22 January 2009

A Musical Interactive Stageshow

Regular ccMixter participant and remixing surfer from down-under Scomber has taken the idea of a playlist into new heights. He is using the ccMixter playlist feature to essentially create a musical (script). The whole thing is obviously tongue-in-cheek and from what I've read so far may eventually only be allowed on cable television or as an adults-only off-Broadway play, but it is a really great idea and he is inviting participation to help create a musical which he terms a Musical Interactive Stageshow. At the point of this writing, the first 5 scenes are done.

Who knows how far this will go - but that's not even the point. It's a great concept!

(UPDATED: new links 2009-01-26)

20 January 2009

Should Emerging Artists Abandon Non-Commercial in their CC licenses?

Disclaimer: Any business decision is a kind of a gamble taken by the individual or company and can succeed or fail. As such, no-one can and should make the decisions about your future. All I'm trying to do here is to encourage ways of thinking about an issue. In the end, it's your call ... your gamble.

Does it make sense for emerging artists to license their materials via the Creative Commons Attribution License rather than the intuitively more obvious Creative Commons Non-Commercial?

Even people in searches of day jobs are increasingly doing unpaid internships in order to get additional experience and prove what they can do in a realistic environment. It makes it easier for employers to eventually give them a paying job.

Arguably an emerging artist is in a similar position. So by giving away their work with just their name attached to it, they make it more attractive for others to use in their work.

So let's say someone now uses that work in an advertisement without paying the music maker. There are two ways of looking at this scenario for an emerging artist:

a) I "lost" the revenue I "should" have made, or
b) I have an additional item in my resume, in my quest for eventually getting paid for making music.

But does point a) even really apply, if the song was only used, because it was free?

In a routine scenario, like a theoretically lost couple of hundred dollars, euros, or whatever - this is not a life changing thing you'll be kicking yourself forever for. But how would you feel, if your free song became an international sensation, maybe performed by an established star, or used in a Coke or McDonalds commercial around the world?

As unlikely as that is, you should think this case through, and consider, if that would be a positive or a negative scenario for you. Would you have ever gotten that gig, if your song wasn't free? Established artists may very well and very legitimately say "yes" to that answer, but this article isn't for them :-)

With a worldwide hit to your credit, do you think you could maybe now get paying gigs to write jingles in your local market, get a gig in a trade-show, or maybe sell some t-shirts or ringtones, or a song for Guitar Hero 17 or The Sims "Retirement Home 2" expansion pack? All this because of your now obvious credibility as a hit maker?

Maybe even that wouldn't be so terrible after all?

Imagine yourself at 85, in your fusion-powered rocking chair, with your in-ear iMusicTalkNoiseThingy and looking across your video integrated tri-focals showing beach while you're actually sitting in room 23 of the Shady Pines retirement home in Winnipeg, Canada -- in January.

And someone interrupts your daydream about the good old days asking about your life. Would you rather say: "I recorded 5 jingles for a couple of hundred bucks each. And my CD made 500 bucks on amazon.com" Or would you rather say: "In 2010, Coke used my song for their commercial during the Olympics. And then I was on Letterman. Right after the guy with the animals...".


Again: this may not apply for established artists in a given field of music creation, but it may potentially apply for those wanting to be considered in a new field. And if releasing with an Attribution license, what if they don't attribute you properly? Would the courts give you damages for that? How much does it matter? Or maybe one needs to think about how to ensure that you can prove that it's your song. Because whatever happens, you'll want to be able to take credit for the credit that's due to you. Quite possibly publishing your work on the Internet where you give yourself proper credit is actually a good mechanism for making your claim.

And to preempt an obvious question: But doesn't giving things away for free make it harder for those currently making a living in that field? Answer: Yes it does, and so does your very effort to enter that field.

Once you have achieved a certain amount of notoriety and credibility, it might make more sense to switch to non-commercial licensing, just like you might not be interning once you've had a paying job or two under your belt.

Feel free to argue for or against in the comments section for this article.

19 January 2009

Good News: Youtube Mutes Videos with Unauthorized Copyrighted Music

This might just turn out to be a pretty big turning point: It looks like youtube is starting to mute the audio of video clips with unauthorized copyrighted music. This article discusses some of the obvious implications.

But, much more importantly, if (and only if) this ends up being the case for a majority of the mainstream commercial songs being "featured" in user-generated youtube videos, this could just turn out to trigger the biggest boost to creative commons music adoption in the mainstream we've seen yet. Assuming uploaders want music with their videos and that they'll not want to go through the trouble of licensing it from the likes of companies who sue their customers and/or organizations who once tried to make the girl scouts pay for music by the camp fire.

So for example, what if youtube (Google owns youtube) adds a feature to make it easy to search for and find creative commons music for people looking for an appropriate song or sound track for their user-generated content and better yet: even automatically inserting it? If they don't, somebody will.

