Hi YouTube and Facebook. I know you’re very busy, especially with the election and the pandemic and all that, so thank you for letting me have a moment of your time.
First of all, I hope you know that, now more than ever, we appreciate that you exist. Through your livestream platforms, you have allowed performing arts organizations such as ours to continue to bring music to our audiences during a time when it is unsafe for us to come together to enjoy live music events in person. The world would be a much lonelier place if we didn’t have you to help bring us together as a community.
Having said all that, here’s why you’re really honking me off:
Due to the increased volume of live performances on your platforms, you have decided to step up your game when it comes to policing content for possible copyright infringements. You do this through a magical algorithm…blah, blah, blah, something about bots. I would try to understand it better, but my head might explode.
I guess your bots randomly monitor livestream events, looking for music that sounds incredibly close to already released commercial recordings. If they lock onto material that they think is similar enough to one of these recordings, the punishment can range from temporarily muting or freezing the stream all the way up to banishing the presenter from their livestream platform, either temporarily or permanently.
Here’s what you should know about live music: While no two performances are exactly the same, in a larger sense, there are only so many ways to “authentically” perform a piece of classical music. Sometimes, if the stars align, a Spectrum string quartet may come close in pitch and tempo to, say, a passage from a Guarneri Quartet recording of the same piece. I assure you that if that happens, it is not because we are dubbing in the Guarneri recording as we air-bow our way through our parts. But (PLEASE!) try telling that to your bots, because I don’t think they are sophisticated enough to note the subtle differences between Spectrum and Guarneri. (Of course, I flatter myself to think even an unrefined bot would ever confuse our two ensembles.)
By the way, if the issue happens to be about the music, itself, I can assure you that Beethoven’s works are in the public domain, and we have paid the publishers for the right to use their particular editions of the sheet music. This is not like Rihanna or Elton John asking Donald Trump not to use their music at his campaign events. Beethoven, up in heaven, may not want to hear the 12 millionth performance of his Septet (one hopes he’s got his hearing back), but he’s not going to stop us, either. So neither should you.
Copyright infringement is a serious issue, and as a musician, it would be hypocritical for me to deny the importance of protecting an artist’s product. But your bots need to become a whole lot more discerning before I can be satisfied with your monitoring process.
So let me bottom-line this for you: While some of our fans are perfectly content watching livestream events on a website on their computer, many prefer to use your platforms—YouTube, in particular, is easy to bring up on our modern TVs and what-not. While we will offer them the opportunity to use your platforms to enjoy our concert, we will also have to warn them that the stream might suddenly go catywompus, and they might have to scramble off to another platform to continue to watch the performance. The result is that many will likely choose to avoid your platforms to ensure they do not experience any interruptions. You don’t really want that, do you?
Anyway, thank you for listening, and thank you for your service to the community. Have a nice day.