Canadian artists and independent labels lament actions of major labels

June 2006

Record labels

As digital music behemoth Ted Cohen delivered the gospel at a Nokia convention in Hong Kong in May saying that “The consumer is now the center of the industry and it is the music companies that have to adapt to consumer needs”, m ajor international music artists based in Canada have banded together to form a group aimed, among other things, at protesting the recording industry’s practice of targeting fans with lawsuits. With Sum 41, Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne and Sarah McLachlan as members, the new Canadian Music Creators Coalition says that ‘ suing our fans is destructive and hypocritical’ and that the majorlabels have been “suing our fans against our will’ and that “laws enabling these suits cannot be justified in our names”. The Coalition goes further by saying that they “oppose any copyright reforms that would make it easier for record companies to do this” adding that the government should repeal provisions of the Copyright Act that allow labels to unfairly punish fans who share music for non-commercial purposes with statutory damages of US$500 to $20,000 per song’. The Group are also concerned about DRM saying that d igital locks ‘are risky and counterproductive’ which post the SonyBMG Rootkit fiasco is a very sensible conclusion to come to. The CMCC say that they do not support using digital locks as this increase the labels’ control over the distribution, use and enjoyment of music nor do they support laws that prohibit circumvention of such technological measures. The CMCC add that ‘government should not blindly implement decade-old treaties designed to give control to major labels and take choices away from artists and consumers. Laws should protect artists and consumers, not restrictive technologies. Consumers should be able to transfer the music they buy to other formats under a right of fair use, without having to pay twice’. The group also want the Canadian Government use policy tools to support actual Canadian artists and the thriving Canadian musical and cultural scene. The new group says until now, multinational record labels have done most of the talking about what Canadian artists need from copyright – “But let’s be clear,” the CMCC said. “Major labels are looking out for their directors and corporate shareholders even though recording industry lobbyists claim they represent artist interests. Most of the campaigning on behalf of major record labels isn’t about protecting artists or promoting Canadian culture, says the Canadian Music Creators Coalition: it’s about propping up business models in the recording industry that are quickly becoming obsolete and unsustainable and “preserving power structures and further entrenching the labels’ role as industry gatekeepers”. Last month six major Canadian independent labels including Nettwerk left the Canadian Record Industry Association (CRIA) saying that they could no longer support the Association. The decision stems from a disagreement about radio content rules and programmes for emerging artists. In Canada there is a required (‘Cancon’) quota for Canadian music on radio of 35%. “It has become increasingly clear over the past few months that CRIA’s position on several important music industry issues are not aligned with our best interests as independent recording companies,” the group wrote in a letter to the association’s president Graham Henderson. The six companies, Nettwerk Records, Aquarius Records, the Children’s Group, Linus Entertainment, Anthem Records and True North Records, said they wanted to send a clear message about where they stand.” Ric Arboit, president of Nettwerk said that the CRIA were “looking out for their best interest, and their best interest is multinationals that are not Canadian”. The CRIA wants the Cancon percentage to remain at 35 per cent, but has proposed a new calculating method where emerging artists would count more in the quota system than classic songs by superstar artists like Bryan Adams. But the six labels wrote that “If implemented (the proposals) would have a material negative effect on the future growth of Canadian independent music”.

See John Newton in Techworld at
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ARTICLE LINK: you might also want to read this Canadian article – casting the major labels as the bad cowboys in wild west of the digital marketplace – The Wild West lawlessness of the digital marketplace: who wears the white and black hats? By Greg Sandoval at CNet.

ARTICLE LINK : Power to the People: Nettwerk’s Terry McBride tells Adam Sweeting how he is on a mission to change the music industry’s narrow-minded attitudes towards its artists and the fans. The Independent online

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