Mag
Opinion
Making Online Music Services Less Taxing

Making Online Music Services Less Taxing

Words by

Published November 23, 2010

At the beginning of October there was an article in Fréttablaðið, a free Icelandic daily newspaper, on the subject of a surcharge on Internet connections, which had been proposed by the Icelandic copyright bureau STEF and a new association of performing artists called FHH. The idea behind the surcharge was to compensate for lost revenues from illegal downloading and streaming of artists’ music by collecting a fee from every internet connection in Iceland, which would be distributed among songwriters and copyright holders according to some metric. Taxing people to compensate for theft is not a new idea and an internet search for “tax” and “theft” will result in plenty of arguments that treat the concepts as interchangeable. In Iceland, a surcharge has been placed on the sale of everything from cassette recorders to blank CDs using much the same logic.
The resulting debate from the proposal of this tax has been very positive even if the idea itself is flawed. Few would disagree that artists, composers and other music professionals should be paid fairly for the sale and distribution of their music online.
However, a dangerous notion has taken hold when people discuss the music consumer in this equation. From stories about the music industry suing grandmothers for downloading Metallica albums on Napster to proposals like this tax that seem to punish the consumer and assume wrongdoing, the music fan is increasingly being treated as a mindless criminal who is incapable of behaving on the internet. This notion disregards the social aspect of musical culture and shifts attention away from the real failure here, which is the failure of the creative industries to provide the right services and adapt to the changes that the internet has brought to their business. Music fans want to pay fairly if they are able to do so, and they will participate in other ways that benefit the artists if they are enabled to do so. The internet is a new way of communication and has the potential to bring music makers and the people listening closer together. Taxing it to redistribute wealth according to pre-existing monopolies is the old way of thinking.
Charging a tax on internet connections is unfair first and foremost to people who use legal music services. It is also unfair to the other creative industries (such as the film industry and computer game industry) that are also affected by people downloading their intellectual property. We must find creative ways to solve this problem that do not involve taxing people or forcing them to act in a certain way on the internet. For example, I think that the recent proposal by the French government to subsidise music cards for younger music purchasers is an excellent idea. This is a government that previously pushed for the three-strike rule (whereby you lose your internet access if you break copyright law), so proving that progress can be made in the most unlikely corners.
We should concentrate on providing excellent legal music services that make the issue of piracy irrelevant. It’s worth mentioning (and considered by some in the music business as heresy) that elements of piracy are used to great advantage by artists at all levels of their careers. Music services can learn a lot about how to create the service side from defunct services like oink.cd. All that remains is how to make a sustainable business that gives music lovers what they want while being responsible to the artists and labels that provide the music. There are several Icelandic music services that are trying to do exactly that, such as gogoyoko.com, Tonlist.is and Grapewire.
We should also concentrate on educating people about the existence of these music services and especially those that pay artists fairly. We should encourage people to use these services when listening to music or buying it online. It will be good for Icelandic businesses, beneficial to Icelandic artists, and it will strengthen the development of creative culture in this country. People will act well on the Internet if they are given the opportunity to do so.
Alex MacNeil is the managing director of gogoyoko, a music service open all over the world that supports free streaming of all music on the site with a clever business model.   He also plays guitar in kimono.



Mag
Opinion
Reykjavík Forces Its Music Schools Into Bankruptcy

Reykjavík Forces Its Music Schools Into Bankruptcy

by

As you may have heard, Icelandic music teachers recently ended a five-week long strike. The music teachers’ strike was caused by a wage dispute. It was resolved when Icelandic authorities promised music teachers wages equal to those enjoyed by other teachers in Iceland. Now that these demands have been met—even if only to certain degree—we music teachers ought to be able to continue our work, educating Iceland’s future crop of musicians. But, are we? Not necessarily. For instance, my school, Söngskóli Sigurðar Demetz (“The Vocal Academy of Sigurður Demetz”), can now prepare students for the upcoming Christmas concerts. However, if

Mag
Opinion
Good Ol’ Traditions

Good Ol’ Traditions

by

One of last week’s loudest debates has to do with next year’s State Treasury budget, which Alþingi has been debating, as tradition has it, these last days before Christmas. Among the proposed changes in taxation is the lowering of VAT on electric appliances, and a corresponding raised VAT on food products. The What Since the proposal was first introduced, these two particular changes, seen as complimentary, have been disputed. The opposition’s reasoning seems obvious: food is an unavoidable expense, and expensive food will hit hardest those with already meager income. Electric appliances, however, remain a largely optional expense, and higher

Mag
Opinion
Spotify: The Market Sets The Price

Spotify: The Market Sets The Price

by

Recently, the independent news site Nútíminn, leader among independent news sites named Nútíminn, ran an Op-Ed by a terribly uninformed man who apparently believes he can run a record company without, it seems, having any sort of a business degree. In his screed, he insists that Supply and Demand break up, because their age old relationship no longer suits his specific needs. Furthermore, he seems to believe that record sales and online streaming are musicians’ sole source of revenue, and that free market capitalism should no longer require businesses to either adapt or perish. Should you be reading this, Haraldur Leví

Mag
Opinion
Iceland’s Economy Shrinks In Third Quarter

Iceland’s Economy Shrinks In Third Quarter

by

After years of growing at a respectable rate, the Icelandic economy seems to have stalled. According to the most recent measurements of Statistics Iceland the Icelandic, published on December 5, the Icelandic economy barely registered any growth over the first nine months of the year, and actually shrunk in the third quarter. These results stand in stark contrast to the extremely rosy projections of a couple of weeks ago, which promised a growth rate of 2.7% over the year. Analysts at the large banks were similarly projecting growth around 3% for the year. Now it seems more likely we will

Mag
Opinion
Be A Peaceful Infant Smiling In The Manger

Be A Peaceful Infant Smiling In The Manger

by

Feast of lights and love, the family days of Christmas; “what to dine and how to dress”— oh, don’t we all just thrill up on the quirky-looking sweaters and find it all so amusing? And don’t we, just this season, take the necessity of “having a good time” all too seriously concerning all the consumerism attached, as it is almost obligatory to accept February’s Visa bill without any grudge, the late-Christmas-hangover? At least, most of the time “doin’ what ya wanna cuz it’s Xmas” has been, in my context, stepping just a little bit over the line; knowing how much

Mag
Opinion
The Nature Pass: The Stupidest Tax In History

The Nature Pass: The Stupidest Tax In History

by

According to official estimates, the number of foreign tourists in Iceland will top the one million mark for the first time in history by the end of the year. Which means it will have more than tripled over the course of last decade: in 2003, some 300,000 foreigners visited Iceland. Trampling hordes But while the growing number of foreign visitors has helped fuel economic growth, the hordes of visitors pose problems of their own. Virtually every popular tourist destination in Iceland is under serious stress, as irreparable damage is being done by trampling tourists. The problem is that neither the Icelandic

Show Me More!