Tuesday, October 30, 2007

But Peter Grant never beat Robert Scoble to a bloody pulp, and Lars Ulrich never tried to take on Peter Grant

So here's what happened to Robert Scoble yesterday:

IP Democracy has a headline that says “Web Video is Neither Cheap Nor Easy.”...

Oh, really?

Check this out. It’s so easy I did it while on the freeway. And so cheap it cost me nothing.

My video was in response to a lunch I had with a producer....I noticed that her crew was very expensive: an audio guy, a video guy, talent, a producer, and really expensive cameras which make my cell phone look totally lame.

After watching the video, I wrote a lot of stuff (again, cheap). In response to a Scoble comment about videotaping rap concerts with cell phones, I commented:

Videotaping and audio recording pre-dates rap concerts, and gets into all sorts of copyright issues that date well before Metallica. Ignoring the fact that the media companies may not treat the artists fairly, does such taping infringe on the artist’s rights?

Because I was writing my response on my cell phone, I did not have access to my full wonderful research facilities (external memory, if you will). Specifically, the story of Peter Grant:

Some Led Zeppelin fans might know him best from the famous scene in "The Song Remains The Same" where he is blasting at someone for allowing bootleg photos/posters to be sold at Madison Square Garden. He detested bootlegs and always took the extra initiative to get rid of them. In Vancouver (1971) he smashed scientist's sound-level monitoring equipment, thinking it was recording equipment. According to a newspaper article the next day, the scientists "escaped with assorted bruises but the equipment fared less happily, with doubts whether the expensive machine can ever be repaired. There were no noise measurements made, either! At last word, police were looking for Led Zeppelin's manager for questioning about the incident." Hmm... there isn't a tape of that show is there? I guess anyone else taping it would have been scared senseless!

Why did Grant go to such extreme levels? Primarily to protect his artists.

Peter Grant, the manager of Led Zeppelin, perhaps the most successful rock band of all time, was a towering personality whose dedication to Zeppelin helped make them Seventies superstars. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were Zeppelin's front men; behind the scenes Peter Grant was their fearless protector. It was Grant who arranged their deal with Atlantic Records in 1968, then hailed as one of the biggest in industry history. He never interfered with their music, but was a "hands-on" manager who travelled the world with his charges to ensure their financial and physical well-being....

[H]e was regarded as the most important and influential rock group manager since Brian Epstein. Grant changed attitudes within the music industry, so that attention was focused on the needs of the artists, often at the expense of the record companies, tour promoters and agents - who didn't always appreciate his methods. Grant had seen how early rock pioneers like Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry had been treated and was determined that Led Zeppelin would get their fair share of the profits. As a result, Led Zeppelin became extremely wealthy from the sales of millions of albums and concert tickets during their 12-year reign from 1968 to 1980.

Grant often literally went into battle for them, whenever they thought they were being ripped off. He had a particular aversion to album bootleggers, and was once seen out in the audience at a German Zeppelin concert, snatching the tapes from a bootlegger's machine and tearing them up. A policeman called to the scene, armed with a gun and an Alsatian dog, took one look at Grant's enormous bulk and threatening expression and walked away.

Now I'll grant that most bands don't have the benefit of having Peter Grant as a manager, which means that they have to look out for themselves. Metallica had to do their own dirty work when they thought they were being ripped off, and the memory remains of how people responded to that "uncool" act. Witness:

Looking at Metallica now, it's hard to believe they were once really cool.

This written by someone with an AOL e-mail account. But I digress:

Making music that sucks is one thing: viciously biting the hand that feeds you is worse - a business move which brings to mind Metallica's ode to suicide, Fade to Back. When Metallica recorded I Disappear for the Mission: Impossible 2 film soundtrack, outraged members discovered six different versions of the unfinished, derivative song available via Napster (makers of Internet file-sharing software which drastically eases MP3 files transfer). They hired lawyer Howard King, and filed for copyright violations....

Would-be cyber titans making IPO gold from trading pop catalogs is not the same as fans wanting to share digitized versions of Enter Sandman. Yet, in their self-destructive vendetta, Metallica has gone after fans. On May 3rd, 2000, drummer Lars Ulrich, personally hand-delivered to Napster a list of over 300 000 Napster users who allegedly traded Metallica MP3 files (another 300 000 names were delivered on May 18th, 2000). Dropped from Napster's service due to supposed copyright violation (having Metallica's tracks on their computers), 30 000 inconvenienced fans disputed charges and were reinstated, or signed on under another name.

The vast majority of fans already owned the songs via the original albums, or downloaded them out of curiosity. Assuming any serious portion of the 300 000 had cheated Metallica out of any money is pretty silly. Considering their immense wealth, Metallica is hardly a sympathetic victim of alleged thievery.

During an online chat session with rapidly dwindling fans, Lars urged Congress to stop MP3-swapping services like Napster "before this whole Internet thing runs amok." This comment reveals a bigger agenda: the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) attempts to suppress anything it views as competition, frightened that MP3 makes them music food chain deadweight.

Certainly the RIAA themselves are going after people, but what about the artists themselves?

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Bobby said...

Peter Grant, along with brilliantly managing the career of the greatest rock band in history, Led Zeppelin, single handedly (with the leverage that came from calling the shots for the biggest band to ever roam the earth) revolutionized the pay structure equation in favor of the artists, rather than managers, promoters, record company personnel, ect. Every prosperous musician in the world, without exception, owes a major debt to Peter Grant. Many artists know it, but most do not, because Grant has yet to receive the widespread recognition and credit that he surely deserves. This man is without a doubt, the most important manager in music history, second to none, Epstein included. He actually forced a record company, promoters, and various leaches that typically surround successful musicians, to take an unprecedented drastically smaller percentage of his bands earnings. The lions share of the money, for the first time in music history thanks to Peter Grant, went to the artists. His personality and his 'product' combined to make him powerful enough to effect this startling sea change in the industry,ie. 10% of Led Zeppelin was more than 90% of anyone else, so that's what Grant offered, take it or leave it, and they took it. The doors were knocked down thanks to Grant and Led Zeppelin, giving the artists the upper hand and making many filthy rich.