October 06, 2010

I don’t buy it

The commercial recordings of the World Pipe Band Championships are now being sold, and, as always, the performers don’t get a red pence for their work. Not a penny, dollar, punt, pound or centime for their efforts. pipes|drums has discussed the legalities of this at length, and brought the issue to the fore several years ago but, sadly, no progress has been made. Not a single word of explanation from either the RSPBA or the record company.

So, it’s time for individuals to stop buying the products and instead rip copies from a single source, and it’s time that the CD and DVD dealers stop purchasing from the record company and distributor. The reality is that every time we purchase these products we in effect take money out of the pockets of the artists who deserve – by law – their fair share. It’s simply not right.

It’s most remarkable to me that we all perpetuate the problem by turning a blind eye. Every off-season there’s some hue and cry from the bands that the practice ignores performers’ legal right to negotiate compensation, but as the days creep closer to the summer and the World’s itself the protests dwindle for fear of rocking a competition boat.

So I figure the only way to trigger change is not to purchase the products. If you’re desperate to hear these recordings, invest instead in software that will allow you to record the BBC’s streamed video so that you can play that original content again and again. (At least the BBC doesn’t charge anyone for the content.) Or, if you buy a copy of the CD, upload the content to a music file sharing site for all to take freely.

Once and for all, let’s stop buying these for-profit products until a legal agreement is reached with the performers. Until then, we’re just adding to the problem.


  1. Andrew, I support your non-conformism. This year’s “package” – comprised of three CD’s and two DVD’s – costs the bulky cypher of EIGHTY QUID [okay, more accurately “only” £79.25 according to RSPBA’s website]. This figure will rocket even more if they are to ship it to my home in South America. So I’d rather sit back and spend said dough on forty pints of heavy and wait for the link with the rip or torrent… Only hoping you’ll eventually post it here!



  2. Having a soft copy of the performances will allow the consumer to customize the playback order; IIRC this year’s release will have the bands in order of performance, or something like that. Instead they could be playlisted by placing, or however one likes.

    In any case, this is one of those issues in the pipe band world that may never get solved – like composers getting royalties, or the World’s being held someplace other than Scotland, or the World’s qualifier, etc. etc. etc.

  3. I fear if we don’t purchase the CD’s/DVD’s legally, that the BBC will stop spending the time and money to record them. I think that the artist should get a cut of the profits! But, really, how much profit is there in such a small niche market. I would think that the exposure that the bands get might be worth a least a little?

  4. While I don’t condone the illegal piracy of BBC audio or video steams, I am amazed that this situation is allowed to happen year after year. Please also be aware that it’s KRL (Klub Records Ltd), who license/release/sell the recordings to retailers, not the BBC. A more positive action would be consultation with the copyright bodies in the RSPBA’s own country, in this case the Performing Rights Society, (PRS) and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society. If the composer is not with a publisher, then through MCPS they are eligible for 100% of royalties. I have, long ago now, had several records released that achieved only 4 figure sales, but, through MCPS, I always received a 4 figure payment on mechanical copyrights alone, never mind additional points on album sales, etc. The law is clear, and it’s on the side of the composer.

    It’s not just the sales from CDs/iTunes, etc, any time your tune is played on the BBC, you should receive a royalties payment, incuding any repeat fees of performances, television or radio. I know, I worked in the BBC for 20 years, and for the 9 years preceding that I worked in the music business and dealt with this on a daily basis. To those that know me, I am happy to provide more details. Another thing most pipers and drummers don’t consider is joining the Musician’s Union. Outside of piping, everyone I know that’s involved in music is in the MU, but I only know 1 piper who is a member and I don’t know of any drummers that are, (excluding the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards). I can’t think of any other area of music that this non-payment regularly occurs in. It’s crazy.

  5. It will arouse a storm, but this is my view: The bands playing at the World’s are comparable to athletes competing at the Olympics, not artists with copyrights. There iis this obvious difference with artists doing concerts.

    Again, when an association provides the arena and a great audience and makes a perfect recording possible, why shouldn’t they get the outcome of it as well? The Olympic Committee doesn’t pay the competitors for the film records made at the games, as far as I know. At least I hope they don’t.

