#069: Roundtable – Where have all the A&R guys gone?

Kevin and Chris are joined by Portland’s music media guru Ryan Wines to discuss ways in which artists are controlling their own musical destinies. In this episode the podcasters debate:  Is the future of music free?  Should you continue to shop your album or release it DIY?  Where have all the A&R guys gone?

All that, plus music news and a recap of Kevin’s interview with Klayton of Celldweller. What are you waiting for?  Just press play or download it now!

In the news section, Kevin references an article about ASCAP that can be found HERE.


  • Listening to this podcast, I’m struck by something I’m surprised my fellows don’t get.

    To me, ASCAP/BMI etc, seeking to gain royalties from downloads makes perfect sense. I don’t perform live and many who produce music today don’t either. Why shouldn’t they receive royalties on a per download basis? The Harry Fox Agency does…

    On another matter, music as a calling card. Yes, sadly it is however, I’ve come to the conclusion of late that this approach(sp?) is terribly flawed. For one, live acts earn nothing in the grand scheme of things. Even with merchandise, profits are modest at best.

    No, as I see it, this is a sort of turning back time. When an artist produces a song which they release and end up having covered by signed artists. Godsmack, Hinder, Saving Able, spring to mind. All have had some success with covers when their own material has well, faded in popularity…

    Television and film are, sad to say, dead ends. If your song is 10, 15, 20 years old, it might be picked up for a film. Look at the television series “Chuck” Cake landed the title track to that show and all of a sudden, Cake is cool again. A one hit (sort of) wonder band and now, thanks to that TV sale, they are selling again.

    The sad part is, those unfamiliar with the band, don’t care and have no interrest in learning more about the band and it’s music. Only in that one song.

    The one thing I’d strongly disagree with Ryan on is evangelising. No, you the artist, do not need to be an evangelist, your fans or few fans do. Fans sell your music, not you and not your music and your live show has even less impact.

    Go to any live show. After the show, how ready are you to buy the CDs offered by xyz indie band? That’s right, not terribly likely. A name act, well, that’s half the experience of going to the show. You have to own the t-shirt. You have to buy whatever you can afford. With indies, no-one cares. There’s no machine, no mystery, no demand. Even when the indie touches you emotionally.

    I’ve been doing live sound for local bands lately, I make them sound as good as possible but, I always walk away at the end of the night saying to myself, “never again”… Why bother for 20 people and 3 bands.

    Two weekends ago, I ran sound for a band I didn’t know. I loved their sound, loved their vibe and yet, no-one was there. I bought their CD. It’s good but not earth shattering. If I’d known the band, I’d have approached their sound differently but I didn’t.

    By the way, Chris is right, people in general, are NOT despite Ryan’s assertions, going to live shows these days. The numbers at local shows is sickening, even for big well known bands.

  • Robert,

    Lots there in your comment, but the one thing I wanted to comment on was the ASCAP/BMI issue. The main point, is that they are not the IRS who decides that it’s going to take peoples money just because they want to. The PRO’s were set up to collect royalties for public performances. Other agencies and laws are in place to collect for other types of royalties. Just because they’re market share is shrinking, doesn’t mean they can go grab money from other locations that they were never empowered to handle. Trust me, as an artist, this is not beneficial to you. I’m sure it will be a hot topic this coming year.

  • Neil

    This ASCAP/BMI issue is really pissing me off.

    Thought experiment/question… Let’s say I’m selling downloads from my own website. As a registered ASCAP member, I am entitled to royalties for each download and stream. As a music vendor, I must pay royalties for each download & stream. Essentially, I have to submit royalties to ASCAP for my own music, and then wait however many months for them to pay my royalty share (which is obviously going to be significantly less than 100% of what I’ve sent them). If streams exceed downloads by some ratio, I end up with a net loss. The same thing would basically apply to CD Baby, Tunecore, etc — they have to start charging artists more so that they can pay the new ‘royalties’.

    Am I misunderstanding this? Or is this going to give the shaft to any indie/DIY musician that wants to be registered with a PRO?

  • Kevin,

    I disagree with charging a fee for the previews since these technically fall under the same law as radio bumpers, not to exceed 1 minute without compensation/clearance etc.

    My point of disagreement is this, why is a stream or over the air broadcast, jukebox in a restaraunt, etc. a performance but a download which can be easily duplicated and replayed over and over again, not a performance?

    Mechanical licenses are paid for all of these of course but, in the case of streams and broadcast, royalties are also paid to the songwriter/publisher. The download garners mechanical rights but not performance royalties for the writers/publishers of the music. Why?

