The controversial singer takes on record label profits,
Napster and "sucka VCs."
By Courtney Love
June 14, 2000 | Today I want to talk about piracy and music.
What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist's work
without any intention of paying for it. I'm not talking about
I'm talking about major label recording contracts.
I want to start with a story about rock bands and record
companies, and do some recording-contract math:
This story is about a bidding-war band that gets a huge deal
with a 20 percent royalty rate and a million-dollar advance. (No
bidding-war band ever got a 20 percent royalty, but whatever.)
This is my "funny" math based on some reality and I just want to
qualify it by saying I'm positive it's better math than what Edgar
Bronfman Jr. [the president and CEO of Seagram, which owns
Polygram] would provide.
What happens to that million dollars?
They spend half a million to record their album. That leaves
the band with $500,000. They pay $100,000 to their manager for 20
percent commission. They pay $25,000 each to their lawyer and
That leaves $350,000 for the four band members to split. After
$170,000 in taxes, there's $180,000 left. That comes out to
$45,000 per person.
That's $45,000 to live on for a year until the record gets
The record is a big hit and sells a million copies. (How a
bidding-war band sells a million copies of its debut record is
another rant entirely, but it's based on any basic civics-class
knowledge that any of us have about cartels. Put simply, the
antitrust laws in this country are basically a joke, protecting us
just enough to not have to re-name our park service the Phillip
Morris National Park Service.)
So, this band releases two singles and makes two videos. The
two videos cost a million dollars to make and 50 percent of the
video production costs are recouped out of the band's
The band gets $200,000 in tour support, which is 100 percent
The record company spends $300,000 on independent radio
promotion. You have to pay independent promotion to get your song
on the radio; independent promotion is a system where the record
companies use middlemen so they can pretend not to know that radio
stations -- the unified broadcast system -- are getting paid to
play their records.
All of those independent promotion costs are charged to the
Since the original million-dollar advance is also recoupable,
the band owes $2 million to the record company.
If all of the million records are sold at full price with no
discounts or record clubs, the band earns $2 million in royalties,
since their 20 percent royalty works out to $2 a record.
Two million dollars in royalties minus $2 million in
recoupable expenses equals ... zero!
How much does the record company make?
They grossed $11 million.
It costs $500,000 to manufacture the CDs and they advanced the
band $1 million. Plus there were $1 million in video costs,
$300,000 in radio promotion and $200,000 in tour support.
The company also paid $750,000 in music publishing
They spent $2.2 million on marketing. That's mostly retail
advertising, but marketing also pays for those huge posters of
Marilyn Manson in Times Square and the street scouts who drive
around in vans handing out black Korn T-shirts and backwards
baseball caps. Not to mention trips to Scores and cash for tips
for all and sundry.
Add it up and the record company has spent about $4.4
So their profit is $6.6 million; the band may as well be
working at a 7-Eleven.
Of course, they had fun. Hearing yourself on the radio,
selling records, getting new fans and being on TV is great, but
now the band doesn't have enough money to pay the rent and nobody
has any credit.
Worst of all, after all this, the band owns none of its work
... they can pay the mortgage forever but they'll never own the
house. Like I said: Sharecropping. Our media says, "Boo hoo, poor
pop stars, they had a nice ride. Fuck them for speaking up"; but I
say this dialogue is imperative. And cynical media people, who are
more fascinated with celebrity than most celebrities, need to
reacquaint themselves with their value systems.
When you look at the legal line on a CD, it says copyright
1976 Atlantic Records or copyright 1996 RCA Records. When you look
at a book, though, it'll say something like copyright 1999 Susan
Faludi, or David Foster Wallace. Authors own their books and
license them to publishers. When the contract runs out, writers
gets their books back. But record companies own our copyrights
The system's set up so almost nobody gets paid.
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Last November, a Congressional aide named Mitch Glazier, with
the support of the RIAA, added a "technical amendment" to a bill
that defined recorded music as "works for hire" under the 1978
He did this after all the hearings on the bill were over. By
the time artists found out about the change, it was too late. The
bill was on its way to the White House for the president's
That subtle change in copyright law will add billions of
dollars to record company bank accounts over the next few years --
billions of dollars that rightfully should have been paid to
artists. A "work for hire" is now owned in perpetuity by the
Under the 1978 Copyright Act, artists could reclaim the
copyrights on their work after 35 years. If you wrote and recorded
"Everybody Hurts," you at least got it back to as a family legacy
after 35 years. But now, because of this corrupt little pisher,
"Everybody Hurts" never gets returned to your family, and can now
be sold to the highest bidder.
