CopyLike.Org – If You Like Open Source and Creative Commons

Check out this Organization:
http://copylike.org/
https://www.facebook.com/copylike

If you like open source software,
or Creative Commons licensing,
then you like copyright.

Open source software relies on copyright to force all future
development to remain open. Without copyright the orginal
creator wouldn’t be able to stop people closing his code.

Creative Commons licenses let us decode what rights to give
away. For example, we can allow people to use our work only if
they credit us, or only for non-commercial purposes.

Copyright gives us these choices. Without copyright, anyone
could use our work for anything, including selling weapons.

That’s a very good reason to like copyright.

Defend Copyright.
It’s All We Have Left.
COPYLIKE.ORG

Recording Tips for the Loudness Wars: An Interview with Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering

[Chris Castle interviews Bob Ludwig, the legendary mastering engineer.]

Introduction

Mastering is the last and probably the least understood step in the audio recording process.

Mastering engineer Bob Ludwig is one of the true living legends of the music business. In addition to being a Grammy winning engineer, he has received many TEC Awards for excellence and was the first winner of the Les Paul Award from the Mix Foundation for setting the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology.

Bob is a classical musician by training, having obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music. Inspired by Phil Ramone, Bob ended up working with Phil at the legendary A&R Recording Studios in New York. After a few years at A&R Recording, Bob moved to Sterling Sound and then to Masterdisk as Chief Engineer. In 1993, Bob and his wife Gail built Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine, a state-of-the-art record-mastering facility where he still masters records by top artists.

Chris Castle: Given how many people listen to music on portable digital players, do you find that producers are mixing for earbuds? Is it common to find an “iPod mix” that you master separately?

Bob Ludwig: No it isn’t. Dr. Floyd Toole (of Harman International, makers of JBL speakers) showed that averaging all the different consumer speakers (some bright, some with too much bass or midrange etc.) one ends up with a very flat curve which is empirical proof that mastering with an extremely accurate and flat playback system yields a product that sounds correct on more systems. Like speakers, earbuds run the gamut from the old stock Apple earbuds that sounded tinny and lacking warmth to top-of-the-line Shure earbuds that are extremely accurate, to “hip-hop” earbuds that are overly bass heavy. One must master to sound as good as possible on all systems.

Almost all pop mixes are mixed with the bass and kick drum panned to the center which is proper as many people will be listening on boom boxes which have limited power and having a powerful center channel bass available to both speakers is ideal. Very early recordings of the Rolling Stones and The Beatles (to name two groups) were totally intended for mono and were recorded on 2-channel or 3-channel tape decks solely for creating a mono-only mix. When stereo became popular these early multi-track tapes were re-purposed for stereo and the bass and kick drum were typically locked into either the right or left channel.

With earbuds and headphones this is very unnatural sounding and sometimes it is decided to filter the low bass into the center by mono-ing the signal somewhat. This sounds much better. This is definitely a decision based on current widespread use of earbuds, and it remains an important philosophical question when doing re-issues of old recordings with this problem.

Chris Castle: Can you explain how the “loudness” of a mix becomes a factor in mastering? Can you explain compression and how it affects you at the mastering stage?

Bob Ludwig: Compression uses a piece of hardware or software plug in which either enhances or most often limits the dynamic range of the music being fed into it. Compression is crucial to pop music. Live pop music is almost always performed at hearing damaging levels, way above the 85dBspl OSHA threshold for start of possible hearing loss. In order for this immense power to be even somewhat realistically reproduced on consumer systems the pop sound pipeline must be compressed so that musically the performance has the extra energy that the live performance had. For pop music, this translates as a very musical thing.  (“The Loudness Wars” video illustrates.)

This problem starts from the fact that human beings, when hearing two examples of the exact same musical program but with one turned up only +0.5 or 1dB, almost all listeners who don’t know exactly what they are hearing choose the louder one as “sounding best.” Fair enough.

So through the years, the louder example is eclipsed by a yet louder example winning the hearts and minds of the artist, the engineer and the A&R person. At some point, the music is so loud and unnaturally compressed that the aural assault on the ear, while very impressively loud, has sucked the life out of the music and makes the listener subconsciously not want to hear the music again.