    This very thing was the reason for the writer’s strike a few years back. They were paid for the airing of their work but not for the reproduction and subsequent resale of that work. As it stands, songwriters still aren’t compensated for those private rebroadcasts.

    What is a download? Essentially, it’s exactly the same thing as a CD, LP etc. A digital or analog copy of a performance.

    If I play that download in my bedroom, car or at the beach, it’s a fair use situation but, if I play that track at a business, it becomes a public performance. Why?

    The same song streamed over the internet to my computer isn’t for anyone but me but it is considered a public performance just like radio.

    Most radio stations do not play CDs or vinyl anymore. They play digital files (downloads). Why is that a performance?

    Do you see what I’m getting at? If they all come from the same source material, without regard to delivery, they should all be treated equally.

  • talking about myspace. its got nothing on http://www.ping.fm
    That one can update 100+ networks at once. that way you are online everywhere for the effort of being at 1 place.
    im just saying…

  • @Robert Lee King

    The main issues comes in that ASCAP and BMI were setup to collect PUBLIC performances, not private. They don’t require a license from ever music buyer to listen to music in the comfort of their home or car. Generally, the rule has been that if you are using music to enhance your business (background music at restaurant, coffee shop, clothing store, mall), or you feature music publicly (Concerts, radio, and so on), you must pay these license fees to do so. I won’t argue with that. I would however disagree with some of their tactics, but they are compensating writers for usage of their music.

    One thing to note, when you go to a movie theater to see a movie (Something that could definitely fall under public performance), the movie theaters (In the US) are not paying performance royalties. Seems like they should go after them before they go after private users.

    Finally, the music industry has drastically shifted where so much of the music out there is indie and not represented by the PRO’s, but they still speak for the masses as if they do. They lobby congress as if they represent everyone. That has to change.

  • Kevin,

    Actually, I believe you are mistaken with regards to movie theaters.

    They do pay a license but, that license is part of the lease of the film. The filmakers secure both mechanical and performance rights from the composers before releasing the film.

    This wasn’t always the case. Up until 1948, the PROs sold blanket licenses to movie theaters as well but that was overturned with several law suits citing violations of the Sherman Act.

    I wonder on the membership numbers though. I know many indies that are members of one and in some cases more than one of the PROs. In general, these are indies who have licensed something to film or television and are having some level of success with their music. The average Jane/Joe public though has little need for the PROs so you’re correct there.

    I do agree with you regarding their tactics. Much like labor unions, the PROs have essentially degenerated into political machines bent only on the survival of the organization itself.

  • Neil

    I have to agree with Kevin, Robert. The specific medium of the recording is irrelevant, it’s the intended use. A download or CD (or LP or wax cylinder) is typically a product that an individual buys or receives as a promotion, and can listen to repeatedly whenever they want. The same CD or MP3 played in a restaurant or whatever becomes a performance, in that a third party is sharing the music for their own benefit. Radio and internet streaming are also both performances, as a third party is using the music to sell advertising. The difference is whether the listener is getting the music for herself, or receiving from a third party who is using the music to achieve their own goals.

  • Regarding the value of music, I agree with Kevin – I think recorded music has a value as an art form by itself. The creation of this music is so affordable and easy these days that supply is much higher than demand, no question. We need to understand this new reality as indie recording artists as we try and sell and market our albums online.

    But one thing I strongly disagree with is the idea “No one is buying music anymore.” We’ve been fed this line so many times by the big record labels that we are starting to believe it. Album sales are down, no question, but soundscan reports an 11.5% increase in Canada from 2007 to 2008 in overall music sales. (And that’s just soundscan) I understand the UK had their best year on record in 2008. Apple reported 6 billion song downloads total by Jan of this year. I would guess this is increasing this year since the dropping of DRM. I still buy music. A lot of people are still buying music!

    (hard to get offical soundcan links, but here’s an archive news item to the Canadian quote: and a news article on the UK http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/01/08/2461705.htm?site=news)

  • I kind of agree in that there is this sense of “no one” is buying music or seeing shows just based on numbers of years past vs. now. It’s more of a “well, we would normally project to move 1 million units but have actually only sold 250,000 units” mentality that perpetuates the blanket “no one” generalizations. I think that the music industry, i.e., anyone putting out music in exchange for money, will need to continue to retool expectations. For me being an unknown artist, I have incredibly low-expectations. I’d be happy if someone bought 2 CDs this year. Everytime I look at my i-Tunes numbers, I’m always suprised somebody bought my stuff – not because it’s not good stuff but rather my expectations are lower. 🙂