Most believe that the music business is about alienation.
They put themselves in that position.
It’s bad enough the RIAA is out to create criminals out of high school and college students with its downloading witch hunt.
(There has to be a Circle of Hell reserved for anyone connected with the inner workings of that organization.)
Why do newly released CD cost as much or more than most newly released DVDs?
(They wonder why record store clerks are lonelier than the Maytag repair man.)
The list goes on and on.
Then what about this other organization – the National Music Publishers Association? NMPA, for short.
Here’s what happened. I got a few e-mails on the NMPA’s threat to launch legal action on web sites that print song lyrics – as well as - get this - any search engine that links to them.
A few terrestrial and Internet radio stations I work with have links to these gray area lyric sites and wanted to know if I knew whether they’d be considered accessories to the crime.
In March, the NMPA filed suit against XM satellite radio for refusing to pay compensation for songs distributed through its digital download service.
They don't screw around.
What was the added value to Sgt. Pepper, one of the greatest albums of all time? It included the song lyrics, which made its listening experience even more memorable.
I frequent those sites to check new music lyrics – and occasionally those from an oldie or classic rock song. The video hadn’t come out yet – and I wanted to verify that Tori Amos referred to herself as a MILF on the track “Big Wheel” from her new album so I checked one of the lyric sites. She did.
How about that Bob Dylan? No other artist’s lyrics have been scrutinized more than his.
And few artists benefit from a better music publishing deal than Dylan has with SESAC.
Some years back, Bobby D. fell on hard times. He blew out his voice, recorded a few dreadful albums, and his lackluster concerts were drawing barely half a house.
Then Bob Dylan reinvented himself. He put together a new band, started writing better songs and instead of playing the irritable recluse, became affable and accessible.
First, he poked fun of himself and his career in the film, Masked and Anonymous and followed that with the Martin Scorsese biopic on PBS and DVD.
Who would've believed that Dylan would play DJ on a weekly satellite radio show? These days he’s back to playing full houses and his new albums aren’t just selling – they’re among the best of his career (even if, like Clarence “Frogman” Henry, he’s croaking the lyrics).
Part of Dylan’s reinvention was Internet driven. His handlers created a web site that, among other things, allow users to read the lyrics of every song he’s written. It also has the option to type in a lyric line to one of his songs to learn its title.
The set-up works well enough that I have to believe it moves a few Bob albums over the course of a month.
So it made little sense that the NMPA would launch an attack against sites that contribute to promoting music until you read the fine print.
Digging a bit deeper one learns that the NMPA is rolling-out what they call “official on-line lyric” sites through RealNetworks, Rhapsody, and Yahoo through deals with licensed lyric aggregators Gracenote and Lyricfind. The NMPA identified MONEY in Internet lyric sites.
Stations with links to those lyric sites? Sorry. They'll have to go.
We don’t know, yet, how well these new sites work but, all things considered, they should be an upgrade from the preponderance of lyric sites whose byproduct is a never-ending number of vexing pop-ups.
So, take note. Here’s a rare case where the music business could actually be doing its customers a favor. That is, unless oned looks up the lyrics to the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps.”
Just ask Alanis.