Monday April 22, 2013 at 4:33

We’re releasing our new record today.

With the exception of the wonderful Fabrique des Balades Sonores in Paris, you won’t find it in any record stores. That means you can only get physical copies of our album at a show or via our website or bandcamp page.

You can purchase the Digital, CD or Vinyl versions directly from our website or on Bandcamp. (We have some pretty nice looking t-shirts as well.)

We have a little ROI counter on our site where you can see how your purchase has helped us financially. We have already managed to reach 33.63% with pre-orders and with your help, we might make it to 100% before the end of the year.

You’ll also find the album on iTunes, Google Play, eMusic, Amazon MP3, SpotifyDeezer, rdio and some other places.

If you’re interested in the financial aspect of this album, you’ll find a breakdown below of what it cost us and where the money goes when you buy a CD, Digital download or Vinyl record.

We spent €4,311 making this album.

We need to sell 174 CDs to break even on the CD manufacturing costs.

We need to sell 62 CDs to break even on the mastering costs.

We need to sell 33 CDs to break even on the rehearsal fees.

We need to sell 64 LPs to break even on the LP manufacturing costs.

We need to sell 36 t-shirts to break even on the t-shirt manufacturing costs.

We need to sell 4 LPs to cover the cost of the vinyl postage-packaging.

We need to sell 8 CDs to cover the cost of the CD postage-packaging.

So, to fully break even, we’ll need to sell approximately 277 CDs ,68 LPs and 36 t-shirts or get 829,038 plays on Spotify.

To break even on the Digital distribution costs, we need to get either 2,399 plays on Deezer, 5,767 plays on Spotify or 43 song downloads on iTunes or Google Play.

Here’s the cost breakdown for the CD, Vinyl, t-shirt and digital version of the album.

DIGITAL DIRECT FROM US

There’s virtually no cost to make a digital copy.

We sell them for €5.00 ($6.75)

Bandcamp takes 10%: €0.50 ($0.68)

Paypal takes roughly €0.37 ($0.50)

So there’s €4.13  ($5.57)left for us provided we have broken even on the manufacturing costs if you buy it via our bandcamp page and €4.63 ($6.25) if you buy it directly from our website.

CD

Each CD costs us €2.50 ($3.35)per unit to make.

We sell them for €10.00 ($13.50)

Bandcamp takes 10%: €1.00 ($1.35)

Paypal takes roughly €0.55  ($0.75)

So there’s €5.95  ($8.05)left for us provided we have broken even on the manufacturing costs if you buy it from our bandcamp page and €6.95  ($9.40) if you buy it directly from us.

VINYL

Each LP costs us €3.82  ($5.13) per unit to make.

Well sell them for €15.00  ($20.13)

Bandcamp takes 10%: €1.50  ($2.01)

Paypal takes roughly €0.65  ($0.87)

So there’s €9.03  ($12.12) left for us provided we have broken even on the manufacturing costs if you buy it from our bandcamp page, and €10.53  ($14.13) if you buy it directly from our website.

T-SHIRT

Each T-shirt costs us €6.26 ($8.38) per unit to make.

We sell them for €15.00 ($20.13)

Bandcamp takes 10%: €1.50 ($2.01)

Paypal takes roughly €0.65 ($0.87)

So there’s €6.59 ($8/95) left for us provided we have broken even on the manufacturing costs if you buy it from our bandcamp page and €8.09 ($10.96) if you buy it directly from our website.

STREAMING SERVICES

Spotify: $0.0052/stream

Deezer: $0.0125/stream

rdio: $0.005/stream

DOWNLOAD SERVICES

Google Play: $0.70/download

iTunes $0.70/download

eMusic: $0.29/download

Data is based on payments made by streaming services from 1st January and 31st December 2012.

Tuesday January 15, 2013 at 13:04

Complete Your Bandcamp Collection


You may be aware that Bandcamp just released fan pages. 
You can find more information on what these are here.

If you’re like us, you’re feeling the side effects of this new feature, which is that it makes you want to buy more music, and sometimes even music you already purchased elsewhere (iTunes, Record Store, etc…) or got as a free download.
This is because only music you paid for appears on your bandcamp fan page. So if you want your collection to reflect your impeccable taste, you have to buy it again! 

