Monday, November 10, 2014

Money for Nothing and Your Songs/Books for Free?

Over the weekend, Taylor Swift's label Big Machine Label Group and Spotify couldn't come to terms over their contract negotiations. As a result, Swift's music is no longer available on the popular streaming service.

The backlash has been epic. People have been screaming that their access to music is being censored. The anger is on a scale not seen since the Amazon/Hatchette negotiation dispute started earlier this year. The difference is the scorn is heaped on...

Taylor? (Here's one of the few articles standing up for ALL artists' rights.)

What happened to the greedy distributor meme using the poor artist as a pawn in their plan for world domination? Nearly every news organization in the U.S. (and quite a few in Europe) accused Amazon of trying to rule the world by refusing to sell Hatchette's books.

But here's the funny thing. Amazon HAS NOT taken Hatchette books off their website. They are still selling ALL PUBLISHED Hatchette tomes. In fact, I can buy Lilith Saintcrow's The Damnation Affair through the Evil Empire's One-Click(TM) right now. Or I would if I hadn't already I bought it last week through Barnes & Noble because I had a $5 credit.

Nor has Hatchette pulled their books from Amazon. They continue to ship both paper and e-books to the retailer despite their pretty hostile and very public catfight.

And that's the difference between the Amazon/Hatchette battle and the Big Machine Label Group/Spotify dispute. BMLG had the balls to pull their catalog when the companies couldn't come to an agreement.

Maybe Amazon and Hatchette are more sensitive to public opinion than BMLG since they snipe at each other, but neither has taken the step of totally severing their relationship. Maybe BMLG really is looking out for their artists by refusing a contract that pays $0.006 and $0.0084 for every play.

Probably what is more disturbing is the attitude of Swift's fans. They accuse Swift of greed in removing her music from a "free" service. However, Spotifiy charges $5 or $10 per month for access depending on the package the customer selects. Also, Swift's music is still available via other retailers and streaming services. (Ironically, Amazon is one of them.)

So how does either corporate dispute really harm consumers? It doesn't. The public can buy Hatchette's books and Swift's music through a multitude of alternatives.

Is it censorship? No. The government is not halting distribution of either Hatchette's books or Swift's music. No retailer is required to sell either parties' materials. A case can be made for collusion is all retailers and services joined together and refused to distribute Hatchette's books and Swift's music. But as I pointed out above, such a scenario has not happened.

Unfortunately, there is a sense of entitlement among a certain class of consumers. They believe all art should be free. That artists only do it for the love. That's part of the backlash against Swift. She's the most prominent of BMLG's artists and part owner of the label. So why can't Swift decide what to charge for her work?

That's right. How dare she! She sings for LUURVE!

Do they also expect their waitress to serve them out of love? Their mechanic? Their doctor?

Do these people do their job without any expectation of recompense?

Of course not. Artists have every right to charge for their services as anyone else does for theirs. And maybe that's what bugs the entitled most of all. How dare someone claim they are the same social status as they are!

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