Sunday, September 17, 2006

From The Mailbag...

Anya writes:
Ok, so here's the thing - there is this video on YouTube:

Jewish Hip Hop Strikes Again

--shot in Jerusalem, guy in Yeshiva rapping about consciousness and whatnot - I want to know what people think? Do people buy frum guys in the hip hop world or do they just chalk it up to a Matisyahu wannabe? Kind of a social experiment. Can you help me out, perhaps post on your blog or send it around to others?
Dave Kerner writes:
Hi, this is David, from I hope all is well with you. I see my good friend and band-mate Zal has weighed in on the 'roots of Jewish rock'.

This email is to mention two events that JCRC is cosponsoring - the Jewszapalooza concert this Sunday at Riverside Park - - and the National Solidarity Rally for Israel on Wed., Sept 20, 12 noon at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (47th and 2nd Avenue) .

Blue Fringe is scheduled to perform at Wednesday's rally.

If you'd like to let your readers know, that would be great.
Mordy writes:
i don't know if this interests you, but i'm trying to start a Fight Club style debate about the 10 best jewish albums ever. it's up on my personal blog:
A reader writes:
Rental schmental. Wald put out a CD?
Ron Benvinisti writes:
The "creativity" of our monopolistic Jewish Music distributors never ceases to amaze me. It is invariably confined to the domain of their wallets and bank accounts. It's unfortunate and probably tragic, by this and other dubious practices, that the artist's creativity and inspiration suffers. I don't think for a minute that they are trying to protect the artists (I have heard too many stories from the artist's perspective about how contracts and commitments are honored). This is a great example of the creative rationalizations some in our community come up with to usurp the rights and finances of others. I, for one, am glad to see that many of the really "creative" ones eventually wind up behind bars. To me, this is a World Class manifestation of Chilul Hashem, that is most likely indicative of a massive ice formation just below.

Next time I buy a CD from one these outfits, I will leave the following with the cashier:

I, __________ am purchasing this CD under the conditions that the distributor make publicly available any and all records pertaining to production and sales including amounts and percentages paid to subcontractors, artists and other personnel (including relatives, friends and charitable organizations) as well as copies of the contractual agreements regarding them.

If said documentation is not provided within 10 days of this purchase, as per the Federal Office of Information Act then the entire cost of this purchase will be refunded in cash to the purchaser within 30 days of the original purchase.

(If someone wants to do the official looking Hebrew "psak" version, Kol HaKavod")
E. writes
There's a very simple solution to this whole business.

Tell the Jewish entertainers to quit kranking out albums that only have one or two songs even worth listening to, much less paying for with 8 to 12 additional tracks that are just there to fill space. Tell them to forego that unnecessary expense, and release singles or EP's or whatever you want to call them that only have 1 or 2 tracks on them. Perhaps then people will pay for the one or two songs that you have them shelling out the entire $17.50 for in the first place.

Another point of many: It is silly to assume that many "hundreds of thousands" of dollars are being lost by people transferring multuiple song files who ordinarily would never be able to afford the many albums from which they derived in the first place.
"An Anonymous Jewish Music Insider" writes:
I told a few people about this rental thing in Shul on Shabbos and they laughed at me. They thought I was making a joke. This is not the right way to deal with it. They right way to deal with it is to educate people that stealing is wrong. We have to respect the laws of this country and the law says you are NOT ALLOWED to burn a copy for someone who has not paid the artists/producer for it. People have to be reminded that this is the law and the truth is that the copyright holder does indeed have the power to take people who copy to court just like the RIAA did and still is doing today.

The answer is NOT going to come through playing silly word games. A person who is going to copy is going to copy whether its a "rental" or a "sale", this isn't going to change anything it is only insulting to the consumers of Jewish Music.

The industry must impress upon people that sales numbers are much lower than the public might assume and if 10 kids in 20 Yeshiva's copy the newest (insert artists here) CD, that is a loss of 200 unsold CD's. Maybe people think the artists are all rich and they can take the financial hit. I can tell you that isn't true. But let's just for a moment pretend it is true. What you may not realize is that there are other people who rely on these CD's to sell in order to make a Parnasah. There are composers, arrangers, mixers, individual musicians who provide the music, adult choir members. The Judaica stores and sales people who stock the stores. The companies which duplicate the CD's, the men who deliver them to the stores, the graphic artists that designs the CD's, the printers who print the CD booklets and posters that are hung. The Jewish newspapers which rely on advertising dollars from the artists/producers of these CD's and so on and so on and so on.

Every copy which is made unlawfully hurts every single person involved in this process and although one person by himself with his friend may not think they are impacting the big picture. Just remember there might be 100 more people like you who are thinking the same exact thing. It all adds up in the end. I would just hope that people would try use some common sense when it comes to this matter and do the right thing.
David writes:
As long as you brought up the concept of "Dina D'malchusa", let me point out that according to the New York State law, children under 14 years old must wear helmets while riding bicycles or skating (

I cannot comprehend the number of kids from observant families I see zipping around on their bikes, without helmets. Aside from the statistics that clearly indicate that if their kids are wearing helmets they're much safer in the event of an accident, its the law. And let's not forget that you can't enjoy Jewish music unless you have a functioning brain.
Finally, the music industry insider whose email we posted in our last post responds with a few points:
1) it is not a scheme or silly it is an attempts to do what ever is necessary to save this industry. all the other warnings didn't work. i agree it is a shame but what shall we do?

2) its not aimed at the sellers they are beyond help its aimed the people buying trying to tell them in any way possible that it is wrong.

3) when people steal from u u dont worry about being condescending or insulting u do whatever u can to save your self yes it is a desperate situation

4) its not fake it was composed by experts on halacha in conjunction with leading poskim it takes away the supposed heter from those people who rely on rabonim who feel that if one buys it it is theirs and they dont care about dina demalchusa

5) it is with daas it is on the outside cover
We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. We obviously have very different perspectives on this.

I’m convinced of the following:

1) Insulting all music buyers because some act inappropriately is counterproductive.
2) This scheme makes the entire JM industry look bad.
3) This is not halachikly or legally binding. The note on the outside cover is meaningless, even if you can assume that the buyer read and understood it.
4) This approach will not accomplish anything.

I do agree that there's a problem and I think that education is a part of the solution. But, that education needs to be based on mainstream law and halacha, not a “chap”. Do you really think that “all poskim” (who apparently can’t agree on anything else) will agree that this “rental” has halachik validity?

The other part of the solution has to involve the industry adapting to the reality of downloading by making individual tracks available from a reliable source at a reasonable price. I suggest signing with iTunes.

One final point. Those taking the lead on educating the public about “intellectual property rights” need to have clean hands. For example, if artists with a history of borrowing other musicians songs without permission or attribution, or a record label with a history of dishonest business practices become the public face of the industry on this issue, people will respond cynically.

I think it would be helpful if the industry would support a PR campaign to increase public awareness of the damage done by illegal copying/downloading, but this isn’t the way to do it.