Sunday, November 06, 2005

Alligator & Podcasting

My first real post here at Bandana Blues will be a open letter to Bruce Iglauer, CEO of Alligator Records, concerning Podcasting in general and specifically, Bandana Blues with Beardo & Spinner. I encourage your comments. They will be periodically forwarded to Bruce at regular intervals.

In the past few months I've had a short conversation and e-mail correspondence with Bruce about Alligator material being used on podcasts and his take on the whole situation. Here is my e-mail to him:
Just checking to see what your current state of mind is regarding podcasting. Till there is a definite legal template to follow, podcasters are blazing their own trails. Bandana Blues has been broadcasting on the internet in one form or another since 1999 and now enjoying a substantial audience worldwide due to the creation of RSS feeds and XML. I have been promoting the blues as a vital living music, not a spent genre like it was my job for decades. Let me help bring new people into the fold.
If you care to give me some guidelines on using Alligator material, I'm all ears.
Here is his repeated stance:

Hi Beardo
Here are the problems I have with podcasting in a nutshell
--it isn't covered under any kind of royalties. Songwriters and publishers are not getting paid through BMI or ASCAP, and labels and artists are not getting paid through Sound Exchange.
--it's not very hard (and getting easier) for individuals to lift songs out of a podcast and store them, which makes it another way that the music is being given away against the wishes of the creators of the music.
If this is 'blazing their own trails,' it doesn't seem like anyone wins except the podcasters.
If there were a royalty scheme, I'd be interested. For now, the only way that I can see it benefiting anyone is if a podcaster is willing to play partial songs rather than full length. What do you think about that?


The solution is a complex issue that seems to need a mediator to digest and suggest solutions. Here is your chance people. What would be fair compensation to the artist, the author, the publisher and the record company? How would you determine the scale or % for each and what revenue do you base it?

Do you podcast in a reduced bitrate to lessen the quality thereby discouraging a napster-like situation, which is much more difficult as the podcast is a single file that would already discourage most would-be pirates, not a peer to peer file sharing environment. Add to that a monaural broadcast perhaps?
I would reluctantly agree to NOT play any Alligator material, if that is your wish. As Alligator is providing Cds to another blues podcast for "airplay", I would find that request to be a bit strange.

At Bandana Blues we try to overlap or talk over the beginning or end of a song much like the annoying DJ's of the sixties on AM. Are you old enough to remember waiting for the guitar solo by Jorma Kaukonen at the end of White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane only to have it buried by the big reverby voice telling you it was the psychedelic sounds from San Francisco and then the canned jingle with stations call letters in a sing songy style by a mostly female chorus? We try to be gentle and unobtrusive.
Finally, despite the wide variety of opinions on copyright infringement and the various definitions of podcasting, the consensus across the industry seems to be that there must be one set of rules that everyone can follow and enforce. Without that, and with the quick development and release of new technologies, the only thing we can be sure of is uncertainty and confusion.
So, where do we start?



The Dark Knight said...

Idiots! Do they not understand that by having people listen to their music they may actually be interested in purchasing it? I am sure it is possible to strip away a song I might like from your podcast, but why bother? I would rather own the CD (I'm a little old fashioned in that I like an entire CD and not just a single) and I would like to think I am moral enough to not take some one's hard work for free. Your show has introduced me to many artists that I would never had beeen exposed to. And I have even purchased CD's based upon what I have liked! What a concept.

Tony said...

There is some validity in Bruce's comments. The artists should be compensated for their work.

After receiving a genuinely gentle letter from BMI regarding their licensing, I've pretty much decided that I'll pay the annual BMI fees. I suspect, also, that ASCAP and SESAC will follow hot on BMI's heels with agreements, as well. While I don't have an issue with paying these fees for The Roadhouse, it means that I'll need to go back through the archive of shows and collect all the BMI/ASCAP/SESAC data for audit purposes. That really means the creation of a database at home to track the plays and rights for each cut played in the show. Again, I don't feel bad at all about compensating the songwriters and publishers via these entities. It will just be another challenge in producing the show.

The other side of Bruce's comments is that I've been generating sales of Alligator artists from The Roadhouse show notes. Inherent in my use of Alligator artists is that I provide a means for listeners to purchase the music (several, in fact, including iTunes and Amazon). And, in the natural course of the show, I'm encouraging listeners to support these great artists by purchasing the music. It's another avenue of sales that might not have been reached by Alligator - or Black and Tan, or Tone-Cool, or TopCat, or any of the other labels I'm featuring in the show. I take a tiny cut ($.05 per single from iTunes, for example), but provide a conduit for additional revenue for the labels. This seems like a fair trade for the permissions of the label and promotional support. This is, in fact, what labels have been doing for years - providing music to terrestrial radio stations at no cost, understanding full well that the promotional value will outweigh the cost of the CDs.