This is why we’ve just put a 1 euro digital price tag on all 3 of our albums. So you can complete your collection if you really want to but without breaking the bank.
http://uniformmotion.bandcamp.com

Wednesday December 05, 2012 at 18:56

Friday November 16, 2012 at 15:08

How to get 80,000 views on YouTube

One of our songs just hit 80,000 views on YouTube.

Our most popular video has 15k views (on Vimeo) mainly due to the coverage our blogpost on digital store and streaming revenues, so 80,000 views is a pretty big deal for us. 

So how did we do it?

Did we make a really original music video with cute cats in it? Nope… the video is just a static image of the album cover.

Did we put up our best song and it slowly made its way to 80k views because of its pure awesomeness? Not really, it isn’t the most radio friendly of songs.

Did we hire a PR agency to run a campaign to promote the song? Nope.

Did we pay someone to watch it a eighty thousand times? …. no!

Here’s what we did…

NOTHING AT ALL.

We didn’t even upload the video! Someone else did.

After seeing the numbers grow so high for this particular song, we started doing some digging to figure out what was going on. It seems that we have been benefiting from the popularity of an Icelandic band called Of Monsters and Men

One their songs, Little Talks which has 33 million views on YouTube contains a lyric which is very similar to the title of our song. This lyric happens to be the catchiest part of their song. So when people search for the song based on the lyric, they sometimes find our song. Simple as that.

Friday September 14, 2012 at 12:47

Jean-Pierre and the Copyright Collection Society.

Jean-Pierre goes to the Pirate Bay and downloads our new record. A few weeks later, he sees that we’re playing in his hometown and decides to come and see us play.

We play a great show (as always!) and Jean-Pierre makes his way over to the merch table and buys a CD. What a nice guy!

This kind of thing happens all the time.

BUT…. what most people don’t know is that the music venue is legally obliged to pay public performance rights to SACEM (France’s Copyright Collection Society) in order to have bands play live music in their venue.

So we often have to fill out a form, providing details on all the songs we played to ensure SACEM can find the songwriter and pay them their money. 

"But we are the songwriters" we cry! "Just give us the money directly, why don’t you? It would save everyone a lot of time (and money) wouldn’t it"?

But that would be far too easy.

So the venue pays SACEM and SACEM tells us we can get the money back (minus some reasonable administration fees of course, like their President’s €750,000 annual salary for instance!) if we pay them a member’s fee.

But we had already come across SACEM before when we had our CD’s we sell on our merch table manufactured. 

In order to have CD’s made in France, you’re legally obliged to fill out an SDRM form (which is handled by SACEM). CD Manufacturers won’t press your CD’s without prior authorization from SACEM.

If the songs are not listed in their database, you don’t have to pay them anything but if they are (because maybe you became a SACEM member in order to get your public performance money from your live performances) they’ll make you pay a Mechanical Royalty.

So we fill out the forms and they tell us we have to pay the mechanical royalties to them so that they can pay the songwriter for the privilege of having their music on our CD. 

"But we are the songwriters dude! So why don’t we just give the money to ourselves?!" Again, that would be too easy!

Let’s summarize what just happened here. The Copyright Collection Society makes the artist pay them to have their own CD’s manufactured, takes a portion of their live revenues and then uses the money to sue the guy who came to the gig and bought a CD!

This is what is wrong with the music business.

Monday June 25, 2012 at 11:02

Tour Report: how we earned minimum wage as musicians for 9 days.

We launched a gig funding (gigstarter) site a few months back called OneCityPerSecond.com. The idea was to see if we could get some concerts pre-financed to reduce the financial risk of touring.

After one successful campaign for a solo gig in Gothenburg, Sweden, and two concerts with the full band in Zaragoza, Spain, which were indirect consequences of setting up the website, we decided to try and organise a tour in Germany.

The campaign itself was not really that successful but it did help us communicate the fact that we were ready and willing to play some shows, which resulted in some of our friends and fans providing us with some assistance.

Here’s a tour diary and some details on the financial and organisational side of things.

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Day 1: Dikkenek Café, Lyon

We started our journey with a 6-hour drive from Toulouse to Lyon. 

