Jean Michel Jarre is both musician and president of the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies (CISAC), and as such, has a view or two on digital music and its impact on artists and songwriters.
He took to the Midem stage this afternoon for a session titled “Fair Share for Creators” to share some of those views, in an interview conducted by Music Week’s Rhian Jones.
So what’s a fair share for creators about? “Thinking about it, it was the wrong title. I should have said ‘How to create a fair business model for creators’,” he said.
“It’s very difficult for an artist to evaluate the value of his child, his baby, of his creation… Artists are very good and strong at writing protest songs, but when it comes to protesting about the value of their art, they are quite vulnerable, and particularly facing the internet… We are victims of a system that has not even been thought in the function of the content they are making so much money on. This is why this idea of fair remuneration is important.”
Jarre argued that a business model needs to be created by artists sitting round a table with partners from the technology world. “Stopping thinking that the big actors of the internet are our enemies. These people who created Google, Facebook and all these great tools. They are music lovers, they are film lovers. They love artists,” he said.
“They are somehow closer to music and film and arts than a lot of politicians are. These guys were geeks 15 or 20 years ago dreaming about creating something extraordinary, and they did it, without realising the collateral damages they were creating, by exciting this kind of constant greed for free content.”
Jarre also talked about defining the way to “pay respect to creators”, while suggesting that the music industry should be talking about why “intellectual property is one of the main elements of our democracy, it’s part of our human rights – our basic human rights! No country can develop its identity without painting, without film, without literature…”
He talked about the next Harry Potter not existing if “we are not taking care of our intellectual property… we need to sit around these people making billions with our content, and say ‘Guys, you love us, we are not hating you, we need to sit together and find a decent business model‘.”
“If you think that digital is the future, we are in dire straits for the future, so we need again to define a fair remuneration in the digital world,” he added, before talking about how impressed he has been by how American musicians, filmmakers and composers are “watching Europe, watching us and are really aware of their future, and promoting the idea that we have created: the importance of authors’ rights, the importance of copyright, and that we should sit sooner or later with Google, with Facebook, all of these companies, and say ‘don’t forget, the smart part of the smartphone is us.”
Jarre even described “a form of intellectual racism… a kind of contemptuous attitude towards the music scene in France… they think that music is something minor” (compared to literature and film).
“We should really say to Brussels, that our fight and our battle about intellectual property is not defending the rights of rich artists sat on their pot of gold. It’s something far beyond this. It’s questioning the future of creation, the future of our identity, whoever we are…. I know so many kids who are dreaming of becoming musicians, and they can’t, because nobody will pay for their work.”
He concluded: “We are much stronger than we think… We should tell Google, Facebook ‘be careful guys, because 10 years from now you may become the next Myspace. We need you, but you need us. We were existing before electricity, and we will exist after internet.”
Someone from YouTube asked the first question from the audience, noting that YouTube struggles to find “who to pay” for music usage – does Jarre have any answers to licensing complexities. “Today we have to accept that everything on the internet will be free for the consumer. It’s done. And it’s not a bad thing, as long as we create an economy with the actors of the internet. And then we’ll join all the consumers saying ‘that’s great, good news, we can have access to everything in the world!’,” he said.
“We should agree with this, as long as the people making billions from giving this free access are sharing the take with us… we need a part of that business, and we deserve it. We are part of that. And it’s the reason why I think we made a big mistake on focusing on the consumers, and pointing out the consumers [for piracy]… That is history, that’s the past. How can we cope with the new challenges? The answer is again to think about business partnerships, and this is not begging ‘can we have a few percent of this or that?’.”
Jarre criticised France’s Hadopi anti-piracy law, which laid down punishments for persistent filesharers. “We should focus on the people making money, not on the people consuming.”
He finished: “The music industry has lost its voice. Think about the 60s, what the music industry was, all these protest songs and all these rebel attitudes. We should find this… we are the rebels, and we don’t want to leave this coolness element to manufacturers of cables and telephones. It’s crazy. This is why this situation with YouTube and all this should change. We should go straight to the people in charge of YouTube making billions on our back. This has to change.”