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Equal royalties

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Reggae producer - Bobby Digital

Artistes try to keep online royalties flowing

Jamaicans try to catch up in digital age

Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer

A row is developing between artistes and Internet radio entity, Pandora Media. To date, more than 100 international recording artistes have signed a petition against the company over royalties.

The artistes argue that Pandora is trying to lower royalty payouts and reduce compensation after the company began lobbying for the United States Congress to pass the Internet Radio Fairness Act.

The artistes allege that the bill could reduce royalty payouts by 85 per cent, instead of objectively regulating how established artistes should get paid by Internet radio companies. The group of artistes also claim that the music community is beginning to gain its footing in this new digital world and cannot compromise at this point.

In light of the tussle between Pandora Media and the international music community, it would appear that international artistes are aiming at capitalising on the possibilities of the new digital market.

However, in Jamaica, artistes believe they are being left behind.

Veteran deejay Macka Diamond said she recently signed to Sound Exchange, an online company charged with the responsibility of distributing royalties from online music sales.

Sound Exchange has sided with the artistes in the squabble over royalty payments and the phrasing of the Internet Radio Fairness Act.

While Sound Exchange has been forthcoming with royalty payments to Macka Diamond, the raunchy dancehall artiste believes there is much work to be done locally to tap into the digital market.

"I don't think we have gotten a grip on how to use the digital medium locally. There is too much free music here because many artistes just  want to get their stuff out. Based on what I see, they just burn CDs. In Europe, they will make an album and sell it, unlike here in Jamaica. Even when I am attempting to give away my CDs overseas, people are offering to purchase them. The Internet has put musicians under a lot of pressure. Back in the day, producers would give contributions towards making videos for songs, but because they are not making much money from music again, we as the artistes have to settle that all by ourselves," Macka Diamond said.

Macka Diamond thinks artistes ought to be compensated for the usage of their music on the Internet, whether it be via online radio stations or other mediums.

"I want to know that I am working for something. The world has changed and if the Internet can be sanctioned to help out artistes who work hard, mi nuh see nothing wrong wid dat. But until then, we as local acts have to come up with other means of making money. I choose to write books because my name is a brand and I can use it to market products. In case the Internet can't be clamped, there is still a way to earn," the deejay said.

internet the problem

Iconic producer Bobby Digital believes music would have been better without the Internet. The producer said it's ironic that with more people consuming the music, the sales have decreased.

"I don't see digital sales comparing favourably to back then. Right now we have no sales and the strange thing is that information is right at the finger tips of the consumers. We thought that with more access we would have more sales, but it's not so," Bobby Digital said.

The producer has no objection to regulating online radio, citing that music production is an expensive procedure.

"I think there should be an overall regulation of the Internet. If you had an album back in the day and it was being sold for $10, they would have to buy it for the $10. But now, they can purchase one song from an entire album for 99 cents, so out of your $-10 product, you only make 99 cents. I think we are way behind in this digital era. Some of these things online, you try them out and for months, there are no results. If I had the power, no Internet would exist. Dem seh if something nuh broke, don't fix it and dem heap a burner and ting ya destroy the music. In some way, it good because emails work good for sending messages, but in some way, it bad," he said.

Some artistes who have joined forces against Pandora Media include Rihanna, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Common, Maroon 5, Missy Elliot, Sheryl Crow, Pink Floyd, Katy Perry, CeeLo Green and Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson.