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Public Musicians Forum #9 Report

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

Report by Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfiled) – Photos by Dawoud Kringle

MFM held its 9th Public Music Forum – and the last such meeting of 2018 – on Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 (which fell on Jimi Hendrix’ 76th birthday). The meeting was run by Billy Harper (MFM Board member) and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM President). It began in an indistinct way; the agenda having almost given way to a free form discussion.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

After some discussion where Ken Hatfield (MFM AC member) brought up the question of how MFM is perceived in the digital world, he and Saadat spoke about the importance of activism in the fight for musician rights.

One point that was brought up was that while the MMA has been passed, we’re not out of the woods yet. There are still a great many things that need to be addressed and watched (many of which were addressed in the DBDBD article https://doobeedoobeedoo.info/2018/08/11/music-modernization-act-mma-updates/ and other DBDB articles). All said, it’s vitally important that musicians not rest on our laurels after the signing of the MMA. There are still many ways we can be taken advantage of, despite the progress that was made.

Some discussion was devoted to the Justice for Jazz Artists (J4JA) Campaign ran by Local 802. They are not operating under that name anymore.

An interesting question was posed: where are the young people? MFM is in desperate need of reaching the younger generation of musicians and music creators.

Some discussion was devoted to an academic internship. The advantage is that it delegates work do that all the responsibilities are not concentrated in one or two people. The drawback to this is how to get the money to pay for this (unpaid interns create a bad precedent that work for no remuneration is the norm – and is antithetical to MFM’s stance of musical professionalism and commerce). One possible source of income that was suggested was merchandise: MFM t-shirts, hats, etc., sold through a fulfillment company.

During the meeting, Saadat received the following questioning the form of a text from Ross Brooks who couldn’t attend the meeting:

“The question I have for the group is, what types of services do musicians view as valuable that can be provided in exchange for use of content? That is, things of value other than a check , such as use of recording facility, publicist services , space for group classes, rehearsal space, etc . A venue can pay a musician an up-front fee for use of content, such as a live stream of a concert. But the question is , how to address future use / royalties. To what extent can that be addressed via services provided to musicians by the venue and media company.”

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

 

Hatfield discoursed at length on this (and was met with a general agreement). As a basic principle, any means of remuneration for our work as professional musicians should be rendered in forms that a bank, business, or private transaction would accept as currency. This is a good rule to stick with.

If one is open to barter deals, the most important thing is to crunch the numbers, then decide for yourself if the deal is worth it. First, decide how much you would normally expect to be paid for a gig. Establish your price. Second, determine if what you are getting in exchange for your performance is of equal or greater value (Hatfield gave an excellent and amusing example. Someone offers to let you use their club for a “free” rehearsal for two hours duration in exchange for doing a gig. You are a member of local 802, which charges $10 per hour for their smaller rehearsal spaces. It is clearly not a fair or good exchange to do a quartet gig of 4 hours duration in exchange for a two hour rehearsal that would cost you $20 at the union. On the other hand, if someone wants to give you something that is worth the, say, $1000 you would get for a quartet performance – and is acceptable to all the musicians involved – doing a barter gig that involves no monetary remuneration is not a problem).

Accepting anything of lesser value than what you provide damages music as a profession, and degrades what value your music has to you. Regrettably, we are struggling with the intolerable situation that music has little or no monetary value in our culture. Bartering won’t remedy the situation: which naturally relegates bartering to the category of the exception, rather than the rule. Accepting barter for a gig holds the danger of devaluing music as a profession, and limiting your individual freedom. No self-respecting musician should accept that unless the gains are real and tangible, and at least equal to the monetary value of the gig – and this, ONLY if that tangible gain is something exchangeable or of acceptable personal profit. Money is a form of storable and transferable wealth. If something is not equally storable or transferable, it ceases to be of value, because its value becomes isolated. (Needless to say, charitable offerings are not a consideration in this discussion).

MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

Big Tech works a con of Trumpian proportions in that it grants us access to free content of things that it does not own, in exchange for all the data mining that big tech profits from. This is a bartering model. The question that inevitably arises – yet is rarely addressed – is if this has proven to be a fair or good deal for consumers and content creators. The answer inevitably points to those where the balance of power is not with those accepting the exchange, but lies rather with those offering it. Power respects power, and is never offered freely.