Music making Ladies and Gentlemen: Start your DAWs! And start thinking about the titles and tags for your music to make your music easy to find for the right video context.

And how about writing and recording a catchy creative commons licensed replacement for this Warner-Chappell owned song?

17 January 2009

Copyright Refrom

Maybe now is a good time as any to clarify, that I'm not an opponent of copyright in principle. I'm not necessarily an opponent of trademarks and patents either. But in my opinion laws and precedent setting court cases have gone overboard in quite a few cases.

Intellectual property laws - like any other laws - should balance the benefits of society overall with the rights of individuals. When that balance is disturbed too much, bad things are prone to happen in a country.

For example, if intellectual property laws are so tight, that only a few companies can create new products and services, because everyone else gets sued for for building a new idea on a protected old idea, then new products and services will be created less and less, since many really great new ideas come from new companies, not established ones.

Similarly, great art has been built on the shoulders of previous generations of art. For example, how many Disney classics have been built on the shoulders of the Grimm brothers and others?

A second thought, is, that if a good part, or even a majority of a population routinely breaks the law in a significantly punishable way, a society arguably becomes something like a police state. Since obviously not everyone can be thrown in prison, only those people get prosecuted for their law breaking who don't have enough "friends in high places". Ask anyone who has actually lived in a seriously oppressed country, how brutal that is. Even if you don't go to prison, but live in constant fear to have a good chunk of your possessions taken away, because you have to pay large fines, it creates a similar environment.

So the irony is, that the so called democracies seem to be working their way down a rather slippery slope towards something rather backwards and dark. And that concerns me.

While I have never participated in the file sharing world of movies and music (maybe because by the time that started being possible, I could afford to buy the stuff - in my days we taped things off the radio!), I don't think a situation where a significant majority of a generation is essentially criminal is a good thing for society. And older generations telling younger one's just to stop doing something doesn't really seem to work all that well.


My very simple argument is, that since commercial, artistic, technological and knowledge cycles seem to be happening in shorter time frames in our current world, copyrights and patents should probably expire sooner, rather than being lengthened. (Trademarks are a bit of a different thing, and I've not observed quite as much across the board nonsense in court cases, although some corporations have tried to trademark letters of the alphabet, numbers, colors and shapes - and occasionally some court has sided with them, only to be overturned later like in the case of guitar maker Gibson going after PRS.)

So rather than shortening the cycles of copyrights, there seems to be a copyright extension law passed in the US, every time Mickey Mouse is just about to become public domain. And then the hoards of industry lobbyists and US ambassadors are let loose on the rest of the world to make the applicable laws in other countries resemble US law, like we experienced in Canada just in 2008. I was depressed that our minister in charge of such issues seemed to favor closed door meetings with such lobbyists over public forums.

So I support a re-thinking of what appropriate intellectual property protection should be in a modern society. What should be "protected" and for how long needs some really good thinking by some really smart and not too selfish people. Whatever the right answer may be, this topic should NOT be discussed in private lunches and closed door meetings, but in public forums.

While maybe not quite up there with drafting a constitution, it is an important enough topic, that lawmakers and ministers and secretaries of whatever should really treat this topic as the foundation for commerce and art in our modern post-industrial societies. And I would argue, that it's therefore not far behind a constitution in importance.

I'm not an intellectual property specialist, but I'm working and playing in areas deeply affected by such laws, so I do care.

I'll leave it at that, since there are many more qualified sources on the web for reading up on these issues than my blog. Search terms like "copyright reform" are a good starting point.

In the mean-time many of us have decided to work and play in what we hope is a preview of a more wide-spread environment. We don't use the stuff that others don't want us to use, but we're creating our own pools of music, images, movies, writing, software and more that we share with each other in various ways to varying degrees.

It's ok, Disney and Sir Paul - keep you mouse and your Let it Be forever. We may just forget them, because you are the only one's controlling who builds upon them. But we still remember Snowwhite and the Toccata and Fugue in Dm, arguably because others could build upon them. Remixing is okay! :-)

16 January 2009

Copyright Violation by Şanli Collection

A couple of days ago one of my favorite remixers, Loveshadow mentioned, that his remix (jointly copyrighted by him and CalendarGirl), which had been previously properly licensed by fashion house Kalchmann, had been subjected to what appears to me to be a classic cloning rip-off by a company called "Şanli Collection".

According to Loveshadow, they aren't answering email inquiries.

I'm not sure what exactly this says about that "Şanli Collection". Are they evil? Or just stupid? Or incredibly lazy? There's lots and lots of music available which would be perfectly ok to use in a commercial context for the price of giving credit to the creator(s) of that music.

