Thursday, October 22, 2020

Sync Licensing: 5 Important Lessons I’ve Learned (A Case Study) | Music Think Tank

I’ve been in the sync licensing game since 2018. 

So in the big picture, I’m fairly new. But I’ve learned several lessons already. And I want to share them because maybe they’ll help you.

This is a case study on my experience licensing music.

What Is Sync Licensing?

Sync licensing is when you allow someone to use your song in a TV show, commercial, movie, or video game in exchange for a payment.

They synchronized your music with visual content, hence the term “sync.”

You still retain the song rights. You’re simply charging someone a fee to use your song. 

How much does a sync license cost? In other words, how much will someone pay you to license your song?

It depends on many things, including:

  • The client’s budget
  • The type of project
  • Whether the license is exclusive or non-exclusive
  • How prominent the song will be in the video (more prominent = higher payout)

Honestly, you can get paid anywhere from $10 to $100,000 or more. 

If you’re with a subscription-based sync licensing company (ex. Artlist), you’ll probably get smaller payouts but more frequent licenses.

Why? Because the subscription model means smaller payouts for the musicians. 

For a more in-depth look at sync licensing and how to start making money from it, check out this complete guide on licensing.

Sync Licensing Companies I Work With

I currently work with three sync licensing companies, and that’s a good number for me. Any more and I’d be stretched too thin. 

I’ve found they’re each good for their own thing… 

Music Vine

I joined the Music Vine roster in September of 2019. My contact at MV (my “License & Catalog Specialist”) is super easy to work with, and I’ve had nothing but a good experience with this company.

Before you apply, they make it clear you can’t work with sync licensing companies who have a “one-size-fits-all subscription model.” This is because they’re “advocates of fair payment for musicians and a sustainable licensing industry.”

Their CEO, Lewis Foster, wrote an open letter about this on Medium.

However, MV offers subscription options (as well as one-off licenses). So a lot of my licenses don’t pay much. But they do provide consistent income to fuel my music projects. 

They do ask that 50% of your portfolio be exclusive material, meaning you can’t license those songs anywhere else. But they’re pretty flexible with that rule (less than 50% of my portfolio is exclusive). 

I like how they don’t demand every song to be exclusive. And having some exclusive songs does make you a bit more appealing to their clients.  

Here are the pros and cons of Music Vine…

Pros:

  • Monthly payouts (as long as you’ve reached the payout threshold of $50)
  • Not a huge library, so more chance of getting licensed
  • The MV people are easy to work with

Cons:

  • Payouts are very low (35% for non-exclusive tracks, 60% for exclusive tracks)
  • Anonymous licenses unless the client decides to enter their info

Here are my stats with Music Vine:

  • Length of time with Music Vine: one year
  • Number of songs in library: 10
  • Number of licenses: 58
  • Average amount earned per license: ~$3

Crucial Music

Crucial accepted my first song in July 2018 and have since accepted a total of eight. This feels good because they are known to be very picky about what they accept. 

For example, they’ve also rejected 11 of my songs. 

I believe as long as you’re submitting industry-standard tracks, you have a good shot. 

It seems to mostly depend on the type of music they need but don’t yet have. And you just don’t know what they need, so you have to submit your most professional songs with the most universal themes.

And judging by the projects they’ve pitched my songs to, it seems like the payouts would be higher. Although I haven’t landed a license yet. 

They take a 50% fee, which is standard in the sync licensing world. 

Here are Crucial’s pros and cons…

Pros:

  • See what projects Crucial has pitched your song(s) to 
  • See the status of your song submissions
  • Projects seem to have higher payouts

Cons:

  • Hard to get accepted
  • Can take months to hear back about your submissions

Here are my stats with Crucial:

  • Length of time with Crucial Music: 2 years
  • Number of songs in library: 8
  • Number of songs licensed: 0

You can sign up as an artist here

Pond5

Pond5 accepted my first track at the beginning of 2019. Their independent reviewers give your song a pass, fail, or they’ll ask for clarification on something. 