This actually leads us back to the question of getting young musicians involved in MFM. The necessity of getting young people in the gig economy to understand that they have common cause with us is obvious. Big tech has instituted a mindset in the public that demanding a rightful remuneration for one’s work is anti-free speech. Big Tech friendly lawyers, academics and judges have called copyright “obsolete” and “a tax on culture”. They say that internet piracy is just another form of “promotion” which they claim stimulates innovation – which is nonsense, and perilously close to Orwellian doublethink. The younger generation who works in the gig economy, or chases the dream job with Google was raised to believe music is free. This is in direct opposition to MFM’s platform, and a threat to the very existence of musicians. The only way out of this dichotomy is if they can be shown that they’re getting cheated in the same way musicians are. Then they will see that they share a common cause between us. This is a way to build solidarity, and change the mindset of the public, which happily accepts being cheated out of its own property and wealth.

The Public Musicians Forum #9 proved to be a good way of capping off 2018. It defined many of the problems that face us, and as a result, laid a good part of the groundwork for 2019.

A special thanks to Board member Billy Harper who initiated and has ran these musician meet ups with Sohrab since last year.

Special thanks also to Ken Hatfield for his input on musician rights and musician related legal issues.

MFM Public Musicians Forum #9

MFM Public Musicians Forum will be run by Billy Harper and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi. This will be our last forum for this year.

Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Venue: Upper West Side Yeoryia Studios, 2067 Broadway, (Between 71st & 72nd Streets), New York, NY 10023, Studio name: Norma (#55, 5Fl.)

Our forum will feature topics on a variety of subjects of interest to our members as following (detailed agenda in the next newsletter):

*Ken Hatfield and Sohrab speak about the importance of activism in the fight for musician rights,

*Dawoud and Sohrab speak about the importance of in-house on-line PR outlets, such as DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY, MFM Member Newsletter. MFM website and MFM social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,

*Discuss how MFM can make it easier for musicians to come to the meetings and get involved in MFM business,

*Give attending musicians the opportunity to speak about problems and issues they have had recently.

After the presentations attendees are invited to network with each other.

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #9 Invitation

MFM Public Musician Forum

MFM Public Musicians Forum #9 Invitation

MFM Public Musicians Forum will be run by Billy Harper and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi. This will be our last forum for this year.

Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Venue: Upper West Side Yeoryia Studios, 2067 Broadway, (Between 71st & 72nd Streets), New York, NY 10023, Studio name: Norma (#55, 5Fl.)

Our forum will feature topics on a variety of subjects of interest to our members as following (detailed
agenda in the next newsletter):

  • Ken Hatfield and Sohrab speak about the importance of activism in the fight for musician rights,
  • Dawoud and Sohrab speak about the importance of in-house on-line PR outlets, such as DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY, MFM Member Newsletter. MFM website and MFM social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,
  • Discuss how MFM can make it easier for  musicians to come to the meetings and get involved in MFM business,
  • Give attending musicians the opportunity to speak about problems and issues they have had recently.

After the presentations attendees are invited to network with each other.

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MFM Public Musicians Forum #8 Report

MFM Public Musician Forum

Report by Dawoud Kringle (with Ken Hatfiled)

MFM held its 8th Public Musician Forum in New York on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018. The meeting was run by jazzman Billy Harper (MFM Board member) and Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM President). Saadat began with suggesting that the meeting adhere to a simple agenda.

1. Discussion of what needs to be done after the Music Modernization Act (MMA) victory becoming law October 11th. Reminding the MFM members of the mid term elections in November and the 2018 MFM Annual Membership Meeting in December. Speaker: Ken Hatfield (MFM AC member) assisted by  Saadat,

2. The presentation of a contract for performing and touring musicians. MFM supporter Roger Blanc will lead the discussion.

3. Dawoud Kringle‘s presentation of MFM’s digital magazine / newsletter DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY. Kringle is along with Saadat the main contributor of this on-line magazine.

