirection when it benefits their bottom line. And tech companies don’t have a lot of experience working directly with artists, in part because the existing structures so often compel big-money negotiations with the major rightsholders. Today, we’re thrilled to see more and more artists speaking openly about the issues that impact their livelihoods. Independent labels are getting bolder too, in demanding fair treatment and respect for their different way of doing business.
Last week, beloved musical humorist “Weird Al” Yankovic dropped his new album Mandatory Fun. Propelled by a set of eight viral videos, it quickly rose to the top spot on the Billboard charts, his first ever #1, with over 104,000 album sales. Al recently told the New York Times, “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, I’m on the bleeding edge of marketing, this is going to be a business model that will change the world.” But as a longtime (possibly obssessive?) fan of Al, I’d suggest there’s still a few things we can learn from him. read more
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held its second hearing on music licensing on June 25, welcoming input from a variety of interest groups and organizations as a continuation of the ongoing reexamination of our country’s copyright system. You can find our coverage of the prior hearing here.
Nine witnesses testified before the committee, offering opinions that varied in focus but all highlighted major areas of potential reform. Witnesses for this hearing included singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash representing the Americana Music Association, Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA), Charles Warfield on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Darius Van Arman on behalf of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Ed Christian of the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC), Paul Williams as President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Chris Harrison of Pandora, President of SoundExchangeMichael Huppe, and David Frear, CFO of Sirius XM.
Earlier this month, Bloombergreported that streaming music host SoundCloud was close to finalizing licensing deals with the three major labels. The deals would reportedly grant each label an ownership stake in SoundCloud of 3-5 percent in exchange for their agreement not to sue over copyright infringement on SoundCloud. Meanwhile, a mini-controversy has erupted over Soundcloud’s implementation of its copyright enforcement procedures, making it important to separate fact from fiction.