Over the years record companies have tried to put "work for
hire" provisions in their contracts, and Mr. Glazier claims that
the "work for hire" only "codified" a standard industry practice.
But copyright laws didn't identify sound recordings as being
eligible to be called "works for hire," so those contracts didn't
mean anything. Until now.
Writing and recording "Hey Jude" is now the same thing as
writing an English textbook, writing standardized tests,
translating a novel from one language to another or making a map.
These are the types of things addressed in the "work for hire"
act. And writing a standardized test is a work for hire. Not
making a record.
So an assistant substantially altered a major law when he only
had the authority to make spelling corrections. That's not what I
learned about how government works in my high school civics
Three months later, the RIAA hired Mr. Glazier to become its
top lobbyist at a salary that was obviously much greater than the
one he had as the spelling corrector guy.
The RIAA tries to argue that this change was necessary because
of a provision in the bill that musicians supported. That
provision prevents anyone from registering a famous person's name
as a Web address without that person's permission. That's great. I
own my name, and should be able to do what I want with my
But the bill also created an exception that allows a company
to take a person's name for a Web address if they create a work
for hire. Which means a record company would be allowed to own
your Web site when you record your "work for hire" album. Like I
Although I've never met any one at a record company who
"believed in the Internet," they've all been trying to cover their
asses by securing everyone's digital rights. Not that they know
what to do with them. Go to a major label-owned band site. Give me
a dollar for every time you see an annoying "under construction"
sign. I used to pester Geffen (when it was a label) to do a better
job. I was totally ignored for two years, until I got my band name
back. The Goo Goo Dolls are struggling to gain control of their
domain name from Warner Bros., who claim they own the name because
they set up a shitty promotional Web site for the band.
Orrin Hatch, songwriter and Republican senator from Utah,
seems to be the only person in Washington with a progressive view
of copyright law. One lobbyist says that there's no one in the
House with a similar view and that "this would have never happened
if Sonny Bono was still alive."
By the way, which bill do you think the recording industry
used for this amendment?
The Record Company Redefinition Act? No. The Music Copyright
Act? No. The Work for Hire Authorship Act? No.
How about the Satellite Home Viewing Act of 1999?
Stealing our copyright reversions in the dead of night while
no one was looking, and with no hearings held, is piracy.
It's piracy when the RIAA lobbies to change the bankruptcy law
to make it more difficult for musicians to declare bankruptcy.
Some musicians have declared bankruptcy to free themselves from
truly evil contracts. TLC declared bankruptcy after they received
less than 2 percent of the $175 million earned by their CD sales.
That was about 40 times less than the profit that was divided
among their management, production and record companies.
Toni Braxton also declared bankruptcy in 1998. She sold $188
million worth of CDs, but she was broke because of a terrible
recording contract that paid her less than 35 cents per album.
Bankruptcy can be an artist's only defense against a truly
horrible deal and the RIAA wants to take it away.
Artists want to believe that we can make lots of money if
we're successful. But there are hundreds of stories about artists
in their 60s and 70s who are broke because they never made a dime
from their hit records. And real success is still a long shot for
a new artist today. Of the 32,000 new releases each year, only 250
sell more than 10,000 copies. And less than 30 go platinum.
The four major record corporations fund the RIAA. These
companies are rich and obviously well-represented. Recording
artists and musicians don't really have the money to compete. The
273,000 working musicians in America make about $30,000 a year.
Only 15 percent of American Federation of Musicians members work
steadily in music.
But the music industry is a $40 billion-a-year business.
One-third of that revenue comes from the United States. The annual
sales of cassettes, CDs and video are larger than the gross
national product of 80 countries. Americans have more CD players,
radios and VCRs than we have bathtubs.
Story after story gets told about artists -- some of them in
their 60s and 70s, some of them authors of huge successful songs
that we all enjoy, use and sing -- living in total poverty, never
having been paid anything. Not even having access to a union or to
basic health care. Artists who have generated billions of dollars
for an industry die broke and un-cared for.
And they're not actors or participators. They're the rightful
owners, originators and performers of original compositions.
This is piracy.