The Dikkenek Café is a fairly new Belgian bar in a popular area of the town. When we looked for the bar’s website on google, the first result was a blog that was set up by angry neighbours that provides instructions on how to get the bar shut down. We actually linked to that blog thinking that the Belgians have a weird sense of humour.

We later found out that the blog was set up 6 weeks before the bar even opened! Nice neighbours they have.

We managed to find a gig there through some old friends of Olivier’s (our drummer, who used to live in Lyon). They’re called Paloma à l’Orange and they were a really cool opening band. We quickly rehearsed a cover song by Deus during sound check with them and joined them on stage for a sing along. It was good fun.

There wasn’t much of a turnout but we weren’t expecting that many people as we don’t have that many fans in Lyon and no one really promoted the gig. We were happy to have a place to stay on our way to Germany to split to journey in half.

We ended up selling one vinyl and made enough from donations to put a bit of fuel in the car. We also got some nice healthy food before the gig (Pizza). :)

Distance traveled: 600 km

Finances after gig:  -€141

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Day 2: Hafen2, Offenbach

Hafen2 is a fairly big venue just outside Frankfurt. 

Renaud and I had played Hafen2 two years previously and the gig had gone really well, so we were expecting a few people to come. We were wrong!

The people from Hafen2 take really good care of the bands though and prepare delicious vegan food (seriously, it was delicious!). There’s plenty of beer and a nice clean dorm to sleep in as well. The money wasn’t great but it was a good location since we were heading to Leipzig the next day.

We played with the Hungry Kids of Hungary, an Australian band on tour in Europe. They played a great show, albeit in front of a very small crowd. We were hoping that they would show us what proper rock bands do after gigs (partying until 5 in the morning, drinking themselves silly, throwing TV’s out the window) but they were a huge disappointment as not only were they really well behaved, they were really nice guys too.

We sold a few CD’s and vinyls that night. We also got the second strangest request for a drawing of the whole tour. Someone asked for a drawing of Angela Merkel with ex-President Sarkozy to her left, and newly elected President Hollande to her right. Weird!

The next morning, we spent an hour in a really large room (really high ceiling) behind the stage where we shot some videos. The people from the venue were unaware we were in there and locked us in! And the great thing about sound proof doors is that you can’t hear people knocking on them!

We managed to escape after hopelessly pounding on the door for a few minutes and then shot some new press photos outside the venue. Our current press photos are from 2008!

So all in all, it wasn’t such a bad start to the tour.

Distance traveled: 1,300 km

Finances after gig:  -€132

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Day 3: Essential Existence Gallery, Leipzig

1st June, we played in an old factory that had been converted to an art gallery in the second largest city in East Germany, Leipzig.

This gig had been set up by the netlabel who released our debut album in 2009 (Aaahh Records) and we got to play with Entertainment for the Braindead (aka Julia) who played a really great set, looping lots of different instruments (guitar, banjo, flute, etc…) and saying really witty stuff in German that I was incapable of understanding. 

They had a pretty cool video projector there and a huge white wall behind the stage, so the visuals were awesome that night. We were a little worried that the echo in the building would be a problem but it was lovely to hear all that natural reverb on the snare and vocals.

The money wasn’t too bad either and we sold quite a bit of merch. We even managed break even that night.

The next morning, we had an awesome English breakfast in the Cantona Café with our dear friend Patrick.

After listening to almost all of the CD’s we had in the car, we asked Patrick to point us to a record store. We ended up in a strange looking place right next to the Cantona Café and picked up new records from Beach House (excellent), Spain (not bad) and Poliça (not so good). Little did we know it, Beach House was going to be our musical shadow for the whole tour.

Distance traveled: 1,750km

Finances after gig:  +€16

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Day 4: Aaltra Vox Festival, Chemnitz

Renaud and I played in the Aaltra bar in 2009 and had a wonderful time there so we were really looking forward to playing Aaltra Vox 2012, (a small outdoor festival with 4 bands), especially because we had to cancel our gig there in 2011.

Jörg, the owner, rented a big professional video-projector for the event, so we had a huge screen again. 

We played a pretty good gig even though it was bloody cold that night. We were also rather successful at the merch table selling lots of CD’s and vinyl (with custom drawings on them).