At an Audio Engineering Society workshop I was recently in about loudness, Susan Rogers from Berklee College talked about the hair cells in our ears that receive music and she pointed out that loud compressed music does not “change” as much as dynamic music and notes that “we habituate to a stimulus if it stops changing. Change ‘wakes up’ certain cells that have stopped firing. This is cognitively efficient and therefore automatic.” In other words, there are very physical reasons why too much compression turns off our music receptors. Every playback system ever manufactured comes with a playback level control. If one is listening to an album, one should be able to turn that control anywhere you want and the absolute level on the CD should not make a difference. Another place level on a CD does not make the difference one would think is on radio broadcast. It can be shown that in general, loud CDs sound worse and less powerful on commercial FM radio than a CD with a moderate level that lets the radio station compressors handle the loudness problem. Non-classical radio station compressors make soft things loud and loud things soft.

Two areas where producers get upset about not having enough level is the iTunes Shuffle, or even comparing songs on the iTunes software itself, and that moment at the radio station where the PD is going through the week’s new releases and deciding which two or three songs will be added to his playlist. Here, sometimes having a little extra level can make a lesser song seem a little more impressive, at least at first listen.

A great example of a contemporary recording that has full dynamic range is the Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy CD where Axl Rose wanted all the textures of the original mixes to come through and he got his wish! A good example of one of the loudest most distorted CDs is the Metallica Death Magnetic CD where apparently 10,000 fans signed a web petition to have the album remixed because they got to hear how good it sounded on “Guitar Hero” which did not have all the digital limiters the final CD mix had.

Chris Castle: I’m sure you don’t master with freeware, can you give an overview of the kind of technology you use?

Bob Ludwig: We have great state-of-the-art gear and we also have some classic gear like the 5 different sets of tape machine playback electronics we have to reproduce the client’s tape with the very best sounding playback for that particular recording.  It makes a big difference.

We have Esoteric Audio Research tube amps, Aria Class-A solid state electronics, ATR Services tube amps, souped-up stock Class-A electronics and Studer tape machine electronics…they all sound different.  We have all kinds of equalizers and compressors, but we often use the Manley Massive Passive Equalizer which is tubed as well as the George Massenburg solid state equalizer, My SPL (Sound Performance Laboratories) German console has 124-volt DC rails in the Class-A electronics making it probably some of the most advanced electronics known to man!

We run our entire studios off huge batteries so we create our own 60 Hz. AC, the power is as clean as you could imagine.  Using bridged Cello Mark II Performance Amplifiers which are capable of outputting 4,000 Watts of power into my 790 lb. Eggelston Works “Ivy,” one can put one’s ear right up to the tweeter and you can hardly hear a peep with no signal fed to the speaker.

Chris Castle: Is there a top 3 “don’ts” that you have to fix in mastering?

Bob Ludwig:

1. The most common big criticism I have is not paying enough attention to the vocal. The vocal is everything to the success of a song. Make it loud enough to be able to hear the lyrics. The problem is, if the vocal level is too high, all the energy of the track disappears, if it is too low, you can’t understand what is being said. If you want to be able to hear every word and you are mixing it, be sure to have a friend who does NOT know the words come in and tell you what is being sung. Once you know the lyrics, you can mix them very low and still understand them, but everyone else might miss some important words. It is hard, but crucial to get the right level.

Always cover yourself by doing one or two extra mixes with the vocal raised +0.5dB and another +1dB. Some languages need extra vocal level as more nuances of the language can easily get lost. Louder vocals are usually found on country music mixes, French and Japanese mixes.

2. Vocal sibilance not contained is a problem. As in item “1”, some producers will make the vocal as bright as musically possible in order to have it be intelligible yet tucked into the track. Sometimes the vocal is simply too sibilant. These days where most big projects are being cut for vinyl it is even more important to control sibilance as it creates high amplitude, high frequency grooves that are beyond the ability of all but the best cartridges to reproduce and one gets a “spitting” sound on the sibilance. Controlling sibilance in the mix is by far the best place to do it as the de-esser will only affect the voice while de-essing during mastering necessitates compromising the brightness of the entire track.

3. A mix with a bright vocal and a dull drum sound is really a problem. The all important snare takes up a lot of spectrum and trying to brighten it with eq will make the bright vocal even brighter and quickly become unacceptable. It is a real trap that can only be helped by mastering from the TV track with a separate vocal a cappella track, something that most often is not an option.

