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Old 2012-09-24, 20:24
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James Taylor & the (cheating) Music Industry

One hopes that everybody on the Forums here already has a certain awareness of the shady nature of much of what we call "the music industry", but here's yet another reminder:

52 Ways to Screw an Artist, by Warner Bros. Records...
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Old 2012-09-24, 20:37
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Sounds like bad accountmanagement to me, not "cheating" per se and it's definitely not representative of the entire worldwide music industry.
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Old 2012-09-24, 21:43
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Frank Zappa spent a great deal of the latter part of his life serving as an expert witness in the matter of recording company theft from artists. This was after discovering how thoroughly screwed he had been by his own label. The scandal that ensued was mainly responsible for the rise of the independent record companies ("indies") that we know today. This is covered in a book by or about FZ. (Strictly Commercial comes to mind, but it may have been a later work.)

Another name that comes to mind is Phil Spector of "wall of sound" fame. He is notorious for finding and developing talent, reaping the rewards of their music, and paying them little or nothing. He is also presently under litigation for same. Then there is the shameful story of so many American Blues musicians who got little or nothing for a lifetime of work. (Remember Led Zeppelin attempting to take credit for someone else's work?) It wasn't all white on black, either.

If you or I had engaged in similar "bad accounting management" with our credit card companies or with the Internal Revenue Service/Inland Revenue/whatever, we would be in jail. So should they. This was not poor bookkeeping; it was a calculated effort to defraud many, many artists out of their rightful income. It has gone on for decades and, as you can see from the OP's link, continues today.

I can't speak to whether this goes on worldwide. (I suspect that it does; the US has no monopoly on greedy capitalists.) However, equivalent practices do go on elsewhere. Look at what happened to the Rolling Stones in the late 1960s and early 1970s; they were living in virtual poverty owing to their record company withholding payments. Look up the story of how Richard Branson became a billionaire partly on the back of Mike Oldfield, whom he effectively held in chattel slavery through a contract MO signed at age 17 which committed him to producing a certain naumber of albums for which he would be paid subpar royalties for decades. MO has only recently regained ownership of his own creations.

These are just a few cases that come to mind. Again, it's not poor management or "cheating;" it is calculated theft, the consequences of which, when discovered, are evaded for years, if not forever.
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  #4  
Old 2012-09-25, 07:42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryszard View Post
I can't speak to whether this goes on worldwide.
Quote:
Originally Posted by wikipedia
a large majority of this market for recorded music is controlled by four major corporate labels: the French-owned Universal Music Group, the Japanese-owned Sony Music Entertainment, the US-owned Warner Music Group, and the multinational EMI Group.
And BMG, before it sold out to Sony, was German, I believe.

So yeah.

Even if we consider James Taylor's case individually, and not as a pattern of ongoing behavior from the major players in the music industry, it's difficult to paint the entire scope of the audit in the article as being simple mismanagement. If it is, then that speaks of ongoing and outrageous incompetence in a major media company. But if it is incompetence, one would think that an honest company, having been caught mis-paying or even non-paying the proper royalties would apologize and pay the proper amount.

This hasn't happened. Instead, the company is legally fighting Taylor, disputing the amount he claims they owe, and not even fully paying the part they agree they do owe. Which might be a standard corporate reaction against giving up one thin dime more than it has to, or it might be a way to discourage other artists from considering their own audits and lawsuits, making the prospect of getting lost royalties less attractive than avoiding protracted legal wrangling.

And this isn't even a case of a naive young artist signing an unfavorable contract, this is Warner Brothers not honoring the contract that they themselves agreed to. Even if we assume that a major label contract is attempting to scoop as much profit as it can from an artist, WB couldn't even keep those terms.
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Old 2012-09-25, 08:42
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From my studies into music buisness it doesn't seem very clever at all to get caught in the mousetrap that is the music industry, atleast as a performing artist signed to a record label. I say if you love your music and want to make money out of it, get touring, build up your userbase and release your stuff independantly online, this way you are getting all the profits yourself, rather than pretty much all the profits going to the record company, to be honest, the current state of the music industry is pretty weak, there are more and more people illegally downloading, and the internet has become the main place of sales for music anyway, CD is dying out, and the record companies are not yet exploiting the internet to it's full potential to promote these artists, and they missed out on the oppurtunity to do so, you have a better chance as an independant artist now releasing your stuff and making money, but don't expect to ever make a living out of making and selling music.
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  #6  
Old 2012-09-25, 10:02
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Steve Albini wrote this about 20 years ago and it is still a good read.

http://www.negativland.com/news/?page_id=17
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Old 2012-09-25, 10:17
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Old 2012-09-25, 10:35
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Hopefully things are changing for the better..
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Old 2012-09-25, 10:56
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O tempora! O mores! (Oh, the times! Oh, the morals), cried the ancient Romans. Technology has changed, but have we? Every once in a while I think so. Then I turn on the news and I'm not so sure.

"With every mistake we must surely be learning/Still my guitar gently weeps." -Obligatory rhetorical quote.
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Old 2012-09-25, 11:00
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