I have 28 songs in their library, and I believe they’ve rejected only one or two. So they’re not as picky as some other libraries (you could view that as either a good thing or a bad thing). 

Like Music Vine, I get smaller but more frequent licenses from Pond5. The nice thing about this site is you set your own price for each song.

Pond5 will take 65% of each license. So to make more, you just raise your prices. 

Here are the pros and cons of Pond5…

Pros:

  • Set your own price
  • Payout threshold of $25
  • Not as picky as most libraries

Cons:

  • Anonymous licenses
  • Very competitive because it’s a big library

Here are my stats:

  • Length of time with Pond5: 2 years
  • Number of songs in library: 28
  • Number of licenses: 18
  • Average amount earned per license: ~$11

You can sign up for free here.

5 Things I’ve Learned From Sync Licensing

In the grand scheme of things, I’m fairly new to sync licensing. I’ve been intentional about it for only two years. 

But I’ve already learned some valuable lessons that are helping me plan out my career…

Sync licensing is being Spotify’d

You know how Spotify doesn’t pay its artists very well? Yeah, that seems to be happening in the music licensing world. 

Foster, Music Vine’s CEO, wrote about this idea in his open letter.

“…If you sell something valuable but at a rock-bottom price, it’s going to sell a lot and fast, which will add up to something that appears reasonable,” he said. “However, it’s crucial to realize that the air blast doesn’t last long.”

This is ironic to me because MV now offers subscriptions to its clients — almost exactly what Foster bashes in his Medium post.

MV does limit how licensors can use the songs they pay for, but people can still get complete access to the entire library for roughly $200 a year. 

Whatever the case, it’s important to value your music. Charge what you’re worth.

Do I want to keep submitting my songs to Music Vine just to earn $3 a pop? I’m seriously thinking about finding another solution.

But am I okay not earning anything with Crucial Music for a while with the hopes of one day landing a big payout? Yeah, but I’d also like to make money from music in the meantime.

These are questions you’ve got to ask yourself. 

The point is to realize your music is valuable. 

Keep submitting

Crucial has rejected more of my songs than they’ve accepted. 

But that means their standards are high. And that means the payouts will be higher and the projects may offer more exposure. 

So if a library you respect rejects you, keep making music and keep submitting. 

Make music you love, not what’s in demand

I’ve seen people in the sync licensing world say you should copy the music you hear in commercials. 

They don’t mean plagiarize. They mean imitate. 

So, they say, listen to the music in that Kay Jewelers commercial. Then make a song that sounds like that.

But there’s a big problem with that.

What if you don’t make that kind of music? What if you find it cheesy? 

They say it doesn’t matter — make it anyway.

This is a terrible idea. Your music has a place in the licensing industry, whether it’s orchestral or EDM or heavy metal. 

Plus, music supervisors are often looking for unique music they haven’t heard before. Supes are music lovers, and music lovers find it rewarding to discover new, honest music. 

Don’t compromise your creative freedom just to make money.

Sync licensing is automated income

I don’t make a full-time income from music licensing, but it is consistent. Every month, I get a little money deposited into my PayPal account without doing any extra work, other than creating and submitting the music. 

This is the definition of automated income (AKA passive income). 

You do the work once and make an unlimited amount of money from it, all while doing little to no additional work.

Every musician needs at least one source of automated income. Sync licensing is a great option.

You need a plan

I created a long-term plan for my career in mid-2018, making sync licensing the central aspect in early 2019. 

Then…

Crucial Music accepted my first song submission in July 2018.

I got my first ever license in April 2019 (through Pond5). 

Music Vine added me to their roster in September 2019. 

It’s clear to me this plan changed everything. I now know what I want from my music career, I have a plan to get there, and I figured out what I need to do today.

I 100% believe in making a plan because it’s working for me.

Every musician needs a plan. That’s why I give away the plan-making tool I use: the One-Thing-A-Day worksheet

Main Takeaways

Here are the most important parts of this case study on sync licensing:

  • Find 1-3 good sync licensing companies to work with
  • Remember your music is valuable
  • Keep submitting music to libraries/supervisors
  • Make music that resonates with you
  • Sync licensing is a great source of automated income
  • Create a plan for your career

Happy syncing, folks.