Technology is not piracy
This opinion is one I really haven't formed yet, so as I speak
about Napster now, please understand that I'm not totally
informed. I will be the first in line to file a class action suit
to protect my copyrights if Napster or even the far more advanced
Gnutella doesn't work with us to protect us. I'm on [Metallica
drummer] Lars Ulrich's side, in other words, and I feel really
badly for him that he doesn't know how to condense his case down
to a sound-bite that sounds more reasonable than the one I saw
I also think Metallica is being given too much grief. It's
anti-artist, for one thing. An artist speaks up and the artist
gets squashed: Sharecropping. Don't get above your station, kid.
It's not piracy when kids swap music over the Internet using
Napster or Gnutella or Freenet or iMesh or beaming their CDs into
a My.MP3.com or MyPlay.com music locker. It's piracy when those
guys that run those companies make side deals with the cartel
lawyers and label heads so that they can be "the labels' friend,"
and not the artists'.
Recording artists have essentially been giving their music
away for free under the old system, so new technology that exposes
our music to a larger audience can only be a good thing. Why
aren't these companies working with us to create some peace?
There were a billion music downloads last year, but music
sales are up. Where's the evidence that downloads hurt business?
Downloads are creating more demand.
Why aren't record companies embracing this great opportunity?
Why aren't they trying to talk to the kids passing compilations
around to learn what they like? Why is the RIAA suing the
companies that are stimulating this new demand? What's the point
of going after people swapping cruddy-sounding MP3s? Cash! Cash
they have no intention of passing onto us, the writers of their
At this point the "record collector" geniuses who use Napster
don't have the coolest most arcane selection anyway, unless you're
into techno. Hardly any pre-1982 REM fans, no '60s punk, even the
Alan Parsons Project was underrepresented when I tried to find
some Napster buddies. For the most part, it was college boy rawk
without a lot of imagination. Maybe that's the demographic that
cares -- and in that case, My Bloody Valentine and Bert Jansch
aren't going to get screwed just yet. There's still time to
Destroying traditional access
Somewhere along the way, record companies figured out that
it's a lot more profitable to control the distribution system than
it is to nurture artists. And since the companies didn't have any
real competition, artists had no other place to go. Record
companies controlled the promotion and marketing; only they had
the ability to get lots of radio play, and get records into all
the big chain store. That power put them above both the artists
and the audience. They own the plantation.
Being the gatekeeper was the most profitable place to be, but
now we're in a world half without gates. The Internet allows
artists to communicate directly with their audiences; we don't
have to depend solely on an inefficient system where the record
company promotes our records to radio, press or retail and then
sits back and hopes fans find out about our music.
Record companies don't understand the intimacy between artists
and their fans. They put records on the radio and buy some
advertising and hope for the best. Digital distribution gives
everyone worldwide, instant access to music.
And filters are replacing gatekeepers. In a world where we can
get anything we want, whenever we want it, how does a company
create value? By filtering. In a world without friction, the only
friction people value is editing. A filter is valuable when it
understands the needs of both artists and the public. New
companies should be conduits between musicians and their
Right now the only way you can get music is by shelling out
$17. In a world where music costs a nickel, an artist can "sell"
100 million copies instead of just a million.
The present system keeps artists from finding an audience
because it has too many artificial scarcities: limited radio
promotion, limited bin space in stores and a limited number of
spots on the record company roster.
The digital world has no scarcities. There are countless ways
to reach an audience. Radio is no longer the only place to hear a
new song. And tiny mall record stores aren't the only place to buy
a new CD.
Now artists have options. We don't have to work with major
labels anymore, because the digital economy is creating new ways
to distribute and market music. And the free ones amongst us
aren't going to. That means the slave class, which I represent,
has to find ways to get out of our deals. This didn't really
matter before, and that's why we all stayed.
I want my seven-year contract law California labor code case
to mean something to other artists. (Universal Records sues me
because I leave because my employment is up, but they say a
recording contract is not a personal contract; because the
recording industry -- who, we have established, are excellent
lobbyists, getting, as they did, a clerk to disallow Don Henley or
Tom Petty the right to give their copyrights to their families --
in California, in 1987, lobbied to pass an amendment that
nullified recording contracts as personal contracts, sort of.
Maybe. Kind of. A little bit. And again, in the dead of night,
That's why I'm willing to do it with a sword in my teeth. I
expect I'll be ignored or ostracized following this lawsuit. I
expect that the treatment you're seeing Lars Ulrich get now will
quadruple for me. Cool. At least I'll serve a purpose. I'm an
artist and a good artist, I think, but I'm not that artist that
has to play all the time, and thus has to get fucked. Maybe my
laziness and self-destructive streak will finally pay off and
serve a community desperately in need of it. They can't torture me
like they could Lucinda Williams.
