The waa-waa’s and the woe-is-we’s continue on for the music business. Waa waa, everyone is stealing content, woe woe woe, no one wants to go to live shows, waa woe WE want everything to be like it WAS. This must be the slowest business wake-up ever. The corporate music giants and litigation-happy RIAA for the most part want to do anything and everything they can to shoehorn the industry back into the box where, because of emerging technology, lack of insight, and greed, it rotted to begin with.

Under the guise of “artist support,” we now have the merge monopoly of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, who now control access to almost every major concert venue in America. Ever try to get good concert seats? Think it was bad before? GOOD LUCK NOW. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: when people feel ripped off and like there is NOTHING they can do to get a reasonable deal, they will STOP patronizing a business. Most people aren’t so passionate about live concerts that they will put up with this nonsense from Ticketbastard Plus; after a few failed tries at getting good seats and paying almost as much in processing fees as for the already-expensive tickets, they will decide, meh, not worth it, staying home and watching TV. Live music sells albums and broadens and bonds audiences. Screwing over fans does not. And keep this in mind: these companies control access to the venues. If you are an artist and you want to play somewhere besides a tiny club or a bar mitzvah, you have to deal with these people and go by their rules. With any luck the Department of Justice will actually use our existing antitrust laws to stop this shit for once.

Another example of stunning music biz fail is some major record labels disallowing embedding of their artists’ videos from YouTube. If you are unfamiliar, this means that you may (for now) watch the video on YouTube (if it is posted and authorized by the company) but you may not copy the code to share the video elsewhere with others, like I often do here on the ol’ DI. Why, you ask? Why wouldn’t a record company want to take full advantage of FREE AND POTENTIALLY UNLIMITED WORLDWIDE MARKETING for their artists? HMM? Oh, you will love this: because the record company gets paid some incredibly meager amount from licensed video streams, and gets paid nothing for the re-posting of videos on blogs and other music sites, etc. Nyah nyah nyah, is what this is. But it is a tremendously short-sighted money grab. Millions and millions of people go to YouTube FIRST to listen to music and to look into new bands. When you stop them from being able to embed the PROMOTIONAL videos to PROMOTE the music to others, providing you with more marketing muscle than any old-school A&R guys could ever have dreamed of, you are potentially stopping your artists from being seen and heard by MILLIONS more. You are shutting off BUYERS. It’s absolute insanity, coming from the accounting departments desperate to be able to show some control of revenue leak while their shiny office buildings burn.

The indie-pop-rock band OK Go has benefited big-time in the past from the power of viral videos. Their delightful, homemade and home-financed “Here It Goes Again” (the “treadmill” video, as it is known) caught fire on the internet (not real fire) and millions of people posted and reposted and emailed and watched the YouTube video, making it quite a deserved sensation and the Grammy winner for the Best Short Form Video in 2007. But their record company, the turd-laden EMI, has now banned video embedding from all artists under contract with them. OK Go is fighting back. Here is bandmember Damian Kulash’s explanation of the problem, complete with the embed code for their latest video, “This Too Shall Pass,” from Vimeo, a competitor to YouTube. Let’s see if it works.

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass from OK Go on Vimeo.

Hurray! Take that, stupid EMI! Technology writer and analyst Matt Rosoff agrees, although uses kinder language than I do. He also writes about Microsoft. He must bang his head on his desk every so often, I would imagine. Hang in there, Matt.

I cannot imagine Damian Kulash’s frustration in wanting to be able to promote his band’s music in the best ways possible and being tied to a contract which prevents him from doing so. The competition is so fierce and he well knows that every new album release has a very small window of time to be able to take off from the first push of notice on release day. It’s not a new story – artists have often felt very bitter about pouring their all into their work then having it go nowhere because of lack of interest/promotion from their record companies (see Graham Parker, “Mercury Poisoning”). When you sign with a major label, or one controlled by a major, unless you have the kickass contract lawyer of all time, you are just stuck with the terms. It’s the cost for wanting to play with the big boys, and the chances are very remote that it will pay off. I swear, I’d rather keep my day job and play music on my vacation time than deal with taking their advance money and feeling owned.

So, in summary, screw you EMI and Ticketbastard Plus. Thank you.