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July 05, 2007

The Boy Dave (C): Idiot or What?

The Boy Dave (C) shows an alarming lack of knowledge about the music industry here. Such an alarming lack that I do have to wonder who in hell has been briefing him. If anyone, that is:

David Cameron yesterday offered the music industry a unique deal – cut the glorification of materialism, misogyny and guns in hits and the next Conservative government would back an extension of the copyright on sound recordings from the current 50-year period to 70 years.

OK, problem number one. Does anyone really think that the incentive of royalties on sound recordings in 50 years time is going to change the hunger of a band for a hit now? Really? If a bit of materialism, bling, misogyny and shooters is going to get fame, the groupies and the paychecks now, really, does anyone think they won't be used because of an extension of the pension?

Addressing the British Phonographic Industry annual meeting, Mr Cameron said: “Most people think these are all multimillionaires living in some penthouse flat. The reality is that many of these are low-earning session musicians who will be losing a vital pension.”

Which fuckwit provided that information? The whole point, the definition even, of session musicians is that they don't get royalties. Those go to the copyright holder...who will have hired the session musicians to play for the session, on a non-royalty flat fee contract. That's err, why they're called session musicians, see?

Rejecting a report commissioned by Gordon Brown, which said that there was no case for extending copyright, Mr Cameron quoted research which found that the change could boost the music industry by £3.3 billion over the next 50 years.

Which, by definition, is a reduction in consumer surplus of at least the same amount. If the music industry is to gain £3.3 billion then the consumer must lose it: but it goes further than this. We also lose all of the derivative works which will not be created. So in order for the music industry to gain that cash, we have to lose more, possibly much more.

He argued that extending the term would give an “incentive to the music industry to digitise both older and niche repertoire which more people can enjoy at no extra cost”.

Really? What is this "no extra cost"? You're insisting that we'll have to pay for it, asswipe! How is that "no extra cost"?

Sir Cliff Richard, The Who and Sir Paul McCartney backed the campaign to extend the 50-year term, as the first rock’n’roll era recordings begin to fall out of copyright.

Clearly, the absence of 70 year copyrights on their sound recordings limited their desire to record, eh?

Look, please, can someone with access to Team Cameron have a quiet word? This is idiocy, lunacy of the highest order. Iain perhaps? Ed? Boris? Clearly no one understands even the basics of the music business, nor why we grant copyright in the first place.

Come on guys, the Tories are the party that's supposed to understand these things.

July 5, 2007 in Economics | Permalink


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I could offer my services to Dave on the subject. After all he seems to like people who have published pieces for think tanks. I wonder if anyone around him has read this before advising Cameron.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge | Jul 5, 2007 10:03:55 AM

Damn, you got in ahead of me (but with considerably less swearing then I had in mind).

Were it not for the advent of digital technology and the internet as a distribution medium, the recording industry would be about as ripe a target for concerted efforts at a major cartel-busting inquiry as any I've ever seen.

As it stands, however, this is one where changes in copyright and contract law (as in unfair contracts) that genuinely favour artists and performers rather than corporate interests could allow the market to sort out the whole shebang, instead of which the politicos are intent on doing everything possible to shore up the existing cartel.


Posted by: Unity | Jul 5, 2007 10:50:11 AM

Quite possibly this classic statement against copyright extension, made in a submission to the US Supreme Court by seventeen American economists never found its way on to Conservative Central Office reading lists:

I have to admit that I lost count of just how many Nobel laureates there are among the authors - George Akerlof, Kenneth Arrow, Tim Bresnahan, James Buchanan, Ronald Coase, Linda Cohen, Milton Friedman, Jerry Green, Robert Hahn, Robert Lita, Richard Schmalensee, Hal Varian et al. And there is surely something extraordinary about a professional consensus among economists which managed to include George Akerloff, Kenneth Arrow, James Buchanan, Ronald Coase and Milton Friedman.

Didn't Alan Blinder write something about Murphy's law of economic policy twenty years ago?

"Economists have the least influence on policy where they know the most and are most agreed; they have the most influence on policy where they know the least and disagree most vehemently."
Alan S. Blinder: Hard heads, soft hearts (Addison-Wesley 1987)

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 5, 2007 10:56:39 AM

Bit of an irony offering greater protection and therefore ability to make more money in exchange for less of a focus on materialism. And all this from the Tories.

Posted by: ben | Jul 5, 2007 12:00:17 PM

And what happens if some or most music groups don't deliver? Does the length of copyright protection then get shortened back to where it is now?

Seems to me the whole proposal is more Noddy stuff.

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 5, 2007 12:13:28 PM

Session musicians get airplay and other performance royalties.

Tim adds: I'm very much not sure about that. Radio play money goes solely to the songwriter. TV money might go to the performers as well, but I have a feeling that's only when they themselves are on screen. So that's payments for being on TV, not payments on the sound recordings.

As always, perfectly happy to be corrected, if someone's got the source documents.

Posted by: dsquared | Jul 5, 2007 12:16:33 PM

I'm sure this will work:

Manager to twenty-something rapper: "Look, mate, if you cut out the flash cars, ho references and gun glorification on your next hit, you'll still be earning money on it when you're over 70!"

Who wouldn't say yes to that?

Posted by: Stephen | Jul 5, 2007 1:50:24 PM

It's Sir Cliff Richard I can't see accepting the proposal. A few more years royalties, sure, but in exchange for losing the soul of his artistic output? Never.

Posted by: Matthew | Jul 5, 2007 2:22:11 PM

No doubt Sir Paul is keen on this to help him pay off his former wife. Sir Elton needs money because without his parties what would the tabloids have to report about?

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge | Jul 5, 2007 2:36:42 PM

"Session musicians get airplay and other performance royalties."

They might do now, but they didn't 50 years ago. Or 40 years ago - Bill Eyden played drums on "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and just got a session fee. He made a lot of noise about it too, and got no sympathy, rightly.

Posted by: dave heasman | Jul 5, 2007 11:24:00 PM