You funny dot-communists. Get your shit together, you
annoying sucka VCs
I want to work with people who believe in music and art and
passion. And I'm just the tip of the iceberg. I'm leaving the
major label system and there are hundreds of artists who are going
to follow me. There's an unbelievable opportunity for new
companies that dare to get it right.
How can anyone defend the current system when it fails to
deliver music to so many potential fans? That only expects of
itself a "5 percent success rate" a year? The status quo gives us
a boring culture. In a society of over 300 million people, only 30
new artists a year sell a million records. By any measure, that's
a huge failure.
Maybe each fan will spend less money, but maybe each artist
will have a better chance of making a living. Maybe our culture
will get more interesting than the one currently owned by Time
Warner. I'm not crazy. Ask yourself, are any of you somehow
connected to Time Warner media? I think there are a lot of yeses
to that and I'd have to say that in that case president McKinley
truly failed to bust any trusts. Maybe we can remedy that
Artists will make that compromise if it means we can connect
with hundreds of millions of fans instead of the hundreds of
thousands that we have now. Especially if we lose all the crap
that goes with success under the current system. I'm willing,
right now, to leave half of these trappings -- fuck it, all these
trappings -- at the door to have a pure artist experience. They
cosset us with trappings to shut us up. That way when we say
"sharecropper!" you can point to my free suit and say "Shut up pop
Here, take my Prada pants. Fuck it. Let us do our real jobs.
And those of us addicted to celebrity because we have nothing else
to give will fade away. And those of us addicted to celebrity
because it was there will find a better, purer way to live.
Since I've basically been giving my music away for free under
the old system, I'm not afraid of wireless, MP3 files or any of
the other threats to my copyrights. Anything that makes my music
more available to more people is great. MP3 files sound cruddy,
but a well-made album sounds great. And I don't care what anyone
says about digital recordings. At this point they are good for
dance music, but try listening to a warm guitar tone on them. They
suck for what I do.
Record companies are terrified of anything that challenges
their control of distribution. This is the business that insisted
that CDs be sold in incredibly wasteful 6-by-12 inch long boxes
just because no one thought you could change the bins in a record
Let's not call the major labels "labels." Let's call them by
their real names: They are the distributors. They're the only
distributors and they exist because of scarcity. Artists pay 95
percent of whatever we make to gatekeepers because we used to need
gatekeepers to get our music heard. Because they have a system,
and when they decide to spend enough money -- all of it
recoupable, all of it owed by me -- they can occasionally shove
things through this system, depending on a lot of arbitrary
The corporate filtering system, which is the system that
brought you (in my humble opinion) a piece of crap like "Mambo No.
5" and didn't let you hear the brilliant Cat Power record or
theamazing new Sleater Kinney record, obviously doesn't have good
taste anyway. But we've never paid major label/distributors for
their good taste. They've never been like Yahoo and provided a
There were a lot of factors that made a distributor decide to
push a recording through the system:
How powerful is management?
Who owes whom a favor?
What independent promoter's cousin is the drummer?
What part of the fiscal year is the company putting out the
Is the royalty rate for the artist so obscenely bad that it's
almost 100 percent profit instead of just 95 percent so that if
the record sells, it's literally a steal?
How much bin space is left over this year?
Was the record already a hit in Europe so that there's
corporate pressure to make it work?
Will the band screw up its live career to play free shows for
Does the artist's song sound enough like someone else that
radio stations will play it because it fits the sound of the
Did the artist get the song on a film soundtrack so that the
movie studio will pay for the video?
These factors affect the decisions that go into the system.
Not public taste. All these things are becoming eradicated now.
They are gone or on their way out. We don't need the gatekeepers
any more. We just don't need them.
And if they aren't going to do for me what I can do for myself
with my 19-year-old Webmistress on my own Web site, then they need
to get the hell out of my way. [I will] allow millions of
people to get my music for nothing if they want and hopefully
they'll be kind enough to leave a tip if they like it.
I still need the old stuff. I still need a producer in the
creation of a recording, I still need to get on the radio (which
costs a lot of money), I still need bin space for hardware CDs, I
still need to provide an opportunity for people without computers
to buy the hardware that I make. I still need a lot of this stuff,
but I can get these things from a joint venture with a company
that serves as a conduit and knows its place. Serving the artist
and serving the public: That's its place.
