Thursday, March 2, 2017

An undiscussed category of orphan works: obscure dance tracks on major labels

Major labels are sitting on so many dubs, instrumentals, edits and remixes from the '80s and '90s, yet you only ever see the same extended vocal mixes on every dance music compilation; you never see the other tracks from the original singles, none of the tracks sought-after by DJs and collectors.

Well, there's a reason for that. Songwriter, producer and DJ Piet Blank explained to a fan in mid-2016 that for the Blank & Jones Present So80s compilations, he and his partner have been having a lot of trouble licensing the specific mixes they want because the niche market for those obscure tracks would not offset the cost of locating the associated contracts and inputting the relevant info into a database.

[screenshot of fan comment & Piet Blank's response on the superdeluxeedition blog]

The companies sometimes also have trouble locating master tapes or determining the current publishers for the underlying song.

In other words, the major record companies, the ones who are swimming in money, didn't bother to keep their house in order, so it is actually cheaper for them now to deny licenses for anything that's not readily available and accounted for in their system. Licensing rare, niche-market songs to people like Blank & Jones results in a loss (or just not a sizable enough profit) for the copyright owners, so they won't let anyone have them.

What pushes this over the line of reason is that it is also not profitable for the companies to do their own reissues of this material, so they just keep the music locked up forever.

The industry has thus created a new class of orphan works—orphaned not necessarily because all the copyright owners can't be found, but primarily virtue of the copyright owners' self-created mess that results in only the most profitable works being worth licensing. It's madness. How does this benefit anyone?

And still, these companies complain that they are losing money to music bloggers and file-sharers who, without permission, release these rare tracks. How is it ever costing them money? By their own admission, thanks to their greed and copyright law, there is no market for the bloggers to encroach upon. It makes zero sense.