The fee for the gig was pretty good as well, so after Chemnitz, we had some money in our pockets and were starting to feel pretty good about the tour.

Jörg has excellent taste in music and gave us a few pointers. Fenster and Wooden Peak (both from Berlin, both rather awesome bands).

Distance traveled: 1,865km

Finances after gig:  +€530

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Day 5: Zukunftvisionen2012, Görlitz

Sunday 2nd June, we headed to Görlitz on the Polish-German border. Robert, the gent who set up the gig is a friend of Jörg’s from Aaltra in Chemnitz. He reached out to us when he found out we were playing in Chemnitz and managed to set something up.

The gig took place in an abandoned house (there are quite a few of those in Görlitz apparently) that had been turned into a makeshift art gallery.

The natural reverb and the wooden floors gave us a really nice organic sound, which made the concert really enjoyable for us, even though the sound guy forced me to use a microphone I was unfamiliar with at gunpoint. He was right to insist though, as it was a pretty funky microphone.

We did rather well with CD’s and Vinyl again. The fact that people can buy a CD/Vinyl and get a unique drawing made especially for them, in front of their eyes, seems to go down really well and we started suspecting that there may also be a sort of viral effect going on. Once a few people start showing off their custom CD/vinyl to their friends, the queue gets longer and poor Renaud has to spend hours at the merch desk drawing Little Knights, Princesses, and even Politicians sometimes!

Our reward for playing a good gig? Junk food! Yeah!

We had a good long chat with Robert at his place after the gig. As Görlitz is so close to Poland, we decided to cross the border for a quick look. 

Distance traveled: 2,045km

Finances after gig:  +€808

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Day 6: Morph Club, Bamberg

As most musicians know, it’s not easy to eat properly when you’re on tour so we did our best to find nutritious, healthy food whenever we could. Day 6 was no exception.

Once we knew we were going to play a few shows in Germany, we posted a message or two on Facebook asking for help to set up some shows. Armin, the booker for Morph Club contacted us via a guy called Daniel, who happened to be friends with one of the people who set up the show in Freiburg for us.

 Morph Club was a proper music venue/night club with fancy lights and whatnot. 

The turnout wasn’t great (it was a Monday night and we have very few fans in the region) but it was great show and we had a lovely time. We had made a sort of bet amongst ourselves to see if we could get someone in the crowd to ‘roll over’ on the floor during the song ‘Roll Over’. That night, our wish was granted when not one, but two people did some beautiful synchronized rolling on the floor during the song. Awesome! I wish we had a photo to show you but our hands were occupied when it happened.

The money was not too bad that night and we sold our last 5 vinyls. (damn, we should have brought more with us!)

As we didn’t have to get up too early the next day and the people there were so cool, we decided to stay for a few drinks. Renaud got to be the barman for a bit as well. 

And we got the strangest request for a drawing ever that night from our new friend, Andy the sound engineer. Yes, that is a sausage you see!

Distance traveled: 2,525km

Finances after gig:  +€1,032

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Day 7: House-gig, Berlin

Next step was a house-gig in Berlin, organised by Julia, of Entertainment of the Braindead and broadcast live on the interwebs by Christian from Aaahh Records.

It was a little strange playing in someone’s apartment but the crowd was very friendly. There were two acts before us. A lad called Maxim Vaga, who played piano and sang with a voice that reminded me of an American singer-songwriter called Brian Straw. And then Phia, from Australia, who loops the Kalimba. Really funky stuff! Check her out.

We were paid with donations and sold a couple of CD’s.

One of our passports went missing… We called Inspector Derrick but he didn’t pick up.

On a lighter note, we had a really cool jam session after the gig where we probably wrote the best song in the world, ever, but then forgot it. Oh well.

Distance traveled: 2,990km

Finances after gig:  +€933

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Day 8: Ä, Berlin

Renaud and I played Ä in 2009 so it was fairly easy to play there again. They have some pretty harsh rules on noisy instruments so we couldn’t play with a drum kit unfortunately. Even the Cajon was too loud!

We were also a little tired that day and we were starting to miss our wives/girlfriends & families but you could hardly tell….

During soundcheck, they kept turning down the volume and I was literally unable to hear what I was playing. The gig went really well though and although it was like a 1950’s boxing match in there (full of smoke and jam packed with people), the atmosphere was great and we did quite well with donations and CD sales. 

