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Steve Albini: The Music Industry Is a Parasite -- and Copyright Is Dead 189

journovampire sends word of another thought-provoking rant from Steve Albini (mentioned here last a few years back for his paean to the beauty of analog tape for recording): The veteran producer addressed an audience in Barcelona on Saturday: "The old copyright model – the person who creates something owns it and anyone else that wants to use it or see it has to pay them – has expired."
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Steve Albini: The Music Industry Is a Parasite -- and Copyright Is Dead

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  • Yes, but because (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saloomy ( 2817221 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @09:20PM (#49807439)
    The industry was created to cover the cost of production and distribution. Both of which today are much cheaper and can me made by individuals who have not "made it" yet.
    • Re:Yes, but because (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2015 @09:26PM (#49807459)

      And yet the industry saw fit to extract payment from radio stations who doubled as advertisers for them.

      The industry has been a parasite for decades.

      • More generally, the Information Age means that we need less and less peopleware to manage data and shepherd people.
        The last holdout, of course, is government.
      • Since copyright is dead I just created an new web site called It copies all the content from and uses that site as its backend. I just replace the ads with my own, but you won't notice any difference really. Oh and it also deletes all the Dice Astroturf articles for added value to you my viewers. So please start using my new site instead of the old one. You can check it out while you are pirating some music or videos in this age of copyright nullity.

      • by Creepy ( 93888 )

        Except that isn't true for over-the-air broadcast radio []. The musicians and the studio don't actually get a penny from radio play, even sometimes the singer - that is considered promotional. Only the songwriter (they guy or gal that writes the lyrics, if any) gets paid. For many years the studios would be forced to pay money to get airplay, as well (payola).

        Furthermore, musicians get screwed by the recording studios, as well. Usually the contract requires ownership rights of a recording to be owned by the st

        • My dad's old band was contacted by Sony Records back in 1990 or so. Everyone wanted to sign the record deal (pretty good sized advance). My dad saw the contract terms and bailed. They replaced my dad with another guitarist. My dad still has to bust his ass at his current job, but he didn't have to file for bankruptcy like the rest of the band members had to when the albums failed to move as good as everyone hoped.
    • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Sunday May 31, 2015 @01:03AM (#49807993) Journal

      The industry was created to cover the cost of production and distribution. Both of which today are much cheaper and can me made by individuals who have not "made it" yet.

      I don't agree. While I don't work in the music business, I have friends that do, some successful, some not.

      The music industry wants you to think it costs a lot to put out your own albums, and it doesn't. It never has. Smart artists, like Steve Albini, figured this out, and produced their own music. Cost was a few thousand dollars.

      Distributing is where the record companies have it made, until internet, because they already had a presence in store and with advertising, as long as they felt your work was worth being advertised.

      When you come to the record company with no demo, no master, and they sign you a contract, you end up paying way more then you would otherwise for getting that master done, and generally, unless your first album does really good, you don't make any money and don't pay off your debt to them. So you make a second album, increasing debt, etc... Sort of like borrowing money from a loanshark.

      So before the internet, you could make a master, print out records/tapes for relatively cheap, but selling them was the hard part.

      Now with the internet, honestly, you'd be a fool to sign on with any major recording company.

  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @09:35PM (#49807487) Homepage

    the best site I discovered is [] Obviously Trance/Goa/Spy/Etc is not everyone’s cup of tea but there are tons of net labels out there that license their music CC.

    I discovered [] on Ektoplazm and their Tales of the Coin Spinner would rival any commercial electronic music release especially in the mide/late 90's style.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For similar genres I'd recommend Soma FM []. Also thanks to the editors for correcting the spelling of paean.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also checkout jamendo
      I found some real cool stuff in there

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      And then there is where the money goes directly to the artists, minus a reasonable amount that is clear upfront for the artist.

      But to be fair, copyright was never about the artist. It was about the copyrightholder, so unless you are a songwriter, copyright is not for you. I can imagine that is why 25 people write a song now: s they all can get a cut.