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Learning Piano: Online Lessons Vs Physical Lessons | Music Think Tank

If you are looking to learn the piano then you will be glad to know that you have the freedom to choose from a couple of options at your convenience. These days learning piano is not that difficult as it use to be back in the days considering the options you have.
You can even get started learning the piano from the comfort of your home. Online piano lessons or physical lessons, this is one of the main common questions that people have in their minds when they are looking to learn the piano. So, I will give you a brief overview of both of these learning methods, and then you can choose the one that you think is suitable for you. 
Online Piano Lessons
Thankfully, these days there are some very good online piano learning resources available online that can help you in learning piano. This also has made piano learning very easy and cost-effective. Some of them are pretty good and beginner-friendly. They take you to step by step and you can learn at your own speed. I will also mention a couple of good online piano courses but you can also Google the “best online piano course” and you will get the list of top  5 or top 10 online piano lessons.
Piano for all by Robin Hall is one of them. You can check the details about this online piano course by seeing pianoforall review. Some others include Playground sessions and Flowkey which is an app. Just like I mentioned before, with the help of these online piano learning resources, you can learn the piano from the comfort of your home but if you are willing to go out and spend money on learning piano then, you can also take physical piano lessons. 
Physical Piano Lessons
You can also take physical piano lessons to learn piano but sometimes it can get costly. Searching for a good piano instructor is the first thing you need to do in order to get started. One more thing that you can do is search online for piano instructors in your locality or piano learning schools etc. Once you get a couple of options then you need to visit them and talk to instructors.
You can also take feedback from current piano students. Moreover, you can also ask about the cost of lessons and the learning strategy from the instructor. Also, tell the instructor about yourself like what you wish to learn and other important things.  Physical piano lessons are especially good for those who want to learn in the presence of a piano teacher and therefore, they are looking for physical piano lessons. 
As now you have an overview of both the learning ways of piano, you can now decide for yourself online piano lessons or physical piano lessons, which are good for you. Both of them are a great way of learning the piano and are effective. Lastly good luck in your piano learning journey!
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Certain Songs #1940: Ritchie Valens – “La Bamba” | Medialoper

Single, 1958

. . .

There’s this great podcast that I just discovered during the lockdown called A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs by a droll Englishman named Andrew Hickey. He’s already done 100 episodes, so I’ve been grazing to catch up, but one of the things that I learned was that “La Bamba” might have been around for centuries as a Mexican folk song.

Which makes sense, because it’s one of those songs that feels like it was written in our DNA, that was always out there hanging around, waiting patiently until the technology to actually record it existed.

But, of course, what Ritchie Valens did was what kids have been doing ever since: taking something ancient and recreating it with the latest beats and styles. He also had some help: the great Earl Palmer utterly kills it on the drums, driving it with a double snare beats and infinite stop times, and future Wall of Sound builder Carol Kaye kept things together with an acoustic guitar.

But beyond that it’s all Ritchie Valens. His utter joy and enthusiasm comes through with every single note he sings, as well as all of his little trills, shouts, screams and asides. It’s impossible to listen to this song without a big-ass smile on your face, even if you don’t understand a single word.

Yo no soy marinero
Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán
Soy capitán, soy capitán
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba
Bamba, bamba, bam

The peak might be Valens’ guitar solo, which sidles in from another dimension and keeps going and going and going and going, like he was getting off more playing the guitar than he was singing. Which is really saying something, given how much fun he was having singing. It’s seriously one of the happiest songs songs ever recorded.

“La Bamba” was originally the b-side to the much much much more subdued “Donna,” which must have made sense to the record company. Honestly, I can’t even imagine buying the single because you heard “Donna” on the radio and thought it was pretty and stuff — no argument here! — and then when you flip it over, there’s this manic amazing song.