Distance traveled: 2,992km

Finances after gig:  +€1,053

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Day 9: Swamp Club, Freiburg

We had to get up really early to drive to Freiburg and with the (abysmal) state of German roads, we were worried we were going to get delayed. We managed to get there an hour early though, and then chill out for a bit at the youth hostel we were staying in.

The gig had been set up by the group of fans who were behind our vinyl campaign on Facebook (the one that started with a guy asking if we would kindly consider releasing our album on vinyl and that resulted in our crowdfunding the pressing of 250 copies).

Just after soundcheck, we were walking out of the venue to go and visit the city centre (in the rain) when a group of 6 people stopped us and asked us if we spoke French, and then if we were Uniform Motion. They had come all the way from Strasbourg to see us. Sweet! 

The venue was fairly small and by the time we got back it was sold out and they ended up having to refuse about 40 people at the door, which is a bit sad for them but kind of cool at the same time! :)

This was our last gig and it was really special for Olivier because both his grandmothers were originally from Freiburg.  The folks who organised the gig weren’t expecting so many people and ended up giving us, the sound engineer, and the opening act more money than they had originally offered, which was really nice of them. 

Renaud did a lot of drawings on CD’s that night, and even drew a picture on Jack Bauer’s younger cousin’s t-shirt!

The opening act was a guy called Godot, really nice, mellow music. I’m sure the lyrics are great but as he sang in German, I couldn’t really tell.

Distance traveled: 3,832km

Finances after gig:  +€1,513

Noteworthy:  The people there were awesome and for the first time ever, the strangest thing happened. The audience sang along with us! Weird but nice feeling.

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Day 10: Home!

Distance traveled: 4,852km

Finances after the tour: €1,258

If we factor in the money we spent on food during the tour (you have to eat, no matter where you are), we ended up making €522 each. (Minimum wage in France for 9 days work is roughly €457) - of course there are things like health insurance and retirement funds, and other benefits that make it difficult to compare, but it still means that we were able to tour for 9 days, and not only did we not lose any money, we actually made a decent profit. 

It is very clear to us that we would have only just broken even if we hadn’t sold any merch during the tour. So CD’s and Vinyl sales were key to making our tour financially viable.

The main thing that we all took home with us was the feeling that we had really connected with the audience and that they had enjoyed our shows as much as we did.

That’s something Mastercard can’t get their grubby little hands on!

Thursday June 21, 2012 at 12:22

Donate a sound?

Want to participe in our next album? Send us a sound via our soundcloud page or by email and we’ll use it. We may end up time-stretching, pitch shifting, or breaking it into little pieces, but we WILL use it! 

Thursday May 10, 2012 at 15:35

I reject the term “piracy.” It’s people listening to music and sharing it with other people, and it’s good for musicians because it widens the audience for music. The record industry doesn’t like trading music because they see it as lost sales, but that’s nonsense. Sales have declined because physical discs are no longer the distribution medium for mass-appeal pop music, and expecting people to treat files as physical objects to be inventoried and bought individually is absurd.

The downtrend in sales has hurt the recording business, obviously, but not us specifically because we never relied on the mainstream record industry for our clientele. Bands are always going to want to record themselves, and there will always be a market among serious music fans for well-made record albums. I’ll point to the success of the Chicago label Numero Group as an example.

There won’t ever be a mass-market record industry again, and that’s fine with me because that industry didn’t operate for the benefit of the musicians or the audience, the only classes of people I care about.

Free distribution of music has created a huge growth in the audience for live music performance, where most bands spend most of their time and energy anyway. Ticket prices have risen to the point that even club-level touring bands can earn a middle-class income if they keep their shit together, and every band now has access to a world-wide audience at no cost of acquisition. That’s fantastic.

Additionally, places poorly-served by the old-school record business (small or isolate towns, third-world and non-english-speaking countries) now have access to everything instead of a small sampling of music controlled by a hidebound local industry. When my band toured Eastern Europe a couple of years ago we had full houses despite having sold literally no records in most of those countries. Thank you internets.

— Steve Albini, when asked for his opinion on music piracy (via gregharrington)

Reblogged from Greg Harrington Shares Nothing of Value.

