Thursday 14 April 2011


I have been communicating with HFA in the US for a couple of weeks now, to get a feel for what it would mean to pay royalties on the songs I cover. It's the right thing to do; I've been in a less-than-gray area handing out free tabs, but since I haven't made any money out if it, I justified it away.

I like arranging fingerstyle covers. I like to share them with you guys. I'd like to provide quality video lessons on the songs so you can play them too. And I want to respect the ownership of the works.

I have all but come to the conclusion that an advertising based model to fund the costs of licensing does not work with the expectations of royalty payments. Essentially, every time somebody downloads a tab I'd need to pay (say) 20c to the license holder. Let me assure you that my intial sojourn into advertising does not come anywhere near 20c per download, more like 0.2c per download! Perhaps I could entice high paying advertisers but I don't ever want to be out of pocket, I don't need that sort of risk in my life.

What I feel would be possible is have an online shop sort of thing where you'd purchase a video lesson and tab - and I'd try my very hardest to make a great lesson - and work out a cost that covers licensing fees, hosting server fees, and a little something in my pocket to pay for my efforts. I suspect it would only need to be in the order of a couple of bucks; in the next week or two I will know what that number would be when I get feedback from the license holders - if I choose to go down that path.

But then it will start to feel like I'm becoming what I told my online mate Nil I wouldn't do - become a "learn guitar" website. It wouldn't be would it Nil? It would be a "learn song by video lesson and tab", for a few bucks to cover the cost of doing this legit? I am completely unqualified to teach guitar, but I can show punters how I approach playing songs they'd like to learn how to play in this style.

If it all falls in a hole and I feel I have to take down everything leaving only the blog (and the youtube videos...I'll leave that for a later discussion) - well, at least I still have my 4 mates to chew the fat with :)

Let me know what you think, I post this post with trepidation, be kind, but firm...


  1. In a perfect world you wouldn't have to worry about such things. As it is, though, they inevitably come into play.

    I wouldn't sweat it. The songs I have learned so far are priceless. Worth more than any and every penny.

    This place has become more about the blog than the tabs for me. Don't get me wrong, the tabs also make it what it is and are a necessity, but the information gathered here is also crucial for people like me. This and Pharyngula are the only blogs I have ever read. I'll buy the Tabs all day long.

  2. So you've been contacting this "HFA", but I don't really know why.

    1. Is it because you are worried to face legal problems? Well you haven't had any problem until now, and I doubt the HFA hunts down small blogs... so I'd just ignore it as long as they ignore you.

    2. Is it because "it's the right thing to do"? Then I just don't agree with that. Neither Pink Floyd, the Beatles nor Pachelbel need your money. But everyone has his morals...

    3. Is it because you want to make your profit? Then go ahead, I understand it.

    Personally it'd be a big let down for me. When I started, I thought "cool, playing guitar is cheap", but it turned out so not this way. Between strings, picks, batteries, cappos, cables,... it has turned into an expensive hobby. And I'm not even getting lessons.

    I'm not paying for tabs.


  3. Nil - ha, yeah, guitar playing is not cheap at all...and the more you get into it the more expensive it gets :)

    I've always had problems with handing out tabs; they are something I don't own (even though they represent effort on my part). You are right, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Microsoft, Disney...none of them *need* my money...but roles reversed, I wouldn't like to be taken for a ride.

    I said once before that if I had to shut it all down I would; I'd be a bit sad about it though. I've already got one strike on my youtube account, and I've had a "please remove" from an individual; I respected his wishes.

    Perhaps you are right Nil, I should just carry on as is. But wouldn't it be *great* if I could come to a equitable arrangement with the actual owners of the songs I cover, and put them out there squeaky clean, and anyone could take a copy for a low cost? I don't think I can make a living out of it, and I wouldn't try; but I wouldn't say no if a little bit extra fell my way enough to fund a luthier-made guitar :)

    "The recording industry" was in massive trouble quite a while back. I have a - perhaps misguided - hope that "the industry" will change, amongst other things allowing tiny little blokes like me to do the righty.

    Thanks for stating it so clearly, you have made me think about my motivations. I'm not quite sure yet I'm clear on what they are, I'm going on gut (guilt?) instinct, but yep, you've made me think about it. I'll bring it up again in the future I'm sure :)

    Ryan - it's my birthday tomorrow - have a virtual beer with me mate ;)

  4. Tough question.

    If you go through all of the work to set up an online shop, you will inherit a whole new list of troubles and annoyances in seeing how people start ripping YOU off when all you are trying to do is the right thing. Internet users are like water, they will hit a wall, find the crack, seep through those cracks and will eventually crumble the wall.

    I support Hiroshi's site because I was using his tabs for years before he started asking for donations to get access...and because I basically owe years of enjoyment to him and I learned fingerstyle from his tabs. I stumbled Hiroshi's username and password shared in a forum once and let him know because I consider him a friend. His response was that he did not want to police it and make it harder for the legit people to get his tabs, so he just let it be and left it up to the karma gods.

