There are certain aspects of being an indie artist that I can't think about too much or I'll end up with an ulcer. Today I'm going to share one of these issues with you, simply because I don't think people realize it happens. But it does. And as someone who is not under the umbrella of a record label, and would need to pay out of pocket for attorneys, we end up just taking it up the rear and trying to move on.
I was promoting our new instrumental release today when I got a reminder of a long standing violation of intellectual property which is still coming back to bite me. What am I talking about? Well, I'll tell you what I'm NOT talking about...
I'm not talking about when people buy a CD and then load it onto their computer and burn more CDs and give them to their friends. That is SOOOOOO last millennium.
And I'm not talking about when A-HOLE bloggers make a hobby of uploading hardworking artist's music and album artwork to sites like rapid share and provide download links for anyone with internet to be able to download our CD for free, and then if we protest, OTHER A-HOLE bloggers tell us we just need to "release more music" or "sell T-shirts" or "do live shows to get paid". [Like when this blogger made an example of me without even contacting me to let me know so many years ago.]
And I'm not even talking about the infuriating Russian sites that actually SELL our music for $ .17 a song and then never send us a penny, all the while posting propaganda on their sites about how "it's too complicated" to work out compensating the artists individually, but "trust us" we're paying them. [Lies... Dirty filthy Communist lies.]
So if I'm not even talking about THAT, what could possibly be worse?! Well, today I'd like to talk about some jerks over in Turkey who released an album under their own name and just flat out stole the music of other artists. Not only did they not get our permission to use our recordings, or even have any thought of compensating us all for SELLING OUR MUSIC ON AMAZON, but they slapped their own name on it as if we didn't even exist.
[Not only THAT, but they actually recorded another woman singing some unintelligible vocal ad libs over our recording. What's THAT about?]
Go ahead, check it out. They stole our recording of Besame Mucho and can't even spell it right...
It's hard for an independent artist to even FINISH a record when they're having to work other jobs to keep the bills paid AND fund the project. We had a lot of hard costs with that album. We paid for the guest vocalists, instrumentalists, photo shoot, mastering, artwork, CD duplication, distribution, marketing. Lots of money out of pocket, not to mention time and creative energy. All the while, we did OTHER work to keep the money coming in.
This is why artists need to be able to make little fractions of a penny however they can.
Now do I believe that these ethically challenged Turkish people are making money hand over fist by selling our music as they laugh maniacally and roll around naked in $100 bills in their evil lairs?
They're probably hardly making any money at all by selling that album, because as we all know, consumers rarely purchase music anymore. So what's the big deal??
Well, it's not only about that income stream and the PRINCIPLE of the thing. There's more to it. They're actually PREVENTING us from making money by hijacking our own promotional efforts.
I first became aware of this problem when I was trying to sign up our YouTube video of Besame Mucho for monetization. I got a notice from YouTube that OUR video infringed on the copyright of Larespark. WHAT?! So I researched it, and that album was what I found. I tried to track down who had released this. What I could gather is that this was for a posh hotel in Istanbul. But I also found that this was somehow under the umbrella of Sony. I called Sony. Do you think they even bothered to call me back? [I'll save you the guess, they did not.] And of course, the hotel in Istanbul never responded to my emails and I'm not about to call Turkey on the phone.
I disputed YouTube's legal claims and wrote a compelling and detailed defense that this was indeed our release and we owned the rights to the recording. All I got back from them was... NOPE. That was it. No explanation. They just simply didn't think it was my right to claim monetization. I don't know HOW they came to this, since our album was clearly released a year earlier. I call bullsh-t! Someone's playing Candy Crush all day and not doing their job.
This reminded me of all the frustration I felt after we'd licensed our Chillodesiac CD for a repackage and re-release to a guy in California. He put out the record as "The Midnight Sessions", but then ended up doing a 180 on some of the material terms of the contract and when we disputed it, he got mad at us and completely stopped promoting the record.
At a certain point, I noticed that ALL of our Chillodesiac YouTube videos had been linked to purchase The Midnight Sessions versions of our songs instead of our Chillodesiac release. YouTube did that. On every single one of our song videos, if someone would click through to purchase the music, it would take them to that other guy's release on Amazon or iTunes instead of ours.
Mind you, we paid $1,800 in lawyer's fees when we were entering into the agreement with this guy, and not only did he never give us one dime of compensation for any CDs he sold, he didn't even give us royalty statements to show us how much he sold or how much he still needed to recoup on the project before we would get paid. Also, at the end of the 3 year term, he was supposed to destroy all remaining unsold CDs, but you can still find it for sale on Amazon. We do not see one penny of the money from those sales. Never have, never will apparently.
And of course, he doesn't respond to my emails.
All of our YouTube videos that I had personally made and posted were sending the general public to HIS release instead of OURS. For YEARS. I tried to contact YouTube and tell them of their error but once again, all I got in response was NOPE. Not gonna fix it. [Now, though, for some reason there are absolutely NO purchase links generated on those videos anymore. So at least they don't link people to his release, but they don't link them to ours either.]
So... back to the shysters in Turkey. After I was unsuccessful with YouTube to claim my rights of monetizing my own music off of my own video, I tried contacting all of the other artists from whom they'd stolen music on the Larespark album. I simply used my Shazam app and looked them up on the internet. I was only able to track down half of the artists, and only one of them had any type of record label over them to help defend them. They were all upset, but in the end, none of us could really do anything about it.
So, for my own emotional well being... I had to just move on.
BUT WAIT! It's not over. Here's what I got today, while putting out our newest "Instrumental Chill" release. After uploading the instrumental version of "Besame Mucho" to SoundCloud [which we call "Kiss Me" since our instrumental track was a reconstruction and has nothing to do with the original Besame Mucho composition], this email came in.
So now I have to take more of my precious time and try to convince SoundCloud that Larespark is the criminal, not me. Let's hope the good people at SoundCloud can put down the Candy Crush long enough to be more reasonable than the people at YouTube. It's not like I didn't have enough ways to fill my time.
Fists to the sky!
This is why I eat chocolate...