Wednesday April 25, 2012 at 3:04

How Streaming services pay Artists

Below is an article we wrote for MTV, which can be found here.


The State of Streaming

Streaming services have been making a lot of noise recently. Spotify, who made a big splash when it launched in the USA last year, has been backing up its recent statement about wanting to become a music operating system by announcing the availability of an embeddable music player called Play Button. Pandora has seen its market value decrease considerably since its IPO despite being extremely popular in the U.S.

Artists have been complaining left right and center about how low streaming payments are. Some big name artists and record labels have pulled their content from streaming services, and Grooveshark is being sued by all four major record labels.

As a small DIY band from Europe who made a name for ourselves in the music accounting world last year by divulging how much money we were getting from the different digital music stores and streaming services, we sometimes get asked what we think about music streaming.

It’s undeniable that streaming is the future. I would even go so far as to say that streaming is already the present. Millions of music fans listen to music via streaming services every day. Why bother downloading songs when you can stream them?

The debates about streaming tend to be more about whether or not they pay enough to the artists for the use of their music. Some believe they are cannibalizing record sales, others think that they’re serving as a catalyzer for music discovery and thereby increasing artists’ income.

As CDs become extinct (or collectibles like vinyl) and the need to download files becomes obsolete, streaming services will likely become the main source of revenue for recorded music. Therefore it is important for musicians to understand how much streaming services pay for music and how those payments are made.

However, streaming services and their associated payouts can be a little confusing.

How Streaming Works

The concept of streaming is fairly simple. The music resides in the cloud (in data-centers) and you stream the music, meaning you download and play the sound file at the same time. In order to make it work more efficiently, some streaming companies use peer-to-peer technology or provide a synchronization feature, which allows you to actually download the songs to your phone or computer, as you would with a song from iTunes. That way you can still listen to your favorite songs when you’re not connected to the Internet. The difference is that if you decide to terminate your subscription, the music will disappear.

The main difference in financial terms when compared to digital downloads or physical formats like CD and vinyl is that the user no longer owns the music, they lease it, or they pay for it every time they listen to it, depending on how you look at it.

So how exactly does a band like ours get paid from a streaming service?

This is where it gets extremely complicated.

How A Band Gets Paid

Put simply, every time a user listens to a song using a legal streaming service, it triggers off a set of royalties, some of which are based on statutory rates as defined by copyright law, with others having been negotiated between the streaming companies and labels and/or performance royalty collection organizations.

There are basically two parts of a song that are covered by copyright law. The composition (lyrics and music score) and the recording (what the lyrics and music score sound like once they’ve been sung and played by musicians and recorded as a sound file).

It is next to impossible to find out exactly how some of these royalties are calculated because of the confidential nature of some of the agreements signed between the different parties, but in some cases the streaming services will pay a fixed amount per stream plus a prorated percentage of their revenues (subscription and/or ad revenues in most cases) based on the artist’s market share. In other cases, they just pay a prorated amount of revenues. This would explain why the per stream amounts from streaming services like Spotify fluctuate as their ad sales and subscription revenues can go up or down. [Editor’s note: Spotify declined to divulge details on this.]

ASCAPBMIHarry FoxSACEMPRS for Music all announced deals with Spotify without disclosing any details.

Another fundamental difference between streaming and traditional record sales is that the artists whose songs are listened to the most receive the most royalties and not the artists who sell the most records. That may not sound like a big difference, but it is. It used to be about selling as many records as you could, but it’s now about finding as many listeners as you can and making sure they listen to your music over and over again. That seems like good motivation to make quality music to me.

These royalties are paid to different people depending on which part of the song they own or the role they played in recording it.

If you own the copyright to the song in full – meaning you wrote the music, the lyrics, performed all the music, recorded it all yourself and released the album on your own – then 100% of the streaming royalties are owed to you, and only you. Whether you actually get all that money is a different story, though.

Most of these copyright laws were designed a long time ago and don’t really suit modern day methods of listening to music. For example, what’s called a mechanical royalty was originally designed to ensure composers would get paid when their music was sold on perforated paper for self-playing pianos. This system trickled through the decades and stayed with us through gramophones, 7” vinyl, cassette tapes, CDs, digital downloads and interactive streaming services… but not non-interactive streaming services.