  6. After this, I expect pipes | drums, as the world’s largest online piping and drumming community, to practise what is preached and take a leading role in the emancipation of the music from this evil overlord RSPBA/KRL conglomerate, and to procure one of these pirated sources and allow its readers (all of them, not just subscribers, because that would be capitalist and exclusionary) to download it for free. What better medium is there than this website? So what if you’re sued and shut down? What greater fate than to be martyred in the name of your art?
    I, on behalf of your readership, expect to see actions being taken toward this end immediately. Until its fruition, we’re just adding to the problem.

    I’m being facetious. Stop being such communists and hippies and just buy the damned things.

  7. There is something to be said for compensating the company that puts out the equipment and technology to capture and distribute the perfomances. I don’t begrudge them for taking the opportunity to turn a profit. I also think finding an equitable way to divide royalties amongst the bands on the final cut could get a little dicey. Even split? OR..Proportional to final placing?…oh wait a minute…how about legitimate prize money subsidized by the record company! That would be a real capitalist way of doing things! Like $30,000 for the first place band…and so on. It would then become the BBC World Pipe Band Chamipionships. The rights to the performances would be theirs, and in turn there would be real $ on the line. Everyone would be satisfied. Don’t expect it anytime soon. It’s too good of an idea and makes perfect sense….. You heard it here first.

  8. Davey Armstrong hits the nail squarely on the head.

    First, consider the amount. How many CDs are sold, how many bands are on the CDs? Divide the royalty revenue up among the bands. If you’ve ever had a commercial CD on the market that pays royalties, you’ll know that it is really not worth making a stink about. It’s a piddly sum, especially when there are lots of performers involved, and bands do much better to appreciate the exposure than to fight for money and risk scuttling the whole thing.

    As for composers — if you’re a composer, one of the bests ways to have your tune make it big (well, as big as it gets in the piping world) is to have it appear on the World’s CD. I’ve had a couple of tunes of World’s CDs. They immediately went from “obscure” to “mainstream repertoire” and have been played ever since. I have no complaints about the World’s CDs, either as a performer or a composer.

    The approach bands and composers take right now and have taken for years may not be “right” but it makes perfect sense to me.

  9. Jim, if it’s a piddly sum, then why wouldn’t the RSPBA and the record company simply show an audited statement of sales to the bands? There may be nothing worth bothering about, but who knows until they demonstrate that? It’s the silence that’s deafening, and we all know that saying nothing leads to suspicion. The composers’ rights aren’t the issue here (notwithstanding that inaccurate credits on the products are a tradition). It’s the performers’ rights and the law. Why not communicate the sales and profits to bands, and then establish an equitable agreement? Seems simple to me. After all, this isn’t a greedy profit-driven corporation we’re talking about. It’s a member-sustained association. Why not report to the members?

  10. I agree, Andrew. It is the law and following the law is not optional – unless a person or group wants to face the consequences. People and groups, of course, choose to break the law all the time – and we have a name for them. Funny that on the same page as this note is an article on the Red Hot Chilli Piper’s quest for entry on UK’s Top 40. Just sayin.

    The World’s thing, too, is not just about mechanical and peformance licensing and royalty payments for sound recordings. There’s also a video now produced and sync-ed licensing is much higher – to say nothing of television broadcast fees.

    Broken laws notwithstanding [oooh, sounds lawyerish!], should all licenses, fees, permissions, etc be managed to the letter of the law, it is not a small sum of money at play here. I guess that is the price – a big one – we all pay to have our tunes played in “mainstream repertoire” (what is that?!). A bit sad, really. Michael Grey

  11. By virtue of the fact that it is a compeitions run by the RSPBA – could the RSPBA not simply make it a requirement that bands provide a release of recording rights to the RSPBA…. isn’t that inherently done by the fact that a band pays to perform?

    This may be ignorant on my part, but it seems a bit short sighted to me to assume that the RSPBA would not simply re-coup the lost money by charging higher fees to bands, spectators and patrons – which in turn will do more harm to the “community” than good?

