Never thought I’d say this…

…but I gained a lot of respect for Toby Keith when I read this snippet from a CMT interview:

Speaking of award shows, at the People’s Choice Awards, Keith Urban said something controversial during his acceptance speech: “I don’t even care if you guys download my music illegally. I really don’t care. …” You’re a head of a label. How does that strike you?

Maybe he don’t care. I care. But it’s his call. You have to be able to protect your copyright. The people you do have to protect in copyrights are the songwriters. So, you come to this town and you write. For 20 years, you work at Spaghetti Warehouse and you bus tables, and all of the sudden you’re 38 years old, and you’ve been here 18 years, and all the sudden you write a song and Keith Urban goes and records it. And it’s a smash. You get paid on that. If everybody downloads it for free, you don’t get paid on that. So all you become is unpaid. You’ve offered a treasure, a piece of history to the public and they’re using it to fill their dancehalls and fill their dance floors and listen to the music in their car. Put it on their iPods and all that. And if it is all for free, this guy is still at Spaghetti Warehouse. He gets nothing for it. Keith Urban gets paid. The guy at the bar that plays his music to pack the dance floor gets paid. So artists get paid because they go work and sell the T-shirts, but that songwriter won’t get paid. That’s the guy you have to protect.

I’ve heard people attempt to justify their illegal downloading of music for years by saying “the artist makes more off touring anyway,” but no one ever said anything about the fact that they were in effect taking food out of the mouths of the songwriters and their families. God knows I’ve had enough issues with Toby Keith’s post-“How Do You Like Me Now” attitude and music, but I will give credit where credit is due — and it’s due in a big, big way here. I’d hate to think Urban could be so ignorant about the business he’s in that he wouldn’t know that the music being paid for is one of the chief revenue sources, if not THE chief revenue source, for the songwriters. But either way that doesn’t speak well for him. If Keith Urban wrote all his own songs that’d be one thing, but of course he doesn’t. I know that two of his biggest hits, “Raining On Sunday” and “Making Memories Of Us,” were both penned by favorite Texas singer-songwriters — Radney Foster and Rodney Crowell, respectively. I know if I were either of those two gentlemen I’d be royally pissed off. It pisses me off anyway, actually. It’s bad enough that country radio sees little to nothing that doesn’t come out of Nashville worthy of playing, but here we have one of Nashville’s biggest stars saying in effect it’s all right to make it that much harder for the non-Nashville artists. Even if he doesn’t mean to, it’s almost like he’s saying, “I got mine, the rest of you can go pound sand.” I would love to know what folks like Crowell and Foster think of that.

(h/t The 9513)


2 Responses to “Never thought I’d say this…”

  1. southtexaspistolero Says:

    Bob S. (
    I think the songwriters need to update how they are getting paid to account for the new media — including ‘illegal’ downloading.

    This isn’t an issue of paying the songwriter, it is an issue of how the songwriter gets paid.
    Previously, it was very easy to keep track when a song was played over the airwaves or at a concert. Now days that is gone.

    Let’s see them change the model from “per play” to “X dollars up front and Y% of income derived”.

    It will be a very small Y but I think they need to stop whining. They are starting to sound like buggy whip makers complaining that the new fangled automobiles don’t need a buggy whip.
    January 25, 2010, 9:36:14 AM CST – Like – Reply – Edit – Moderate

    thepistolero (
    Let’s see them change the model from “per play” to “X dollars up front and Y% of income derived”.

    Perhaps the model does need to be changed, but until it is I think the writers have a legitimate complaint here. I can see the analogue with the media putting their content online for free, but the thing is, they choose to do that. I am not sure the same can be said of the songwriters whose songs Keith Urban says he doesn’t care if listeners get illegally.

    And it’s actually easier to track how many times a song is played now, at least on terrestrial radio. There’s a company called Broadcast Data Systems that electronically monitors the airwaves of (what I’m thinking is) hundreds of radio stations around the country; the radio airplay charts you see in Billboard magazine are based on BDS data.

    As far as “Y% of income derived” — what do you do when those illegal downloads eat into that? It may be small, but how much do you want to let go down that rabbit hole?
    January 25, 2010, 11:03:04 AM CST – Like – Reply – Edit – Moderate

    Jen (
    I’m sure if you asked those songwriters, not one of them would have anything negative to say about KU recording their songs. Except maybe, thank you, thank you, thank you.
    January 25, 2010, 12:49:26 PM CST – Like – Reply – Edit – Moderate

    thepistolero (
    not one of them would have anything negative to say about KU recording their songs.

    I never said they would have anything negative to say about Keith Urban recording their songs. I suggested, instead, they might have something negative to say about him not caring if the music is acquired illegally. There is a VERY BIG difference there. Thank you.
    January 25, 2010, 1:01:49 PM CST – Like – Reply – Edit – Moderate

    Bob S. (

    The income derived isn’t just from the single song. Heck, make it 0.003% of concert sales and/ CD sales.

    Ever wonder why big companies like Microsoft or others stop the cracked and hacked versions of their software?

    Because the advertising, the word of mouth, the free publicity exceeds the income lost and they know it.

    How many times have you heard someone’s song playing on an MP3 player and went out to buy the whole album, purchased the song for yourself?

    I think the song writers are being incredibly short sighted on the issue.

    The other fact is that after a product is sold, most people lose control over how it is used. Why should music be any different?

