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Should songwriters and composers work for free?

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Dance Music Organisation:  It's no difference than the many complaints I see in the DJing world. Clubs & Promoters expecting DJ's to play for free, and dine on the valuable exposure it will give them. Until there is a universal basic income or the invention of replicators and teleporters ushering in a Star Trek utopia, we therefore all need to 'earn' a living. Unfortunately making money in music in this day and age is getting ever harder, as the ease of making music and releasing it becomes ever easier. Many artists , be it musical or visual are armature / hobbyist, not because they aren't any good, but simply because they can't make a living from it alone. Obviously there are a few who make a lot of money or earn a good living, and they can afford to donate their earnings to charity, and be allowed to. However, there should be no moral obligation in the matter, as you have exposed, nothing more true than the words, "Charity begins at home", and boy does that charity look after itself well, so perhaps part of the problem is not simply related to musicians, but those running the "charity"?

David Marshall:  In Canada we have SOCAN music license which all business's pay into.

Lathe Of Heaven:  To put Earl Okin in a position where he would look bad if he kept the money he had earned, is moral blackmail. Disgusting. As you say, he should have been paid, and allowed to make his own decision on what to do with the money.

Joseph Kosak:  Without even watching the video yet, I can say an emphatic, "NO!"

There's an old story that goes:
A bar owner asked a bandleader if his band can play at his bar for free. It would be great exposure for you. The bandleader replied: can your bar cater my band's public party for free. It would be great exposure for the bar employees.

Nothing could be truer...

Ships Ahoy:  You are spot on, Dave. I’m 100% in agreement with your entire message here. There are way too many stealing from others’ hard work. Just because you enjoy the work you do, that doesn’t mean you should have to do it for free! 👨🏻

factorylad:  It's a sliding scale some musicians should pay for people to listen to garbage and then upwards.

Cristian Rodriguez:  There is nothing controversial, people should be paid for their work..period. It is up to the author to release their work under any other model. How fairly do intermediaries pay artists is a different matter.

Glade Swope:  It's hard to mind ones material getting heard without getting paid, when the only other option is to not be heard at all. The biggest gripe about performance royalty organizations is that they mostly help those few that have already made it. Venues that say they can't afford Ascap dues are often the ones songwriters most want to play at.

EdotJdot:  I believe in free culture, and with the example provided, if it was a performance of a piece, attribution should do. If it was a replayed recording, then there is all fair asking for monetary income. There should not be a urge or force for them to donate.

Kevin Acres:  Absolutely not. Those who created their art should be rewarded for their endeavours

Mikhail Kulkov:  Earl Okin is awesome!

G8YTZ:  Your example of the hairdresser (or taxi driver) with the radio on. The radio station has already paid the copyright fees for broadcasting this music, so I don’t see why the hairdresser should pay again.

Sure if the hairdresser plays their own copies of recorded music that’s fine they should have a license as the music has only been purchased for private listening.

D. Wyn:  Creating art takes time and talent. If someone creates something I like, I buy it to have a piece of their creation to enjoy while supporting the artist. Everyone needs to make money to support themselves.

Rock And Roll:  Should prostitutes work for free?

Rock And Roll:  Fruit should also be free, especially orange. It grows from ray of light and heat that we all produce and the Earth and light is everyone's. Fedex should deliver them for free, because their employees breath in the air that my plants produce.

Adel 2022:  Hi, thanks for your interesting videos, I personally and I guess others also have a hard time with the blurry background, thanks

Daniel Heikalo:  We all need to be paid for the use of our music. And also, to be acknowledged publicly when our music is used in a video, film, play, etc. You use the music, you pay! We are "cultural workers", that is our job to compose music... so, pay us when you use it.

comedy4cast:  If they had contacted the composer ahead of time and the composer wished to donate, fine. However, I believe that even in that case, PRS would collect the monies and it would be on the composer to donate the collected royalties. But I may be wrong about how that works.

