IMRO ho-ho

Update: Cast of Cheers and MIA Sparrow have pulled out of an IMRO gig at The Academy tonight.

There is a Facebook group set up if you support the bands.

By now you’ve probably all read about the ongoing IMRO vs Irish music bloggers debacle – if you haven’t, check out Nialler9 and On The Record for the low-down on the showdown.

I’ve left my own comments on both of these – hugely comprehensive – blog posts, along with most of the blogging fraternity in Ireland, so I won’t repeat too much of what I’ve said. The latest news though is that Nialler9, Darragh and Shane are meeting with IMRO next week, and I am seriously hoping that IMRO are willing to engage with them openly and honestly – because in a way the three guys are representing all Irish music bloggers in that meeting. Eh, no pressure then. But seriously, they all run popular blogs and are all representative of different styles of blogging, which I think is a great thing.

Sadly, it seems that the idea that music blogging is different for every blogger and blog has bypassed some people. Although it may feel like an invention that has always been part of our lives, the internet is in actuality a rather new phenomenon, and so the ‘rules and regulations’ of blogging in particular are not yet set in stone. In one way this is great – it shows how the internet opens up the world of communication to different people who want to communicate in different and often disparate ways.

The great thing about blogging is that you can do whatever the hell you want with it, and go as far as you want with it.  Myself and Niall are both huge music nerds and we both express our love of music differently through our very different blogs. I’m over the moon if 100 people visit mine a day; there’s no question that 1000s visit his. Yet we both co-exist happily in the Irish music blogging scene.

Blogs benefit both their owners and their readers – people have gotten book and film deals from blogging; legends like Roger Ebert have found a new voice – literally – through blogging; and bands have gained fans, record deals and gigs thanks to being promoted on blogs.

As I’ve tried to illustrate here, every blog is different – yet reading an article like this one in Hotpress could make some readers think that many bloggers make quite a decent amount of money, and perhaps are being a bit petulant in going up against IMRO in their calls for bloggers to pay fees to host music. While both sides of this debate are represented in this article, it still left a sour taste in my mouth. I’ll leave it up to you readers to decide what you think about it, but for me it says a lot that the final three paragraphs, of negative opinions about music bloggers, are ascribed to an unnamed musician: (I’ve taken the liberty of putting some choice comments in bold)

Comments another IMRO songwriter member: “Look, it isn’t exactly a popular thing to say, but the fact is that bloggers are part of the real economy. In lots of cases they’re looking for and accepting payment for advertising. And to generate the traffic which attracts advertising they’re indiscriminately using other people’s music – often international music and often by big name artists.

“I’m all for people being able to waive any royalties they might be due, if they want to. I might do it myself. But that’s different from someone deciding they’ll take whatever music they want, and do whatever they feel like with it with no permission from anybody.

“People take a simplistic view of things because it suits their own commercial agenda,” he adds. “If bloggers are allowed to indiscriminately use music free, then radio stations will be next, saying, ‘Why should we pay?’ There’s far too much at stake in the world of copyright to allow the vested interests of a few bloggers – not to mention a few hairdressers or publicans – to dictate.”

Bloggers, part of the ‘real economy’? If this person means that bloggers help some bands sell more records and get a few more heads at their gigs, then yes, they are contributing to the economy. But how many music bloggers really make a huge amount of money – or money that isn’t immediately eaten up by their server fees?

As for the intimation that all bloggers routinely take music without permission and post it on their blogs? Of course there are plenty of blogs out there worldwide that illegally take albums and offer them for downoad – and I am sure there may be some Irish blogs that do that too. But the main blogs in Ireland, and any that I am aware of myself, do not do that. They either host songs that were given to them by labels or bands (even a small blog like this gets offered songs every day of the week) or songs that were linked by other websites.

If we’re talking about Irish bands and Irish music here, then I am angered that an Irish musician could think that blogs do anything but promote Irish music. I take umbrage at the fact this – nameless, of course – person could suggest that bloggers take music, use it as they please, and then refuse to acknowledge or reward the band in some sense.

