'Sir Cliff cost us copyright battle' - Motown boss

Plain talking

Oh, I think nearly everyone gets that. If New Labour wanted to invade somebody and decided to use a Billy Bragg song as the PR theme, everyone would understand how Billy might have an objection to that.

Yeah, exactly! It's really important that right exists.

There are two problems. One is because of the way the industry is viewed, it's seen as dragging everybody back. But I think the industry is trying to get to grips with it. There's no simple way to do it.

Why are people not bashing the DVD industry over BluRay?

I think as soon as they can afford it, and realise there are two standards, they will start bashing them.

But compared to the complexity of licensing in the music industry. that's a really simple thing. With the history of the music industry it's going to take years to work it out.

The indies seem to get along fine without DRM, why can't the Big Four?

People have got to establish what they mean by DRM. DRM is an umbrella term for encoding in the background to monitor and sometimes protect music. The protection side is what everybody complains about. But everybody, the indies included, is going to need some kind of DRM unless they don't care about paying their performers.

So you mean some kind of non-intrusive watermark?

Absolutely.

The fact is, in terms of non-protected MP3s there's a couple of issues. The major labels, if you've got a big catalog, there might even be an argument they have a fiduciary duty to give their performers some kind of protection. Indies are smaller, more flexible, and it's much easier for them to move and make that change.

The major's first reaction when MP3 came along was "let's close it down", and that then caused a huge public backlash against the record industry.

But I don't know if the answer is necessarily to say OK, we're giving it away for free.

But you're equating a DRM-free sale with giving it away for free...

No, no. I don't say that is - but that's the driving force argument against protection. The argument is "music is free therefore people won't pay for music".

I think people will pay for music, I don't know technical protection is the way to do it. I can understand why the independents are moving to unprotected MP3s, it makes a lot of sense, but I can see why the majors haven't yet.

Once you've done that you can't roll back from it very easily.

In your view would physical sales go off a cliff if there was either a blanket digital license or unprotected downloads?

No, no. People will pay for music if it's in a format they want, and it's easy and simple and they like the price. People don't have a problem paying for music - online, offline, or wherever they want it.

I don't think the CD's dead - for another 10 years anyway.

At one time I was a strong advocate of putting music on SD cards, because it's a new format - I still am. I just don't think they're moving along with it.

The memory makers keep changing their formats every five minutes, though.

It's an obvious successor to the CD.

And triggered by the dance music there's a move away from MP3, not just MP3 people but compressed music in general, because it doesn't sound good. They're trying to get uncompressed music to download. But that's got bandwidth issues. We're not there yet.

It's like people going back to vinyl because they prefer the sound. They go back to CDs because they sound better than MP3s, they're not compressed to hell.

So you're pushing for a more equitable royalty share?

I can understand from a performer's point of view that they seem to be right at the bottom of the new industries, and they should get a hell of a lot more. However you slice it, the performer is getting too little. ®

Bootnote Ted Carroll's numbers add up like this: Of the top 100 BB King albums on Amazon.com, 61 originated from companies that produce out-of-copyright recordings, 39 came from Ace or Universal. The average price per track for the out-of-copyright CDs was 52p per track; for Ace Records' BB King reissues, it was 32p per track. Says Carroll: "It's crapola. They sound like shit and the public isn't getting a deal."

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