Lee Davidson:  If a writer decides they want to donate their fees to any particular charity, that's entirely up to them.. but, you've pointed out that copyright exists in most other areas.. outright sales, public performance, radio airplay.. all these are covered by legislation, hence there is solid precedent established, but there is one exception.. STREAMING.. and until its enshrined in law, the rip off will continue unabated, and its clearly in the interests of the streaming companies themselves to resist any attempt to create these laws. Plus, with most record companies having equity stakes in these platforms, its also in their interest to avoid it as well.. and right there is a very powerful entity indeed when it comes to challenging the status quo.. and with the majority of music fans now well used to very cheap/free music since the internut was established, its not looking good if you're a writer.. doomed i tells ya.

John Fraser Findlay:  No comment needed not after 50 years as a pro😢

ONESNZER0S:  This is very important, David is spelling it out for all of those who just might not get it. In my view, do what you love, the money will follow, take what you can or want to to donate to the charitable cause of 'your choosing' and carry on with your craft which is a timeless contribution to the whole of humanity. BTW, R.I.P. Gordon Lightfoot, a national treasure. And BTW David, you are so inspiring to the the music community, thank you so much. You have offered so much inspiration to milions.

Musical Neptunian:  I agree. All music composers should be paid. But that can't include Brian Ferneyhough. Nobody should pay him; noise should always be free.

Editing SECRETS revealed!:  Right on! This is the ultimate example of the business model known as "commoditize your complements." A commodity is interchangeable with not a penny's difference between one pound of sugar and another, or one barrel of oil and another. A complement is what else people need to make their experience complete. If gas was free, or nobody could sell it for more than a penny, people would buy more cars. If meals were free, or no restaurant could sell one for more than a penny, people would eat out more. This is what business that thrive on their customers' enjoyment of music have done.
Big tech and media companies have succeeded at indoctrinating a generation into believing that engineers and social networks deserve to be paid - of course designing better OLED screens and comment algorithms is worth a lot of money, you know, that should never have to be just a hobby - but what goes along with your gadget or online subscription from OTHERS has virtually no worth, or none at all - including music.
Corporations and investment funds have billionaires getting richer while, in the case of Mr. Spotify, lecturing musicians that they need to run harder now that the rug has been pulled out from other them. This is all about outright greed that doesn't give a damn who is hurt as long as I Got Mine. It's not about morality, until those saying "information (or music or 'content') wants to be free" have joined a monastery and given all their subsequent engineering fees to feed "the least of these," since nobody should make a living from handling what "wants to be free."
Similar issue for the Writer's Guild strike in Hollywood now. Their proposal would be an average of another about $8,000 per year per member. Half a percent of revenue for the media companies. What brazen overreaching!

Lotus cola:  You should donate your earnings from this video to Earl, the entire £2.

Mr. Lowery:  A charity can only become reality when the people making and "give" their time is paid for! CONTRACTS are actually important because when things aren't straight it only takes reading the contract and everything should be understood so everyone can do their jobs the right way and everything! Now it isn't the best way if you haven't read the contract and the small print even! If you don't like something, then why did you sign your name on it? LOL Charity's have these contracts too! If anyone who thinks certain people should not be making any money from the charity, then they should have been voluntaries AND not being paid in their CONTRACT also! LOL Lawyers are wonderful aren't they!? They might not be sweet but if the first time out the gate and you get hosed, a good one can make sure the next time is right on schedule!

💰 Make $765 Per Day:  "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing---that's why we recommend it daily." ---Zig Ziglar

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to 💰 Make $765 Per Day: How in the world does that relate to paying musicians royalties? Or are you just tossing out random spam?

vectragt2310:  Most of the money for charity does NEVER end up where it is supposed to. The bigger they are, the worse the result.
And of course they should pay.
On the other hand - if we would have a world/society like in Taygeta, Erra, or elsewhere.
No money exists - and therefore no one needs to pay for anything! Everything is made available for the greater goal. Unthinkable for 3D humans here...
Money, power and greed...


Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to vectragt2310: Beam me up Scotty, there are no intelligent royalties on this planet

Arm Head:  I agree, for the most part. However, if the person who wrote it died, then that's fair game. The music industry has no issues screwing over artists, so I have no issue ripping that music for free.

Arm Head replies to Arm Head: @Rock And Roll  So the record company, that screws over the artist, gets all the dough? Yeah, I'll stick to ripping music, thanks.

Rock And Roll replies to Arm Head: @Arm Head The record company maybe. Why don't you find out of it yourself?

