The Recording Academy—which, if you think about it, is a rather unusual name for the organization in that Merriam-Webster has it that academy, when used in a capitalized manner as it is here, is “(a) the school for advanced education founded by Plato; (b) the philosophical doctrines associated with Plato’s Academy,” and near as I can tell, there is not a whole lot of philosophizing going on during the annual GRAMMY Awards®; the third definition has it as “a society of learned persons organized to advance art, science, or literature” and the fourth “a body of established opinion widely accepted as authoritative in a particular field,” so while it is clear that there’s nothing Platonic about it, we have to wonder whether the Recording Academy Voting Members are “a society of learned persons” or if they somehow are the keepers of “opinion widely accepted as authoritative,” which doesn’t seem to be the case due to controversies associated with some awardees each and every year—has come out with a set of rules and guidelines for the 65th GRAMMY Awards.
The first round of voting for the awards, which will be presented on February 5, 2023, opens on October 13 and closes 10 days later. Nominations are announced three weeks later (November 15), then a month after that the final round of voting begins. What are the voters during that month doing? Wouldn’t one assume that they’ve already heard the music of the nominees? After all, they have voted to put those musicians in that category of finalists. But there is one thing that is somewhat curious vis-à-vis the presumed learned or authoritative Academy: two weeks after the nominees have been announced is the “Deadline for errors and omissions to the nominations.” So does this mean that somehow there has been a GRAMMY-level individual or group that has somehow slipped by the voting members of the Academy? If that’s the case, what has been going on since October 13?
The final round of voting begins on December 14, which means, that there is roughly two weeks for those who were overlooked (overheard?) to have been put on the ballot so they can be considered. The voting ends January 4, 2023.
One of the criticisms of the awards is that of relevance. So the organizers have come up with some new categories or names for previously existing categories. There is now “Alternative Music Performance” and “Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media.” They recognized that for the 64th award there was “No performance Category to acknowledge the popularity of Americana music” so for the 65th there is the new category, “Americana Performance.”
Note the word popularity there. A question of whether the GRAMMY Awards are presented to the best or the most popular seems to be answered with the use of that term by the learned individuals.
Here we are living through social distancing. Living through a period when we interact with people, primarily, unless those people are part of a small group we are confident of, via Zoom or Teams or from behind a mask, ideally six or more feet away. Masks and sweatpants have become increasingly important to people, the former because of the need to go out and the latter because somehow the “office” is something that is only evident from the waist up.
And when we have to encounter surfaces, there is a frantic look around for some means by which the object is sanitized or our hands are. Or both.
If we need stuff—like, say, food—then it isn’t a matter of just going down the street to the local bodega or hopping in the car and buzzing over to the supermarket. It is something that is carefully planned and executed. And while time has dulled the edge of the potential virus, there is still some hesitation regarding whether the objects should be brought in to the kitchen right away or whether those cans, boxes and bags should be permitted to settle for a period of time.
The material has become suspect.
But it wasn’t COVID-19 that had the effect on the music industry in the U.S. that is unfolding. It seems that people have decided that when it comes to music, most are not particularly interested in any sort of ownership. The transient is sufficient. And when the numbers for 2020 are calculated, odds are that what occurred in 2019 will be nothing if not magnified.
In a report from the Recording Industry Association of America for overall economics of 2019, the trade group found “Total revenues from streaming music grew 19.9% to $8.8 billion in 2019, accounting for 79.5% of all recorded music revenues.”
And more telling: “The streaming market alone in 2019 was larger than the entire U.S. recorded market just 2 years ago in 2017.”
The biggest chunk of the monies in 2019 streaming were for subscription services, accounting for $6.8 billion. That in itself is 61% of total recorded music revenues.
It certainly seems like the recorded music industry has been in decline. And compared to the peak in 1999 it has been. But if you take a longer view of history you can see that the 1990s were a weird blip, fueled by shiny new compact disc sales.
This short-term memory is understandable because Soundscan only began gathering real sales data in 1991. The RIAA, on the other hand, has collected shipment data since the early 1970s.
Throughout most of the 1980s, annual recorded music revenue hovered around $5 billion, and most of the seventies had revenue less than $4 billion, as you can see in the interactive chart below. Adjusted for inflation, that’s right around where we’ve been for the past ten years or so. The 90s were an anomaly.
Today the RIAA announced that the 2016 U.S. recorded music shipments were valued at $7.65 billion, which is up 11.4% over 2015. So good news. But if the industry thinks it’s ever going to reach 90s/CD-era levels again, they’re dreaming.
You might have seen the news that “Uptown Funk” has been certified Diamond by the RIAA, which means that it achieved 10 million sales. Billboard says that “Uptown Funk” has sold over 12,422,016 in downloads and 938,694,569 audio streams in the U.S.” and that the video “has streamed over 1.9 billion times.”
The RIAA’s certification requirements state that units are defined as follows:
• Each permanent digital download counts as 1 Unit for certification purposes.
• 150 on-demand audio and/or video streams will count as 1 Unit for certification purposes. [Note: this contradicts Billboard saying “100 streams counting as one certifiable unit.”]
But if those numbers are accurate, that would add up to 31,346,646.46 certifiable units. And the RIAA only has 11 million units certified for “Uptown Funk.” So who knows? Math is hard.
This is only the thirteenth Diamond single since the RIAA established the certification in 1999. The first single to be certified Diamond was Elton John’s Princess Diana tribute “Candle In The Wind 1997” and it took almost 16 years for the next one: Bieber and Luda’s “Baby.” If you look at the rest of the list there’s certainly plenty of garbage, but there are also some jams.
