Tuesday, June 30, 2015

THANK YOU, TAYLOR SWIFT! CD Baby, Apple, and the AFM, not so much...


This particular blog entry has been difficult for me to write. The “practical” and “professional” move would be to simply accept how the Taylor Swift vs. Apple Music situation played out and join the many thousands of musicians and musician reps around the country in thanking Ms. Swift for speaking out against Apple Music’s heinous “three month at the artist’s expense” scheme. On that end, I agree. THANK YOU, TAYLOR, FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART! With one blog post – backed up by the strategic removal of your album – you called out Apple Music for a practice that would have adversely affected musicians everywhere and convinced them to change course. KUDOS! As soon as I hit the “Post” button, I’m putting “Shake It Off” on YouTube and dancing to it in my office. Then, I’ll follow it up by singing along with you and Tim McGraw on “Highway Don’t Care” at the top of my lungs. Fact is that I appreciate what you did and the results. Apple Music will pay ALL artists for any music streamed during their free trial… as they should have planned to do from the beginning.

So, where’s the “heart-ache”? Why did I hesitate in posting this blog? Why can’t I just accept the “victory” and go on about my business since my primary gripe has been rectified?

No, musicians and music-lovers; all is not calm in the world. Yes, this particular situation with Apple Music has been rectified. That doesn’t mean we should just brush everything else off and pretend everything is awesome. There is no reason the situation should have ever got to this point. If you look at my past entries, I have held Apple accountable for their role in this fiasco… back in November when I discovered that Apple Music’s predecessor Beats Music was engaging in the exact same practice, albeit for a two-week trial period versus Apple Music’s three month trial period. This exact practice was what #DrDreisaHypocrite was about. I am looking in particular at two parties that I am paying to look out for my interests: CD Baby and the American Federation of Musicians.

At this point, I have absolutely nothing to gain. The entire situation since I first spoke about it was actually a bit of a running gag with my friends. (It’s okay; It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been a punchline.) Make no mistake, though; this is a hit piece. They pissed me off and I am very much reevaluating my relationship with both of them.


The “Apple Music Three Month Trial” fiasco did not “suddenly materialize” with the leak of Apple documents to Digital Music News on June 10. Again, Apple Music’s predecessor Beats Music was engaging in the same practice last year. I wrote about this subject after I discovered it myself while browsing through my Digital Distribution Summaries. CD Baby confirmed the practice to me by email. This was covered in the blog, complete with screenshots of my summary and my email correspondence with CD Baby. The main purpose of that blog entry was to inform musicians and their supporters of a practice by one of the world’s largest multibillion dollar corporations – that sells music as a loss leader for their doohickey gadget business – that further devalues music and if left unchecked could have grown to become the standard practice. Why are digital downloads $0.99 or less? Easy… because Apple iTunes – who gets more than 60% of the digital download market – sets it that way. You think they won’t operate similar leverage if they are able to take over the digital streaming market?

I spoke out because most musicians didn’t have a fucking clue this was happening!!!

Again, I posted this back in November when I found out. Today is the last day of June. Oh… it also happens to be launch date for Apple Music. Imagine that…

Since that post, there had been further communications…

To CD Baby:

Seriously, I’m wondering “Who the hell do you work for?” This digital distribution company has one of the best origin stories I have ever heard. Derek Sivers started this company out of his garage to sell his music online, expanded it to his friends, and went from there. People – of which I am among that number – went to CD Baby to distribute their music online. The CD Baby website specifically says “CD Baby has always been a company run BY musicians FOR musicians. (In case CD Baby has forgotten this, I’ve decided to include a screenshot. You’re welcome.)

Check out those nice red boxes and lines.
It pretty much says right there that the company's clientele are musicians.

So… You entered this agreement with Beats Music to supply our music to them during their two week ”free trial” periods (so they can increase their client base) at no cost to them? You AGREED to give our music to one of the world’s largest multibillion dollar corporations FOR FREE and you felt no obligation to inform your clients? I found out by looking in my digital distribution summary!

So then you tell me that if I am uncomfortable with the arrangement, I can opt out of it. Well, I went back to that area and didn’t see Beats Music listed as one of the distribution partners at all. I suspected I knew why, so I decided to do the waiting game. Once Apple Music’s memo got leaked, I made my objections known, posted a screen shot, and asked how to opt out. Oddly enough, you answered my question the day after Apple Music caved to Taylor Swift.

Here's a recap of our November conversation in pictures:

Dear CD Baby: WTF, Dude?

