The Beatles. Copyright. And a Funny Interview.

On the 4th of November, the copyright term for sound recordings and performer’s rights in sound recordings was increased from 50 to 70 years in the UK.

Depending on how you look at it, this means that  –

  • Some of Rock and Roll’s biggest hits will not be made available to the public domain until 2033, to be –

    a) Ruined by the likes of PITBULL
    b) Used to take music forward (eg. The Grey Album)

  • Musicians and corporations behind those musicians stand to profit from re-releases and will continue to generate profit in a purely selfish manner.

Dj’s in both the EDM and Hip Hop industries have a valid argument that music should be available to re work, re mix and sample. Without sampling, it may be argued that these two styles would not exist. My personal beef with this remix culture, however, is that I don’t want my children to grow up listening to the pop star of the day singing over an over produced, tacky, sped up version of an amazing song like Blackbird.

Conversely, Fran Nevrkla, the chairman of the music licensing body Phonographic Performance Limited questions “where is the investment going to come from to fund the next generation of bands such as U2 and Coldplay?”

This law comes as no coincidence and is a result of of much pressure from powerful figures in the industry.

In a speech at the music conference Midem in June this year, Nevrkla put extreme pressure on government legislation, highlighting the “crucial importance of IP rights to the British and global economy.”

So what has happened since this law was changed?

Interestingly, seven days after the announcement of the copyright change, The Beatles’ Apple organisation released On Air Live At The BBC – Volume 2. This release came almost 20 years after the release of Volume 1. Surely at this rate, Apple, EMI and Universal will be milking the money out of Beatles fans for years to come.

Next Tuesday, 59 Beatles bootlegs will be officially released, the CD will include outtakes, demos and live BBC performances. Whilst they are circulating online and are not actually that rare, this is just another opportunity for these corporations to make money. How big is the unreleased discography and how much of it will we never hear? This release comes due to another recent change to the copyright law that makes unreleased material free of copyright – and therefore in the public domain – 50 years after it has been recorded.

If the Fab Four were around today, I wonder how they would feel about this issue – would they sit back and reap the benefits, or would they see it as the music they lovingly created for the world being stolen from the public domain? I’d like to think the latter…

A Country a Week: Brazil

Brazil is an emerging market in the music industry and one that holds much promise. It is essentially made up of two separate markets; one, the growing middle class and more affluent citizens who still purchase music and CDs from the Big Four, and two, the poorer citizens who are adapting the market to fit their needs and budgets.

Tecnobrega is a form of music that originated in the city of Belem in Brazil. Translated, it means “tacky” or “cheesy” music. It’s catching on wildly in Brazil among the poorer classes. The idea behind it is that, with little capital a person can record a cd over previously made beats or popular songs. They then make several hundred copies of the CDs and distribute them to local street vendors. The street vendors then sell them for $2. The CDs often contain hundreds of songs. When songs become popular they are played by DJs at all-night, outside parties with epic sound systems. The hope is that the song will become so popular that the creator will be able to put together a band and perform their songs live. This is where the money is made. A performer can make $1200 a night off a cut of the door and can perform twelve nights in a month. That’s $14,400 a month, a huge income for a country housing about 51.6 million people below the poverty line.

This industry of tecnobrega is quite an innovative one. Artists expect no royalties from their records and have little regards for the copyrights of others’ songs that are used to make their tracks. In return, they see a huge amount of easy distribution with little to no cost to them. They’ve given up the thought of making money off of a physical product and have turned instead to the live presentation and experiential music.

On the other hand, we have the Big Four record companies (Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, EMI Group and Warner Music Group) are still attempting to dominate the future of Brazilian music. They are having little success. There has been recent outrage that Brazil is not adequately protecting foreign copyrights. As a member of the WIPO, Brazil needs to have certain laws in place as well as a system of enforcing them. Brazilian Government is currently revising the laws to better clarify some licensing aspects and allow for fair use. It will also make it legal for a person who purchased an album to transfer it to their iPod.

While Brazil is making steps in the right direction, it is still seeing difficulties in enforcing these laws. The Big Four have been very vocal about their loss of rights in the Brazilian market, but in all fairness, their not really playing the game.

The Big Four only release 40 albums each year of Brazilian artists. With 198.7 million people, that’s not a very accurate or large representation. Secondly, CDs continue to be priced between $13 and $18 which is well beyond the means of most people living in Brazil. So why would pirates not take advantage of this gap in the market? It seems quite easy to blame all your problems and losses on someone else.

The number one song in Brazil this week.