Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beresford Greene Speaks (Seventeenth Fit..)

From The City Folk Club

I am following up on the contributions to Ken's discourse on Folk Music and seek now to expand the discussion into an adjacent area. That is namely that of copyright, intellectual property, and maybe patent rights. Now I am not strong on the details of these issues even though I do have some powerful and mutually conflicting views on the subject.

This is my understanding of the current position: - Performers in the UK receive royalties from record sales and radio airplay for 50 years after a song is released. The person who composed that song, however, is entitled to the exclusive rights to their music and appropriate royalty payments for their entire life and a further 70 years after their death, a total of perhaps 120 years.

Those performers whose careers lasted for only a few years in the 1950s, - and whose contracts specified that they would continue to receive royalties long afterwards - may have already or will soon, stop collecting any income from their hits. There are many musicians that are in a similar position, who rely on their copyright payments as a pension.

The British Phonographic Industry, which represents record companies, says it is unfair to have different rules for performers and composers. It is demanding parity with the US system, where material is protected for 95 years after it is published.

We musically interested souls will know something of the war now being raged about the internet by the big musical industries such as EMI, Sony, and RCA. They object to the loss of royalties arising from free down-loads and so called "file-sharing." They seek to prevent it. They have not been very successful so far. Indeed they have even offered a reward to anyone that can come up with any method that would totally resist any copying. It ain't easy or I would have done it!

The Treasury has appointed Andrew Gowers, the former editor of the Financial Times newspaper, to conduct a review of copyright and intellectual property policies in Britain .

{Nice work if you can get it!}.

There is no doubt that the large & powerful music institutions have done much to promote sometimes little known artistes for several generations. Big stars have emerged that we may otherwise have never got to see & hear. However there is a nasty downside. Much of the performing industry has been riddled with a drugs culture, whilst mediocrity has been used to metamorphose them into famously rich celebrities. Indeed we now have a culture of celebrity wherein the vehicle, (music in this case), plays second place to the stardom. "Look at me - look at me" is really a sign of a weak psyche isn't it?

After working as an engineer for a lifetime I feel driven to ask if George Martin, and others of his ilk, receives any royalties for his part in The Beatles success. It is very unlikely on at least two counts. Firstly he would have probably signed a waiver in the favour of his company (EMI) of any ideas, inventions etc. that he was party to. Secondly, his name doesn't appear on the song writing credits. Yet we now know that he made plenty of input. Indeed that has been recognised with a knighthood and unofficial title of "Fifth Beatle." Secondly, many ideas such as "Phasing" & "Chorusing" - "Slap back" & multiple echo effects are claimed by nearly every studio that ever used them. Then there was the "Aural Exciter." {Don't ask!}.

Ought it to be any wonder then, that Norman Petty, Buddy Holly's recording engineer who supplied all the studio equipment, accommodation, expertise, and even marketing know-how, insisted on having his name as a joint composer of many Buddy songs?

Is it right that anyone can claim a royalty for a new layout of the same old things? How would it be if every designer could do that? Let me give you an example: - Kris Kristofferson came up with some pretty original lines of prose in his lyrics: - "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." - "Nothing ain't worth nothing, but it's free." Do you spy any unusual or new words in there? Is it so that you know anyone that would expect to pay for nothing? And having nothing left to lose might set you free of having to care but, how long will you last out with nothing? Is it right that we have to go on paying Kris for this and for the fairly ordinary tune that goes along with it for so very long? {Even longer in America }. Yes and this example came from one of the better popular writers.

Just think what might happen if we were to start applying the same principles to recipes! Here's one of mine: - "Sausage & lemon pie on a bed of choux pastry" Or I could do a Bob Dylan and claim "Steak & kidney pie with worms" or "Cornflakes and onion drizzled with raw egg" as my own! Can't you see why I get so upset with life? There's so little true creativity required. "Weetabix & ginger rolls." "Figs with sawdust"

Let us move on to football. I am the inventor of the "sidestep", the "feint" and the "dummy." I would have had the "backheel" but I sold it for a fixed sum. I get paid every time these moves are used. I am working on a claim that will give me intellectual property rights over the expression "I mean" and "do you know what I mean?" I love "that's what it's all about" too and spend a fortune in royalties by saying it as often as I can. How unfortunate that it isn't mine. "Get the ball in the back of the net" is nice too. Some fans try to link these phrases together but that isn't wise if you suffer from lip-stall or tongue buffet.

