Aug 08

Sam interviewed on NPR’s All things considered & an editorial

Sam-Cat-w NPRTech

Sam Rosenthal — of the band Black Tape For A Blue Girl and owner of Projekt Records — was interviewed by NPR’s Laura Sydell about the DMCA. Read the article & listen at NPR’s All Tech Considered.

Here are a few paragraphs that covers what it’s about.

…Artists say that aspects of the law that were written in the late 1990s make it too easy for tech companies to ignore rampant piracy on their sites and put too much responsibility on the artists themselves to find the illegal music files.

It may be hard to feel sorry for high-profile artists like Taylor Swift — but you might feel bad for Sam Rosenthal, who runs a small independent label, Projekt Records. He’s been making a living as a musician and producer of electronic music for 30 years. Over the past decade, he says he’s struggled to keep his business alive.

“It involves continuously finding more ways to save and downsizing. And trying to keep ahead of the decline basically,” Rosenthal says. “I had 11 people working for me in the ’90s and now I have two part-time people working for me.”

and then later:

“Google could solve this problem — 90 percent of this problem — with one switch,” Rosenthal says. “And if they were really on the side of the creators they would do something about that.”

The Steve Roach music played during the piece is “The Feeling Expands” from the album Spiral Meditations.
Stream and purchase a download at Bandcamp. Or purchase the CD from Projekt.

To contact Sam, email sr.projekt-at-gmail.com




There were two things I realized while doing this interview.

1) Projekt is more than this silly little thing I do for a living. It’s not just my job, it’s actually a small business, that has served a purpose in the financial ecosystem of many lives. And – unbeknown to most – over the last 20 years Projekt has brought in and spent over $7,500,000! Very little of that stuck to me, mind you. It went out to the artists, and the manufacturing plants, and rent, and salaries, and shipping supplies, and the promotion Projekt has done.

Projekt is one of those “small businesses” you always hear politicians patriotically talking about. I once employed eleven people, many full time, paid a decent salary, and even covered health insurance for some of them for a while. I’ve written checks to artists for a lot of royalties over the years. But so much of that was rapidly destroyed by the changes in the music industry.

Think about $7,500,000. That’s a lot of cash that Projekt has swirled around the economy; especially when you consider that Projekt is a teeny-tiny little label that 99.9% of the people who listen to NPR have never heard of.

2) I really *do* blame the tech industry for the destruction that has befallen artists: musicians, filmmakers, video game makers, porn makers. We’ve all become the content that consumers want for free; the content the tech industry wants to provide for free, without having to pay anything for it.

When I said “Google could solve this problem,” I wasn’t actually talking about Google talking the files down, which is the way the article frames it. What I specifically meant was that Google knows exactly who the bad actors are. Google’s Transparency Report is a running tally of DMCA complaints filed with Google, for sites that post links and post illegal content. There were over eighty-eight million (88,171,520) reports filed in the last month! 4shared.com has over 3 million in the last month and fourty-two million since they started keeping track.

Guess what?

I highly doubt 4shared is doing something legitimate.

Google could flip a switch and block 4shared from their search engines across the world. Problem solved.

I know. Some will cry censorship. And others will cry, “Yeah, but what if Google gets complaints about my website and block it?” Well listen, you’re not getting 3 million DMCA complaints a month, are you? (If you are, you’re doing something wrong). Google could establish a threshold. How about, “If your site gets 250,000 complaints in a month, you have to clean up your act and reduce that number by 99%. If you get the same or more the next month, and then the next month, Bam! You’re off the Google search engine.”

Cry censorship, but that’s not what this is. This is blocking bad actors who continue with unethical activities that kill other businesses. Like I said, I used to have 11 employees. Now I have one, and two part-time helpers. All these tech companies are screwing the artists you love as well as the people who work in the artistic industries. And you know why? Because tech companies (and the illegal hosting sites) are making money from doing this. Nobody in the tech world wants to change; not when they’re getting rich off of us.

But something has to change.

Google and the other tech companies could solve problems without the government rewriting the DMCA. While the major labels are renegotiating just how screwed they’ll allow themseves to be by youTube, why don’t they hold out until Google makes some changes to search?

Seems like a deal that should be struck.

Left, unsaid

There was something that didn’t make it into the interview.

When I mentioned this self-curating of the bad actors, Laura said something like, “Well the tech companies would say this is infringing on the free flow of information…” And I shot back, “Well of course they would say that, because saying that is in their best financial interest.”

What they are not saying is it would infringe on their freedom to make money off the work of artists and creators. Google pays nothing – but gets rich – off other people’s content when they share these links to illegal content and sell ad space around it. Has Google paid an advance to an artist to create music? Has Google funded an artists’ tours? Their videos? No. They don’t support creativity.

Yet they certainly love making money off creator’s labor!


Honestly, I feel this is an old fight that I have personally moved on from. I know artists have lost and tech companies have won. I can’t keep re-arguing an ethically correct (but real-world unsuccessful) argument. I am finding new ways to continue making a living, keeping Projekt in business, earning income for the artists who work with me, while following my vision for what Projekt should be.

I am resigned to the fact that the tech companies will keep making money off creators, while screwing me and my friends.

But I do thank those of you who support artists with your purchases. You’re the good guys.

Sam

From Facebook:
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August releases on Projekt from Sam Rosenthal:

Picking up Blacktape’s classic 90s darkwave, ethereal, darkAmbient sound;
original vocalist Oscar Herrera returns on their 30th anniversary.

Black Tape For A Blue Girl: These fleeting moments

Deluxe-CD, limited edition of 500, order CD for $20
Deluxe packaging: CD in a 7″ x 5″ landscape-shaped dvd-sized digipak
with internal pocket holding the 12-page booklet. Matte varnish. Thick stock. Signed by Sam.

These fleeting moments

Black Tape For A Blue Girl returns to their evocative ethereal, neoclassical, darkAmbient, gothic roots with an album exploring the existential predicaments of time’s passage, choices questioned, and loves lost. Original vocalist Oscar Herrera rejoins the band after a 17-year absence. His darkly dramatic vocals are complemented by Dani Herrera’s emotional and heartfelt voice, Nick Shadow’s visceral viola, Brian Viglione’s (The Dresden Dolls) driving drums, and band-founder Sam Rosenthal’s pensive electronics and revelatory songwriting. These fleeting moments, their 11th studio release, is 70 minutes of powerful, gorgeously yearning tracks born from the same place as their 90s classics Remnants of a Deeper Purity and A Chaos of Desire.

Read the full album description and order your CD

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