  • I agree and disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aitikin ( 909209 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @09:35PM (#49807491)

    I love Steve. He's freaking ridiculous. I've known him for a few years. That being said, he's a niche at best. I've never agreed that he is the mainstay, nor that his mentality is even remotely standard for the industry, but I love the way he goes. He's literally never taken "points" (percentage points) as a producer of a song/album. He sees it as he gets paid out right for it and that's that. I love that about this guy!

    I can't say I agree that his mentality of musicians not holding copyright is normal or correct, but I respect the guy and love seeing him and his articles/arguments.

    • by raftpeople ( 844215 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @09:52PM (#49807549)
      It seems like his point on copyright is accurate in that it's kind of swimming upstream these days, it's almost impossible to control the easy flow of content.

      The article doesn't say, but I would be curious if he had ideas on what kind of arrangement would allow artists to get paid and that accepts that content can't be controlled.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The money is in live performance and merchandising. Recorded tracks are simply marketing for that.

      • A Kickstarter-like model would work. Release a single for free, designate an amount that you think the full album is worth. If enough people are willing to pay, then you release the album for free. For the second album, hopefully enough people have copied the first that you don't need to do much to encourage them to pay for the second. As an added bonus, you can reduce your up-front costs by only renting the studio time to record the first track and only record the rest once people have paid for it.


  • by Anonymous Coward

    Albini has spent a career in the industry but hasn't achieved the kind of financial success that many of his peers have, and frankly, he doesn't care about money as much as many of them. Fine, but that makes his point of view rather specialized.

    It's like if a journeyman baseball player said, "I don't care about making millions of dollars, I just love playing this game in front of fans, and I'd do it for a living wage." Maybe so, but that's not typical of players taking home millions of dollars (and the av

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is that anything like a paean []?
  • Steve Albini has been a slashdot darling because of his outspoken nature. However, it is all empty BS that is just armchair philosophy. It doesn't look like he's involved in the guts of the music industry to provide real insight but just out there to reflect our outsider slashdot user views.

    Copyright is very important. Streaming revenues are based on copyright. Digital downloads are based on copyright.

    Also streaming can be as high a quality as needed. I don't know why he think it is supposed to be low q

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Copyright is very important.

      Copyright is what keeps Jeb Bush from using Creedence Clearwater Revival songs at his political rallies.

      Copyright keeps a device company from taking artist's songs and selling them for use exclusively on their devices.

      Copyright, when logically applied, is punk rock's greatest defender.

      Steve Albini has a signature heavy rock sound that is forever etched in music history.

      Steve Albini doesn't know shit about copyright or the music business.

      • Copyright keeps a device company from taking artist's songs and selling them for use exclusively on their devices.

        How can that happen if there is no copyright? You make no sense.

        • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Sunday May 31, 2015 @09:02AM (#49808975) Homepage

          If there was no copyright, someone could release a sing and have it immediately appropriated by some politician/organization who they completely disagree with for no compensation. The artist could also wind up competing to sell his works against others selling his works.

          The problem is that copyright has been extended to ridiculous lengths. Drop copyright down to shorter lengths (14 years plus a one time 14 year extension) and many of the copyright problems would vanish.

          • Erh... think about that statement again. A politician takes a song from a writer who doesn't want him to. There's now two possible situations: Either the writer is not popular. Then it friggin' doesn't matter because the song would not be popular either and the politician would probably not take the song due to, well, who'd give a shit about it? Or the writer is popular. Then he'd immediately inform his fans that said politician is using his song without him wanting to support him and said politician probab

            • Or the writer is popular. Then he'd immediately inform his fans that said politician is using his song without him wanting to support him and said politician probably just committed political suicide, with people not liking the song not liking his campaign because they don't like the song, and people who do like the song despising him for using it without the artists OK.

              Makes no sense to use that song, does it?

