I have been
fortunate enough to spend over 40 years doing something that I
love - making music. Along with my band, Jethro Tull, I have released
over 30 albums in the course of the last four decades and sold
over 60 million records. Today, I still play around 100 concerts
a year and continue to push the boundaries of progressive contemporary
music in the recording studio.
You may be
relieved to know that while the sartorial excesses of tights and
codpiece have long been disposed of in charity auctions or forgotten
in some bottom drawer of my farmhouse home in Southwest England,
what remains is a lifelong commitment to music as a profession.
I feel much too young to hang up my hat, or my flute. And I expect
I can find the codpiece on E-bay, if I really need it...
I am horrified that, along with countless other great artists
and bands of the '60s and '70s, Jethro Tull's earliest recordings
will progressively fall out of copyright in the foreseeable future
under current UK legislation. The band's first album, "This Was"
(1968), is due to fall out of copyright in just 12 years' time.
From this date onwards, every year will see more and more of Tull's
records slipping into the commercial quagmire of the public domain
along with the all the other great works of British pop and rock
music. Sir Cliff Richard's first recordings start to come out
of copyright protection in just over two years' time. The Beatles
loss of Royalty income not only to the (perhaps well-off, perhaps
quite poor) performers on the records but, more importantly from
the industry perspective, the loss of income to the record companies
and, ultimately, to the UK exchequer.
are protected for 95 years in the U.S. Many other countries such
as Australia, $ingapore and Brazil protect recordings for 70 years,
while India provides 60 years' protection. EU countries, including
the UK, protect our recordings for just 50 years. In other words,
our recordings enjoy much more protection abroad than they do
back home. You would have to be "Thick as a Brick", to quote the
title our 1972 album, not to realise that this situation puts
European performers and producers at a competitive disadvantage.
high-risk business and most recordings never turn a profit. Revenues
from those few, precious hits have to be ploughed back in to discovering
and developing new talent. As Katie Melua, a young artist who
lives and breathes music, remarked: "I know that my record company
had to take risks to invest in an unknown like me. Thankfully,
my music quickly connected with audiences, so this risk is paying
off. I am very aware that I owe my lucky break to revenues from
recordings by many of the more established artists I admire."
typically use a substantial proportion of their income from successful
recordings of the past to develop brilliant, new performers like
Katie Melua, and that is something worth singing about. A longer
term of copyright protection would promote this kind of investment.
recordings are protected for
95 years in the U.S. Many other
countries such as Australia, $ingapore
and Brazil protect recordings for
70 years, while India provides
60 years' protection."
As a songwriter,
vocalist and musician, it also seems completely anomalous to me
that my compositions are protected for my lifetime plus 70 years,
while my performances will fall out of copyright after just 50
years from the date of the original recording. I put just as much
heart and soul into my performances as I do into my compositions
and lyrics. So why should my song writing be valued so much higher
than my creative efforts as a singer and flute player?
I would go
even further to express the personal view that such copyright
is as real to me as Real Estate. If I can own the freehold, and
thus the investment, in my home property, why can't the value
of the investment in my recordings be a longer-term or even indefinite
heritable, saleable right? I would have better protection as the
bricks-and-mortar builder of my house than a "builder" of recorded
possibly argue that the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album is worth
less than the slab-sided freehold concrete-box semi down the Viaduct
Road? After all, both probably cost less than £100,000 to build,
even in today's money. Which would you rather see stand forever
as a living testimony to the best of the '60s? Which would you
rather protect in terms of its long-term asset value?
I am always
delighted to see that new fans are still discovering Jethro Tull
every day. While some will discover Tull via their parents' record
collections, others will now be able to find our music for themselves
via legal online services. The Internet provides an amazing opportunity
to market earlier recordings that may no longer be available in
record stores with limited and expensive shelf space. All of this
potential for lateral expansion in sales of recordings from the
Sixties onwards will be lost, if these recordings are allowed
to fall out of copyright just at the time when the "replacement"
sales of digital downloads might be beginning to compensate for
the downturn in sales of conventional, physical product.
The UK has,
arguably, produced close to half of the world's output of the
most artistically and financially valuable recordings since the
earliest days of 78 rpm and vinyl records. The loss of this huge
cultural and financial asset to the UK Revenue and the copyright
owners is surely to be lamented. Gordon Brown would like to see
us all fly the flag. Time to fly the flag for our great British
recorded music heritage! The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling
Stones - side by side with the forgotten one-hit wonders from
the story of British Pop, Rock, Classical, Folk and Jazz music
- will soon be traded for a mere pittance in the public domain
with not a penny going, via the record companies, to invest in
the future of British music and to nurture the artists of tomorrow.
with Jethro Tull will know that our line-up has changed many times
over the years, as various band members left to follow their own
paths. I am now really concerned that very soon the many musicians
who contributed to the success of our and others' recordings over
the years will no longer be entitled to any income from their
performances. This is a real problem for the less-fortunate band-members
and session musicians who still rely on royalties from previous
records to help make a living. For some, such monies account for
all, or nearly all, of their current income. Why should we perhaps
have to see these musicians struggle in old age without heat for
their homes or the wherewithal to pay their nursing home bills
while their American counterparts are taken care of for life by
ongoing royalty income?
Union is now looking at its copyright legislation to see if they
need to be updated to the digital age. As just one of thousands
of UK performers, I would hope that the UK Government will push
for term of protection to be to be at the very least put on a
par with the highest international standards. After all, equal
talent deserves equal term.
opportunities for tomorrow's young musicians.
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