Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ben Bradshaw's Number10 "FACT"s

Two weeks ago, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw took part in a webchat on

Put simply, it was a farce. The questions were so soft you could use them to swaddle babies. The one strong, serious question posed, got a response filled with unproven claims and appeals to emotion. Not a single hard fact.

David Roberts:
If I wanted to share my record, film collection with a group of like minded people for a non profit motive. What is the problem ? So now you have to regulate what people can and can not let others share because Mandelson has been on holiday with some Media Execs. Please set your time machine for the 21st Century as you obviously in the wrong century.

Ben replies:
David, maybe if you'd written or produced the song or made the film and were unable to create any value as a result of your efforts you might feel differently about it. British musicians lost £180million last year because of illegal file sharing. You are right that the industries need to find new and novel ways of charging for on-line content, but we can't go on doing nothing to defend our creative individuals and businesses that make such an important contribution to our culture and economy.
Ben makes several errors here. First, there's no proof, or even basic evidence that British musicians lost £180, let alone £180million. The figure comes from the IFPI's 2009 Digital Music report. You know the IFPI, that wonderfully unbiased source of data on the music industry, that wouldn't stoop to ENRON-esque accounting procedures to make it's member companies look even better. The one claiming losses and poverty despite sales being UP (the same claims they made 20 years earlier about home taping, that strangely didn't come true.

If I open a business, and make a forecast of sales of say £10,000 for the first year, and instead make only £5,000, have I lost £5,000? Has it been stolen? No, I made an incorrect prediction, which didn't match with reality. That is the basis of these loss figures – it's derived by subtracting what they actually made, from what they think they should make.

Secondly, that they 'make such an important contribution to our culture and economy.'. The big 4 music companies comprise roughly 70-80% of the market (depending on where you get your stats). Only one of those 4 is British, the smallest, EMI. Nielson has their 2005 share at 9.55%, while the IFPI gives it at 13.4%. Even assuming all the independent labels were UK based (18.13% Nielson, 28.4% IFPI) thats only 26.7% (nielson) or 41.8% (IFPI) of the economy these companies have enriched the UK with, staying in the UK. Economy is like a wheel – It may only have a limited circumference (just as there's a limited amount of money) but the more it goes around, the further it goes. Taking money out of the economy, sending it to foreign countries, doesn't really help. Also, is culture contributed to, when it's under such draconian, long term restrictions? Maybe the esteemed culture secretary should ask Edwyn Collins his opinion.

This leads on to the third point. Usually artists CAN'T 'create any value', because they have to sign those over to the middleman companies. That was the 'traditional' way. Even now, most bricks+mortar stores won't deal with anyone not with a label, with any creator that's attempting to create any value themselves.

Perhaps Mr Bradshaw would do better at his job, if he actually sought out the facts, rather than relying on industry lobbyists to provide him with FACTs. When the various industry groups can't even get close on figures for the same thing, some serious doubts should be raised about the quality of ALL of their data.

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