              I take it you haven't followed any election anywhere in the last 30 years. They are littered with cases of pollies using music without permission and ignoring any complaints from the artists (Reagen and Born in the USA is one that comes to mind. I think Tony Blair did a similar thing in the UK). There are no political consequences because politics is mostly like religion. Even if you fuck children, or fly planes into buildings, the great unwashed will shrug and carry on with whatever they believed yesterda

            • Either the writer is not popular. Then it friggin' doesn't matter because the song would not be popular either

              Wrong. Writer is not popular because no one knows him. But the writer is good. Now the politician takes the song, and STILL no one knows the writer. The song becomes popular because of the exposure given by the politician.

              There will be no possibility of the writer's fans in this case as you can understand.

      • Copyright is what keeps Jeb Bush from using Creedence Clearwater Revival songs at his political rallies.

        Wrong. Most artists have a system either through their label on their own called licensing. If someone wants to pay an artist to promote a product, or be used to present a lifestyle that is attractive to potential customers or voters. When these political campaigns purchase a license, most artists don't have a veto over it, and take to the court of public opinion to shame the politicians into not using their music. Fuck those artists. If they want to sell their product to a specific ideological crowd,

    • re: Empty B.S.? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Saturday May 30, 2015 @10:29PM (#49807675) Journal

      No.... I think it's actually pretty accurate to make the basic statement that "copyright is not working". I'm not saying the entire concept needs to vanish. But I think it's pretty clear that the way it works today, copyright only benefits a relative few people at the top of the "pecking order" for a given business pedaling intellectual property.

      As we see the increase in popularity of streaming music services/subscriptions, for example? Copyright as a means to ensure an artist gets compensated fairly for his/her work starts looking like an utter joke. What compensation do they really receive? Fractions of a penny each time a song of theirs is streamed! The only people who stand to do well with this model are the services doing the streaming itself, who collect money for the subscriptions no matter what the subscribers listen to (and a rate that's the same whether they listen to a lot or barely anything at all in a given month).

      And who is copyright working for when you have people simply trying to build emulators so people can run 20+ year old games again for nostalgia, but it's technically illegal to distribute the software collections due to a (now non-productive) copyright preventing it?

      IMO, the only real value of copyright for a creator of a work is in providing some INITIAL protection when the work is still new. The lion's share of income is normally when a work is brand new and nobody has access to it yet. You want to encourage people to keep creating new things by letting them earn that big, initial profit when the new movie, book, video game or music album/single is a "new release" without it being hijacked .... But once the I.P. gets "stale", meaning almost everyone who wants to view/read/listen to it has pretty much done so? It's time for copyright protection on it to wind down.

      • Copyright, in its current form, is unenforcable. Look how long the Bay has been in operation - and ten thouand lesser services. An unenforcable law is a bad law, and must be either abolished or revised into a more practical form.

        • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday May 31, 2015 @12:35PM (#49809847)

          Copyright in its current form is not only not enforceable, it's actually harmful to artistry in general.

          The idea behind copyright was to encourage to create. Before copyright, you needed a patron. Either that or you were busy running from one bar to the next with your new song to play it yourself before someone else copies you. Back then, the main danger was someone else playing it (that was long before the means of reproducing sound and moving image), not someone "copying" the song itself. It was more to protect composers against what happens now constantly: Some orchestra playing a song composed by Mozart, Beethoven or Bach. With the difference that these people were still alive back then. So the best they could get without copyright was to be the first to perform their new compositions.

          It was worse for writers who really had to hurry from printing to selling because often before the first batch of books was sold reprints would appear, then of course cheaper because there was no artist who wanted money. Actually, it was worse for printers (producers) who actually bought books from artists. And they were also the ones pushing for legislation in this area.

          Or, in other words, copyright was never intended to protect the artist. It was from its very start an attempt of publishers to protect their investment in artists.

          But I digress. Original copyright was 7 years, and that was pretty tight back then because then it took a long while for things to get published and noticed by the public. But 7 years was enough to be an incentive for publishers to actually buy books from writers. And later to buy songs and even movie ideas.