In any event, that single only made it to #23, and before Valens could enjoy his success and maybe even try to top it, he had the misfortune to be on the Day The Music Died plane, his talent snuffed before he could fully explore it.

Luckily, we still have “La Bamba,” which — to my ears — still sounds pretty fucking fresh, like the kind of thing garage rockers have been kicking out ever since. Obviously the most notable cover was by Los Lobos, who took it to #1 in the wake of the film of the same name — good job for all involved, even if they polished up the rough edges — but my favorite cover is the 1981 future Certain Song by Tonio K, who kept the music, changed the title to “La Bomba,” and made it a dark satire about nuclear war. As you did.

“La Bamba”

Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim

The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

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Is high definition audio ready to re-invent music (again?) | Stories by The Lost Art Of Listening on Medium

According to a growing community of audiophiles, we are all being short-changed by the current wave of digital music. Since the first appearance of the MP3 in the late 90s, we have never looked back in terms of music’s abundance and availability, yet in the glut, we traded off access to the music with how that music itself sounds. But are we on the verge of a new wave of music industry growth centred on putting audio quality to rights?

As Franck Lebouchard, CEO of high-end speaker maker Devialet put it recently to Sifted. “There’s huge growth in the market, and we think it will go to those who offer the highest quality.”

The music industry hasn’t lacked for drama as a business in the digital age. As Napster wreaked havoc from 2000, iTunes came to rescue in 2004, then Amazon weighed in with MP3. The ‘record buying public’ joined the migration path to digital. Streaming took over in the mid-noughties with Rhapsody and then a legal version of Napster, before in 2009 Spotify added a dose of steroids to the digital market. As all of this unfolded over two decades, there has been a steadily growing movement whose argument is that we have had a fall out with fidelity. However, the message has for the most part, fallen on deaf ears.

Yet perhaps that is about to change at last. No less than three of the major streaming players: Deezer, Tidal and now Amazon Music, offer ‘hi resolution’ audio quality streaming (in addition to the smaller specialist Qobuz). Within each of these services there are numerous hurdles in making the leap to a genuinely better listening experience however. The number of ‘studio quality’, ‘master quality or ‘ultra HD’ tracks available is still a fraction of the overall catalogue (the process to mix a track up to these quality levels is not simple or cheap). But then, playback is another issue. Wireless streaming solutions don’t carry 24-bit files. You’ll need a speaker that is HD compatible — and those are still relatively rare. And the idea of using wired headphones seems like a step backward. But new technology players are busy working on new standards that overcome the limitations of current wireless protocols.

Perhaps the biggest question is, do people even care? Opinions are split on how much of a difference people can actually hear from high-resolution audio. The evidence is patchy, which is why Apple and Spotify have yet to make investment in either the HD format or the huge marketing effort required to persuade people to try HD — which also means spending more cash. I must have looked at dozens of surveys that say roughly the same thing — a minority proportion of music fans are interested (somewhere between a quarter and a third), and a subset of these would pay more. However, these proportions drop steeply in the under 30’s demographic. It’s tough to make the business case on that kind of evidence. The most interested are those yet to convert to streaming — audiophile hold-outs, while those already converted to streaming are happy enough with what they have. That puts HD music streaming propositions between a rock and a hard place. High-definition music may be the innovation that brings the digital music hold-outs into the streaming economy — but services bringing HD music to market will need to combine a focus on this audience with stronger brand marketing. HD isn’t just about a better listen, but bragging rights too. Even if it’s persuading the audiophiles to feel better about themselves in the digital age.

The music industry has thus far, been preoccupied with other potential new formats — podcasts, VR, AI and live video streaming — to consider high resolution audio a priority. That hasn’t stopped Tidal and Deezer having modest success with their HD offers though, and Amazon Music HD looks like a serious offering by them. So the answer still seems to be, perhaps some people do care, but is it enough to sustain a market?