    My point is that you could go through the long process of trying to open a store, but shortly your tabs would be circulated outside of that anyway. You may cover your ass from a legal perspective, but if you are trying to do what is right for the artist, internet users will ruin your day and give you more headaches than you want. So, big effort on your part to set this up, but it will just get bypassed eventually.

    Happy birthday! Enjoy a virtual beer from me! I'll crack a beer for you when I get out of work. Cheers, John

  5. ARG lost another essay.

    oh well from 2 pages to this....

    1. It's not that expensive to play guitar. All you really need are 2 things. Strings and music. Everything else is a 1 time buy at 20$ or less (even the amp is not necessary) or just something that is fun to have but not what you would call a necessity. But you have to have the music, or tab unless you can write your own. I have tried to write my own a while back but very quickly ended up simply busting my knees on the pavement. The tab is simply the one thing I couldn't do without besides strings and the guitar, some fingers (even a broken one will do nicely) ;) and some fingernails.
    I feel, toward this site/blog, the same way JM does about Hiroshi's. I saw a cover of some floyd songs just over a year ago by JAW and since then have not stopped trying to learn. I have been given a kind of one on one help even, by a man who lives thousands of miles away, with what I know is a demanding job and a family probably even more demanding. I payed 10$ to access Kelly Vallue's(sp?) site just for one song, Fur Elise. I have, on the other hand, never dropped a dime on JAW even though I have learned 5 of his songs.
    That's another thing. 5 songs would be what? 10 bucks? For a years (lifetime even) worth of entertainment. I could find an infinite number of ways to spend 10 bucks and not many would last for a lifetime.

    Nil your right on your points. I dont think they need the money and I dont think the gov will come JAW headhunting. But the cost is negligible. (this coming from a very poor college student)

    This stuff is priceless. Hell wen I played Canon for my mother for the 1st time she cried! (not because I'm that good but because she didn't know I could even really play the guitar at all and also because the always thought of heavy metal or rock n roll when she thought of a guitar.) You can't put a price on that.

    JM, you are right as well about internet users, but I know that is the minority. Most are not savvy or malicious enough to hunt down a User/Pass for a site like this. I admit I tried to find that Fur Elise tab before I payed Kelly 10 bucks for it. I searched usenet up and down with no success. But maybe 4 other people I know even know how to use usenet, or google for that matter, to find such things but the other hundred or so are just casual users who would just pay.

    Your Bday? hehe on tax day, wonderful :) We just so happen to be going out for a drink tomorrow night because a friend is off to New York. I haven't had a beer since christmas so I suppose I'm due. I think I'll have a hoegaarden or a Kileans.

    This is more ramble and less structure than the original but I think it gets across why I, personally, am fine with it. Of course everyone's situation is different and everyone has stuff going on that affects things even as small as this so I do understand, in a way, everyone's viewpoint and why it may differ.

    Happy Birthday JAW! Time flies when your having fun :)
    Ryan G

  6. Hey JMD, glad to see you here!

    Ha, now there's the thing - yep, people will "rip me off". Look at the two tabs I was asked to remove - do a simple google search for JAW + song title, and you'll find them reposted elsewhere, along with my total collection. From a business point of view, it's not good. But it's not a business to me! The proof of that statement is the fact that for around 5 years now people have been able to download the tabs I've churned out for free. But what will happen is that I can put out lesson/tabs with a clear conscience and provide an avenue for those who want to get it with a clear conscience.

    I'm no angel, there are some Sci-Fi shows I love that I can't wait two years before they come out in Australia so I bit torrent them in the day after they air in the US. If there was a mechanism where it was cheap and easy to get them through legitimate avenues, I'd take it. And slowly, perhaps, the world changes.

    RG - that's my hope, is that the price comes back in as sensible; maybe even a micro-transaction. (ie, a transaction so small and easy you don't even think about it; like a dollar app on the itunes store). I think my hopes might be crushed; but if you look at Edgar Cruz and Adam Rafferty, who put *huge* effort into their lessons, and you buy a DVD with book, they still get it down to around $5 per song. Shirley I can get an online video lesson/tab down to less than half that price!

    Thanks for the birthday well wishes guys!

  7. Happy birthday Jaw!

    Guitar playing is cheap indeed, and I don't think tabs are necessary, however I had some previous musical knowledge that I understand is not the case for most guitar players.
    About having a shop here, it seems that many of your readers would be willing to buy from you, so really you should go for it, I don't see anything wrong with that. I understand the will to evolve in some way, as long as you keep the blog with the rambling, and are still available for comments, keeping the blog as open and casual as it is... but I know you will!

  8. Tabs fill the very important hole between a n00b guitarist who is over the euphoria of starting out - in the "grind" phase - and when a guitarist is doing his own thing. JAW's ideal world - give out tabs for free, do video lessons which will attract a modest charge because they require a fair bit of effort, and the whole giving out something for free being a disservice to professional music teachers everywhere.