Yeah, Bro... We sold you out, Dawg! No payz!
You G** D*** M*****-F****** C***S****** S** of a B****!
And now, here is our conversation via Twitter:

Kevin Breuner: VP of Marketing for CD Baby
Hmmm... iTunes is listed, but not Apple Music. But I thought...

OHHHHHH... So you CAN'T opt out of ONLY Apple Music...

In order to not stream on Apple Music, I had two choices… in your own words.

1.) Remove my music from all digital streamers altogether. (No Spotify, Rdio, Deezer, etc.)

2.) Remove my music from iTunes – who gets the vast majority of the digital download traffic – and later pay out of my pocket to put it back when the trial period has expired.

That’s nice. You get to say publicly that I can remove it from this one specific marketplace I objected to, but you have to be pressed before you admit that there are consequences FAR beyond “simply not being available on Apple Music.” So my REAL choice was to either allow Apple to stream my music for free or you would cut access to my music in other marketplaces. That’s not “choice”; that’s passive-aggressive blackmail.

Again, I ask CD Baby “Who the hell do you work for? Contrary to what your website says, it is clear that you have no sense of accountability to those who you claim your company is “for.” It’s clear who you work for. CD Baby, you need to dispense with the charade and be honest to the musician community about who you really are:

The fact is that you are not a digital distribution company for independent artists to get their work to the market place; you’re a supplier of music for digital music corporations.

To the American Federation of Musicians:

The AFM is a labor organization made up of 80,000 members across the United States and Canada. Seen a professional orchestra lately? Probably AFM members. Heard a major label recording? The musicians are probably AFM members. The bands on “Dancing with the Stars” and the “Tonight Show”? AFM members. Broadway musicians? AFM members. In terms of musician advocacy, there is no one looking out for the rights of artists like the American Federation of Musicians is doing.

This part is personal for me. I’ve been a member of the AFM for about 12 years now. I had actually just started playing professionally (post-college) when I joined. The reason why was a no-brainer: You know what they call a hand-shake agreement between a musician and his/her client? A prayer. It’s common sense in any business transaction to have all of the terms spelled out in writing, particularly pay. Musicians need to make contracts before they agree to perform. Even more, these contracts need to be enforceable. If Joe Jerkwad has a contract with me and he defaults, I have to take him to court on my own dime. If it’s an AFM contract, though, they enforce the contract on my behalf. (Provided that it has been properly filed and what-not.)

I’ve been involved with the AFM, both on the local and the national front. I’ve served as president of Local 101-473 in Dayton, OH from 2007-2011. I’ve participated in three national conventions in 2005, 2007, and 2010. I’ve stood at that mic on the floor – no doubt looking like a fool – and spoke out about the importance of promoting diversity - racial, cultural, gender, age, etc. - in the national leadership. My local hosted the 25th Anniversary Regional Orchestra Players Association conference and I was there from start to finish doing whatever had to be done and shuttling people around in my probably-filthy car. I’ve made friends and I’ve learned a lot about everything, including how much I don’t know about the music business. I would like nothing more than to see it grow. That said…

After I posted about the Beats Music situation in November, I reached out to two International Executive Board members on Facebook. Mind you, these aren’t mysterious people I’ve only seen as pictures in the International Musician journal or on the AFM website. I’ve spoken to them in person and on the phone. They know who I am. One of them was actually very helpful about something I needed to change in the blog post that distracted from my point. We didn’t discuss it any further. The other one had this to say:

Now, I’m not disputing anything he said. I do question the practicality of fighting for a legislative solution against people who have lobbying budgets larger than the entire AFM treasury, much less given the current congressional/presidential configuration. I’m also not questioning all the other good work the AFM does on the behalf of all musicians, including: calling attention to Sirius XM/Pandora trying to get out of paying royalties on pre-1973 recordings, fighting for a performance royalty on terrestrial radio (that EVERY western country except the US has), fighting the off-shoring of music scoring by American movie studios, and so much other shit that it would take a book to get through it all. As I said, the American Federation of Musicians is the best damn advocate that working musicians have in this country.

So… What is my problem?

One of the world’s largest corporations – Apple - that has been valuated at over $700 Billion with nearly $200 Billion cash at hand was poised to enter the on-demand streaming market armed with 800 million iTunes customers (and their credit card numbers) and was streaming music to customers for a two week trial period and paying the artists absolutely nothing. Even Spotify – spawn of Satan that it is and I USE Spotify – paid at least some albeit-insignificant amount even on their “free” ad-supported tier. Apple/Beats Music was paying nothing.

