August 21, 2006

jail time for publishing tabs & lyrics

The NY Times has an article up, Now the Music Industry Wants Guitarists to Stop Sharing, covering efforts by the publishing arm of the music industry to shut down free guitar tab & lyrics sites. I wrote about this with some ire last year (Jail Time for Publishing Lyrics and Tab) when the Beeb reported on the Music Publishers Association's plans to go after such websites; the MPA is pretty much the equivalent of the RIAA for sheet music companies.

MPA president Lauren Keiser said he wanted site owners to be jailed. He said unlicensed guitar tabs and song scores were widely available on the internet but were "completely illegal". Mr Keiser said he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective". [emphasis mine]

This makes me angry in so many ways. As a music lover, I hate this because it is yet another demonstration of the music industry suits' lust for money and power overshadowing musicians' and fans' love for the music. As a guitar player, I hate this for what it tries to take away from me -- the opportunity to learn and grow and share music with family and friends. And from a business perspective, I hate this because it is a drop dead stupid business strategy. The publishers are looking at a huge, passionate and motivated community that has created an enormous amount of value and goodwill that extends far out on the long tail of musical interest, and they are trying to kill this in favor of what, exactly? Piano chord books? Some imagined iTunes-like online store for the Top 100 tabs? And their buzz marketing campaign launches with the idea of sending the current aggregators to jail? They can't be serious.

It appears that the music publishing industry has leaders that hate fans and hate music. It also looks like they are getting very bad advice about business. What a sellout.

Elsewhere, the viral marketing campaign is taking hold:

At USA Today, Kevin Maney learns that Moby loves the tab sites.

Thomas Vander Wal has and extended riff on the topic.

Fellow guitarist Karl Martino says it well: "Why do folks contribute so much of their time and effort transcribing these songs so that others may learn them? Love. The free exchange of knowledge - driven by love of subject matter and the desire to share. As purest an expression of that human need as any else online."

Posted by Gene at August 21, 2006 7:08 PM | TrackBack

I like Karl Martino's summary ... which, in turn reminds me of the David Crosby song "Music is Love" (and I get the urge to post a link to the guitar tabs for it).

I'm also reminded of David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard's book, The Future of Music, in which they argue that one of the central problems in the music industry today is seeing music as a product (rather than service ... or an experience).

Posted by: Joe McCarthy at August 29, 2006 3:31 PM

Joe, thanks for the link to future of music, that looks like good stuff. Of course, you could also say that "one of the central problems in the [foo] industry today is seeing [foo] as a product (rather than a service ... or an experience)", where foo = computers, newspapers, printers, books, movies, cameras, guitars, doorknobs, etc etc.

Posted by: Gene at September 7, 2006 5:52 PM

Hmmmmm well I used to buy a little bit of shit umm sheet music, way back when, but I also found that most of "the professional" store bought stuff was riddled with mistakes and badly written. The knobjobs who wrote, published and distributed it, did a pretty lame job usually that was a fair bit different to what the guitarist actually played. Plus the lame brain chord charts gave no understanding of the solo's etc.

Then you toss in that you can only get the stuff at music shops, and their lists are only a small percentave of what is available, which is again a very much smaller selection of all the songs ever written... like perhaps 5%...

So my answer to all the "some times good and some times crappy" tablature, well it's simply an extension of people sitting around nutting stuff out, in an online community.

If the standard of economically priced material, of everything that has ever been written, was available for 50C a PDF download, yeah I'd use it..

But try getting hold of songs that you liked when you was a kid, all of 20 or 30 years ago...Most of the bands are long dead, buried or forgotten, most of their music was never published, and what there was is no longer available - So really the online tab sites were the only real resource of material in this respect.

And as far as the MPAA, or the RIAA etc., these pompous self righteous money grabbing imbeciels can go fuck themselves.

Posted by: 2shane at September 19, 2006 5:07 AM

heck yeah dude,

i have been playing for over 30 years now and never had it around for most of that time; it was ears only then kiddies. the quip about store bought sheet music being faulty is kind. years ago i bought a beatles songbook with a million songs in it and none of the tunes were in the key that was on record. it was nowhere close. i got the lyrics and sheet music to play it on a piano in church but not in the key of beatles.
i used to look up tab once in a while to pick up a quick tune that i never took the time to learn 20 years ago. no more! the publishers are full of shit if they think they are stopping a leaking hole in their projected incomes. none of those greedy ass companies have the resources to put together a single 100 page book of tabbed tunes. all of that work was done for free by people that wanted to do so. they may not have been fully correct but look at my professional publisher's version of beatles tunes example above. whoever the prick was that set those mindless (and musicless) dickheads on fire needs an enema of a year's worth of used guitar strings.
the music filesharing crap was a bunch of shit. the music companies cried poor mouth but i never saw an empty record store. it you ever went to best buy during that period there were folks buying the shit out of cds. i don't get it.

the file sharing debacle was based on greed and lies. i challenge any government, company or private organization to assemble freely, the repository of music that was napster. the musicians get paid when they signed the contracts and the record companies cry wolf. it will never happen because napster was public. the tablature and chord chart issue are the same. all of that was done by people for free and there will never be a free - public - repository for the good of all as there was with OLGA or napster.

capitalism is a good system but when lawyers get to call the shots in your private life it sucks.

Posted by: anti-capitalist at January 31, 2007 6:54 PM
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