Equity for artists
A new company that gives artists true equity in their work can
take over the world, kick ass and make a lot of money. We're
inspired by how people get paid in the new economy. Many visual
artists and software and hardware designers have real ownership of
I have a 14-year-old niece. She used to want to be a rock
star. Before that she wanted to be an actress. As of six months
ago, what do you think she wants to be when she grows up? What's
the glamorous, emancipating career of choice? Of course, she wants
to be a Web designer. It's such a glamorous business!
When you people do business with artists, you have to take a
different view of things. We want to be treated with the respect
that now goes to Web designers. We're not Dockers-wearing Intel
workers from Portland who know how to "manage our stress." We
don't understand or want to understand corporate culture.
I feel this obscene gold rush greedgreedgreed vibe that
bothers me a lot when I talk to dot-com people about all this. You
guys can't hustle artists that well. At least slick A&R guys
know the buzzwords. Don't try to compete with them. I just laugh
at you when you do! Maybe you could a year ago when anything
dot-com sounded smarter than the rest of us, but the scam has been
The celebrity-for-sale business is about to crash, I hope, and
the idea of a sucker VC gifting some company with four floors just
because they can "do" "chats" with "Christina" once or twice is
ridiculous. I did a chat today, twice. Big damn deal. 200 bucks
for the software and some elbow grease and a good back-end coder.
Wow. That's not worth 150 million bucks.
... I mean, yeah, sure it is if you'd like to give it to
Tipping/music as service
I know my place. I'm a waiter. I'm in the service
I live on tips. Occasionally, I'm going to get stiffed, but
that's OK. If I work hard and I'm doing good work, I believe that
the people who enjoy it are going to want to come directly to me
and get my music because it sounds better, since it's mastered and
packaged by me personally. I'm providing an honest, real
When people buy the bootleg T-shirt in the concert parking lot
and not the more expensive T-shirt inside the venue, it isn't to
save money. The T-shirt in the parking lot is cheap and badly
made, but it's easier to buy. The bootleggers have a better
distribution system. There's no waiting in line and it only takes
two minutes to buy one.
I know that if I can provide my own T-shirt that I designed,
that I made, and provide it as quickly or quicker than the
bootleggers, people who've enjoyed the experience I've provided
will be happy to shell out a little more money to cover my costs.
Especially if they understand this context, and aren't being
shoveled a load of shit about "uppity" artists.
It's exactly the same with recorded music. The real thing to
fear from Napster is its simple and excellent distribution system.
No one really prefers a cruddy-sounding Napster MP3 file to the
real thing. But it's really easy to get an MP3 file; and in the
middle of Kansas you may never see my record because major
distribution is really bad if your record's not in the charts this
week, and even then it takes a couple of weeks to restock the one
copy they usually keep on hand.
I also know how many times I have heard a song on the radio
that I loved only to buy the record and have the album be a piece
of crap. If you're afraid of your own filler then I bet you're
afraid of Napster. I'm afraid of Napster because I think the major
label cartel will get to them before I do.
I've made three records. I like them all. I haven't made
filler and they're all committed pieces of work. I'm not scared of
you previewing my record. If you like it enough to have it be a
part of your life, I know you'll come to me to get it, as long as
I show you how to get to me, and as long as you know that it's
Most people don't go into restaurants and stiff waiters, but
record labels represent the restaurant that forces the waiters to
live on, and sometimes pool, their tips. And they even fight for a
bit of their tips.
Music is a service to its consumers, not a product. I live on
tips. Giving music away for free is what artists have been doing
naturally all their lives.
Record companies stand between artists and their fans. We
signed terrible deals with them because they controlled our access
to the public.
But in a world of total connectivity, record companies lose
that control. With unlimited bin space and intelligent search
engines, fans will have no trouble finding the music they know
they want. They have to know they want it, and that needs to be a
marketing business that takes a fee.
If a record company has a reason to exist, it has to bring an
artist's music to more fans and it has to deliver more and better
music to the audience. You bring me a bigger audience or a better
relationship with my audience or get the fuck out of my way. Next
time I release a record, I'll be able to go directly to my fans
and let them hear it before anyone else.
We'll still have to use radio and traditional CD distribution.
Record stores aren't going away any time soon and radio is still
the most important part of record promotion.