    I’m an amateur photographer, if I sold a picture for a certain amount of money and a certain amount of the proceeds of any future sales….then I really can’t complain when someone gives it away because that wasn’t in the terms of the contract.
    If I didn’t want it given away, I should have either not sold it or made certain of the contract terms.
    January 25, 2010, 2:04:45 PM CST – Like – Reply – Edit – Moderate

    Sabra (
    If I didn’t want it given away, I should have either not sold it or made certain of the contract terms.

    Generally speaking, though, it is part of the “contract” that you can’t do that. It’s called copyright. Posting songs on the internet without permission is publishng them, and a violation of copyright. You shouldn’t have to spell out that you would prefer people not break the law with your intellectual property. That’s disingenuous. (I should note here that the copyright notices on my crochet patterns I have posted on the internet all clearly spell out permissions granted–this is because they’re unusual to grant, not because I don’t want the typical protections of law.)

    To use your analogy of the photograph, you would certainly have no call to complain if someone gave away the actual photograph. I have two photographs which used to belong to my ex-husband, one of which was taken by a professional art photographer, for example. They were mine in the divorce settlement, and no infringement was made on the rights of either photographer. However, were the customer to make copies of said photograph and give them away, you certainly WOULD have cause for complaint, as doing so would eat into your profits, as each photograph would remove a potential customer.

    How many times have you heard someone’s song playing on an MP3 player and went out to buy the whole album, purchased the song for yourself?

    This is also not analogous. I actually went out and bought two albums–Pat Green’s Live at Billy Bob’s CD and Cross Canadian Ragweed’s Soul Gravy album–because of listening to them on Erik’s iTunes when I was with him. This is not the same, legally or morally, as it would have been to burn copies of those albums to blank discs and take them with me. There’s a difference between creating a new customer and removing one.

    Moreover, I think it’s wrongheaded in the extreme to classify “I wish people would stop stealing my property and depriving me of my livelihood” as whining. We’ve discussed elsewhere that when thieves steal your real property they are taking away the portion of your life you worked to earn those things. I don’t see why intellectual property should be treated with any less respect.
    January 25, 2010, 10:00:46 PM CST – Like – Reply – Edit – Moderate

    Bob S. (

    In the past the terms of the copy right arrangement made sense. There was no easy method of distribution, copying was difficult by comparison to today, etc.

    I realize that what I said was a little off and your points about copy right are valid but consider my words on context of all of what I’ve said.
    There will be some artists who have no problem with songs being downloaded and copied — that is what I meant. If you don’t want to sell your work to those folks, don’t.

    The model is stuck in old school mode and the songwriters are carping because they haven’t came up with an effective model to account for the new reality. It is whining about things instead of trying something different.

    The fact is that illegal copying of music exists, has always existed, but never on a scale like today.

    Also, the point about the song being played on an MP3 was about an illegally downloaded song(the example being like the illlegally cracked and hacked software), most people who hear a song they like will purchase it. Illegally downloaded song, in my opinion, act as ‘free’ advertising. Yes, it costs the songwriter some of the money (s)he would make but the returns are worth it.

    I’m not saying treat intectual property with any less respect but to deal with way things are today. Find a different way to value it that takes into consideration what will happen.
    January 26, 2010, 5:24:06 AM CST – Like – Reply – Edit – Moderate

    Thomas (
    The industry is different, it is nie to get paidl it’s nice to get recognized, but even in the old system things fell through the cracks. There’s a Blaze Foley tribute album out there I both helped select and arrange a song for a guitar picking buddy of mine to play on it. The producer tinkered with it a little bit, I didn’t even get a liner note, but I’m proud the song got critical accolades. Friend feels bad about me not getting credit, but it is what it is.

    Before I got sick of bars, I made most of my money on fixing cars and boats and electronics and machine work and and and so I could afford to write and play for free at times. I was just selective about who I’d write and play for free for and with.

    Performer end is no picnic in the Austin area. Clubs and honky Tonks have gone to multiple bands every night when possible to get a wider variety of patrons. 500 buck door for a 5 piece band if you don’t ahve to drive far to do the gig ain’t bad. Throw in 2 other 4 or 5 piece bands and you’re spending gas money to get there. I’d say that clubs and promoters are squeezing artists coffers as much as downloading and sharing of music.

    Steve James was one of my better guitar mentors, back when he lived on Huisache in San Antone, all those many years ago. He told me a rather profound thing that stayed with me for the rest of my life and also applies outside of the music business.

    If you think you want to play guitar, don’t.
    If you really think you want to play guitar, don’t, there’s a lot of downs and heartaches and waiting til 4am in cold parking lots to get paid.
    If you ABSOLUTELY MUST make a career in the art of music, maybe consider it, but remember that if you actually happen to make money is as much a matter of the whims of other people as any level of talent you develop.

    Wise words.

    Bet you didn’t know that one of my favorite guitarists of all times, Wes Montgomery, was discovered by a jazz label playing for essentially free drinks and a couple bucks at a Holiday Inn Lounge…

    there are a lot of Wes Montgomeries and Slaid Cleaves out there, but only some of them make a living at it.

    My favorite bass player, who used to play with Larry Butler and Currently plays with Bingham, Brigitte London, and a few others, says that he works jobs so he can afford to play, because he really likes playing. He sometimes drives to Houston from where he lives up near Omaha Texas to play a date for 50 or 80 bucks because playing music is fun.

    It’s a dicey thing, turning your loves into jobs. Are you in it for the money or the art or the adulation or some mix thereof.

    So what i’m saying is “write, play, do, be happy” and any money you make is gravy on top.
    February 8, 2010, 12:50:54 AM CST

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