Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ownership of music

The ownership of a temporal artwork is a tricky matter that really has only come to prevalence with the advent of recording technology. Previously composers had been attempting to control their work more and more by adding more precise directions regarding tempo, dynamics and other pertinent performance markings. Despite these composers best efforts however, each performance will be unique, unless of course we have a recording of the performance. Here begins the tricky question of, to whom does this performance belong? Does it belong to the composer, to the performers, or to the hall in which it was performed? Does it matter who payed for the recording? Who deserves to be payed for future performances of this piece?


The way in which artists are compensated for their work comes in several different ways now. The first and most immediately comprehensible is for live performances of their work. It is clear that they own that temporal performance, they are there for the entirety of its existence and once they are gone it no longer exists. Patrons are paying for the experience. The second way that artists are payed is by selling recordings of their performances. If their live performance is really good people will want to hear it again and will buy either studio recordings or live recordings. This is a one time flat fee, similar to buying a ticket to a show, but now you have the artist's work at your finger-tips. It does not matter after you make that purchase if you listen to the CD five times a day or never. The only advantage that the artist gains by your multiple listenings is that you might recommend the CD to a friend who might in turn buy the CD. The third and most unique mode of compensation that an artist receives is through the royalties of a piece being played on the radio. One the radio now (as seen in the last post) the composer receives a flat amount of royalties for a piece to be played on the radio. So in this way the station buying royalties is much like a library buying a CD, costs them more than a normal person, but it is still one flat rate. Thus the popularity of the song only helps the artist sell more CDs. The new royalty structure for internet radio directly rewards the artist for how popular their song is, as they (or their label) get paid for every "performance" of the piece. So in a certain way it makes the most sense of all the fee structures, because an artist is rewarded directly for the popularity of their piece.


1 comment:

Duff said...

The artist is rewarded or the recording company for popularity? I would be skeptical of how much of the money earned offf of royalties makes its all the way back to the artist.