You've read so much about the music industry and its upstanding business practices that you likely think there isn't anything else we could tell you that would come as a surprise. But some record label tactics are so covert that it takes a fair amount of digging just to find out they exist. Here are a few things record labels don't want you to know that they still do in an effort to separate you -- and the artists -- from your hard-earned cash. Things like ...
5Demanding Payment Virtually Any Time Music Is Played in Public
Obviously, if you want to use somebody's music for commercial purposes, like in your movie or TV ad, you have to pay. So, you have to license it from a group like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, which makes sure record labels and artists collect the royalties they're owed for this sort of thing. Makes sense, right? Well, hang on, because it's about to get stupid.
It probably won't surprise you to know that things like charging a crowd of people $2 each to listen to a band's CD is illegal -- you're basically getting paid for a performance of somebody else's music that you don't own the rights to. But the definition of the word "performance" is mind-bogglingly vast when it comes to music royalties.
"That'll be six bucks."
For example, did you know that a "public performance" includes a coffee shop owner putting a CD or an MP3 player behind the counter to play some Mumford & Sons as background music? Or that it counts as a performance if a shop wants to play music over the phone while people are on hold? That's why hold music is almost always bland, instrumental filler -- keeping you on hold to a computer algorithm's idea of a "marimba jam" is a lot less expensive than having Usher keep your hold time sexy. ASCAP explains it all in this depressingly comprehensive guide to all the ways you can pay for the right to listen to the music you already own when other people who don't also own it might be close enough to hear it too.
They even take time out to lecture you for not considering the artist, who might be getting shafted out of their four-tenths of a cent royalty when you choose to dance to "Wonderful Tonight" at your wedding reception without asking Clapton first:
"This rule, however, does not apply to us."
Oh, and they also argued that royalties should be collected on ringtones. Not on the purchase of ringtones, mind you; they already have that. Rather, they wanted to be paid every time the phone rings. In other words, when a phone rings in a crowded movie theater, someone out there believes you've just been entertained to such a degree that an additional outlay of cash is warranted.
Their attempts to cash in every time a song is even thought about being listened to haven't always been successful, though. They wanted to collect on those 30-second samples you listen to before actually purchasing a song, which is kind of like the government taxing the free pizza samples you eat at the grocery store as income. Or maybe it's nothing like that ... we're not record executives. We can assure you it's just as stupid, though.
"Keep shopping! It costs $70 to get in here, we're going to stock up!"