Visit the Gateway Mastering site for more information on Bob and his team.

[The Trichordist says: A version of this interview post originally appeared in MusicTechPolicy and in the Huffington Post.]

CopyLike.Org – Music is Free!

Check out this Organization:
http://copylike.org/
https://www.facebook.com/copylike

People often tell us: 
“Find other ways of making money!
Music is free!”

Would you do your job for free? Why should musicians make
their music for free and then find “other ways” to make money?

Would you throw a plumber out of your house without paying?

Would you tell him, “Hey buddy you should sell some
t-shirts instead! I’m not paying for this plumbing, plumbing
is easy! You’ve even got a van, you’re probably rich! No go and
do all my freinds’ plumbing for free!”

No, you probably wouldn’t say that.

Defend Copyright.
It’s All We Have Left.
COPYLIKE.ORG

A Brief History of Artists’ Control of Their Product by Jonathan Segel

by Jonathan Segel
(re-posted by permission, copyright in the author)

I would like to start out by saying that I am writing in a completely subjective voice—this is opinion!— with annotation from other similar voices. This isn’t an academic paper, but I will try to cite others ideas – hoping that I can remember where they came from!

I’m writing here about the current situation that musicians find themselves in with respect to economic and the ability to sustain any sort of career as a musician. There are, of course, numerous ways in which people who are musicians can make money or have a career doing such. The ones that interest me are the type that are based in the creative process of composing or performing one’s own music, including making recordings thereof. I am not so interested presently in discussing the economics of performing other people’s compositions (as classical musicians do, as jazz “standards” players do for, for instance, hotel lounges, nor as cover or wedding bands do), but I would like to touch on this briefly later. I am mostly interested in how a composer or writer can make a living, and in this variety of musician I do include all live improvisers and performers of their own music.

It seems that historically, composers have had about a 200 year stretch of time in which they were able to control their own economy, based on a salable item that was a representation of the music. Of course, one cannot sell the music itself, it exists in real time: “when you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone in the air, you can never capture it again” as Eric Dolphy said. Prior to around 1800, professional composers in general relied on either a royal or church patronage to pay them for composing. It is unlikely that prior to, say, 1400, composers were kept alive by the royalty to write music—with the exception of perhaps court jesters or griots as part of a royal entourage. However, with the age of reason and the restructuring of many governments, opportunities opened up for the composers to be in control of the licensing of their works themselves. While Mozart wanted freedom from his employer (the Archbishop Colleredo) to be able to receive performance fees, when he was finally “fired” in 1781, though his fame continued to spread, he only made money when he himself was performing, despite writing some of his greatest pieces in this time (and most musically intense, apparently difficult for audience and players), so he went back to a part time gig from a royal employer, Joseph II in 1786. Despite this, he never made enough money to get out of debt, even with rich admirers pledging yearly amounts. It is thought that he made *some* money from the sales of sheet music that he had written for Joseph II, but nobody knows the exact deal. He died, in debt, in 1791.

A landmark in this history is available to us in the form of a receipt from Ludwig Van Beethoven in 1805, where he is promising several piano pieces to be written for a London based publisher for an advance of 5 pounds. I say this is a landmark, as this is the first instance I have heard of where a composer is directly selling representations of their compositions (in the form of sheet music) and doing so in advance of their having been written!

To run through this quickly, the 19th century managed to upgrade composers’  abilities to market a product themselves (or with the aid of agents and management, that is to say, not necessarily with the aid of royal patronage) by means of selling scores of their works for people to play at home or in concerts, or by performing or conducting their own pieces. A side effect of this in the art music world meant that large scale pieces were simpler and more crowd-pleasing, while the pieces performed in small salons were the ones that were more adventurous in terms of developing the musical language.

The 19th century also gave us industrialism and thus a population moving toward urbanization. By the late 1880s people had developed an analog means for reproducing actual sound waves, it didn’t take long for this to become commercialized. The commercialization of recording music produced vast changes in the musical horizons of most people in the western world, and had major effects on the music itself. By the start of the 20th century there were three major differences: 1) composers and performers could sell their recordings (to record companies, of course, if not directly to listeners), 2) people in general could have music anywhere they had the device to play back a recording, and 3) the technology of recording limited the length and dynamic range of the music being recorded.

