One thing that irks me about Apple (only one thing? everyone cries, well the ones reading my blogs anyways!) is that they like to be portrayed as the victim, the lone tiny company against a world of big blue corporates. Especially when journalists cover news stories about Apple.
Well I have news for you – Apple is a large corporate, iPod one of the world’s biggest products, and iTunes is probably the biggest music store in the world – selling billions of tracks a year. So I when I hear the news that poor Apple can’t continue the iTunes Store for want of a dime – well 6 cents – I call BULLSHIT on that. But it’s interesting that quite a lot of the media and blogosphere has followed the David vs Goliath on this, but sadly the wrong Goliath.
What I can gather is that unlike how it’s being presented, Apple is playing it’s strong-arm tactics again – those with long memories will remember that for many months after the launch of iTunes Uk/Europe top seling acts such as White Stripes and Prodigy were not on iTunes. This is because Beggars Group, which XL Records is a part, couldn’t come to an agreement with Apple, with Apple paying the indie group less than the Big 4 major record companies in iTunes in the US….now being the world’s biggest go-to online store wields a lot of clout; and surprise surprise again comes out the petulant child in Apple wanting to take away their toys.
What actually is happening? Well no it’s not big industry fat-cats, it’s not greedy record companies, it’s the royalty collecting agency National Music Publishers Agency (kind of like the RIAA of publishers, but I think less evil unless you had a guitar tab site, then they are) wanting to increase the online royalty payments for it’s members – the members are publishing agencies. Now explaining the arcane publishing system for a Sun reader is not easy, or even you, the more intelligent Radio Clash reader, but I’ll try.
When a track is written and released it has mechanical copyrights (rights) – ie. the right to create CDs/vinyl etc – and publishing rights – the right to literally print the score of the work, if the act/artist has a publishing deal (most do, it’s like Music 101 before even getting a record deal). The publishing rights are important because through ‘publishing’ a work then other artists can cover it, and the songwriter can earn royalties such as those from covers, sale of tracks and sale of sheet music – which tends to be an important and steady source of income for most groups or artists, if they write their own material. So publishing companies sort out the legal stuff and the reclaimation of those royalties, when a track is sold.
So what’s happening here is the NMPA is asking for more money, now when iTunes Music Store started they worked out a deal based on the 1997 deal for CDs (11 years ago!) and it not being a big industry then, everyone complied…now iTunes MS is so massive, it’s probably fair that the songwriters should get the same for selling a CD than selling online, which both are being renegotiated now (and probably brought in line with each other).
So rather than ‘Apple gets shafted by EVIL RECORD COMPANIES!’ it’s actually more like ‘Apple refuses to give songwriters (you know, the ones that create the songs you listen to?) more money’. And we are talking an increase from 9 cents to 15 cents here – tbh if Apple’s profit margin is only 6 cents a track as the retailer, then I’d be very worried for Apple as a business (typically a physical record store takes 50% or more of the price of a CD, so I doubt Apple is taking less than that – with less physical overheads (shops, stores, staff) -EDIT: actually apparently Apple takes 29 cents per track – a third – with 61 cents being the record company according to the Guardian article linked above…)
So who then is being greedy here?
It sure as hell isn’t the songwriters, I mean if they were attacking the record companies I’d say be my guest, but publishers and songwriters seems a really small (but probably more bullyable) target.
Maybe the ‘Brick’ is to throw through the windows of the NMPA? 😉
UPDATE: Sadly the Copyright Judges caved and backed down. it’s not usual I’m for ‘industry’ getting more money, but if it’s the songwriters benefiting and not some A&R wanker, or record company exec, then hell yeah. They write the music I love.