UK singer-songwriter Billy Bragg had an op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times that advocated for artist compensation from internet start-ups like Bebo that are making millions using music as a draw:
"The musicians who posted their work on Bebo.com are no different from investors in a start-up enterprise. Their investment is the content provided for free while the site has no liquid assets. Now that the business has reaped huge benefits, surely they deserve a dividend."
TechCrunch railed against his "crazy-stupid ideas" and I agree. Do musicians deserve a piece of the recent Clear Channel radio sale since their music drives listener-ship? Artist compensation come from BMI, ASCAP and SoundExchange as well as the music and tickets they sell because someone discovers their music.
CONTROL THE DATA AND DOLLARS WILL FOLLOW
Bragg is, however, right that artists and labels need to band together, but not to demand payments from Bebo, MySpace and others. Musicians should support only the services that offer the fair access to their fans at the lowest transaction costs. MySpace's excessive SNOCAP royalties caused artists to stayed away in droves, for example.
But artists and labels do need to demand more access to and control of the data their fans create. Currently there is almost no independent access or method of capturing the email adresses of fans that contact artists via MySpace, for example. They also have no control over the ads that run on their pages. Does the latest purveyor of teen angst really want swinging singles ads flashing next to their tunes?
In Music 2.0 the artist to fan relationship is #1. Control that and the money will follow. That's the lesson that made Bebo worth $850 million and its the lesson that labels and artists need to learn as well.