Nearly 70 artists, including Christina Aguilera and Blink-182, lent their names to a full-page ad appearing in papers across the country Tuesday (July 11), paid for by a coalition supporting the rights of artists to determine how their music is distributed online.
"If a song means a lot to you, imagine what it means to us," the bold print reads. Near the bottom of the ad, under a list of artists involved with the campaign, the same words are followed with "That's why we believe that when our music is available online our rights should be respected."
Timed to coincide with Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the effect of digital distribution on music copyrights, the Artists Against Piracy ad ran in several major newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
The ad also praises rapper/producer Dr. Dre and hard-rockers Metallica for stepping to the forefront of the digital debate. Both argue that artists should have the right to choose whether to make their music available online, and both have sued Napster Inc., makers of popular MP3-trading software.
Artists who signed on to support the cause span several genres, including jazz musicians David Sanborn and Herbie Hancock; rapper DMX; country artists George Strait, Vince Gill and Garth Brooks; pop singers Tal Bachman, Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan; and rock groups Hanson, the Dandy Warhols, Bon Jovi and Vertical Horizon.
"The foundation of every industrial country is the preservation of property rights and it boils down to that," Bachman said earlier this year about the battle over Napster. "So I'm not really sure why intellectual property would be an exception."
Pros And Cons
Dandy Warhols guitarist Peter Holmstrom has said he feels strongly that artists should get their fair share from digital music but that he also sees download technology as a way artists can circumvent record companies who customarily reap the lion's share of profits.
"It totally pisses me off, because musicians get hardly any money from [Napster] at all," Holmstrom said. "I could make more money washing dishes at the moment. It's unfair. But it's unfair that the record company get 84 percent or whatever, so maybe this is the [equalizer]."
Artists Against Piracy was founded by 28-year-old Noah Stone, a Los Angeles singer/songwriter whose father, Ron Stone, heads the music management company Gold Mountain Entertainment (Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman, Ziggy Marley, as well as ad signers Hal Ketchum and Nanci Griffith).
Noah Stone said that when developing his own Internet music company, the Gold Mountain offshoot GMEmusic.com, he realized that free MP3 sites and MP3-trading software would make it difficult to sell MP3s without them winding up being traded for free, therefore undercutting his business.
"I felt that there was a real need for some sort of an artist group that would be able to represent the artists' interest in this battle," Noah Stone said. "I felt six months ago like I was Chicken Little running around saying the sky is falling, and no one is listening and today you had Sen. Orrin Hatch downloading a Creed song [at Tuesday's Senate hearing.] It's been a very surreal experience."
Larger Campaign To Follow
Noah Stone said the organization is planning a more extensive campaign and that Tuesday's full-page spread was intended to gather more musicians' support for Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich's efforts in the Senate. (Click here to read more about Ulrich's Senate appearance.) Stone said he hopes the organization, which receives support from the Recording Industry Association of America, the Walt Disney Company, myplay Inc. and Reciprocal, will grow to represent artists' rights in other issues, but for now the battle is digital.
"It's important that the artists' concerns are represented in this dialogue, but I don't think that we're really the ones that have to come up with the solutions," he said. "I'd like to think that we can help the proper solutions come about."
Ron Stone said future television ads will feature music videos fading to black, representing the death of musical artistry under the collapse of copyright law. He also said that while the AAP may seem like a Gold Mountain effort, the issue involves everyone in the music industry.
"We're all involved in this together," Stone, 56, said. "We're not saying, 'Don't give your stuff away on Napster.' We're saying, 'Don't give our stuff away.' It's about choice. ... We should not be compelled to be involved in a program that gives our music away for free."
A Napster spokesperson declined to comment on the ads.