Arm Head replies to Arm Head: @Rock And Roll And if they don't?

Rock And Roll replies to Arm Head: The estate goes to the family, if he/she/hen had any, duh!

Piero Serra:  Generally I agree that composers should be paid no matter where their music is used unless they are Muse, who should have to pay to inflict their music upon us.

Mark Carrington:  Music is free to anyone these days, thanks to the thieves at Napster. The musicians were railroaded into a deal with, so called, legitimate streaming platforms, Spotify et al, to at least create a stream of income, however paltry. But for most people, the end result is the same, music is free.

So by extension, it’s okay to not pay musicians and composers in the minds of people going to charitable gigs. The music industry has always been more about the industry and less about the music. Today though, it just seems harder for musicians to be supported by the industry than ever.

Think about how much people pay to watch TV streaming services every month and then how much they spend on listening to music. In my view, there should be no such thing as a free streaming service and furthermore, I think streaming platforms should be made to publish far more information about how much of their revenues they hand over to the artists they claim to support.

To be fair, they probably don’t claim to support anyone, not the artists nor their customers, after all they are nothing more than glorified hosting centres with an app. Long live physical media, I say.

Robert Quinn:  I love your act of devil's advocate. Here's my 2 cents. I'm from a time when bar bands were a culture here in the states. Many musical fellows are and haver been chewing nails since the PRO's required licensing. I'm a songwriter. And have also worked in the visual arts for years. No one wants to pay for art. Rule one...contracts!

Glade Swope replies to Robert Quinn: The bar band culture never went away. The bars just hope Ascap, etc. never discover them, same then as now. That approach does work for a limited time. In smaller cities, it's common for the bar to hide from Ascap, etc. for decades, and once they get caught and asked to pay those lump-sum retroactive dues, !?.

Emmanuel Gutierrez:  Back in 2014 Bette Midler tweeted that Pandora paid her slightly more than $114 for more than 4 million song spins over a three-month period, so there.

enrique kahn:  Art should be free, but so should housing, food, health care and every other necessity of life. Can't blame the artists for needing to participate in the economy.

cdl0:  This is a choice for the composer. The creator of a may grant a Creative Commons Licence if they so wish. There are several versions of this, depending on what the creator wants. A similar concept applies for much computer code, namely the GNU General Public Licence, The MIT Licence, and the Apache Licence, which are very widely used. The code is free, but support is not necessarily free.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to cdl0: That comparison would apply to recordings, but not to a live performance. The comparison would be that the programmer is DEMANDED (not asked) to give a day's free work to help sell charity tickets, and blamed as outrageously self-centered if they dare to say no - to the six figure income charity boss who's not working for free.

ThePostApocalypticTrio:  How about the Street Performer Protocol becoming more of a thing. In this system, performers and writers crowdsource a certain amount of money to be paid before the artists releases their music. Once the amount of money requested is reached, the artists releases the music into the public domain. Everyone wins, except the publishers and record companies😂

Kristian Wontroba:  This is not just about the money, it's about a composer being voluntold to give away their creation and/or the money it might bring to the "collective good" w/o a vote or a voice in the matter.

Paul Homchick:  Hmmm. Why does David Mellor remind me of Pat Condell? Did the two of them go to the same school?

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to Paul Homchick: He got tired of being Paul McCartney's double so he's trying a new look

Pete Denton:  With you 100%

traildoggy:  I don't mind artists getting payed, but I do very much mind online ticketing companies get scalper level 'Service Charges' for shows.

Pixador Delterrat:  Should consumers pay a fee for anything that the music authors think it's remotely related to music? At least here in Spain we must pay a fee to SGAE (music authors association) whenever we buy a smartphone, a hard drive, an SD card, blank CD or DVD media, USB sticks... Yeah, it's us consumers those wanting a free meal.

