Billy Bragg brews up a storm about sale of Bebo

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News -

To most read­ers, Bebo is a so­cial net­work­ing site hugely pop­u­lar among Ir­ish teens and school-go­ers.

To mu­si­cian and ac­tivist Billy Bragg, how­ever, Bebo is a com­pany who’ve be­come suc­cess­ful by us­ing the creative blood, sweat and tears of mu­si­cians such as him to at­tract new mem­bers and ad­ver­tis­ers.

Bragg’s at­tack on Bebo comes on the back of the sale of the site to AOL for $850 mil­lion.

Writ­ing in the New York Times this week, Bragg won­dered if some of this cash should be paid to acts whose mu­sic is streamed on the site.

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

It’s not Bragg’s first run in with a so­cial net­work­ing site. He pre­vi­ously took the News Cor­po­ra­tionowned MyS­pace to task over a po­ten­tial rights-grab clause in its terms and con­di­tions, gain­ing a huge amount of pos­i­tive PR for his stance.

This time, though, the daggers were out for Bragg from the get-go. In­ter­net busi­ness blog TechCrunch called his move a “crazy-stupid idea” and said Bragg “ig­nored the fact that mu­sic was up­loaded to the site by artists them­selves, with full knowl­edge that they would not re­ceive pay­ments of any kind (ex­cept free mar­ket­ing, of course, and ac­cess to Bebo’s tens of mil­lions of mu­sic-lov­ing users)”.

Glenn Peo­ples from mu­sic in­dus­try blog Coolfer was a lit­tle more rea­son­able, point­ing out that Bragg’s protes­ta­tions came too late.

“Artists of all stripes should cre­ate the mech­a­nisms and in­sti­tu­tions that can ne­go­ti­ate with com­pa­nies such as Bebo be­fore they are ac­quired for mil­lions, if not bil­lions. Ask­ing for money af­ter the fact will get you nowhere.”

Of course, no one in­volved has as yet sug­gestd a way to cal­cu­late the value of a song streamed on Bebo or MyS­pace to ev­ery­one’s


Bark­ing up the wrong tree? Billy Bragg

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