The music that became popular initially was loud and short, in general. Prior to World War I, many brass band pieces were produced on recorded media, and many of these were military style, which had two lasting cultural effects: 1) some sort of militarism and patriotism was common in urban environments enabling the US to easily conscript people for war when the US joined the World War fray, and 2) John Philip Sousa himself demanded payment for being the composer of the pieces on the recordings, and being so important a patriot he actually petitioned congress to enact laws regarding “royalty payments” to composers for recorded media.

Here begins the great story of recorded media. It goes through many changes over the course of the century, wax cylinders, 78rpm shellac records, 33 and 45rpm vinyl records, tape, multitrack tape, cassette tape, digital tape, compact discs, and finally the digital information freed from the physical media and stored and passed back and forth between peoples’ hard drives.

So. Let’s talk then about the value exchange. What is the value that is being translated into a monetary currency here, when composers sell music? Since a person can’t actually “own” music itself, I understand that the value is in the hearing of it. Music, indeed art in general, has an intrinsic value that gives an audience some form of pleasure or meaning when it is being heard or viewed. The performer of music can sometimes charge people money to hear them play. The composer of music had more limited options, unless they themselves performed it, until the rise of physical media, which gave them a physical object that could serve as the currency for the value exchange (albeit additionally laden with the ideas of mechanical and artistic royalties to enable this.) I would like to point out as well that with the development of the recording arts themselves, a huge compositional aspect to recorded music came to exist within the recording itself, perhaps more akin to sculpting sound. The final product, the “sculpture” would then be the final mastered version of the piece.

So here is where our current problem arises. When the recorded piece of music is made, the information is now able to be digitized and copied with no degradation from the source media (from a compact disc—a vinyl record can be copied when played, but as it is played it plays an analog representation of the piece, and a copy is degraded by another generation.) Of course, when a digitized file is made, it can be copied into other digital file formats that may degrade the original (e.g. MP3 or AAC+ file formats, which purposefully lose some of the information.) Regardless, the inherent value of a piece of music is in the listening, and that value does not disappear.

Adherents of what we now call “Media Piracy” claim that “Copying is not theft. Stealing a thing leaves one less left. Copying it makes one thing more”. What is happening here seems to be a willful ignorance that the inherent value is still there, not being paid for in the distribution of additional copies. These same individuals would certainly make the claim that they are copying the music in order to listen to it, (though there have been studies that suggest that the hard drives of the biggest illegal downloaders are full of unviewed or unheard media!) but are refusing to admit the relevance of the social contract that says that that inherent value is what is used in the exchange rate with monetary currency. I see this as a hypocrisy: either music has no value at all, (in which case why copy it to begin with?), or it has value and the copiers are refusing to admit that it does, simply because it is a copy. There is no way that a piece of art can have value and exact copies of it cannot. There is no way that anything can both have a value and not have a value at the same time (in our physical universe.)

I also see this as the main problem with the Creative Commons licensing formula. The strictest license allows anybody to “download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.” The idea here is that there would be no economic exploitation. This, however, ignores the fact that the value is there so any copying whatsoever is in fact economic exploitation.

I think that this sort of breaking of the social contract of value exchange is becoming more and more common. However, we don’t have people breaking the social contract of paper currency’s value as often, simply because there are extremely restrictive laws regarding counterfeiting.

Similarly, paper currency (and coinage to a large extent) is really only worth the cost of the paper and part of our societal systems allow it to represent value by means of a social contract. Listening to a copy of a piece of music would be like taking somebody’s currency and then claiming that it is only paper and therefore valueless, …and then spending it!

A willing disbelief of any inherent value of anything can lead to the acceptance of the idea that a copy of a piece of art has no value (even when the same person is utilizing the cultural value of this copy.) The morality that allows this hypocrisy is one that sees such conflicts as anachronistic. Jennifer Egan’s latest novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad” has some very funny chapters set in the near future involving children who have grown up in the current media environment who refer to this sort of moral dilemma as a form of “Atavistic Purism” (though, the use of atavism in social sciences should refer to an actual previous state and there is no morally pure previous state of society. Perhaps it should be “Atavistic Puritanism”.)

