Billy Bragg vs Social Nets, Round Two: ‘There Are No Free Lunches’

Songwriter Billy Bragg has reprised his recent New York Times op-ed, in which he criticised social media sites like Bebo for making money that they don’t pass on to artists, with a new interview. After claiming a few years back MySpace was harvesting rights from unsigned musicians, Bragg, in the wake of AOL’s (NYSE: TWX) Bebo acquisition, wrote artists are not getting a big enough slice of revenue.

In a typically militant Reg interview that bizarrely suggested musicians are feeling the force of high oil prices: “The argument goes that you put your stuff on social networking sites and get free publicity. You can see how that might be a straighitforward free exchange of services. But then it gets sold and someone walks away with $850 million and you think ‘hang on a minute – maybe there’s something else going on here’.

“What (Bebo founder Michael Birch) said (to me) was contrary to the way he behaved toward content providers). When we play on the radio, we’re helping them get advertisers and they recognise that in the form of royalty payments. The social networks are not that different, but big business, startups and punters are all looking the other way. It’s crucial that we establish this principle that content costs money; there are no free lunches.”