Yesterday was a bit of an odd one in the land of MBW’s inbox.
The usual slew of music industry notifications we receive from the USA was quietened, due to the Independence Day break.
This meant that the biggest news of the day – the music industry’s devastating defeat in a crucial European Parliament vote – dominated our emails.
How these notifications kept coming.
Here’s just a taste of the music industry lobbyists and organizations who had something to say, either shortly before, or immediately after, the vote on the EU Copyright Directive (and Article 13):
- IMPALA (the Independent Music Publishers and Labels Association)
- CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers)
- GEMA (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte)
- BVMI (Bundesverband Musikindustrie)
- The Musicians’ Union
- UK Music
- PRS For Music (Performing Rights Society)
- AIM (Association for Independent Music)
- SACEM (Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique)
That doesn’t even count the likes of BPI (British Phonographic Industry), BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors), the VUT (the German Association of Independent Music Companies), BONR (the Belgian Organization for Neighbouring Rights) or ARSS (the Audio Rights Society of Slovenia).
All right, I made those last two up.
But that’s kind of the point: the music industry just got its ARSS handed to it by Google, Wikipedia and the tech lobby – who successfully spun that Article 13 was the worst thing to happen to the internet since 2 Girls 1 Cup.
It’s often said that, to defeat any worthy enemy, one must first ‘divide and conquer’.
How Larry Page and Jimmy Wales will have giggled and guffawed to see the music industry completely divided before they even got to work.
Let’s be clear: there has been a systemic lobbying failure here by the music business in its bid to quash the ‘value gap’.
It collectively failed to achieve a historic improvement in the treatment of the industry’s most precious assets – artists and songwriters.
For that, hard questions must now be asked.
An acceptable answer to these questions – despite the fact we witnessed it in chorus yesterday – is absolutely not “yeah, it’s really sad”.
It it also not “well done everybody for trying”.
We were told yesterday that Harald Heker, the CEO of GEMA, was left “very upset” by the European Parliament vote.
Contrast this with another recent red-faced defeat for the German contingent during an event of global import.
The German football team just got dumped out of the World Cup in the group stages, despite being a favourite to win the entire tournament.
It is fair to say that Joachim Low, the German coach, would not have dared simply telling the German people how “upset” he was amid the ruthless media aftermath.
Instead, he’s had to face down these, very obvious questions: (i) why did this campaign go wrong, (ii) how did it go wrong, and (iii) how can we stop it happening again in the future?
No-one in the music industry appears to asking – and, especially, answering – these questions today.
So allow me to have a crack.
Google and the tech lobby had their house in order.
They motivated an army of hundreds of thousands to spread the message that the proposed EU Copyright Directive would effectively break the internet.
That is a crisp message, conveyed by a worldwide mass of consumers, backed by mighty corporate machinery.
One could argue that, to a degree, it was check-mate from day one.
Yet the music industry had its own, robust arguments: effectively, you’ll still be able to post all the bloody memes you want – this is simply about ensuring that songwriters are paid fairly.
And here’s the joke: the music industry had something in its corner all along which would have terrified Google’s lobbyists.
Something so powerful, just the other year, it brought Apple publicly crashing to its knees – before the Cupertino giant Swiftly re-wrote its corporate policy.
Where were the artists?!
I have read countless statements from trade bodies, collective management organizations and musicians’ representatives in the past few days.
I actually like a lot of the people involved, so this is hard to say, but it’s the truth.
You cannot defeat an army of 900,000 internet users by presenting bureaucrats, deploying the language of bureaucracy.
You have to be smarter than that. More ambitious than that. More emotional than that.
You have to believe: Yes We Can.
You have to Make America Great Again.
Aside from a last-ditch letter written by Sir Paul McCartney, plus the noble efforts of Max Martin (pictured, main) and Shellback in Sweden, the voice of the artist community was largely – deliberately? – hushed during the Article 13 debate, in favour of appeals from salaried executives.
This blows my mind. Literally blows my mind.
“But artists just aren’t willing to take on tech giants on the subject of getting paid!” comes the inevitable response.
Really? Ask Eddy Cue.
Notwithstanding the Apple Music masterstroke from Ms. Swift in 2015, at least consider this.
Take all the pro-Article 13 effort, resource, energy and thought that went into lobbying efforts from the 10-plus organisations previously mentioned (and there were many, many more).
Put it in a bowl, and leave it to one side.
Now ask: if all of this influence was channelled into working with the artist community, as opposed to for the artist community, couldn’t a more convincing, powerful vessel for the argument have been found?
Over 1,000 artists previously signed a letter to MEPs calling for the quashing of the YouTube ‘value gap’ and – by association – supporting Article 13.
The names on this list included Ed Sheeran, Sir Elton John, Lady Gaga, ABBA, Coldplay, Swedish House Mafia and Robert Plant.
What happened?! Did they stop picking up the phone?
As demonstrated by Jimmy Wales in a tweet yesterday, the tech lobby dismantled Article 13 by making it all about this conflict: Major music corporations vs. the freedoms of the people.
The music industry tried in vain to make it about another conflict: the prosperity of musicians vs. the profits of tech giants.
For whatever reason, it didn’t trust or successfully encourage these musicians to speak for themselves.
This was a grave mistake.
About a decade ago, I worked on a B2B news title in the video games industry.
The British games business of that era had two trade bodies: TIGA (for developers of games) and UKIE (for publishers of games).
I used to have regular briefing calls with a Tory MP, who was often sympathetic to the plight of the UK creative industries.
I once asked him, What needs to change to make this industry’s lobbying more effective in the corridors of power?
“Simple,” he said. “It’s very difficult to represent the interests of an industry when it has two voices speaking at the same time.”
Compare that to the never-ending roll call of trade bodies and industry groups we’ve seen in recent weeks.
He was completely right, of course.
An industry is at its most effective when standing united behind a single, clarion voice.
In the case of the music industry – when fighting some of the richest, smartest companies on the planet – that should always, always be the voice of the artist.Music Business Worldwide