Amazon Music HD will require a greater catalogue of studio quality mastered content, but it must also partner with or make, the compatible hardware. Barring a replacement cycle of higher-quality in home speakers, the car might become the critical channel for HD music. The car is the last vanguard for the streaming music wars. As with home streaming, there are some challenges involved in getting HD music in the car to begin with. Simply plugging a high-resolution audio player into a standard in-car audio system won’t do the job. It makes perfect sense for car manufacturers — especially higher-end auto brands, to install HD compatible systems in new models. The car is a personal sanctuary for many (in the world’s biggest music market the USA, especially so). It’s in this environment that people are willing to invest heavily for a better audio experience perhaps. After all, what else can you do in a car but drive and listen?

Personally nothing would make me happier than shifting to a higher quality music listening experience, if only it was more convincing and easier. HD music is perhaps above all the previous ideas I’ve written about in these posts, the single most significant way to get the masses more engaged in music at a time when we are being bombarded with ever more entertainment options. Do we really want to spend more time on another average Netflix box set when we could instead revisit Bowie’s catalogue in a more rewarding audio format? It’s a no brainer for music fans, surely.

TIPS TO GET MORE SOUND QUALITY FROM YOUR MUSIC:

Spotify ‘Very High Quality’ (Settings, Music Quality): try The Song Sommelier 80s page on this setting

Quobuz, Amazon Music HD, Tidal HiFi, Deezer HiFi

Oda is broadcasting live performances directly to its connected speakers, for a $79 quarterly subscription

Vinyl! With the right set-up, the playback quality of a properly mastered vinyl record is hard to beat for in-home listening. And you have the record sleeve and lovely rituals that go with it too

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Is Hi-Def Audio Ready To Once Again Reinvent Music? | Hypebot

Is Hi-Def Audio Ready To Once Again Reinvent Music?

While consumer were eager to embrace the shift to digital music, since MP3’s appeared in the late 90s, listeners have been trading ease of access for sound quality, something which might be about to change.

Guest post by Keith Jopling of The Lost Art Of Listening

According to a growing community of audiophiles, we are all being short-changed by the current wave of digital music. Since the first appearance of the MP3 in the late 90s, we have never looked back in terms of music’s abundance and availability, yet in the glut, we traded off access to the music with how that music itself sounds. But are we on the verge of a new wave of music industry growth centred on putting audio quality to rights?

As Franck Lebouchard, CEO of high-end speaker maker Devialet put it recently to Sifted“There’s huge growth in the market, and we think it will go to those who offer the highest quality.”

The music industry hasn’t lacked for drama as a business in the digital age. As Napster wreaked havoc from 2000, iTunes came to rescue in 2004, then Amazon weighed in with MP3. The ‘record buying public’ joined the migration path to digital. Streaming took over in the mid-noughties with Rhapsody and then a legal version of Napster, before in 2009 Spotify added a dose of steroids to the digital market. As all of this unfolded over two decades, there has been a steadily growing movement whose argument is that we have had a fall out with fidelity. However, the message has for the most part, fallen on deaf ears.

Yet perhaps that is about to change at last. No less than three of the major streaming players: Deezer, Tidal and now Amazon Music, offer ‘hi resolution’ audio quality streaming (in addition to the smaller specialist Qobuz). Within each of these services there are numerous hurdles in making the leap to a genuinely better listening experience however. The number of ‘studio quality’, ‘master quality or ‘ultra HD’ tracks available is still a fraction of the overall catalogue (the process to mix a track up to these quality levels is not simple or cheap). But then, playback is another issue. Wireless streaming solutions don’t carry 24-bit files. You’ll need a speaker that is HD compatible — and those are still relatively rare. And the idea of using wired headphones seems like a step backward. But new technology players are busy working on new standards that overcome the limitations of current wireless protocols.