Mr. Jones:  Why is music held to a different standard than other human efforts? Not than many people can create, write and arrange, let alone be good at it.

organfairy:  Of course songwriters, composer, musicians, and other creative people should be paid for what they have created. My problem is the "70 years after their death" term - that's a very long time, and it makes a lot of money..... for lawyers. I have some old pieces of sheet music and on many of them there is a copyright note saying something like "(c) 1929, renewed 1956". Untill somewhere in the 1960s copyright was only for 30 years or so, but you could get it renewed for another 30 years if you applied for it and paid a fee. I like this approach because it's a more manageable time frame and it takes songs that the composers doesn't care about anymore - which is probably most songs - out of copyright and prevents many legal battles. The problem today is that if I write a song I can risc being sued for plagiarism by anyone holding copyright for anything written within more than a century which is impossible to administer for a simple musician.

Stephen Wise:  In the musical instrument business, there's a need to play actual music in order to demonstrate the instruments. The money isn't a problem. It's paying that's the problem. You can't just say: I want to play this song a dozen times, here's your money. It's more like doing your United States federal income tax.

Rock And Roll replies to Stephen Wise: @Stephen Wise A recording or release of an live recording where it is a product you sell, then we talk the same language.

Rock And Roll replies to Stephen Wise: @Stephen Wise You don't pay royalties of work you actually do yourself of others work if you have got the permission in first place. What a bunch of humbug.

Stephen Wise replies to Stephen Wise: @Rock And Roll If you perform a copyrighted work, then you or the venue must pay royalties. Playing for yourself or for some family or friends is generally OK, but performing for the purpose of trade or making money requires that royalties be paid.

Rock And Roll replies to Stephen Wise: That's performing, not a playback of an original recording (which you need licence for - because YOU are not the performer/artist).

Bart Van Leeuwen:  Of course songwriters and composers should be payed, also by charities.

I do however want to point at some nuances I think are good to keep in mind. First of all, the 'uproar' would be a lot less if the fees would be more proportional to what part of the concert was actually implicated. Now, I understand that is not how licensing music works, but it is very relevant to public perception of this. It is also a point worth discussing if that isn't how it should work for public performances.

The second thing is that songwriters and composers stand to benefit as well from musicians being able to continue their trade and performances on the long run, so indirectly benefit from this charity, just like one could argue about the musicians doing the benefit concert.

Glade Swope replies to Bart Van Leeuwen: First of all, the 'uproar' would be a lot less if the fees would be more proportional to what part of the concert was actually implicated. - like when Ascap, etc. tells the "original music only" venue, "But we can get you for one song, even if you say it's not allowed."?

Christoph Martin:  No matter what it is in the clip, and I have to admit I have not watched them for the first time. But there is a simple answer to the question. NO they should and have to get their share. There is only one thing on this planet for free and that costs your life 😁

Rouben:  Pay the creators, otherwise David Geffen, Lou Adler, and all the other leeches who make disproportionate fortunes off other people's talent will make even more.

nagy endre:  No.
Music should not be free!
Free stuff is, generally, poorly made, or it has some "strings attached" to it.


meis 18mofo:  yes but food, shelter and a good standart of life should be free too, as long as we're stuck in capitalism you are devaluing the labour of your fellow worker if you work for free.

sides up:  Except for maybe the Commissioner of the National Football League, creative artists or show biz people get paid better than anyone. Anyone major, who is involved in entertainment gets paid royally. Like the old song goes "There's No Business Like Show Business." Artist should be paid for their work, even if making music is a lot less like what we think of as work; like working in a factory for instance. It takes time and effort. Maybe each singer and musician should have to sign something saying that their music is free to charities and benefits them. Or if not, don't sign it.
Most people think of music making as play; more than work.

Roy Tofilovski:  A business using the radio should not have to pay. That business is playing the ads as well, so it is helping the radio station, and the station is paying for the songs.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to Roy Tofilovski: @Roy Tofilovski Sorry for the confusion, I was distracted while commenting. You're right, although I have been in restaurants that played the radio.

Roy Tofilovski replies to Roy Tofilovski: @Editing SECRETS revealed! We were talking about a hair salon, no? Restaurants don't normally play the radio. They play music, but not the radio.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to Roy Tofilovski: @Roy Tofilovski When it's presented to customers, included in the offer. The ambience inside Fedex trucks is not part of what Fedex sells to customers. The ambience inside a restaurant is part of what the restaurant sells to customers.

Rock And Roll replies to Roy Tofilovski: A business should definitely pay! It is their entertainment to enhance the experience, so they should pay, and they should pay hard!