Major labels are freaking out because they have no control in
this new world. Artists can sell CDs directly to fans. We can make
direct deals with thousands of other Web sites and promote our
music to millions of people that old record companies never
We're about to have lots of new ways to sell our music:
downloads, hardware bundles, memory sticks, live Webcasts, and
lots of other things that aren't even invented yet.
But there's something you guys have to figure out.
Here's my open letter to Steve Case:
Avatars don't talk back!!! But what are you going to do with
real live artists?
Artists aren't like you. We go through a creative process
that's demented and crazy. There's a lot of soul-searching and
turning ourselves inside-out and all kinds of gross stuff that
ends up on "Behind the Music."
A lot of people who haven't been around artists very much get
really weird when they sit down to lunch with us. So I want to
give you some advice: Learn to speak our language. Talk about
songs and melody and hooks and art and beauty and soul. Not sleazy
record-guy crap, where you're in a cashmere sweater murmuring that
the perfect deal really is perfect, Courtney. Yuck. Honestly hire
honestly committed people. We're in a "new economy," right? You
can afford to do that.
But don't talk to me about "content."
I get really freaked out when I meet someone and they start
telling me that I should record 34 songs in the next six months so
that we have enough content for my site. Defining artistic
expression as content is anathema to me.
What the hell is content? Nobody buys content. Real people pay
money for music because it means something to them. A great song
is not just something to take up space on a Web site next to stock
market quotes and baseball scores.
DEN tried to build a site with artist-free content and I'm not
sorry to see it fail. The DEN shows look like art if you're not
paying attention, but they forgot to hire anyone to be creative.
So they ended up with a lot of content nobody wants to see because
they thought they could avoid dealing with defiant and moody
personalities. Because they were arrogant. And because they were
conformists. Artists have to deal with business people and
business people have to deal with artists. We hate each other.
Let's create companies of mediators.
Every single artist who makes records believes and hopes that
they give you something that will transform your life. If you're
really just interested in data mining or selling banner ads, stick
with those "artists" willing to call themselves content
I don't know if an artist can last by meeting the current
public taste, the taste from the last quarterly report. I don't
think you can last by following demographics and carefully meeting
expectations. I don't know many lasting works of art that are
condescending or deliberately stupid or were created as
Don't tell me I'm a brand. I'm famous and people recognize me,
but I can't look in the mirror and see my brand identity.
Keep talking about brands and you know what you'll get? Bad
clothes. Bad hair. Bad books. Bad movies. And bad records. And
bankrupt businesses. Rides that were fun for a year with no
employee loyalty but everyone got rich fucking you. Who wants
that? The answer is purity. We can afford it. Let's go find it
again while we can.
I also feel filthy trying to call my music a product. It's not
a thing that I test market like toothpaste or a new car. Music is
personal and mysterious.
Being a "content provider" is prostitution work that devalues
our art and doesn't satisfy our spirits. Artistic expression has
to be provocative. The problem with artists and the Internet: Once
their art is reduced to content, they may never have the
opportunity to retrieve their souls.
When you form your business for creative people, with creative
people, come at us with some thought. Everybody's process is
different. And remember that it's art. We're not
I don't know what a good sponsorship would be for me or for
other artists I respect. People bring up sponsorships a lot as a
way for artists to get our music paid for upfront and for us to
earn a fee. I've dealt with large corporations for long enough to
know that any alliance where I'm an owned service is going to be
When I agreed to allow a large cola company to promote a live
show, I couldn't have been more miserable. They screwed up every
single thing imaginable. The venue was empty but sold out. There
were thousands of people outside who wanted to be there, trying to
get tickets. And there were the empty seats the company had
purchased for a lump sum and failed to market because they were
clueless about music.
It was really dumb. You had to buy the cola. You had to dial a
number. You had to press a bunch of buttons. You had to do all
this crap that nobody wanted to do. Why not just bring a can to
On top of all this, I felt embarrassed to be an advertising
agent for a product that I'd never let my daughter use. Plus they
were a condescending bunch of little guys. They treated me like I
was an ungrateful little bitch who should be groveling for the
experience to play for their damn soda.
I ended up playing without my shirt on and ordering a six-pack
of the rival cola onstage. Also lots of unwholesome cursing and
nudity occurred. This way I knew that no matter how tempting the
cash was, they'd never do business with me again.