Let’s get things straight – any bloggers who have commented on this IMRO situation do not resent the fact that bands or musicians own their own music and should be able to protect their copyright. None of us want to leave bands out of pocket or mis-use their music. And guess what? The bands that are featured on the top Irish music blogs are generally not big-name bands that make a lot of money. In turn, many of us run our blogs on our own time, make no money from them, and are offered music by these bands who know that by giving the music to us, they may reach a bigger audience (no matter how humble the blog). If I thought that by putting a song by Squarehead (and yes, I do have a song by him that I have ready to put up here) on this blog then I could make him a few quid, I would gladly pay it. But from what I can see, I have no guarantee that if I pay €175 to IMRO this year that any of this money will go directly to him.

This situation needs to be clarified, and fast. Because many of us are confused about these fees and are at a loss as to how a blanket fee could be applied to blogs of different sizes, who offer different music and have differing levels of readership. There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to this. The only thing that is clear is that there are many musicians out there who are happy to use blogs to promote their music, and many bloggers who are happy to promote these bands. Neither wants to pull a fast one on the other.

But right now we’re in murky waters: we need someone to take the oars and sail us in the right direction, and fast.

What do YOU think about this situation?

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18 thoughts on “IMRO ho-ho

  1. Music blogs benefit music lovers. They don’t really benefit radio stations and the print media and therefore this stance from IMRO! I’m sure it is the intention of IMRO to destroy the network of music blogs in Ireland as it’s in direct competition to the hierachy and glitterati of the Irish music scene. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever buy Hot Press again.

  2. Thanks for the comment Peter!
    It’s sad that it’s creating a gulf between music bloggers and some musicians – I would have thought we all act in each others’ interests…and I am so disappointed in Hotpress’s standpoint. Yes, the article does represent all viewpoints but that final anonymous person takes the biscuit. They clearly have no idea why people blog about music or what ‘benefits’ we get from it!!

  3. This has gotten serious pretty fast. Good luck to Nialler9, Daragh and Shane next week.
    IMRO really are hurting the development of homegrown Irish music with all this crap. As a member of a band trying to go places I really appreciate what bloggers are doing for the Irish music scene and hope this situation can be resolved.
    Fair play to The Cast of Cheers for making a stand and pulling out of the IMRO showcase gig tomorrow.

  4. It’s really saying something that Cast of Cheers have pulled out of that gig, isn’t it? I think that it shows that bands who are members of IMRO should really have been consulted about this. If IMRO acts on the behalf of musicians, shouldn’t they really have consulted them? It makes so much sense and would have set them straight on a lot of issues.

  5. Fantastic post Aoife, I still can’t believe that Hot Press used that quote from an “IMRO member” who would not even leave their name…

  6. Might Imro and faux liberal hotpress stop bemoaning the evolution of their respective industries and get to grips with the new economy? Does anyone vaguely remember the left of centre anti establishment HP of our youth? While they’re engaged in such a righteous market economy debate on blogs can either side give us a brief low down on Imro’s ad spend per annum in hotpress or how much staff might receive appearing at imro organised industry seminars and the like? Does the pharase implict collusion spring to mind for anyone else?

  7. Great post
    Delighted Cast of Cheers pulled out, i’ll shake Kev from the band’s hand next time i see him

    The article from Hotpress is a disgrace, anyone reading that article would think us bloggers make thousands on it and use songs with no permission.

    Both statements couldnt be further from the truth

    For the first time in 8 years, my google ads might actually cover my hosting costs. A very profitable venture so it is

  8. Thanks for posting this. I personally don’t like the idea of squeezing every last cent out of every possible avenue for the sake of keeping up the appearance that the nature of copyright hasn’t changed. It has changed *hugely* on a cultural level. Sure, I don’t want some company using my music in an ad campaign to sell SUVs, but I do want my music shared as many times as is possible by fans and journalists and anyone else. I love seeing art bringing together communities and friends. If those people go on to send me a donation, all the better! Art is about people to me. Having people read about your work, or hear it on a blog is an honour, not a point of monetary gain. At least it shouldn’t be.

  9. I noticed exactly the same things in the article. The line about Niall’s site having “taken on a distinctly commercial hue in recent months” was clearly intended to stir the pot. I have been a massive critic of Hot Press for a long time, particularly its “distinctly commercial hue,” but I’ve never seen them sink that low.