Perhaps the biggest question is, do people even care? Opinions are split on how much of a difference people can actually hear from high-resolution audio. The evidence is patchy, which is why Apple and Spotify have yet to make investment in either the HD format or the huge marketing effort required to persuade people to try HD — which also means spending more cash. I must have looked at dozens of surveys that say roughly the same thing — a minority proportion of music fans are interested (somewhere between a quarter and a third), and a subset of these would pay more. However, these proportions drop steeply in the under 30’s demographic. It’s tough to make the business case on that kind of evidence. The most interested are those yet to convert to streaming — audiophile hold-outs, while those already converted to streaming are happy enough with what they have. That puts HD music streaming propositions between a rock and a hard place. High-definition music may be the innovation that brings the digital music hold-outs into the streaming economy — but services bringing HD music to market will need to combine a focus on this audience with stronger brand marketing. HD isn’t just about a better listen, but bragging rights too. Even if it’s persuading the audiophiles to feel better about themselves in the digital age.

The music industry has thus far, been preoccupied with other potential new formats — podcasts, VR, AI and live video streaming — to consider high resolution audio a priority. That hasn’t stopped Tidal and Deezer having modest success with their HD offers though, and Amazon Music HD looks like a serious offering by them. So the answer still seems to be, perhaps some people do care, but is it enough to sustain a market?

Amazon Music HD will require a greater catalogue of studio quality mastered content, but it must also partner with or make, the compatible hardware. Barring a replacement cycle of higher-quality in home speakers, the car might become the critical channel for HD music. The car is the last vanguard for the streaming music wars. As with home streaming, there are some challenges involved in getting HD music in the car to begin with. Simply plugging a high-resolution audio player into a standard in-car audio system won’t do the job. It makes perfect sense for car manufacturers — especially higher-end auto brands, to install HD compatible systems in new models. The car is a personal sanctuary for many (in the world’s biggest music market the USA, especially so). It’s in this environment that people are willing to invest heavily for a better audio experience perhaps. After all, what else can you do in a car but drive and listen?

Personally nothing would make me happier than shifting to a higher quality music listening experience, if only it was more convincing and easier. HD music is perhaps above all the previous ideas I’ve written about in these posts, the single most significant way to get the masses more engaged in music at a time when we are being bombarded with ever more entertainment options. Do we really want to spend more time on another average Netflix box set when we could instead revisit Bowie’s catalogue in a more rewarding audio format? It’s a no brainer for music fans, surely.

TIPS TO GET MORE SOUND QUALITY FROM YOUR MUSIC:

Spotify ‘Very High Quality’ (Settings, Music Quality): try The Song Sommelier 80s page on this setting

Quobuz, Amazon Music HD, Tidal HiFi, Deezer HiFi

Oda is broadcasting live performances directly to its connected speakers, for a $79 quarterly subscription

Vinyl! With the right set-up, the playback quality of a properly mastered vinyl record is hard to beat for in-home listening. And you have the record sleeve and lovely rituals that go with it too

Owen Davie on 10/22/2020 in

How I Listen

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Inside A Socially Distant, Fan Pod Live Music Experience [VIDEO] | Hypebot

Inside A Socially Distant, Fan Pod Live Music Experience [VIDEO]

Other than drive-in shows, one of the ways live music has been able to happen is through socially distant, pod-style concerts. Here, the Haulix team go behind the curtain in rural Tennessee to get a feeling for what these pod-style shows are like.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

The Haulix team recently caught a glimpse at live music’s future during a concert with fan pods in rural Tennessee.

We miss concerts. We’re going to assume that you do as well. Nothing else on the planet can provide the same rush that live music offers. Scientists can probably explain why that is, but we believe it’s tied to our history. Humans have been gathering to perform music and celebrate life since the dawn of time. It is a communal event as old as time itself, more or less, and our inability to participate in it has made 2020 a drag.

The music business, of course, is resilient. Some artists and promoters have found success with drive-in events. Critics say that the experience of listening to music inside your car in what is essentially a giant parking lot doesn’t really compare to the excitement of being near fellow humans. It’s a stopgap measure at best, but something is better than nothing when you’re feeling desperate.

One other option exists. Many countries are finding success with socially-distant concerts that utilize a concept known as fan pods. These events place people in groups of two or more, and every group stays in a designated area where only they can enjoy the show. The interaction with other concertgoers is minimal, as are the interactions with venue staff. It’s a bold notion that could provide more opportunities for live music in the future, but it has been slow to catch on in the states.