If you want some little obedient slave content provider, then
fine. But I think most musicians don't want to be responsible for
your clean-cut, wholesome, all-American, sugar corrosive
cancer-causing, all white people, no women allowed sodapop
Nor, on the converse, do we want to be responsible for your
vice-inducing, liver-rotting, child-labor-law-violating, all white
people, no-women-allowed booze images.
So as a defiant moody artist worth my salt, I've got to think
of something else. Tampax, maybe.
As a user, I love Napster. It carries some risk. I hear
idealistic business people talk about how people that are
musicians would be musicians no matter what and that we're already
doing it for free, so what about copyright?
Please. It's incredibly easy not to be a musician. It's always
a struggle and a dangerous career choice. We are motivated by
passion and by money.
That's not a dirty little secret. It's a fact. Take away the
incentive for major or minor financial reward and you dilute the
pool of musicians. I am not saying that only pure artists will
survive. Like a few of the more utopian people who discuss this, I
don't want just pure artists to survive.
Where would we all be without the trash? We need the trash to
cover up our national depression. The utopians also say that
because in their minds "pure" artists are all Ani DiFranco and
don't demand a lot of money. Why are the utopians all
entertainment lawyers and major label workers anyway? I demand a
lot of money if I do a big huge worthwhile job and millions of
people like it, don't kid yourself. In economic terms, you've got
an industry that's loathsome and outmoded, but when it works it
creates some incentive and some efficiency even though absolutely
no one gets paid.
We suffer as a society and a culture when we don't pay the
true value of goods and services delivered. We create a lack of
production. Less good music is recorded if we remove the incentive
to create it.
Music is intellectual property with full cash and opportunity
costs required to create, polish and record a finished product. If
I invest money and time into my business, I should be reasonably
protected from the theft of my goods and services. When the
judgment came against MP3.com, the RIAA sought damages of $150,000
for each major-label-"owned" musical track in MP3's database.
Multiply by 80,000 CDs, and MP3.com could owe the gatekeepers $120
But what about the Plimsouls? Why can't MP3.com pay each
artist a fixed amount based on the number of their downloads? Why
on earth should MP3.com pay $120 billion to four distribution
companies, who in most cases won't have to pay a nickel to the
artists whose copyrights they've stolen through their system of
It's a ridiculous judgment. I believe if evidence had been
entered that ultimately it's just shuffling big cash around two or
three corporations, I can only pray that the judge in the MP3.com
case would have seen the RIAA's case for the joke that it
I'd rather work out a deal with MP3.com myself, and force them
to be artist-friendly, instead of being laughed at and having my
money hidden by a major label as they sell my records out the back
door, behind everyone's back.
How dare they behave in such a horrified manner in regards to
copyright law when their entire industry is based on piracy? When
Mister Label Head Guy, whom my lawyer yelled at me not to name,
got caught last year selling millions of "cleans" out the back
door. "Cleans" being the records that aren't for marketing but are
to be sold. Who the fuck is this guy? He wants to save a little
cash so he fucks the artist and goes home? Do they fire him? Does
Chuck Phillips of the LA Times say anything? No way! This guy's a
source! He throws awesome dinner parties! Why fuck with the status
quo? Let's pick on Lars Ulrich instead because he brought up an
I'm looking for people to help connect me to more fans,
because I believe fans will leave a tip based on the enjoyment and
service I provide. I'm not scared of them getting a preview. It
really is going to be a global village where a billion people have
access to one artist and a billion people can leave a tip if they
It's a radical democratization. Every artist has access to
every fan and every fan has access to every artist, and the people
who direct fans to those artists. People that give advice and
technical value are the people we need. People crowding the
distribution pipe and trying to ignore fans and artists have no
value. This is a perfect system.
If you're going to start a company that deals with musicians,
please do it because you like music. Offer some control and equity
to the artists and try to give us some creative guidance. If music
and art and passion are important to you, there are hundreds of
artists who are ready to rewrite the rules.
In the last few years, business pulled our culture away from
the idea that music is important and emotional and sacred. But new
technology has brought a real opportunity for change; we can break
down the old system and give musicians real freedom and
A great writer named Neal Stephenson said that America does
four things better than any other country in the world: rock
music, movies, software and high-speed pizza delivery. All of
these are sacred American art forms. Let's return to our purity
and our idealism while we have this shot.
Warren Beatty once said: "The greatest gift God gives us is to
enjoy the sound of our own voice. And the second greatest gift is
to get somebody to listen to it."