Tuesday, 3 July 2012

a fifth of beethoven

The music-royalties clearinghouse of Germany has managed a hearty and hale business since 1902, monopolizing the regulation of performance-rights and artists’ entitlements for music played to German audience. Of course, GEMA (die Gesellschaft fรผr musikalische Auffรผhrungs- und mechanische Vervielfรคltigungsrechte—the Society for Musical Performance and Mechanical Reproduction) has evolved with the entertainment industry and is a take-down force to be reckoned with. Since the apparent failure of ACTA and similar treaties that the group championed, it has however turned to more traditional staples of the listening tax and now has expanded its reach over discotheques, having made arrangements to levy anywhere from a ten to six-hundred percent fee for music played on the dance floor, with a non-negotiable tithe of ten percent on the door-charge.
Without question, musicians deserve credit and acknow-ledgement for their work, but following strict no smoking regulations that has hurt the business of bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes, these new demands of the studio-system seem like an all-out assault on the institution of the public-house. GEMA’s poor-mouthing probably does not translate directly to more income for performers, though they argue that discos and disc-jockeys are making an absolute killing, nightly, at the expense of starving-artists. In order to make up for the new, higher royalty payments (unless venues choose to skirt the payments by having DJs mix clip-length sampler medleys only), clubs will have to charge higher entrance prices and more for drinks. These developments suggest a scavenging, shadow economy—no rewards for talent but rather for baited membership. Such cost and bother might be enough to bring back live-music and reinvention.