As for stealing music directly from the podcasts, this isn't, really, any different than what's been going on forever - unscrupulous listeners taping full shows from terrestrial radio to keep for their own purposes. The fact is that, when presented with the choice of purchasing a single for $.99 from iTunes, or spending the considerable time and effort to edit a digital audio file for a single song, most people simply choose to purchase. They get a full-fidelity version in less than a minute (on a high-speed connection) with accurate tags and cover art, as well. Plus they get the convenience of automatically inserting the song into their music management application database. In other words, the effort/benefit analysis of purchasing vs. stealing weighs very heavily in favor of purchasing. While I understand the concern - it goes clear back to the days of reel-to-reel recorders - I think it both understates the difficulty of stealing music from a podcast and underestimates the general level of honesty (and maybe laziness) of the customer.

As for podcasters being the only ones to make money on podcasts - I'd like to know where that money is. Short of odds-and-ends tips in the tip jar (used almost entirely to defray early bandwidth expenses) and the 5% take from direct music sales, I've yet to see the income. The Roadhouse is still, at this point, very much a non-profit venture.

x7s7dhcneimnweuru3239 said...

I kind of had the same email conversation with Bruce when trying to get permission to play Alligator artists on my Bluescast.

After giving it some thought, I deceided to do as requested but make it an Alligator only show. It's not published so far and I'm curious how listeners will like it.

Anonymous said...

Date: Sat, 5 Nov 2005 17:37:05 -0800 (PST)
From: Jim
Subject: Fwd: Beardo's Rant on CD / Music Purchases and One Listener's Reply (follow-up)


I thought I'd send you a follow-up on my music listening and CD buying habits.

I finally connected with Michael Powers (Michael Powers Frequency) at Terra Blues last night. Wow, what
a show!!! He had people dancing in the aisles (and it’s not a dance club!). I took a friend who enjoyed
it too.

And I purchased the Michael Powers "Onyx Root" CD from the band at the show.

So it may not seem like much for one listener to buy one CD, but for this listener it is profound!
Listening to your and others’ podcasts has brought music back into my life and with it activities that
accompany it - like attending performances and buying music.

I continue to enjoy your podcast. A heartfelt thank you to you both: Beardo and Spinner!


Note: forwarded message attached.

Forwarded Message
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2005 22:07:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jim
Subject: Beardo's Rant on CD / Music Purchases and One Listener's Reply
Plain Text Attachment


I have not purchased any music as a result of listening to your podcast - YET. But I can assure
you, and others, that I would not have, and will NOT, purchase any music in the future without your podcast
and others like The Roadhouse, Raven 'N' Blues, etc. Here's why.

I discovered through these podcasts that I have a special interest in, and love of, the Blues. I have
heard pieces over the years I've liked, but haven't known the Blues to be a special genre in its own right
and to be appreciated as such. You and the other Blues podcasters have introduced me to this. But the
whole media and commercial system of music distribution is just so broken. If I have to rely on
THEM, I WON'T BUY ANY MUSIC AT ALL - and this has been largely the case for me for many many years.
Miraculously the medium of podcasting has brought music back to life for me and to my life and I bet a
whole lot more people.

So what have I done since I began listening to your podcasts and others in roughly the last two months? I
learned of, and went to, the 15th Annual Bandana Blues - it was the most incredible live music experience of
my life. At the concert, I heard artists I would like to hear more of. I have plans with a friend to see
Michael Powers perform in the next couple of weeks having heard him at Bandana Blues and on your podcast
and just discovered on the internet he performs here in New York. This WILL result in my buying CDs NOT
some media conglomerate, record label or commercial radio music executive's choice as to what I should be
listening to!

And you are the first arbiter of taste, because aside from the artists themselves, you are closest to the
music and actually live it. And how much Blues do we hear on Top 40 anyway? New York is saturated with
these type of stations. Again, if it weren't for you and, let's not forget, Spinner (and other podcasters
and real DJs - not playlist presenters), there's not a chance I will purchase music otherwise. So perhaps in
my case a fresh new customer relationship has been created! I'm sure you know what lengths commercial
interests go to for this.

The whole process of introducing a new medium for introducing music (podcasting) takes time and the
introduction of new music itself takes time and this ultimately translating into sales takes time. I think
what the 'powers that be' fear most is that they will no longer be in control of the process and purchaser
preferences. I might even go as far as to say Podcasting is to music what eBay is to auctions. This
must make some people really scared. My recommendation to THEM for really making money is that
they fire their marketing and legal staffs and leave the stimulation of sales to you and if their product
is worthy the purchasers they will come.

And please I don't need a prize should this incredibly be the best reply, getting past this juncture and your
ongoing podcast will be reward enough. I hope this listener's rant helps some.