    I have lots of thoughts on this which I have elaborated on Niall’s blog and elsewhere, but I really should gather them all in an article like this. I have a lot of experience with the equivalent agency of IMRO in the United States (ASCAP), and let’s just say some aspects of IMRO’s argument don’t appear to stack up.

    Al: “Does anyone vaguely remember the left of centre anti establishment HP of our youth?”

    Oh, they’re still left of centre. Just in that middle class liberal sort of way that pesters the local council to clean up street art and move on kids in hoodies in case it brings down the value of their houses!

  10. An absolutely ridiculous situation that could so easily have been avoided by entering the simple art of negotiation, but many large organisations of this nature rarely rely on such intellectually profound concepts.

    Interestingly, most larger bands I have worked with tend to have a clause in their recording contracts relating to promotional content not being charged or accounted for royalties, etc…
    Now obviously most smaller artists would not have such a charter, but it might be advantageous to draw up and agreement between a band as a company and a band as an artist.
    While I have yet to see a contract that deals with digital promotional files, it might be something for artists to look at as it would potentially supersede any agreement with IMRO; especially as a contract would technically be between the artist and content owner.

  11. I’m pretty sure that if IMRO had advertised a seminar for the discussion of Licence Fees for Music Blogs prior to implementing anything, close to no IMRO members would have shown up to voice an opinion.

    I guess that one positive thing to come from all of this is that it seems to have stimulated enough interest in the issue now that IMRO members will become more active in the decision making process by voicing their opinions and concerns, not just online but also, as has been seen, by taking direct actions like boycotting IMRO gigs, which is as impressive as it is unprecedented (there’s far from enough political conviction in Irish independent music IMHO).

    Here’s hoping IMRO listen.

    As for HotPress…. don’t even get me started. Irrelevant. Journalism.

  12. I do agree that this has been good to make musicians more aware of their relationship with IMRO and what it can do for them. It’s really important for musicians to protect their music, that we can all agree on, but they need to be informed about what agencies are doing this on their behalf.
    Similarily, it’s good for IMRO to realise that they can’t just send out emails to people about something new they’re doing on behalf of their members without actually consulting their members.

  13. that first comment from peter is quite ridiculous. of course imro aren’t out to destroy blogs. they have jumped the gun on this of course but imro aren’t anti music. sure look at the CMP they sponsor, the showcase, their tent at oxegen which accomodates new bands that mcd would probably never put on. i knw someone in a band that says that the marketing manager/director in imro had a hand in putting their band on in showcases overseas. this was just a bad decision by prob a minority involved with this license and i think these anti imro facebook pages are a bit much and some comments on the blogs are completely taking away from the original point. Also, if there wasn’t an imro showcase to pull out of tonight, what would cast of cheers have done?? probably feck all…
    and imro doesn’t consult with its’ members before licensing new stations/other sites so why should members expect it to consult them before licensing blogs. a bad step imo since its members are exposed to blogs and by blogs than any other medium in the country, but still, they don’t need anyones permission. maybe this was started by some of its members wondering where their royalties were for being played on nialler9s blog. im sure some of their members want payment for that.
    i hope the meeting on wed/thurs goes well. hopefully something that suits both bloggers and imro can be arranged.

  14. Gar on other posts I’ve writtin I’ve made it clear I’m talking about Mp3 blogs as opposed to music blogs in general. I didnt make that clear here.

    However one of the main consequences of this action from IMRO is that it is taking a very good natured agreement between musicians, fans and bloggers and putting a business model onto it. I sense from acts who make no money from their art and are supported by music bloggers are disgusted that the ‘help’ music bloggers give for free is now being taxed.

  15. In Protest Over The Proposed Imro Blogging Fee Mia Sparrow have decided to Join The Cast of Cheers along with Enemies at Bar Ritz in Castlebar Tomorrow Night May 2nd For A Friendly and Peaceful Protest over the Imro Situation.
    Please Do come Along and Support Artists in Your Area, Thank You, All the Best, Finbar Hoban.

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