Intellectual Property

The Cattle-Branding Approach to Releasing Music

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Frequent Reason contributor Mike Riggs has an interesting article in the Washington City Paper about one of the ways record labels try to keep reviewers from leaking music onto the Internet before an album is formally released. The story isn't about intellectual property law so much as it's about an effort to enforce a boundary by private means, and whether the method is doing more to help the companies or to hurt them. (If you want to have an interesting argument about IP history, though, Google up "common law right before publication" and start arguing from there.)

In related news, a (rumored!) advance quote (full context unknown!) from an interview in SCMagazine has a spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America saying that digital rights management is dead. Make of that what you will.

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  1. The story isn’t about intellectual property law so much as it’s about an effort to enforce a boundary by private means, and whether the method is doing more to help the companies or to hurt them.

    We know your opinion on IP, “sir”, so fig leaves such as the above are pointless.

  2. “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

    I have heard some call the above the framers’ version of the Lawyers Full Employment Act.

  3. The beauty of it all is that both labels and critics are going out of business. Bye, bye big glossy douche target. See ya later gas-bag A&R department. That’s what happens when you fool yourself into thinking that using new technologies to hold on to your old business model constitutes “innovation”.

    How do you get publicity? Touring and car commercials.

  4. What purpose does advance press even serve anymore? Small labels to limit their initial pressings to 1K or so, and majors to about 5 or 10K. So much is downloaded these days it’s not like there’s any real need to sell-out of initial pressings anymore. Hell, there’s basically no need to even HAVE an initial pressing anymore – press up CD’s or vinyl if you reach a number of downloads first. Labels want press and critics want music – the journalists either get on-demand streams or they’re SOL.

  5. How do you get publicity? Touring and car commercials.

    Speaking personally, Pandora and MySpace work as well. Pandora does a scarily accurate job of playing things I would like. I have enough bands as “friends” on MySpace that new bands seek me out in an attempt to expand their audience. Both of them work for me because I can listen to the music and decide if I like it without any investment. If I like, I go online and buy.

    I read an issue of Spin last month. Half the magazine was a retrospective of Purple Rain. Why should I waste my time with crap like that when I can just listen to new music?

  6. I read an issue of Spin last month. Half the magazine was a retrospective of Purple Rain.

    Every music journo wants to feel as if he’s writing for Rolling Stone in the 70’s.

  7. Recording Industry Association of America saying that digital rights management is dead

    They are moving to “cap and trade” instead — with a sprinkling of “too big to fail.”

  8. Speaking personally, Pandora and MySpace work as well.

    But Pandora is usually months late on new releases. So they aren’t much of a publicity portal.

  9. But Pandora is usually months late on new releases. So they aren’t much of a publicity portal.

    If the only way you’d ever hear of a group’s music — and subsequently buy tracks — is thru Pandora, who the fuck cares if they get the music online a few months late, if it’s new to YOU?

    Pandora is a great business model for getting sales for talented groups operating on a shoestring. About all I listen to there is alt-indie, who get virtually zero radio play on commercial radio stations.

  10. Pandora is a great business model for getting sales for talented groups operating on a shoestring. About all I listen to there is alt-indie, who get virtually zero radio play on commercial radio stations.

    Every radio station I can pick up at the house is owned by ClearChannel. The opportunity for new and interesting music on the radio is therefore as close to zero as you can get. I get better recommendations from the clerks at Hot Topic than I do off the radio.

  11. “If the only way you’d ever hear of a group’s music — and subsequently buy tracks — is thru Pandora, who the fuck cares if they get the music online a few months late, if it’s new to YOU?”

    The theory, and maybe the reality, is that record labels are so focused on quarterly revenues (like most businesses) that a band whose record doesn’t sell much until a year later has already been fired from the label.

  12. I can’t even do the fake handle thing properly.

  13. the Lawyers Full Employment Act

    “Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind….[T]hese laws protect the mind’s contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea. The subject of patents and copyrights is intellectual property.”
    -Ayn Rand, from Patents and Copyrights, 1964

    Bye, bye big glossy douche target

    Poor Lamar, you sound so bitter. Nobody wants to buy your music?

  14. The theory, and maybe the reality, is that record labels are so focused on quarterly revenues (like most businesses) that a band whose record doesn’t sell much until a year later has already been fired from the label.

    At a major, yes. Smaller indie labels, not so much. Shit, look at Cleopatra or Metropolis. How many copies can they possibly be selling of some of those acts on a quarterly basis, even when the album first comes out?

  15. I read an issue of Spin last month. Half the magazine was a retrospective of Purple Rain.

    Every music journo wants to feel as if he’s writing for Rolling Stone in the 70’s.

    Allow me to be pointlessly pedantic for a minute here. Purple Rain was released in 1984, and, anyway, Rolling Stone in 70s did not write about the music of 25 years before, which would have been the pre Rock & Roll era.

  16. [T]hese laws protect the mind’s contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea.

    Actually, you can’t copyright an idea, only a particular expression of an idea.

    I will leave to the philosophers the issue of whether there is any distinction between an idea and its expression.

  17. “Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.”

    That’s the base of all property rights? I think not. But just to double check Ayn Rand’s authority on legal definitions, I’m going to go ahead and look up rape and see how she compares to, say, Lord Coke on the issue.

    RC Dean: you said it in a nicer way. What I’m wondering is if “*” loves Ayn Rand or assumes we all do.

    “Poor Lamar, you sound so bitter. Nobody wants to buy your music?”

    Nobody wants to even hear my music, including me. Does that make you feel better about the prospects of a failing industry?

  18. I will leave to the philosophers the issue of whether there is any distinction between an idea and its expression.

    Ask anyone who ever had to carefully craft a tidy euphemism to make things sound better to the clueless.

  19. How many copies can they possibly be selling of some of those acts on a quarterly basis, even when the album first comes out?

    “Copies” is my point.

    A label focused on selling manufactured copies is going to want advance publicity to increase demand for manufactured product, they’ve got to recoup manufacturing (and recording) costs. My point is that in the download age, manufacturing costs don’t need to be recaptured anymore unless they’re making the mistake of getting copies pressed before the “official release date”. Labels need to focus on the initial sales being downloads – and keeping initial manufactured runs limited to certain retailers and – in the case of smaller labels – selling them at the bands’ shows.

  20. My point is that in the download age, manufacturing costs don’t need to be recaptured anymore unless they’re making the mistake of getting copies pressed before the “official release date”. Labels need to focus on the initial sales being downloads – and keeping initial manufactured runs limited to certain retailers and – in the case of smaller labels – selling them at the bands’ shows.

    Sure. I’ll buy that. There’s a gaping chasm between the business model of a Sony or Universal and a label like Cleopatra or Metropolis. We’ll see if either one is sustainable over the long haul.

  21. “Poor Lamar, you sound so bitter. Nobody wants to buy your music?”

    I should have been a bit more clear. Nobody wants to hear my music, but my clients’ music does rather well. Hence, my car commercial comment.

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