Indeed, more and more younger people becoming adults (in the legal sense) are seemingly oblivious to any morality involving copying others’ intellectual property. See, for example, this New York Times article on plagiarism. Many believe that things available on the web are fair game and “authorless”. One German teenage apparently even plagiarized most of her novel and when caught, said: “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.”

Additionally, many people in the “sharing culture” believe that artists and musicians are either overpaid to begin with or are somehow untrustworthy enough to pay for what they do, or that the creative class’ output has little value to being with—all the while benefiting from this same output. See this Salon article. Or, they somehow believe that supporting intellectual property rights is somehow opposing free speech! As if supporting workers rights were somehow different.

It’s easy to see this same mindset in much of the popular music of today—a lot of it is made out of other music. I recently watched a video interview with a famous DJ, (Theo Parrish ) who claimed that he favored “artistry over convenience” in his milieu, denigrating the use of computers in favor of playing vinyl records on turntables, even going so far as to compare the “artistry” of finding old records and playing them as a DJ versus using a computer playlist to painting with oil paint and brushes versus using photoshop. I was incredibly taken aback by the narrowness of this focus, where he was willfully ignoring the basic fact of this essentially bourgeois use of the labor of others by making music from other peoples’ recordings of music! In essence a selector DJ is the very paradigm of capitalist use of the labor of others, where one is paid for their taste, the choices they have made of in others’ music being their talent. But this view of intellectual property or ownership of music is clearly not even part of the mindset of such an individual.

I would even go so far as to say: perhaps it is no longer OK to use samples of other peoples’ music to make music that you claim is your own, or represents you. This is an unpopular viewpoint, I know, and one that has been fermenting in me for a long time. I admit freely that when “sampling” started in Hip Hop in the 1980s, and was then used as parts in so many other musical genres, even so far as plunderphonics, I believed in the idea that when a sample of one music is taken from its initial context and used in an entirely different context, it bore an almost surrealist element of juxtaposition, which made, to my mind, interesting forms of semiotics, unintended meaning made by the juxtaposition of contexts.

Unfortunately, this has developed into a culture of music making where the idea of juxtaposition is no longer in use, where the context of the sample is the same context of the music it is used within. It is not only no longer interesting, it has nothing to say. When Apple made Garageband, an application that by their very advertising tagline needs “no musical talent” to make “music”, I think it basically ended the game. Yes, those loops are lacking any rights other than the one Apple sold you with the software, equivalently McDonalds is selling food with no nutritional value.

The Pirate Parties that are infiltrating government in Europe are additionally opposed to copyright, basing their argument on some economic model of “blockbuster” entertainment releases (e.g., “The Avengers” opened with a $200 million weekend, therefore after a year, it should be free,) completely ignoring the facts that 1) most artists are dependent on the “long tail”, that is to say that the project either will never recoup its investment or may make it back if sold over a great length of time, and 2) somehow it is alright for people in other professions to save money to provide for their children but when that savings is in the form of intellectual property it is somehow unreasonable.

If an author writes a book and it sells well, what argument can you possibly make that she isn’t doing it to provide for her children or grandchildren, that it should be free after the first five years in print?

The entire Pirate Party basically comes off as a bunch of self-centered teenage boys in their views on what they want and why and their severe lack of human empathy.

This is not a pretty picture of the future. If you combine these ideas with the veneration of popular idols who do nothing, (“What does a Kardashian do?” “Kardashes…?” ) we become a society that is easily manipulated by media and thus easily controlled. In western culture, even into the 1970s, people were interested in intelligent and artistic people in society. As education in America began to suffer in the Reagan era, and continued a 30 year slide toward a population of people who are convinced by the pyramid scheme of Republicanism, we have found ourselves in a society that produces more vacuous media than any other, at the expense of the minds of the audience, enabling the current generation controlling the thrust of pop culture to be willfully ignorant of any political or cultural history that came before them.