  12. Quote by A.B………” It’s a member-sustained association, Why not report to the members”

    I almost spit out my coffee when I read that line……
    The RSPBA is the least democratic organisation I have ever come across in my life.
    They make many a Junta look like a liberal club……
    They no more answer to the membership than fly in the air.
    Take MAP….. The vast majority of grade 4 bands did not want it but it was imposed against their wishes.
    The royalties issue will take the same route, whatever the Association decide is best for the association will be wrought in tablets of stone at an anonymous meeting of an even more anonymous sub committee. Anyone who rocks the boat will be ostracised.
    The fact they appear to be operation illegally regarding this issue will not be a factor in decision making

  13. Look, we’re not exactly Madonna or Bon Jovi material here folks. This is not what I would call mainstream music business material. No one is going to become a multi-milionaire off of this. The only people buying the WPBC records are US….yes US. We’re lucky that the BBC/Klub Records take an interest in doing this for us, albeit for some profit, as I seriously doubt that anyone else would venture to do so. From a business point of view, it would make no sense to record and sell the WPBC. Additionally, you’ll notice that it is BBC Scotland, not ITV, or PBS, or NBC, or ABC, or CBC or who ever else you wish to list here that is making these recordings…and as a cultural service more that anything esle.
    You want to make money off of recordings? Switch instruments….seriously….. become the next pop sensation aka Lady Gaga or something like that.
    If you like the GHB and the music associated with it, well, you’ll just have to tolerate the status quo regarding these recordings and other minor issues, legal or otherwise.
    Sorry about that now….

  14. “Tolerate the status quo” and other comments implying “it is what it is” are indicative of the greater problem…And the problem is a general apathy and ignorance to capitalist models that drive and promote progress. The reason there isn’t a larger worldwide appeal and attraction to the idiom is the fault of the participants and administrators amongst the idiom itself. The belief that well enough is good enough is pathetic. It’s a defeatist attitude. There are opportunities for increased revenue and broader popular appeal. Who would’ve thunk it would be broadcasted live on the internet just 5 or 10 years ago!? I think it is a generational thing. My guess is that attitudes about this issue generally fall along lines of age. The younger set likely has more vision to expand the appeal and potential revenue base, holding the established governing body’s feet to the flames. Demand change, be willing to take appropriate measures to exact appropriate consequences and you just might move the world. But will we do anything about it? I’m sure SFU will come up with the $75,000 or so it takes to send the band over again next year. They will spend another $25-50,000 having a good old time in and around Glasgow. They might win the thing and be the reason several thousand people pay $80 to get the DVD Cd combo, and they won’t get anything except a slap on the back and a stomach ache wondering how they are going to come up with the cash to come back next year. Victory=Power in this game. It is up to the leadership of top bands to drive change, either with boycotts or by spending political capital to enact change; change to improve and expand opportunites for the next generation.

  15. It has to be said that there aer a lot of very valid points being made for both arguments.

    But the reality is that bands aren’t in a position to scratch the surface of receiving monies to compensate the financial costs of all aspects of making the worlds trip, no matter where they are travelling from. But then is the point that there is someone making money off of the whole deal the real issue here??

    Someone mentioned that this is a fairly unsolvable problem, which I think, in financial terms, is likely to be the case. However, I thought of one possibility (although I’m not sure how in reality this would work), and that is that each member of band who is featured as a bandman ON THE RECORDING is somehow given a reduction (say 50%) off the price of either a CD or DVD copy of the record their band feature on.
    This way, the people selling the products are still making all the money on the purchase of a CD/DVD and IF someone on the recording wants a copy of what they have done they can, but have subsidised the costs of the manhours and equipment it takes to produce the recordings, but also been rewarded for their own efforts.

    While its a wild stab at making the situation fair and is arguably not realistic, could something along these lines be adopted?

    Another point I agree with is that it would take prominent bands at the top of G1 to act for any change to be made to any aspect of the the comp day. However, at the same time it surely isn’t fair for them to be the ones to decide it is their place to be the band that does that…..my list of the top few bands, while being similar to quite a few other people, will contradict someone’s at some point. Hence, it would have to include all G1 bands involved getting together to decide if subjects such as recording royalties are something they are fussed about or not, and what if anything can/should be done about it.