4. Discuss how MFM can make it easier for musicians to come to the meetings and get involved in MFM business.

5. Give attending musicians the opportunity to speak about problems and issues they have had recently.

MFM Public Musicians Forum

 

 

After the meeting opened, Hatfield spoke  (audio file here) in considerable detail on what we need to focus on now that the Music Modernization Act has passed:

The first was the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). The MLC will distribute the money that the DSPs (Digital Service Providers), ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and various streaming services (e.g. Spotify) will pay us musicians for the uses of our music / content. The proposed configuration of this collective is: ten publisher members and four writer members (with the publishers wanting to choose who the writer representatives will be). The monies are to be split 50 / 50 between publishers and writers. It makes sense that the MLC be configured accordingly.

The MLC will operate under a five year charter granted and renewed by the Library of Congress. The music community can monitor it and offer comments on the Library of Congress website regarding how the MLC performed. This means the configuration could be changed for the second five year charter to a more equitable configuration (such as the ideal seven publisher and seven writer members).

The MLC will have a database for storing information that identifies who owns the rights to the music. They will grant blanket licenses to the DSPs, streamers, and other services that are using / broadcasting our music in exchange for the fees they will pay the MLC. This database will be the “official” source for “correctly” identifying who gets paid for the various licensed uses the MLC will supervise. This will require all tracks to have ISRC codes and be registered with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress as well.

The Case Act, Fair Pay Fair Play Act (FPFP), and the Classics Act will need to be monitored closely.

Probably the most important upcoming action concerns 512 reform of the Digital Music Copyright Act’s safe harbor provisions. Some other safe harbors have already been amended and/or repealed in FOSTA – SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking act) as well as Article 13 recently passed by the E.U. Parliament. 512 needs to be amended because it gives the DSPs immunity from illegal activities perpetrated on their platforms by the users of their platforms (such as copyright infringement). Reform could stop or limit such activities by requiring mandatory adherence to take down notices.

Two attempts to interfere with our efforts to fix these inequities are troublesome and need to be monitored closely:

(1) The USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement: Trump’s re-branded version of NAFTA) – is purported to contain permanent protection for these safe harbor provisions (particularly section 512 of the Digital Music Copyright Act. Fixing it after ratification will require repeal of the entire treaty).

(2) The ALI’s (American Law Institute) “restatement of copyright” project. Since the MMA will open things up for more judges to hear PRO rate cases (a good thing), more judges will be needed. The judges are not likely to be experts on the complex nuances of copyright law. ALI, who are are hostile to copyright law, is writing a summarized cliff-notes version of copyright law to be used as a guide for judges hearing copyright cases. Big Tech friendly lawyers, academics and judges have called copyright “obsolete” and “a tax on culture”. They say that internet piracy is just another form of “promotion” which they claim stimulates innovation. Judges relying on a short hand description of copyright law written by a biased source, will doubtless undermine the foundations of copyright law by being less than impartial to content creators seeking redress for infringement of their rights to their own creations.

One important point Hatfield used to sum up the situation we are in is quite simple. Recording artists today have two paths to choose from. One: get signed to a big label and let them do the business (which generally means they will rob you blind). Or two: set up your own label and run things yourself. These are fundamentally the only two options available as the future of the music business unfolds.

MFM Public Musicians Forum

Hatfiled recommended the following resources for more info:

MFM’s website

musicanswers.org

https://thetrichordist.com/

http://www.c3action.org/

https://musictechpolicy.com/

http://illusionofmore.com/author/dlnewhoff/

https://medium.com/@nturkewitz_56674

https://www.riaa.com

https://www.grammy.com/recording-academy

https://www.ASCAP.com

https://www.BMI.com

https://www.SESAC.com

After a break, Saadat and Roger Blanc presented a template for a contract for MFM members to use. The contract, (created by Saadat and Dave Ruch) is specific to live performances, and between performers and venues / promoters. It offers a concise outline of a fair and ideal agreement between Purchaser and Performer. Items in the contract include (but are not limited to) date, time frame, and type of engagement, guarantee or compensation, method of payment contact information, and additional terms and conditions.

The idea of this contract sets a good precedent. It solidifies and defines the terms of a performance agreement, and empowers and protects the musicians. This is something all too often neglected by musicians; and leaves us vulnerable to messy misunderstandings.

A PDF of the contract will be found here.

There were a few minutes devoted to discussing the dichotomy of  DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY  function as both a magazine and MFM newsletter. Regrettably, though, time proved too short to go over the last three items on the agenda. The depth of the first two items demanded thorough discourse.

But the meeting was productive, informative, and a lot of fun.