Roy Tofilovski replies to Roy Tofilovski: @Editing SECRETS revealed! Then FedEx should also pay for music. FedEx drivers listen to the radio in their trucks while they work. That music makes their job experience a bit better, no? In fact, I imagine all music should be pay to play then, like with Sirius radio. Where do we draw the line?

Giancarlo Benzina:  everybody should work for free, because they enjoy it and enjoy contributing to the common wealth, but hey that's all another story. Until then everybody should pay the artist directly a substantial amount for every piece of music used for private and commercial use, any use, even more so re-using it sampled or unsampled modified or unmodified, to the living artist or an artists fund, when he died that serves helping upcoming musicians of getting along. Not lawyers, not his family or anyone. the art was owned and created and is a life-long owned by an artist, not a label. The artist may pay the label for services, but not the other way around. Composers, are artists, too, so are writers, engineers are no artists, they are engineers, like printers are printers, ..., salesmen are sales, lawyers ... all are service people to the artist directly or via a label, free or employed...

Wonder Wheel replies to Giancarlo Benzina: Si. E poi, quando SIAE cerca di farsi valere con il potente di turno, la maggior parte degli artisti che fa? Se la prende con SIAE, perchè piuttosto che niente meglio piuttosto... ...e allora, dove vogliamo andare?

Tony Jedi Of The Forest:  No one should have to work for free. I worked for a company who didn’t pay overtime and I regularly worked 16 hour days and 7 days a week. What an idiot I was. Missing my kids growing up was the worst part. Now my eldest son is working his company tried to do the same with him and when he refused they found ways of making things difficult and ended up sacking him. He could not get into work one day due to the local bus company going on strike so they let him go. He does not drive and it would have been a 15 mile walk. Nothing he could do. The company owner is a multi millionaire. I hope he rots in hell!

CoolDudeClem:  Modern music is all mass produced anyway with no soul to it, All mainstream modern music is worthless to me. Only people who actually put time and effort into their work deserve to get paid, their music is not worthless. I on the other hand produce music just because I want to, it's a hobby of mine and I put it up for free.

Simon Blandford:  It shouldn’t be so darn difficult to pay to use music for public performance. There’s a wealth of music available on streaming services as long as you only listen to it yourself. When I had the idea that it would be great to play the same music to an auditorium I tried looking for some kind of “pro” subscription on one of the main streaming services that would let me do that. I soon learned that for pro use there are other streaming services that have a very limited catalogue and will only let me choose the “style” of music as a radio station and not the exact track I want. Also, since public performance may be sporadic in some applications a pay-per-play model may be a better option than an all-you-can-eat subscription.

walthaus:  I wish that music licensing fees were so high that nobody could afford it, no more music in supermarkets, elevators, doctors' offices, TV commercials, etc.. the only music you'd hear would be the music you decided you wanted to hear, what a wonderful world it would be.

Glade Swope replies to walthaus: @Martin Cook And some would say that benefits the publisher, even if there were no P.R.O. dues. At the point of buying it, you did choose.

Martin Cook replies to walthaus: I heard music I didn't choose and went on to buy the albums :)

Glade Swope replies to walthaus: And, as many are not aware, a small percentage of the money you spend at retail stores, often for necessities like groceries, is going to those top 40 celebrities through Ascap, etc., whether you would have chosen to listen to that music or not. Taylor Swift, the Estate of Michael Jackson, etc. are taxing our food.

thexfile:  It is possible to find any song in a dictionary.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to thexfile: That makes zero sense. What dictionary includes lyrics, melodies, chords, arrangements, productions?

Horror Tackle Harry:  £2k seems a very low profit for a relatively high-profile show in central London. Clearly plenty of people were paid for the night.

ignatzmuskrat3000:  How efficient and proper is the charity ceo when he fails to pay a royalty? Seems dodgy to me.

Cliff H:  How was the 1000 GBP fee derived? It seems a bit stiff for a couple of covers at a single gig.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to Cliff H: We don't know (at least I don't know) what the total ticket sales or donation range of the fundraiser was. Also, even if only asked to do a couple of songs, he can't resell the rest of his evening somewhere else.