          Today, in a time when publishing, advertising and selling content has reached the level where it's measured in days and hours rather than years and months, we have a copyright of 70 years. Counting not from the moment of its creation but from the moment the author died. That's pretty much the lifetime of a person. I will probably not see the copyright expire of an artist who died when I was born. To give you an idea just how long this is, James Brown had his first hits just after WW2. He died in 2006. His works would enter public domain in 2081 if this law had been already in existence when he created it (actually, the insanity only dates back to 1978). Another thing that a lot of people probably know is "White Christmas". It's near impossible not to know it. Copyright expires under this law in 2051. That's over a century after its creation.

          Who, I have to ask, is to be protected by a copyright that outlives the content's creator? His heirs? Why should essentially three generations of descendants be entitled to royalties of something their grand-grandfather created? Do you even know your grand-grandfather? Imagine you still got money from something that guy once did.

          Nobody can tell me that this has any roots in reality. This is insanity.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2015 @11:30PM (#49807807)

      many services that are working on music being aggressively categorized by moods, styles

      That's nice, but how is it relevant?

      The music industry has been ridiculously dynamic and new innovations have changed

      And now you sound like a broken industry advertiser machine. Yes, they have been pushing DRM on us and bribing governments "protect the.." ...their way of doing business. Yes, paying the artist 5% of profit is piracy because you no longer distribute physical vynil disks that suffer from "breakage" -- actual term used in a contract for distributing mp3s.

      If the entire industry disappeared overnight we would all be much better off, even after factoring in their unemployment checks.

    • Saying copyright is not working is wrong.

      Yes, it works for the purpose of creating another class of rentier aristocracy. And those rentier would understanding disappointed if it was gone. It never worked towards its stated objective "to promote the progress of science and useful arts". Rentier don't have time for that. They actually mostly spend their time on pursuing copyright lawsuits and enjoying their luxury lifestyle.

    • If shilling this obvious isn't at -1, there's a serious problem with the moderation on this site.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2015 @10:02PM (#49807589)

    "Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it." ~ John Lennon

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it." ~ John Lennon

      So great that he released his music to the public domain.

  • The current system is Fascism. We do need copyright reform. Copyright won't go away, but there needs to be reform, mass demonstrations, marches, removal of politicians from office and it needs to happen by millions and millions of people. In multiple country.

    • The best we're going to get is when you find out that your favorite song is being used in a car commercial. Most people will just hum along with it. A small percentage will be annoyed at this tragedy. Only a very few wackos will actually protest or march because of it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've gone out of my way to make donations to bands that release their music to the public under CC license or anything else similar.... as long as I can just download an unencumbered mp3 or wav or whatever.

    I'd like to do this for TV shows and movies I like. But they won't provide them in any way except with onerous DRM, sometimes so severe it will only play on one vendor's device, say, an Apple, which I don't even own.

    Use the music model, give up the DRM, let me play it anywhere on any device without tryin

  • He's Wrong (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Copyright will be here for quite awhile. It's just how it's used will change. More and more will shift into the creative commons and copyright will be used to control which version of the creative commons license is used.

    He's also wrong about contracts. They are important. Penn Gillette said it best when he said, never sign a contract with someone you wouldn't trust with just a handshake. The purpose of the contract is to write everything down so if one party thinks the other isn't following the deal,

  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Sunday May 31, 2015 @12:31AM (#49807937)

    As long as your industry can afford to bleed everyone with legal parasites, you'll remain in business (see SCO).

    In addition, when you can buy entire governments (see USofA, the TPP, ...), you will never go away, because they will guarantee your revenue stream.

