Pay to Play – your digital rights?

Something that has been bubbling under for a while is the attack on DJs using CD-Rs or laptops to play tracks they either already own but burn onto CD (like I do, burning a set onto CD saves wear on my original CDs and I can burn my mashups to CD as otherwise I couldn’t play them) or people who play digital files from laptops. The Manic Mechanic (greatbearmd) as part of his spot-on ‘rights series’ has written a great article about it – this is my response in part.

I have heard of raids in clubs, although don’t know a DJ who’s been affected – anyone out there who has?

The irony is that you create illegal white-label 12″s and you’d be OK…even though no-one gets those publishing rights, there is a label moratorium on white labels because of pressure from DJs and the labels and corporate’s desire to get club play. Thing is with ‘big time’ DJs like Sasha moving to Ableton Live, the idea that you have to license to play digital files you most probably own in other formats is laughable and unworkable, unless they do start raiding clubs in large quantities…and also counter productive.

Peter Leatham of PPL wrote:

You don’t actually have to DJ using a laptop. You can use vinyl, you can use CD, so we’re saying that if it’s not worth your while spending £200 then don’t do it
Peter Leathem, PPL

“Not worth your while”? As well as being bad grammar (quelle surprise) that takes the free publicity and tireless free promotion DJs do for music and pisses all over it. Some of that promotion will be for members of the PPL, but not all. Like the BPI or RIAA or MCPS some people opt-out or are not part of these organisations, they like to act like Bush Adminstration does in the War on Terror – as global cops who act for everyone when they most definitely do not.

Talk about taking the good will of DJs, which the labels court with free promos and special 12″s and ‘semi-official’ white labels, and stamping all over it.

(You thought those acapellas and 12″ mixes where all self-funded by anarchist DJ groups with nifty Gucci balaclavas?…nuh-uh not always, sometimes the label is doing a quick n’dirty underground guerilla PR job on their clients – I know of least one label who funded a white label release of a mash they liked).

As for mashups, again as they exist in a digital format and not usually 12″s or pressed CDs (again they can be, vaulting this whole issue by vanity pressings and making a mockery of it) they again are first in the digital firing line as the majority of DJs who use CDs are going to be playing CD-Rs of mashups unless they wait for nice fluffy corporates like Sony *spit* to capitalise (ie. parasite) the success of certain mashups like ‘Dr Pressure’ and play down the involvement of those concerned (Phil n’ Dog who highly deserve the acclaim for that mash, not Mylo) and put them out on CD and 12″. In which case it’s usually a year or two too late…

To be treated like novelty and be thrown a few (highly filtered and sanitised) scraps from the majors? Not me.

And I think the really crazy part is that I guess this would most likely cover you playing your own tunes (ie. tracks you’ve written, or mashups that are legal or in the grey area) on your own equipment (ie. a laptop gig). I’d need to go through the legalities to be sure but it’s like paying PRS royalties to cover or play your own tracks, which has happened…

With this and some clubs doing a non-CD-R policy, I wonder whether I should get all my back catalogue pressed? In the meantime I’m definitely DJing on CD-Rs…

One Comment

  1. […] Tim at Radio Clash has some interesting thoughts on the controversial UK digital DJ license. Personally, I just don’t understand how the music industry justifies this sort of thing. The average DJ isn’t making a killing doing this — for each “superstar” jock on the cover of DJ Magazine, there are another thousand hard working jocks who can barely make ends meet. No one gets rich as a DJ, and if you do manage to make it big, you’re one of the lucky few. Aren’t these DJs supposed to be the “street team” promoters, helping to break new songs and capture the hearts and minds of the clubbing youth? And now they want to charge these people for the priviledge of helping them turn a fatter profit? Fuck that. […]

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