10 January 2009

Do NOT Remix this Interview (wink, wink)

Professor Lawrence Lessig is the founder of the Creative Commons, which has created the possibility of a creative sharing environment amongst music makers and other creators of art, content, or whatever you want to call people who write, paint, draw, play music, sing, compose etc. (note: I publish my writings, music, images under creative commons licenses.)

And since the Creative Commons is the creator and sponsor of my favorite remixing community ccMixter, it was with great excitement, that I watched Prof. Lessig appear on the Colbert Report, one of the popular and valuable voices of reason (all packaged into blazing satire) in an often depressing mainstream media scape.


The segment was about Prof. Lessig's book called REMIX, a quintessential work in making the case for copyright reform. Actually, the absence of such reforms is one of the great indictments of the current generation of politicians in the western style democracies. It's downright depressing how special interest group money rules.

While Prof. Lessig has a great sense of humor, he's not necessarily to be confused with being a professional comedian. (Sorry Professor!) So he plays it rather straight in making the case for Copyright Reform to the fake belligerent Colbert persona, which is a parody of Bill O'Reilly's tv program:

UPDATE (2009-01-14): As if to make Prof. Lessig's point for him, Viacom has forced youtube to pull this video off their site from Prof. Lessig's account. How magically insane! Fortunately I have met some incredibly smart and insightful lawyers, and obviously Prof. Lessig is one. None of them works for Viacom.

UPDATE (2009-01-19): But it's still there in other youtube acounts. Thanks to MC Jack in the Box for finding it.



The interview closes with an "argument" between Lessig and Colbert. Lessig says "remix this interview" and Colbert says "do NOT remix this interview".

So the fun has begun. ccMixter features the audio source of the Stephen Colbert interview with Lawrence Lessig. For those more famliar with indiba music, there's also a session in progress there.

In the past Colbert has featured little snippets of his favorite remixes in a future episode. Assuming that he'll do that in this case, it will be a nice feather in the cap for a few remixers.

UPDATE: Good eMXR friend essesq, in the comments pointed out a more in-depth interview of Prof. Lessig on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross.

08 January 2009

Music is Wallpaper

The always articulate and insightful fourstones has an interesting blog entry to kick off 2009, entitled: Music Doesn’t Matter, where he describes some of the fundamental generational shift from the boomer generation to generation Y in their relationship to music and musicians. It's a good read and I fundamentally agree with what he's saying and maybe put my little "spin" on it.

Music is more omnipresent today. Maybe the Walkman, and later the iPod are to blame. Or maybe that the boomers fundamentally got their way and their revolution became the new standard. Maybe it's that Rock'n Roll died after all. But the "why" probably doesn't matter that much. What matters is - as fourstones points out - music is something totally different to the post 80s set than it was to the boomers.

Maybe these days music is just wall paper. Sure, you have some interest in whether it's dark or light - or if it's floral or striped or plain. But it's not like a painting or a piece of sculpture. Music has become background which underlines, supports and contrasts other stuff. I find amongst Gen Y even if they are quite avid and excellent music makers themselves, favorite bands are changed much more frequently, while for the boomer generation a favorite musician or band ended up becoming enshrined in sort of a personal "hall of fame" with often a life long emotional attachment.

Also, I don't find music is really significant as cornerstone of a generational rebellion anymore. It still may provide some sort of a soundtrack (video games, advertising, movies, videos), but it's not even close to the core. Arguably things like bodily modifications from piercings to tattoo's represent more of a kind of rebellion. Or the fact that today's younger set seems to be multi-tasking all the time. Having a conversation while listening to an mp3 player and texting all at the same time. Boomers think they aren't paying attention, but they are - to several things simultaneously.

If indeed music has become wallpaper, it has significant implications in many dimensions: there are business model implications, but also artistic one's. It's different to design a good background compared to designing a good piece of art.

It's kind of strange coming to this conclusion, because as a music maker myself, I still think of my music as paintings rather than wallpaper. And I think there's someone that needs chasing off my lawn. Oh - it's just a Raccoon. I call him "Rocky"...

05 January 2009

The piano roll is dead -- Long live the piano roll!

The Buffalo News features a story about the end of the piano roll. Before mp3, before CDs, before MIDI, before vinyl records, even before radio. Player pianos and other automated music machines arguably represented the first "recorded music". While there may still be some manufacturers in other places around the world, it would seem intuitively obvious that the days of the piano roll are numbered.

However, unlike the headline of the article misleads, the music is alive and well. Partly thanks to the International Association of Mechanical Music Preservationists, who are making devices to allow the transfer of piano rolls into more modern technologies like midi files.

And the piano roll metaphor lives on in numerous music software applications as a way of visually representing midi data. Even Apple's "Garageband" found as an included music production software in Mac computers displays midi data in a piano roll style.

All I can say is, "The piano roll is dead -- Long live the piano roll!"

... mmmhhh, I wonder if one could remix one of these ...