An Argentine indie speaks out
Laura Tesoriero, chief executive, EPSA Music
My parents started the record label Epsa Music 43 years ago. The firm began by manufacturing tapes and later produced CDs. We worked with local artists that were not major commercial successes, but were culturally worth recording. We promoted them locally and sometimes even globally.
I have enjoyed making a living as a music producer, looking for talent, promoting the voices and instruments of people of my country. I have been privileged to be at least partially responsible for enabling some talented artists to be heard widely.
When we started the record business many years ago, many artists' only option for selling their recordings was to do so at their live shows.
These musicians had the raw talent; the music, the poetry, the rhythmic cadenza. Yet they did not have the means to make their creations available for a wide audience to enjoy. That is why they needed businesses such as mine to help them.
Copyright has been the basis of creative businesses over the years, in developing as well as highly developed countries. Creative minds and spirits are not what we lack in the developing world. We have shown that with our investment underpinned by copyright artists can reach huge audiences around the world, enabling us to contribute towards cultural diversity.
That is why we stand to lose a lot culturally and economically, when copyright is not respected and creators are not remunerated. You see it nowadays in my country, where some artists that used to forge a livelihood from their music now have to work at non-artistic jobs.
The artist will still be an artist, but will have to do it in his spare time. He will produce much less, and won't have the time to refine his craft. One artist I know is the most incredible singer-songwriter, but he has to work full-time as a plasterer and compose only on weekends.
The industry's current difficulties make it hard for producers to provide the same level of support to these artists as in the past. Even though few artists can sell enough records nowadays to make a living from royalties, having their records produced and distributed allows them to become known and be able to make money from live shows.
If record producers lose their businesses, we risk having not only the top-selling successful artists disappear, but also the smaller more niche performers, the ones I represent.
I find this very dangerous.
There are thousands of record labels of all sizes all over the world. What do they do? Scout, record, produce, master professionally, promote and sell music. Without this process working, much will be lost.
Times have changed a lot and promotion today is also done by the artists themselves on social networks. As producers we too take advantage of these tools. Yet they are not sufficient alone. We are hearing a lot of different voices on the Internet, but not necessarily high-quality professional music. The cacophony online can confuse consumers and they need help in selecting the music they will find valuable. That is what producers can provide.
I can tell you that when I produce my artists, I make sure they have the best sound they can get by providing the best technical and human resources available.
The challenges our industry is facing are well known, and I don't want to repeat what you have heard many times, but piracy is our biggest challenge. Piracy has ALWAYS been here but the Internet has worsened the situation exponentially.
The recording industry wie digital world of all France's cultural industries.
It is not only the damage caused by direct downloaders with internet access, but also by users who download music and then sell it in physical form. As a result, our physical sales have shrunk dramatically-and our online business has not yet been able to take off.
In my record company, we employed 25 people seven years ago, now there are only 15 of us. As an industry, we are continuing to invest in artists, but it has become harder and harder to recoup our investment in the marketing of recordings, advances to artists and tour support.
I would like to share my own experience. In 2006, I thought people in my country were not "buying" music digitally because they didn't have the chance. So I started my own website "zapmusica.com". I had more than 300,000 tracks, including music from the four major labels and 1,400 independents from around the world.
After three years I had to close it. Why? People were going to the site, looking for what was new, and then going to a peer-to-peer service to download it for free. I had five people working for me - uploading new releases, building playlists - who I had to let go. I think the failure of this site had two causes: first, the commercial approach - nowadays, I would choose a subscription service rather than a-la-carte downloads. Second, the main problem was the lack of protection from ISPs. Even with the second largest ISP broadband supplier in Argentina as my partner, I could not make them understand the need for some type of protection for the content.
My conclusion is that we need to be able to sit with the ISPs around the world and make them understand that they can and should put in place mechanisms to help protect copyright content. We have to work out in each region what the solution should be, whether technical measures, issuing warnings to people who use illegal sites that they should stop or face consequences, or other creative solutions.
I also think it is important for public education to be broader in reach on these issues. As a society we bear responsibility for offering good educational programmes at an early enough age to teach the value of copyright. Our challenge is to educate children, to encourage them to be part of the generation of creative content and to teach them to respect copyright.
At the same time, we need a good legal framework, including strong rights for creators and meaningful enforcement of those rights-both in the traditional physical world and the new online environment that is rapidly gaining traction everywhere.
Only then can we be sure that investment in artists such as the ones I work with will be able to continue.