I just told him that – again right after he attended an international conference on digital streaming about two weeks after Taylor Swift pulled her music off of Spotify – and the AFM couldn’t invest in the thirty minutes it would take to write up a release about the practice and distribute it to their membership? Or – assuming they didn’t want to act prematurely – they couldn’t have asked their 80,000 members – many of whom use digital distribution services – to check their digital summaries to see if they were being affected by this? Again… most musicians didn’t know their music was being given away. There wasn’t even a blurb in the International Musician.

Eight months roll by and everyone is speculating about when Apple Music will enter the fray. Then, Digital Music News dropped the bomb on June 11. 2015: Apple Music would debut June 30, 2015 (aka today) with a three month free trial period and – exactly like their predecessor Beats Music – would pay artists absolutely nothing. Well… All of a sudden, people on Digital Music News and other websites were starting to take notice.

Wouldn’t that have also been a good time to inform the dues-paying membership of the AFM about what was happening? I posted about it on Facebook as soon as I found out and tagged the AFM in the post. I know damn well officers saw it.

The AFM said nothing. Not a press release/response decrying the practice. Nothing to the membership explaining what was happening or how it is poised to affected them as Apple Music would likely entice customers to move toward streaming rather than downloading music. Nothing involving a petition demanding that Apple stop this. The “best damn advocate” for working musicians didn’t say a damn thing. Not until Taylor Swift entered the fray on June 21 and convinced Apple to change its tune. Then all of a sudden, the AFM was standing up and patting her on the back.

Just how the fuck can a labor organization who claims to represent all of its members be so fucking negligent. The AFM can’t claim “Oh… We didn’t know!” I warned you back in November. The AFM can’t say “Well… This doesn’t affect us as much as these other issues…” You sent the AFM President to a conference in Europe about digital streaming. He knew damn well about the problem posed by on-demand services. Oh... AND he said "JOB WELL DONE, TAYLOR!" 

Taylor Swift, by virtue of her success and stature, has a tremendous platform to get a message out and affect the industry. Although the AFM clearly doesn’t have her leverage, it could have used what it did have to inform their members about this issue and push them to take action and publicly shame Apple for its corporate exploitation. Yet… it did nothing. Oh… wait… It congratulated Taylor Swift on what she did, both on its social media pages and in an email distributed to its members just days ago.

Now… to be fair, my phonetically palindromic friend did ask me to call him shortly after I blew my stack and called the AFM out on its sheer negligence on Facebook. I held off on calling him because I wasn’t sure I could hold a conversation without getting into a shouting match. I even considered not posting this until I cooled down. Well… I’m a bit cooler now, but I can’t say I’m cool enough to get on a phone with a smooth-talking rattlesnake who didn’t consider me or what I had to say important enough to spend ten minutes to look into what I was warning about, but will turn around and kiss Swift’s ass when she speaks out about the same damn thing and gets results. It makes me wonder who else the AFM leadership is ignoring.

Well… I’m obviously not a 25-year-old internationally-known blonde superstar force of nature. I’m not particularly successful or commercial. No one knows who I am or would care if I got hit by a bus tomorrow. I do more care-giving than music-making these days and have an uncanny talent for having people – acquaintances and strangers alike – berate my lack of musical aptitude, knowledge, qualifications and talent to my face. It’s my life; I’m used to it. You know what else?


I warned you this was happening. I told you that musicians needed to know this was happening. I laid it all out. I didn’t even care if anyone knew I said something or got any credit. This was fucking huge and the fact was that I was ignored by the organization I pay dues to and have served – often at my own expense – because I wasn’t considered worth the ten minutes it would have taken to verify my argument.

Not that I thought this was going to happen anyway, but…

Don’t call and apologize to me. I’m not interested in your “reasoning” for ignoring me or whatever you have to say about an issue you decided to ride Taylor Swift's coattails on. I don’t care about your words. I don’t even particularly care if I’m in violation of AFM Bylaws for speaking out in this manner. I’m not interested in talking to you.

What do I want?

Own your mistake. Apologize to your membership for dismissing the situation you knew about for months and dropping the ball when you had every opportunity to lead and call the AFM members to action. Tell the membership your next steps for working on this issue, why it affects them, and how they can help fight it. And for God’s sake, quit fucking kissing that girl's ass and pretending you had anything to do with it. You’re better than that and everyone can see right through it.

Of course, my experience thus far is that neither you nor the AFM give a damn what I want or about anything that directly impacts my life. I dare you to prove me wrong.

Until then, I don’t give a damn what you have to say.

So… To Summarize it all:

Thank you, Taylor! You're awesome!

CD Baby and the American Federation of Musicians can go fuck themselves.

Oh…  And Apple Music debuted today. They can go fuck themselves, too.

All the best,


No comments:

Post a Comment