Recently, Music Biz host James Shotwell traveled to Tennessee to watch an outdoor, socially-distant concert utilizing fan pods to keep people safe. He uses our latest video clip to recount the experience, including the positives and negatives of going to a show using pods to separate attendees. Check it out:

For more music industry news and advice, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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Today's tech giants won't be as naive as I was in DoJ dealings, says former Microsoft chief Bill Gates | The Register

Microsoft co-founder and long-serving ex-CEO Bill Gates has admitted naivety in his dealings with Washington around the software giant’s fabled antitrust case with the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

But, as Google set out to defend itself against DoJ claims levelled against it this week, the latter-day philanthropist of Redmond fame told CNBC the tech giants are unlikely to make similar errors to him.

In a not-so-veiled reference to Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon, Gates said: “Whenever you get to be [a] super valuable company [having] political discourse mediated through your system and a higher percentage of commerce go through your system, you're going to expect a lot of government attention. I was naive at Microsoft and didn’t realise that our success would lead to government attention and so I made some mistakes in saying, ‘Hey, I never go to Washington DC’.”

But times have changed, he said.

“Now, I don't think that naivety is there. These companies have lots of sophisticated advisors and they've tried to engage [with lawmakers] in various ways but the rules will change,” he said.

The suffering heaped on hundreds of millions of Americans struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic and its related restrictions could be reflected in the political optics of the case, at a time when tech industry figureheads have seen astronomical increases in their wealth.

“It is kind of poignant that the tech companies have done so well at a time when things are very tough and so that's an element of the increased attention,” Gates claimed.

On Tuesday, US Department of Justice launched its antitrust case against Google, saying the dominant search company was unlawfully protecting its search monopoly through “anti-competitive and exclusionary practices”.

With echoes of Microsoft’s DoJ case, which began in 1998 and hinged on whether the Redmond giant was using its dominance in desktop operating systems to gain unfair advantage in the browser market, the federal legal team said Google was the “monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users and countless advertisers worldwide.”

“For years, Google has accounted for almost 90 per cent of all search queries in the United States and has used anti-competitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising,” the DoJ said.

Although it does not explicitly say it is seeking to break up Google, the DoJ did ask for "structural relief as needed to cure any anticompetitive harm."

The DoJ is also pursuing the line that saw Microsoft lose in its initial DoJ ruling. The department is arguing that Google makes its search engine the default on billions of devices, preventing the pre-installation of services from competitors.

Gates backed some government success in clipping the wings of the tech giants, although the details would have to wait, he said.

GOOGLE

Google screwed rivals to protect monopoly, says Uncle Sam in antitrust lawsuit: We go inside the Sherman parked on a Silicon Valley lawn

READ MORE

“We're in unchartered territory here. For a lot of industries like the railroad industry or the movie industry, [the government] created special policies that they thought were effective for competition. This is a new industry with different issues and so to get it right, will take a lot of a lot of good thinking. But, I'd say the chances of them doing something is pretty high,” he said.

Not everyone is convinced the chips are currently stacked in the DoJ's favour, however, due to the speed at which the case was strung together.

How Gates can see the tech industry’s monopoly problems as somehow new is anyone’s guess.

Android marshmallow has put on weight.... altered original

What does everyone make of today's Google antitrust action? Only the stock market is happy with the status quo

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After initially ruling for the breakup of Microsoft, the DoJ later reached a settlement that saw Microsoft share APIs with third parties - this was little more than a slap on the wrist.

Whether the DoJ can meet out sterner punishment to Google could depend on political unity.

In partisan times, the signs are not good. The Justice Dept's lawsuit against Google is joined by 11 state attorneys general – all Republican. Last month, only Democrats supported a Congressional report that accused tech giants of abuse of their market power, even though both sides were largely in agreement. Meanwhile, a second group of state attorneys general, a mix of Dems and Republicans, are preparing a separate antitrust case against Google. ®

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