Hello Meat Robots:  Pay up, if they want to use the music free they should ask the composer beforehand. If the composer declines, find other music or pay up. This isn't just the equivalent of their workers volunteering, it's like the workers being told they were volunteering after they did the job.

MacinMind Software:  Right. It is not charity when you don't have a choice.

Dark Side of Synth:  Yeah, sure... free stuff for everyone and compulsory charity. What could possibly go wrong?

Dark Side of Synth replies to Dark Side of Synth: @Wonder Wheel Concordo. Sono anni che passa il "meglio x che 0". Senza rendersi conto che ormai x è ampiamente minore di zero ;)

Wonder Wheel replies to Dark Side of Synth: Certo... ...poi, quando qualcuno si oppone in concreto a questo stato di cose (vedi SIAE con Meta), tutti a leccare il potente e a prendersela con SIAE perchè meglio poco che zero. Ma dove vogliamo andare con questa mentalità sottomessa?

Nick Dudesville:  Why should I be able to listen to a used CD without paying the songwriter? Why should I be able to use a chord I didn't create? Why should I be able to breathe the same air as Bob Dylan without paying a license? Who should have the authority to decide where a line is? "The answer my friend..."

ßøňël:  Thanks for standing on the side of the composers. I never understood how could anyone think that composers, or programmers for that matter, work for free... or anyone of course.

ßøňël replies to ßøňël: @Glade Swope Exactly, willingly. As with everything else creative. There are free music and free everthing as well. But those are labelled free. And without going in to why somebody does something for free, these al do not mean that anyone can expect anything for free.

Glade Swope replies to ßøňël: There are some great programmers who willingly did it: GPL, open source, etc. It's like a religion, and the internet would have been something very different and less open without their influence.

ßøňël replies to ßøňël: @Giancarlo Benzina ? I mentioned programmers not becuase they are the same as composers, but they are often thought about the same way: creators, whom people not always think they shall pay anything.

Giancarlo Benzina replies to ßøňël: composers are artists, programmers are not, they're software engineers. Both deserve to be paid properly. Of course if a composer is basically expressing a chatGPT like repeatable nonsense, he might be just an employee and be paid accordingly with a salary that fits his task

dolphinwaveorg:  I think that the owner has a final say on how his work can be used. Charities can ask to use his work for free, but he decides if to approve this request, or not. Charities can't use other people's stuff for free just because they are charities. Maybe the owner doesn't like that particular charity and doesn't want to be associated with it in any way?

That's my ¢2 of composed thoughts. :)

NewGoldStandard:  I remember going to the CD store and spending an hour agonizing over which CD to buy. I could only afford one. I also saw David Bowie and NIN live for, in today's dollars, $40. There's a lot to miss about those days, but they aren't coming back.

JayTemple:  Asking whether charities should have to pay for music is like asking whether they should have to pay for electricity.

JayTemple replies to JayTemple: Also, if your tax system is as bad as ours, the composer may find himself paying income tax on the royalty even if he waived it.

Pol Morgan:  I just signed up to Distrokid yesterday so i'll soon find out if anyone is interested. I was thinking of an angle, what do you think about putting out a single on youtube and having it as a compitition to write a missing line from the song and whichwever line i pick that person gets 50% of the royalty. do you think this would be a good thing to do as a kind of 'loss leader' thanks for your good advice and opinions.

Pol Morgan replies to Pol Morgan: @Editing SECRETS revealed! He he yeah I know its a daft idea but we live in the time of utter madness.

Editing SECRETS revealed! replies to Pol Morgan: Did the Beatles reach the toppermost of the poppermost by having a write the missing line sweepstakes?
Did the Stones get their success from kissing a lot of babies?
Did Led Zeppelin send more birthday cards to fans than anyone else?
When - and WHY, and for whose economic benefit - did writing a great song, making a great recording, putting on a great show, not count as enough? Is your music only of worth if it includes a "choose your own adventure" gimmick? What will the winner do with their penny anyway, after they pay tax on it?

Pol Morgan:  We al have to pay the piper, one way or another. Isn't it funny how when your an unknown your music is worth nothing yet if you get notoriety the same tune can be a huge hit. its a facinating thing to me. all the best mate.

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Tuesday May 2, 2023

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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