So what’s the difference between interactive and non-interactive?

Interactive means that the user chooses the exact song he or she listens to, meaning services like Spotify, Rdio, Mog, Grooveshark and Deezer. Non-interactive means that you can’t choose the exact songs you listen to – services like Pandora, Jango, Turntable.fm and other Internet and digital radio stations like Sirius XM.

From the outside, it’s hard to understand why Turntable.fm, Pandora and similar sites do not provide their service to users outside of the U.S., but there are reasons for this.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the U.S. in 1998 and allows Internet companies to develop web services around creative content (videos, music, etc…) as long as they respect a few ground rules. They’re also supposed to pay a statutory rate per song played via their service to a non-profit organization called SoundExchange.

SoundExchange then distributes the money to the interested parties. In Europe, SACEM (France), GEMA (Germany) and PRS for Music (UK) and the record labels typically negotiate these deals individually, which is why it’s so much harder for companies to create services like these in Europe.

Another example of how strange music copyright can get is the public performance royalty, which was designed to ensure a composer would get paid when an orchestra played his or her music in front of an audience. Whenever your music is played in a public place (restaurant, bar, business, etc…) the songwriter and the owner of the recorded song (master) are supposed to get paid for it. Streaming services also have to pay the public performance royalties, which seems a little odd when most people listen to the songs with headphones.

To summarize, in the U.S., interactive streaming services have to pay mechanical royalties and public performance royalties whereas non-interactive only have to pay (digital) performance royalties (as well as publishing royalties).

Some of that money is paid to organizations like ASCAP, BMI and Harry Fox Agency who collect money on behalf of songwriters and the owners of the masters, the rest is paid directly to the labels or music aggregators like Tunecore, CD Baby, etc, who pass the money on the artists.

As for services like Pandora, they pay SoundExchange performance royalties for the musicians and master owners, and songwriter royalties to ASCAP/BMI, etc.

This means that you need to be members of all of these organizations in order to get paid, but that does not provide you with any guarantees that you will actually get paid. You often have to chase after the money like any business owner. But is it really worth spending several hours chasing after a few dollars?

It’s probably not a huge amount of money, but it’s money that’s being paid by companies like Spotify and Pandora for the use of our music, which does not end up in our pockets. So where does it go exactly? That’s another tricky question.

In most cases, it gets divided up between the members of the organizations that collect the royalties, meaning other artists, record labels and publishers. Yes, some of the money artists and record labels get does not belong to them. But they take it. Why wouldn’t they?
Most people don’t realize that they directly or indirectly pay for music all the time.
When you watch an ad on TV that includes a piece of music, an ad agency paid for the right to use that music in the ad and to show it to a certain amount of people for a certain amount of time.

When you buy a concert ticket, you’re not just paying for the right to see the band, a small portion of your ticket money goes to Public Performance Organizations who collect that money on the songwriter’s behalf. What if the songwriter is the one actually playing the songs, you’re thinking? Why not give them the money straight away, so they can pay for gas, or some pizza? Well, that would be too easy.

In some countries, taxes have been added to hard drives and blank CDs and all of that money goes to the collection societies, who are supposed to share it with their members. When you download albums from commercial filesharing sites, advertisers have paid to occupy that real estate so you see their ad when you download the files.

When you use the free version of streaming services, you indirectly pay for music by listening to or watching their ads.

It’s important to realize that the smaller artists very rarely get their full share of the pie, which in itself isn’t the end of the world. We all pay VAT or similar taxes, but what’s annoying is that this money is not being put to good use; it’s going into the hands of people who did nothing to earn it and who in most cases, do not need it.

So here’s some food for thought. Spotify uses peer-to-peer technology to improve the user experience of their music service. What’s stopping artists from using open-source technologies to build an independent peer-to-peer streaming service that cuts out Spotify, the major record labels, the royalty collection agencies and all the other middlemen in the music industry? A non-profit organization that shares the profits from ads and subscriptions directly with the artists?

(Fact checking and editing by Brenna Ehrlich)

Saturday April 21, 2012 at 9:53

Record store day! (Taken with instagram)

Record store day! (Taken with instagram)