Billy Bragg Attacks Social-Networking Sites... Again

Billy Bragg Attacks Social-Networking Sites... Again
Once again urban folkie Billy Bragg has spoke out against social-networking sites and their use and abuse of artists. In a recent New York Times column written by Bragg, the veteran songwriter points to the how websites such as MySpace and Bebo are unfairly using musicians to promote their own interests, while providing little, if any, financial payback or royalties to artists in return.

His comments come in the wake of AOL’s $850-million purchase of Bebo, a Facebook-like network popular in the UK. Bragg writes of how the Bebo’s founder Michael Birch supposedly aimed at creating some sort of "artist-centred” site, yet now that Birch is millions of dollars richer, artists whose tracks helped drive traffic to Bebo, and essentially build it, won’t see a cent.

"Social-networking sites like Bebo argue that they have no money to distribute — their value is their membership,” Bragg explains. Well, last week Michael Birch realized the value of his membership. I’m sure he’ll be rewarding those technicians and accountants who helped him achieve this success. Perhaps he should also consider the contribution of his artists.

"The musicians who posted their work on Bebo.com are no different from investors in a start-up enterprise. Their investment is the content provided for free while the site has no liquid assets. Now that the business has reaped huge benefits, surely they deserve a dividend.”

Bragg also takes his argument a step further by writing that social-networking sites are responsible for many of the woes currently plaguing the music industries. "The huge social-networking sites that seek to use music as free content are as much to blame for the malaise currently affecting the industry as the music lover who downloads songs for free,” he writes. "Both the corporations and the kids, it seems, want the use of our music without having to pay for it.

"The claim that sites such as MySpace and Bebo are doing us a favor by promoting our work is disingenuous. Radio stations also promote our work, but they pay us a royalty that recognizes our contribution to their business. Why should that not apply to the Internet, too?”

And if this all comes across as Bragg simply blowing a lot of hot air, when he took on MySpace’s copyright terms and conditions a year ago — where MySpace once held the rights to any content, such as songs, loaded on the site — he successfully helped return copyright control back to the originator.

Billy Bragg’s entire article is available here.