Many people think that the music industry also started its artistic decline in the 1980s even as it began an economic upswing into the 1990s. I have heard anecdotes that say that the reason was of course the wholesale introduction of organized crime who saw the 13 million copy sales of “Frampton Comes Alive” and made some quick calculations. Of course, we’ve been fed crap for years, but in the past decade, or decade and a half, a huge percentage of media made is either directly using older media (i.e. sampling, so-called, though entire pieces are lifted piece by piece) or referring older media or authors, not merely as quotation but as if a particular album or artist was a genre unto itself that newer artists could be part of. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m tired of indie-pop bands who just discovered “Pet Sounds” and think that they can be part of it as if it were a genre.) The idea of venerating a DJ based on their expression of “who they are” is as intensely bourgeois as veneration of a king because of their choice of composer for their court dances.

Some people have written that this is simply a market demanded “supply versus demand” situation, where music is now devalued and seen as overpriced. I somehow don’t doubt that it is devalued in the minds of the consumer (why pay when we can get something for free?) but I don’t believe this changes any inherent value. I think the perceived value is lowered due to ubiquity, that is to say, music is everywhere and with the advent of personal listening devices has become almost obligatory background information. This leads to a new problem of perception of music, let alone the value of music: most people are constantly “hearing” music. How many are listening? The iPod has changed our culture, there are even sociology courses in these changes that make us “alone, together”, and we all know the “why, when I was a kid…” stories of listening to LPs and looking at the album cover in a dedicated session, something that compares to dedicated classical music audiences (those that aren’t sleeping) listening quietly and intently to the music in a small auditorium or salon. I offer this comparison to bring me back to the idea of the development of the western musical language over the course of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. “Listening” allowed a forward momentum. “Hearing” seems to have allowed a stagnancy in development. (Though in this article the author believes that people are indeed listening, and that this is an modern urban attempt to control personal space in crowded environments. I would tend to think that the intention is listening, I certainly use headphones for critical listening myself, but I still bet that for most people it’s just background music for their current endeavors.)

So, it’s 2012. We now have a culture that has been distrustful of intellectuals since before eggheads won the war with their atom bombs and cryptography, a culture gradually educated less and less, taught to worship “cool” by a media culture that sells it to us, taught to idolize the rich by the rich themselves, a culture where media necrophilia is the norm (why remake movies that were good to begin with, anyway?), where new and creative art is made less and less, where an artist cannot survive economically due to these factors combined with the lack of control of the currency exchange of their art.

Combine this with our current economic and political situation, the wars based on control of energy production and fueled by religious positions (don’t even get me started on this!) Where can this end up if not a culture that falls, as did Rome?

Ok, that’s sort of a bummer.So where can we go? Can we rebuild some sort of society that values art and music? It’s unknown. Can we ever make a way for artists and musicians to gain some sort of value for their work? This could be possible, but it will be difficult. For one thing, there is no such thing as “sustenance level capitalism”, only growth-oriented capitalism.

The pundits who claim that the internet “leveled the playing field” for musicians got just that: a level field. A whole lot of mediocrity (yay, we won the DIY revolution!) Unfortunately, the modern fan-based patronage hasn’t panned out the same way the old Royalty-based patronage did, it’s still a situation where the rich (corporations, usually) pay and everybody else listens for free—to those who get the production paid for by advertising!

For most artists it’s a case where they pay for their own production costs themselves and then a few people buy the music and everyone else listens for free. There are of course a few lottery winners in the fan-based patronage, touted as examples by tech writers in various blogs of course, but there are as many of these as actual lottery winners—and certainly those are the ones to garnish the media attention, why wouldn’t they be?

We can try to educate people, not only in the realities of being a musician/composer/artist/dancer/whatever, but also in general. I do believe that more education in general is necessary for the world at large. It can only help. I’ve been a teacher of music for several years, and while of course I am teaching musicians, I always do try to include, for example, social relevance into music history and mathematical relevance into music theory as a way to get people to think. I can see that it works, to some extent, to get students thinking around the present idea instead of trying to memorize.

Economically and technologically, I’ve heard a few decent ideas. The best of which so far seems to me to be Paul McGuiness’ article in GQ where he points out that the ISPs are the ones making the money here, and how it should not be difficult, in fact is possible, to know exactly which bits have been downloaded by whom when. It’s pretty easy. Oh no, you say, I don’t want anybody spying on me! Well, tough, it’s already happening.

If you’re on the internet, your privacy is compromised. In fact, as Jaron Lanier points out repeatedly in his excellent book “You Are Not a Gadget”, the anonymization of one’s presence on the internet has only worked out for the worst, bringing out the troll in everybody. If we all had to be ourselves publicly, we might have to back up our various statements in real life, idiotic or not.