1. Elton John – “Candle In The Wind 1997 / Something.You Look Tonight” (October 9, 1997)
2. Justin Bieber – “Baby (Feat. Ludacris)” (May 9, 2013)
3. Eminem – “Love The Way You Lie (Feat. Rihanna)” (May 9, 2013)
4. Eminem – “Not Afraid” (June 10, 2014)
5. Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance” (May 29, 2015)
6. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive” (July 6, 2015)
7. Katy Perry – “Dark Horse” (October 29, 2015)
8. Katy Perry – “Firework” (October 29, 2015)
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop (Feat. Wanz)” (November 19, 2015)
10. Lady Gaga – “Poker Face” (November 30, 2015)
11. Florida Georgia Line – “Cruise” (April 1, 2016)
12. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” (September 28, 2016)
13. Mark Ronson – “Uptown Funk Feat. Bruno Mars” (October 18, 2016)
Remember Hilary Rosen? She was the CEO of the RIAA back when Napster help peer-to-peer filesharing go mainstream. Rosen was the public face of the most hated organization on the planet, at least as far as nerdy internet people were concerned. She was our punching bag until she retired in 2003, but by then the damage was done.
There’s been this time period between 2002 and 2006, maybe 2007, where there just weren’t enough deals done. There were so many innovative ways to deliver music and not a lot of licensing support from the music business. That’s just not the record companies, the music publishers have been really brought kicking to the table. It’s one of the reasons the record companies gave up trying to license the whole work and said ‘we’ll just license the sound recording rights,’ because the music publishers were so difficult. The one lesson the industry did not learn after Napster was speed. When you’re talking about technology, you have to move quickly on opportunities. The constant refrain is ‘there’s no money in these opportunities. There’s no advances. We don’t see the pay off.’ But the thing you have to keep pushing back on is ‘what are you comparing it to?’ If you’re comparing it to physical sales or comparing it to an iTunes download, then you’re right, it’s going to be hard. But what you really need to compare to is how else fans are getting the music, which is free. The lessons of Napster, of rapid fire adoption, have been too quickly forgotten. The industry has moved a little too slow and have not benefited as much as they might have by the benefits of technology.
In the digital era, however, first sale has been under siege, with copyright owners (and even the Copyright Office) arguing that it has no place in a world where “ownership” has been replaced by “licenses” and hand-to-hand exchanges have been replaced by computer-mediated exchanges that necessarily make copies. But it’s precisely because first sale is central to everyday activities like giving an iPod to a friend, selling a used CD on eBay, or borrowing a DVD from a library, that EFF and others have been fighting for it in case after case.
So, how does President Obama fare in this? It’s nearly impossible to figure out. If he’d simply purchased a “greatest hits” CD of show tunes and given it to the Queen, the first sale doctrine would have taken care of it. But because digital technology is involved here, suddenly it’s a legal quagmire.
The fact that this is such a convoluted issue kinda proves we need to reform copyright law, doesn’t it?
On September 8, 2003, the recording industry sued 261 American music fans for sharing songs on peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks, kicking off an unprecedented legal campaign against the people that should be the recording industry’s best customers: music fans. Five years later, the recording industry has filed, settled, or threatened legal actions against at least 30,000 individuals. These individuals have included children, grandparents, unemployed single mothers, college professors—a random selection from the millions of Americans who have used P2P networks. And there’s no end in sight; new lawsuits are filed monthly, and now they are supplemented by a flood of “pre-litigation” settlement letters designed to extract settlements without any need to enter a courtroom.
But suing music fans has proven to be an ineffective response to unauthorized P2P file-sharing. Downloading from P2P networks is more popular than ever, despite the widespread public awareness of lawsuits.4 And the lawsuit campaign has not resulted in any royalties to artists. One thing has become clear: suing music fans is no answer to the P2P dilemma.
We first alerted you to this ongoing legal campaign back in June of 2003, when the RIAA first began “gathering evidence and preparing lawsuits.” Five years later, every single thing the RIAA has done in this process has backfired. The EFF advocates “a voluntary collective licensing regime as a mechanism that would fairly compensate artists and rightsholders for P2P file sharing.” Fans could opt in for something like $5/month and the RIAA would agree not to sue them.
What do you think? How much would you be willing to pay?
Well, the RIAA didn’t technically lose the trial, but a federal judge declared a mistrial and threw out the verdict against a Kazaa user who had been ordered to pay the recording industry $222,000 for allegedly sharing music online:
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Duluth, Minn., declared a mistrial in the case against Thomas, who was charged in October with violating copyright law by making 24 songs available for others to download on the Kazaa network.
Davis set aside the verdict on the grounds that he misguided the jury, telling jurors that simply the act of making a copyrighted song available for sharing amounts to infringement.
Looks like that “Making Available” case that the RIAA lost back in April is setting a precedent. Just because someone made files available doesn’t prove that anybody actually downloaded them.
In its order (pdf), the court delivers the most decisive rejection yet of the recording industry’s “making available” theory of infringement (i.e., if someone could have downloaded it from you, you’ve violated copyright, even if no one ever did)…. [T]he court concludes that “[t]he general rule, supported by the great weight of authority, is that infringement of the distribution right requires an actual dissemination of either copies or phonorecords.” The court goes on to conclude that downloads by the recording industry’s own investigator, MediaSentry, are not enough to establish distribution, at least based on the facts of this case (Mr. Howell maintains that, unbeknowst to him, the Kazaa software was sharing his entire hard drive). Finally, the court also suggests that P2P file-sharing may not implicate the distribution right at all, reasoning that what is really going on is a series of reproductions.
This, of course, is going to be much harder, if not impossible, for the RIAA to prove.