25% of streaming music royalties aren't getting to the artists
March 12, 2010 6:21 PM   Subscribe

1. Create a record label named "Unknown."
2. Form a band named "Various Artists."
3. (step 3 not required)
No, really: Please take your royalty check Royalties are piling up from digital music streams, and a nonprofit has to track down artists who don't know. Then it has to convince them it's not a scam.
posted by planetkyoto (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I used to post music on several sites that would stream the songs via Internet radio - I wonder if I'm actually entitled to $5.00 in royalties or whatever? Internet music sites are rife with scams, though: I once had a SoundClick page for a joke "band" I created to release comedic free-form experimental stuff I would make while high, and I got an offer from someone to sign to their label, which I'd never heard of before. Turns out the label was fake, and it was like a Nigerian scam where they'd promise the world for just a little fee up front. When Googling around about it, I found posts on forums from people saying stuff like "wow, I can't believe it, I'm actually going to get a record deal!". I think it's fucked up to prey on people's dreams like that.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:29 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:32 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was in Flux, ReFlux, Basement, Shatterpoint and a bunch others we didn't bother to name. So if the Internets have money they want to give me, that'd be great because this gum is getting stale and I need to replace it. I bet that cassette tape of us covering Rush songs with 90% accuracy and a singer with a permanent head cold sounds great once you digitally remaster it.

My old guitarist just friended me on Facebook hehehehehe
posted by LordSludge at 6:34 PM on March 12, 2010

SoundExchange: estimated to be sitting on $256m in undistributed royalties. Which is good, because at least this time they aren't just absorbing it into their coffers via royalty forfeiture.

It's good that they're making a huge push to distribute this money (and finally, after many, many years, working with MySpace and Facebook and other music-oriented services to ID and pay these artists) but man what the F took them so long?

(Also, one artist's take on SoundExchange.)
posted by bhance at 6:40 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to work as a data entry monkey at a music database company and on the first day I was told to be aware when entering compilations that there was a band called 'various artists,' so maybe...whatever
posted by jonmc at 6:52 PM on March 12, 2010

Whoa! Various Artists is like my favorite band! Their hit single, Track 5, still brings tears to my eyes.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:32 PM on March 12, 2010 [20 favorites]

bhance, just an opinion, but I think the gov't is making them. I know there has been a lot of attention on this since somebody posted SoundExchange's "address unknown" list and it contained people like Beyonce, etc....
posted by queensissy at 7:49 PM on March 12, 2010

As of right now, Last.FM owes me the princely sum of three cents.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:52 PM on March 12, 2010

My band will be called Self-Titled Album. Our first album will be titled Of The Same Name.
posted by kyrademon at 8:01 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bah, everyone knows all the money is in life performances! My new band is named "Open Bar!" People must like us because they always come to our shows really excited.
posted by fuq at 8:36 PM on March 12, 2010

My band will be called Self-Titled Album. Our first album will be titled Of The Same Name.

R.E.M. beat you to it. Along the same lines, the Rheostatics' first album was named Greatest Hits.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:20 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whoa! Various Artists is like my favorite band! Their hit single, Track 5, still brings tears to my eyes.

You may be joking, but here are "Various" Various Artists, Various DJ's, and Various Productions. Some have sizable discographies to their names.

My band will be called Self-Titled Album.

At least you'll be distinct from Self Titled, whose experimental electronic cassette isn't exactly a hot commodity.

Then there's the issues of "Unique" artists (yes, that's over 30 artists named "Unique" to date, though some may be duplicates that haven't been merged), and so very many "unknown" entities . SoundExchange has been a sham since the beginning, and any attempt to categorize tracks played online by name alone is a failed attempt.

College Music Journal (CMJ) tried to roll out a "fingerprinting" service in 2002 called Realtime Airplay Metrics (RAM), by giving college radio stations in the US and Canada stand-alone boxes that would be capable of identifying tracks based on as little as 5 or 10 seconds of audio, but I don't think that went far (though it looks like they're still promoting it to some degree). Regardless, if technology of this sort worked 90% of the time, it would be better than hoping files are tagged properly.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:54 PM on March 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mothers of Invention: Absolutely Free

posted by tspae at 11:06 PM on March 12, 2010

and a nonprofit has to track down artists who don't know.

Uh, I guess technically its a non-profit. But its basically an arm of the RIAA.

A buddy worked there. He said it was funny sending $145 checks to Neil Young.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:58 PM on March 12, 2010

Brings to mind the (urban legend?) sub-K-Tel compilations that promised "15 original songs by the original artists" that were actually recorded by a lame cover band called The Original Artists.

Scott Walker had the best ever "Track Three," "Track Five," "Track Six" and "Track Seven" on Climate of Hunter.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:51 AM on March 13, 2010

Last.FM does audio fingerprinting now, at least the stand-alone Windows application does. And then of course there's Shazam.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:45 AM on March 13, 2010

Huh. They have one of my songs listed there but it seems like there's no way to see if there's money for me, unless I fill out a whole bunch of forms and mail them in.
posted by chococat at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2010

SoundExchange is now making a big deal about "bad data" being the real reason why they can't distribute money because their old excuse, that artists were just refusing to sign up, was proven false when a grass roots effort to locate artists and get them registered found hundreds of artists while SoundExchange was locating fewer that one a month from the same list.

They have to make their failures someone else's fault because they are likely to be named the collection and distribution agency for performance royalties if the "Performance Rights Act" passes and creates a royalty for record labels and artists from terrestrial radio. They are trying to deflect criticism for their Internet failures by blaming the big bad webcasters. If you think that a quarter billion in unpaid royalties is bad news, wait until they fail to distribute hundreds of millions a year.

No one should be suprised at any of this. SoundExchange was created by the RIAA but is now so "independent" that the RIAA only directly controls six seats and appoints who gets to sit in the other twelve. There's a label owners sitting on the "artist representative" side, and one of the "independent label" trustees sits on the RIAA board.
posted by Intheway at 11:34 AM on March 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I thought this post was going to be about the Canadian music industry, and how apparently musicians just aren't getting paid for their songs that are sold on compilations.

"The infringer has effectively already admitted owing at least $50 million and the full claim could exceed $6 billion."

posted by el io at 11:36 AM on March 13, 2010


Fill in the forms and send them in. It really only takes a couple minutes to do, and as long as you keep the address up to date, you'll get your checks. My criticisms of SoundExchange have always been that they don't do what they promised to do for artists, but if you force them to, they will.
posted by Intheway at 11:37 AM on March 13, 2010

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