If you examine these arguments and many similar avenues, it will very difficult to avoid the issue of class. One might better say quality. Yes I am sticking my neck out here but I'm anxious to learn! Let's grab the jugular and ask the question. Does singing or playing badly have any quality? What about singing down one's nose in what I understand is a Folk tradition. Does it have any class? Should loud raucous Rock & Blues music occupy a high place? When The Rolling Stones sold Black American Rhythm & Blues back to White America, ought they to get any Royalties at all, let alone for so long? Most of us do a job and get paid for it. Or we may sell an idea for what we can get to someone who thinks they can make a profit from it. I think I'll re-design the brick!

There are many other similar questions to ask. Do altered tunings, drone notes, unsyncopated rhythms, and rudimentary Elizabethan harmonies have any quality? After generations of "refinement" it might be interesting to look back at the route we have travelled, but should we be struggling to keep it "alive" - as though its loss would be an affront to human endeavour?

Wealthy Cliff Richard thinks the period of Royalties should be extended. This from a man with an undeniable God given gift for singing who, as far as I know, never ever wrote a note or a line!! When a company with its contracted artistes makes a "record," - that's what it is, - "A RECORD." Job done! There should be no question of ongoing "Royalties." I say "Get a proper job!"

Are we to allow ourselves to be coerced into a corruption of the truth when we sign up to the wailings of the unsophisticated (** yeah it might be the wrong word - back in a minute), as though it had real merit? "I woke up this morning and found I was in bed. I woke up this morning and found I was in bed. I woke up this morning ….. to find I wasn't dead. That's fine that's mine, pass the wine…."

To return to my theme, if the musical industries are unable to control the internet situation, will music be returned to the Folk from whence, in very large measure, it came? Will there be a loss or a gain? Will it be balanced?

The only exception that I can see to my arguments would come if I wrote any kind of successful song or made any kind of record that sold well! Then I would see it so very differently. Since that ain't likely to happen --- I will retain my view of it.

Come along now I am trying to be provocative! That's because someone somewhere took a swipe at the misspelling of that very word - yet I can't find the origin of that. Where's the text? As one of the only three readers of these columns I've just got to know! Hurry now - once the medication kicks in I won't care anymore.

** A better word is "ignorant"


St. Anley said...

This is all about commercialism.
I share two pearls of wisdom on this topic.

1. “Capitalism is about making profit.” I didn’t say or write that. The OU lecturer who passed on this enlightening piece of economic understanding some years ago was paid only once to run the seminar. He had an unpronounceable Indian name but was happy to be known as ‘Dash’. I owe him this acknowledgement – nothing more.

2. This morning I awoke. I was in my bed. I was still alive. This thought drifted into my thinking:
“Poverty is the collateral damage associated with the free-market economy.”
Now, I DID write that. I can cite recent historical justification for holding that opinion. I claim it as an original thought. I wrote it and spell-checked it using software for which I paid.

Will anyone pay me for publishing it? Will I ever be acknowledged as a source for this wisdom?

I thought not!

Musically Bent said...

I quite like that original thought St-Anley. However, it needs even more thought. Poverty is quite historical. It is forced upon many as an act of God by birth defects or or failed harvests caused by poor weather.
"Material wealth is immaterial." That is MY original thought upon which I will claim intellectual property rights. Let me also ask if any poverty is brought on by abject idleness? A failure to sow or reap. Retirement! What's that?
I have yet another thought that I am working on. Perhaps you can help with it. It concerns "beauty." It is a cop-out just to say that such is in the eye of the beholder. I need a new & better cliche. Let's have a go at it: -
"Beauty is often in the eye of the blind" OR....
"Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but isn't that an ugly thought."

St. Anley said...

Well, there is certainly Biblical reference.
JC said, whilst enjoying foot-massage, "The poor will always be with you."
Does that mean that the Almighty intends the existence of poverty?
In which case, why do we bother?
Does it exist to exercise the consciences of wealthy people?
Is it there simply to encourage the more fortunate to indulge in reflexology?

I digress. See my cynical exposition at Please feel free to comment thereon. I'm not sure it belongs on CFC's blog.

Let's compromise:
"Sometimes beauty is perceived by the partially-sighted."
Does beauty belong on CFC's blog?

London Apprentice said...

Oh yes St-Anley, beauty definitely belongs here! For so many reasons too.
Firstly because so many of our number are just that: - BEAUTIFUL to anyones eye, and;
Secondly because just a minority are not!
As to what the Almighty did intend, why that has strained better minds than my own since day one, (which was last Monday I beleieve)......,
and so I will transfer further discussion on to your own "cynical exposition" just to see it I may be cast in a more favourable light somehow.
Stay bright!