  16. I would love to see the bands be able to get something out of this………..oh wait, they do. SFU sells out Worlds concerts, and in turn sells T-shirts and pre-order cd’s. Free advertisement that pierces the new comers ear drums, and tells them 78th is a great band, buy some of their cd’s. While I’m pretty sure that the royalties, once split amongst 18 bands (including the one that finishes last in the qualifier) would hardly be enough to by the band a fish supper after “The Day”, you would hope that the RSPBA maybe fight for a bit more of the money, so they could in turn, offer a much better prize than they currently do to the WORLD CHAMPIONS! With all of this being said, doesn’t the entry form state that you maybe recorded while competing or tuning or walking about? And that by signing this form, you allow them to do with it, what they want? I know small games that do that, and no one blinks an eye. So if you all are so onto helping Terry, Chris, Don, Richard and all the likes be paid for their efforts than do something big. Don’t go, don’t sign, or maybe, go out after you heard their two tracks on a well recorded World’s cd, and purchase something from these bands. They have websites, go support them, or their causes (FMM/Breast cancer). Until then sit back and fume over how the majority of the paying public would rather drop some coin on the pipes and drums of Scotland cd, and how that grade 4 band got paid “more money” in royalties than Scottish Power. Would love to hear from Mr. Livingstone on the bands live in Ireland and get a ballpark figure of what the band has been able to make on that cd over the last 23 years? Might help everyone get a better understanding of what we are fighting for.

  17. I think the reason to do the right thing is, well, because it’s the right thing. The agreement is universal that performers and composers should get their due. What is not known or understood is what that might be for these Worlds CDs. We are aware of all the spin-off benefits of either being on a Worlds CD, or having your tunes appear there, but no one seems to have any real numbers about sales receipts, except the RSPBA. As the “union” working for pipe bands in the UK, you have to hope that they are always putting the bands’ interests foremost, and not simply “empire building” for the Association, or getting better gear for the HQ. The sales figures should be simple enough to supply, as well as a tally sheet for the whole production, etc. That would be the easiest way to resolve people’s questions about what is gained/lost in the current arrangement, and what might be done to tighten things up in the future.

  18. I had this all broken down, and it was just too complicated to put down here. Basically, KLR is charging 5 pould less than the RSPBA, and HMV is selling for 2 pound less than KLR. Either way, figuring out a 50:30:20 split on possible profits has each of the 14 bands making maybe bringing in a pound and change on each cd. And while this might add up eventually (they don’t exactly fly off of the shelves like Usher does), it might be worth looking into KRL, and the RSPBA, allowing the individual bands to be rewarded with royalties from itunes downloads. These typically for a $1.29 download, can net about .32 a track in royalties. Bands could then promote this on there websites, with a direct link, and sit back and be properly paid. The better bands making the better money, and so on. Now that I think of it. This is a damn good idea! Hey KRL, can the Grade 1’s have itunes profits?

  19. “At least the BBC doesn’t charge anyone for the content” – Actually the BBC charge a licence fee to those of us who live in the UK. So I’m paying for Americans, Canadians, Australians etc to see the Worlds for free. Perhaps I’ll climb on my high horse too.

  20. If you get up on the horse Chris, you might notice from that perspective that it’s only the “Worlds” because the non-UK bands are paying dearly, year after year, to be there. We are dropping a lot of cash into the Scottish economy on an annual basis, and of course that doesn’t count the airfares, so consider that as our “licence fee.” The annual cost of a colour TV licence is £145.50 in the UK. Most non-UK folks spend that in a few days of food, beer, tickets and trinkets in Glasgow. I don’t really think there are any high horses here, I just think fair’s fair, and hard facts are always better than dismissive reassurances.

  21. I see the issue in principle, but not in practice. i doubt they make much money from it, and what they do probably goes to defraying the costs of running the event. if you had to get eveyone’s consent then the recordings would probably not happen. Surely there is something in the contest rules which says bands waive their performers rights? Compensation to the composers is a more serious issue in my opinion – they don’t necessarily consent to their tunes being played at the World’s, much less being distributed royalty-free on Wolrd’s CDs. But as Jim said, thems the breaks and more often than not the exposure is good for the composer. if they are really upset, they could always get an injunction…

  22. The situation is not clear, so why not reach out for a compromise, dear RSPBA? Sell your World’s cd rights to the highest offering Scottish sponsor. RSPBA gets their money, the sponsor gets excellent up to date music for their world wide and local publicity lead spots on TV and radio networks and, in turn pay every band their rights where there is living composer work involved. There comes a bit of work with it, but it could result in a lot of business as well. It could also make headlines like: Company X pays record sum for Y band music … The praise goes to the RSPBA that successfully organizes Scotland’s greates annual event… Band Y invited to play in – Chile?



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