At issue: the companyâs decision to not renew the old Myspaceâs deal with indie rights agency Merlin, telling labels that if their music was on its site, it must have been uploaded by users, so will require DMCA takedown notices to remove it.
âThere is an impression, a complacence and I would suggest an arrogance which is offensive, that you do deals with the majors, and the independent sector should be somehow grateful for the promotional value that these services will apparently bring to your artists and to you,â said Alison Wenham, president of trade body WIN, and chairman and CEO of AIM. âIf you follow that to its logical conclusion, all your activities would be promotional benefit.â
Hence new Myspace, which launched last week without licences in place with Merlin, the global rights licensing agency for independent labels. When asked, Myspace told journalists that it had decided not to renew its deal with Merlin, and that labels would have to send takedowns for any music left on the service, and allegedly uploaded by fans.
âItâs absolutely repugnant to the spirit of cooperation and the balancing of interests commercially that this should have been Myspaceâs response,â said Wenham.
âI am sick and tired of seeing services that come to market, do deals with majors because they have to, then come to independent labels and expect that we will expect secondary treatment, or promotional benefitâ¦ This has to come to an end, and it has to come to an end here and nowâ¦ Thereâs an argument to suggest we should be paid first, and paid more.â
More? Wenham suggested that indie labels are taking disproportionately more risks on bringing new artists to market than major labels.
âI do believe that new Myspace is owned 40% by the majors, and also Justin Timberlake has a small percentage. So is this the kind of treatment one would expect from companies who would go after Grooveshark in a heartbeat, but would not go after a company in which they own a 40% stake?â
Wenham talked about the way major labels have stepped up their piracy takedown notices âexponentiallyâ to Google in recent months, and pointed out that this is. âWhat we are seeing is that pirates, and those who would make a living out of music without paying for it are moving to what they would see as easy pickings,â she said.
âWe didnât want to be here at Midem and in this business to be paper merchants, to be takedown notice expertsâ¦ I see a rather pernicious sideways slide towards independent content, because they are beginning to do a better job of issuing takedown notices for major-label repertoire.â
Daniel Glass of Glassnote Records was also at the event, and was asked about his labelâs act Mumford & Sonsâ status as one of the most-played tracks on new Myspace. It seems theyâre unlicensed on the site too.
âI think itâs a sense of arrogance in this companyâ¦ Weâre just in shock over this,â he said. âMumford & Sons is on the top of my mind toâ¦ unfortunately the paperwork of the takedown, weâre going to have to start all that stuffâ¦ I will go to management and the artist, and weâll be discussing this by tomorrowâ¦ This is a bad one. This is a real bad one.â
Wenham talked approvingly of Spotify as a service that does have all the repertoire â indies and majors â and which licensed independents through Merlin from day one.
âOur market share on Spotify is over 15% and rising, so it works extremely well,â said Wenham. âWhen youâre honourable, when you do business honourably, you become successfulâ¦ You canât abuse copyrights using weak arguments like safe harbour and DMCA.â
Glass praised Deezer too. âIt is really doing it the right way, and slowly. It is setting a really nice tone,â he said. He also praised US satellite radio provider Sirius XM as a great partner for indies.
Beggars Group founder Martin Mills was at the press conference, although he had to duck out early âto meet Googleâ â an apology delivered with a chuckle, following his Midem speech yesterday. He did provide a statement in the joint AIM, A2IM, AIR and WIN press release that was given to journalists at the conference though:
âWe would expect a service that is selling itself on the discovery and promotion of new musical talent would understand the value of the music that independent labels release, and we would also expect that a service that is jointly owned by the major labels would respect our rights rather than hide behind the DMCA in exactly the same manner as pirates and companies like Grooveshark,â said Millsâ statement.
âIt appears that neither of these assumptions are true, and that the new owners of Myspace just see independent music as a free ride.â