  • by LostMonk ( 1839248 ) on Sunday May 31, 2015 @12:40AM (#49807951)
    I wholly agree with Albini, the corporate music industry as a whole just stagnates music. The industry cherry-picks a tiny few young presenters, suit them with what is believed to be the most likely to succeed set of styles and hype their image beyond all proportion.
    And in the background everything that is deemed "not popular/unlikely to succeed" is simply ignored. This how you get crap-loads of songs and music videos that are practically indistinguishable from one another.
    Not too long ago music artists earns their living from live performances only, recordings changed that and allowed top performers to become very rich. Nowadays we might see things go full circle... A good artist should be able to make a living off her art, there's no law that says she's supposed to become a millionaire (and certainly not her manager).
    Music has been around since humanoids could bang two sticks together and hum along, its not going to disappear -- hurting the industry is not "Destroying Music" like some would want us to believe -- Doing anything to damage the music industry in its current form will only do good for music in the long run.
  • Nonsensical, but big nonetheless.

  • To me one of my pet peeves with patents is that often people are patenting the obvious even though patents are supposed to be non-obvious. So if say the em-drive were to be brought to market as a high efficiency thruster it makes sense to give a patent to the brilliant inventors. It doesn't make any sense to give a patent to the person who puts it into an airplane, or space-craft, or a toy, or anything that would obviously be made better by having a thrustless thruster in it.

    To me the same roughly applies
  • Music itself is largely a social parasite that feeds on various cognitive triggers for opportunities or rewards. It is much like a masturbation device used to trigger sexual reward mechanisms. At its best, music relieves frustrations.

    I only say largely, as music also has social functions, akin to giving a masturbation device as a gift to others, or using a masturbation device in group sessions to further social cohesion. Only coincidentally, music concerts are more popular than "jackathons".

    Going further wi

  • by CanEHdian ( 1098955 ) on Sunday May 31, 2015 @09:12AM (#49809009)

    One of the problem is that copyrighted works can sit on a shelf for 100+ years and it doesn't cost the rightsholder a cent. So yeah, sure, increase copyright terms. Please. At zero cost, even a trillion-in-one chance of a work-on-the-shelf ever making any kind of money is still better than zero.

    Even a use-it-or-lose-it system won't work, as you'll see extremely-limited runs [] just for copyrights' sake. NOT any other.

    A proposal is to limit copyright to (compared to the current situation) a very limited time, say 10 years, with an optional extension -at a fee and with registration- for another 10 years. This would total 20 years, the same as inventors get to exploit their ingenuity and creativity at the cost of filing for a patent. This would level the playing field between the two, open up a gigantic public domain, and still give creators a full 2 decades to exploit works.

    The most vocal opponents of this proposal will be: (1) the copyright industry, (2) "made men" (dead or alive) that somehow still cash in today for what they did many decades ago and (3) the Hordes Of Entertainment Lawyers that make a good penny with all the legalities, paperwork, clearances, etc. that comes with the actual use of copyrighted works.

  • The endless discussion on the advantages of analog over digital recording always gloss over the fact that a customer has to pay $10-20 for EACH album purchased in the vinyl analog format, while a $10-$20 64Gb SD card stores 1200 albums (@12 songs; @ 5Mb per song in 256BPS MP3 format) for the same price. Plus 1200 albums fills the wall of a house and weighs 100+ kilos, while a 64GB SD card is the size of a thumbnail.

    The question of preserving sound quality on different media is like being concerned that a

    • The endless discussion on the advantages of analog over digital recording always gloss over the fact that a customer has to pay $10-20 for EACH album purchased in the vinyl analog format, while a $10-$20 64Gb SD card stores 1200 albums (@12 songs; @ 5Mb per song in 256BPS MP3 format) for the same price.

      Not just that, there's 24 bit / 96 kHz or even 192 kHz PCM FLAC, or 1-bit DSD (2.8224 Mhz) bitstream, which is equivalent to 20bit/96 kHz PCM if you want to use the SA-CD format. Plus quite a number of albums ("DDD" in CDDA parlance) have been recorded digitally so the mixed/mastered in the actual source digital format version is best. There's a bit more trouble compressing the sound to death in vinyl.

      You never know, we now have the bionic eye that gives better than 20/20 vision, next might be the bionic ea

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