    But anyway, old ground, well covered. And you are right, the reason I started this and why it continues, is the ramblings, in fact I'm due for one now! :)

  9. hey JAW i see you have said that giving out your tabs for free is a disservice to professional music teachers everywhere, when in fact it is the exact opposite, I've been learning guitar for a few months and have a lesson every saturday with my teacher and i have learned a few of your songs from your tabs and showed them to him. Your tabs have helped me get past the times when my teacher was just teaching me techniques and simple songs to him being amazed at how fast im learning.
    anyway what im trying to say is there is always more to learn with guitar that teachers can teach you and also watching video tutorials is never as good as having a guitar teacher in real life because they can see the small things like if your holding your hand wrong or something.

  10. Yes and no :)

    Interestingly I read some blurb about Youtube and how the zillions of covers affect artist revenue. There is the side of the camp that say covers spark renewed interest in songs, providing for more sales of the originals - it's a good thing. Then there is the other camp that says it detracts from sales, people will go to the free covers rather than spend money on the original.

    It's probably no surprise for you to hear I like to pass out information and knowledge for free (some of it is even correct!) For some people that is all they need; they'll never go to professional tuition. In that case it doesn't matter. But the people who get just enough out of free info that they don't go to professional tuition; well, I consider I have taken income away from someone. I wouldn't like to think somebody would start doing *my* dayjob for free!

    But still there are others like yourself, when my stuff inspires them to seek professional tuition. Generation of income for somebody!

    I once read that the plastic Guitar Hero games (good fun by the way) was going to hurt the real music learning industry. It did the opposite - it boosted sales in instruments and tuition.

    It's a brave new world. Old models of "the business" no longer work. People have greater access to more information than ever before. I say it's good; we should all embrace it, and change the way "the business" works.

    And most importantly I'm glad to hear my stuff has given you some inspiration and joy :)

    Sorry if I got off topic a bit there, I could ramble on for pages, but I shouldn't!

  11. First thank you for the tabs and the videos..You know there are 1000 of tabs like this ones here and most people will get them and try to learn just to realize that is just too damn hard work with no profit at all..playing in Central Park does not count since you can play one song all day long and no one will notice...playing at parties well no one pays attention anyway as long as there is some music noise in the background its all good. If you want to make a profit then you should charge for the lessons and pay the royalties..for me to be a star at a party..the tab is not worth the money...

  12. You are welcome Savco.

    You raise good points about tabs - what is the motivation of a person downloading a tab? I have decided that 98% of people who download a tab fit into one of two categories - (a) it's free, it might not be free tomorrow, I might want it tomorrow, get it now while I can (b) I love that song, I want to learn that song, by downloading the tab (much like buying gym equipment) that should make me able to play the song.

    Putting that aside, you nailed it on the head. If you were to learn a song for the purpose of making money, well, it is too much hard work. You have to want to learn it, have the passion, persistence and do that hard work to get there. I think that can only come from inside; and just to make money I don't think is enough.

    I'm covering old ground, if I keep going it will just be ranting and rambling. Bottom line is that tabs/chords/lyrics are so well and truly out there - and even though it takes a lot of effort to make good ones - people won't feel like paying for them. But a lesson, which is better than a tab, but not as good as an interactive real lesson; well, I think there is some value in that. However my motivation is more to do with the teaching side of things, my day job pays more than my guitar playing ever on! :)

  13. Jaw,
    Its easy man..just leave the things the way they are now. Open an additional section on this site which for which you would charge..list tutorials, host your own movies can even offer a and video tutorial. For that you have to have license.

  14. It sounds like the simplest way to go Sav, but it's not squeaky clean. It might however be clean enough for me...I wouldn't like to have to argue "Educational fair use" on my tabs, but it would be the starting point :)

  15. If you look at Per Lindgren or Martin Tallstroms sites they have a mix of free arrangements and some that cost around AUS $5 - 10 Similarly Justin Sandercoe works on an honour system. At the end of the day you have to appreciate the effort put in by the music arranger and compared to the value of the time taken to master these songs five or ten bucks is peanuts.If you have lessons you're paying around $60 per lesson for which you could buy approx ten arrangements.I am a bit disgusted by the aspect of intellectual property as enforced by some musicians where there seems to be no limit to the amount of money they want to earn from one song. Most of us only get paid once for the work we do so I think the likes of Metallica and the other hardliners need to get over themselves and let people play the guitar for pleasure without always having to have their hand in everyones pocket.

  16. Thanks Mike, good points. I hear ya mate; I hear ya :)

    Update on the licensing - haven't heard back from HFA in a while, and I'm not currently pursuing it. I'm kinda put off by the whole thing. Work is really busy as well so any "free" guitar time I'm just enjoying arranging new stuff and playing old stuff.

    Might think about it again when I have some time on my hands. Ha ha, a working dad of three and husband - no such thing as spare time!

  17. Dear Jaw,
    Your cover of the Monty Python comedy song Always look on the bright side is perfect! so awesome! can I have your consent to use your cover for a video I am making please? I really want a this song for representing the little english after school of Budapest and your cover is just perfect! We can offer you a fair price for it naturally.

    Sorry, i know this is not the perfect post to ask, ut I didnt find your contact info.

    Thanks for replying,

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it! Please feel free to use it as you like. I don't expect to be paid, but if you want to send me some thanks with a dollar sign, I have a paypal donate button here:

      Thanks again!