Musicians, copyright, money, and the church

(Jon Swerens) #1

I was following along a great discussion about copyright here in Sanityville that I cannot find again. I certainly agree that the current system of copyrighting Bibles and worship songs is flawed to the core.

But what is the proper alternative?

I would say that the reason this system exists in the music industry is at least partly because the evangelical church dropped the ball decades ago, forcing musicians wanting to honor God with their gifts to find money in a “parachurch” way through Christian record labels — a terrible system that would soon enough be co-opted by the world.

So what do we do instead? What does Clearnote do to provide for its song writers and musicians?

(b3k) #2

I bet you were looking for this:

I could rant about copyright, but I’d read the link given in the esteemed pastor’s post first, as he’s likely said everything I could, but better and 10 years earlier.

I don’t see that he addressed funding models, so I may add something there: Copyright didn’t exist until the early 1700s. The closest was a proto-copyright regime of censorship established in the mid 1600s. Yet we still had books–an entire Reformation fueled by printed books–without copyright. We still had beautiful music. Some of the greatest artistic achievements of all human history were accomplished before copyright.

Instead of the government-backed, debt-financing model that is a modern copyright regime, there were other ways artists, musicians, and “content-creators”, to use the current parlance, were compensated. (1) They were commissioned to create new art, made-to-order. (2) They were maintained by patrons, producing art as a service. They were paid per performance, either (3) command performance or (4) revenue sharing with the venue, which is another way of saying they were commissioned or paid as service-workers. In this way, the artist was fully compensated for the work by the time it was completed.

The patronage model has continued for most media up to the present day. The proportion of people who have paid for most of their content is even smaller. Radio, newspapers, magazines, and network television have all acquired most of their income through advertisement, which is patronage by wealthy businesses.

I’d be curious to know what kind of funding model Clearnote goes with. We can see at least part in that there are a few Warhorn-related Patreon funds. This is (5) a distributed version of the patronage model. Some of it, I’m sure, is (6) volunteer work, that is to say, self-funded.

The key is to see that content is not a commodity worked from the ground nor the tangible product of manufacturing. Content-creation is a service industry. In medicine, you don’t buy a surgery, you pay for the services of someone who knows where to cut. In art, it is a fiction to think you can create an image that won’t be copied–it will at least be copied in the mind of every viewer. Rather the artist should be paid for knowing the where to put the next brush-stroke. In my own line of work, any monkey could bang on a keyboard for hours, but I get paid to know which key to press next.

(Jon Swerens) #3

So … sounds like the philosophy of the Industrial Age bled over to the arts, including songwriters and authors, so that everyone creates a product, yes? And the next era, the Information Age, has busted up that economy just like it has so many others.

(Tim Bayly) #4

Excellent thoughts, brother. Actually, though, my brother David and I have addressed funding models. When I took the proposal for the ESV to Lane Dennis of Crossway back in the nineties, David and I suggested Crossway do the project by means of patronage and that they make the use of the text copyright-free for all except for the matter of textual accuracy. Not finances. Lane took the suggestion and put together a translation committee. Then he got his patrons and went into print, but not copyright free. Before their ESV cash-cow came into existence, they were hovering on the brink of bankruptcy. The ESV has kept them afloat ever since.

Is that a bad thing?

Not that Crossway has stayed afloat, no. But that they have done it by means of copyrighting the Word of God, yes; absolutely it’s a bad thing. thinking about it now, it occurs to me that I knew their funders and should have talked to them at the time, asking them to only give Lane money for the ESV if he would promise to make it copyright free. BTW, David and I wrote a piece for World at the time proposing this.

(Tim Bayly) #5

Yup, Wittenberg was prosperous because of books. A large proportion of the town worked in the printing business. Wittenberg produced 15% of the books of Germany. To see the influence of print on the Reformation and the Reformation’s influence on print, consider that from 1517 to 1524, new titles had grown tenfold.

(Tim Bayly) #6

Warhorn’s funding can’t be separated from the Clearnote congregations of Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Cincinnati. My guess is that greater than 75% of its support comes from past or present church members. And if we were to do a strict accounting of the time and resources put into this work, higher than 90%. Prophetic ministries have never been profitable. You get people to give you money by saying “yes,” not “no.” But there are always those who desire a prophet’s reward, and quietly support Warhorn’s work. Another huge source of support is all the men who have given themselves to Clearnote and Warhorn’s work rather than making a killing in medicine, business, education, or the government. The sort of talents and discipline which characterizes the setting up of this forum, the content of Warhorn, the music of My Soul Among Lions, and the pastoral care of Clearnote churches would have been richly rewarded outside the church, but these men cast their lot in with the Kingdom of God and they will not be disappointed. One other thing of interest: a surprisingly high percentage of Warhorn’s support comes from over in the UK and Europe. Just a few men, but very committed and for many years, now. We are so grateful for them!

Anyhow, all of you reading this should support Warhorn, and more so than I myself do not taking any royalties and with my dear wife Mary Lee giving a fair amount financially, to boot.

One time, a rich man out in California who gave piddling amounts of $6,000 to $12,000 every now and then to the support of CBMW (I was the Ex. Dir. then) sent a fax to Wayne Grudem saying he’d just given another $6,000 or so, but telling Wayne to go and find someone else to support the work because he was tired of doing so. This man was worth many millions.

When Wayne told me about the fax, I called the rich man directly. I hadn’t met him and Wayne would have been angry to know what I was doing, but I told the guy that it was his privilege to be supporting Wayne and CBMW’s work. I went on to say that Wayne was, himself, one of the largest financial donors to CBMW, and that for him to humiliate Wayne like that was wrong. I told him never to do so again—that if being able to abuse Wayne like that was the terms under which he was willing to support our work, I’d prefer he not give at all. He continued giving, even increasing the amount, and I’m pretty certain he was one of the larger patrons of the conception and birth of the ESV. Love,

(Ben Carmack) #7

I’m reminded of the early contemporary Christian music scene back in the 70s and early 80s. Keith Green would tell people, “You can’t buy this record! It’s free!” A few other groups did similar things.

It’s been an encouragement to me to see Jody and Phil take a similar course. They make chords and songsheets available. They sell the music for reasonable sums.

(Lucas Weeks) #8

Tim has been writing about copyright for many years, and you can find some really good articles back on Baylyblog if you click on the Copyright tag. Here, let me help you.

This one sticks in my mind in particular, and it might be interesting to the computer programmers among us. The comments are especially interesting, as both Weston Ruter (of and James Tauber (of left comments.