It occurred to me recently while trying to find a decent mobile phone plan (I recently moved to Sweden) that the real winners in the entire streaming radio/cloud based collection services are your phone companies as much or more than the ISPs. Apple, Google and Amazon are all chomping at the bit to get everybody’s music collection’s uploaded, and Spotify, Pandora, MOG, etc, are all deep into mobile app development. (note: I worked for Pandora for 3 years, until April 2012, so it’s iffy what I can actually talk about w/r/t the company in a legal sense. Leave it at: we had a bad breakup.)

Recently, for example, Verizon removed the unlimited data plans, to the glee of the wall street pundits. The more you stream, the more money they will make. I know how much Pandora pays in royalties, and I know somewhat how little Spotify does (very confusing, when they have made individual deals with major labels) but as all the spreadsheets show, that means zillions of plays per before a composer earns U.S. minimum wage! As Paul McGuiness noted, it’s certainly an easy matter of digital bookkeeping to know what’s being played. Why not have the phone companies chip in with their immense data charges? I mean, they even charge people for sending SMS texts… that must cost them absolutely nothing. I’m betting the data usage is near a 1000% markup.

Other possibilities have included the more idealistic ideas presented in forums, such as caps on value for music, wherein once that cap is paid it become freely accessible (this in response to my musings that potentially value can be calculated by the number of listens to a song: if you bought a CD and listened once, would the tracks then inherently be more valuable than if listened multiple times, as each listen spreads out the cost of the CD…?) Or ultimately the idea that there will be no more professional artists or musicians and the art forms will lapse to the era of folk music or folk art.

Personally, I like recording music, manufacturing music in the studio. As long as I have a job that can keep me alive (which I do not at the moment…) I will continue to do so, regardless of the ability to “sell” the music. As a solo artist, I’ve basically been priced out of performing with a band: I can’t afford to pay other musicians nor even rehearsal time if the band isn’t popular enough to earn more than $400 for a gig, and that just doesn’t happen.

So I’ll see you on my front porch in a few years?

Breaking News!! Band Embraces New Technology and Business model.

by Bob Regan
(re-posted by permission, copyright in the author)

Our band was heading out for a 6-week tour of the Northwest. We had gigs booked in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Spokane, and lots of points in between.  We’d spent the past month hunkered down, recording new songs (recent advances in technology had made it possible for us to cut great sounding tracks without breaking the bank). We had them pressed up on our own indie label to sell at gigs and to promote ourselves at radio. We’d had a few hundred T-shirts designed and printed up, (although a homeless guy had stolen a box of 50 out of the back of our truck. When we saw several worn by his buddies downtown, we wrote ‘em off and called it exposure). We used all the latest technology to connect with and expand our fan base. We tried to think outside the box to come up with new and different income streams, anything that would help us do a little better than break-even.

The year? 1977. The more the music business changes, the more it stays the same.

I know, I know, I’m out of date and out of touch. How can I have a valid opinion if I’ve been doing this for 35 years? (Copyleft types may insert demeaning comment here, I can take it. I have, as Thom Schuyler once said of song writers, “the skin of a rhinoceros, the soul of a dove.”)

Like most bands, then and now, we never hit the big time. When we called it quits, I pushed on alone to L.A, signed a solo major label record deal, had one chart flop, then got dropped (the evil bastards did put up a 100K to make the record—red ink from which I walked away).

As it turned out, I, like a lot of young musicians who survive by touring, was pretty good, but not great. I was an OK singer, not a bad guitar player, but I wasn’t a star, didn’t have the ‘it’ factor. After my stint in LA made that clear to me, I bailed on my artist dreams and, along with my wife and two babies, moved to Nashville to see if I could find a niche behind the scenes. I played guitar in studios and on the Grand Ole Opry, while I pursued my real calling, songwriting. I eventually wrote one hit, then another, then several more for some of the biggest acts in Country Music.

I now made my living solely from royalties from licensed, legal uses of my songs.
I no longer had fans. (Well, maybe my publisher and the artists who recorded my songs, but they expressed no desire to buy a Bob Regan T-shirt.)

I bet it all on Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, which gives authors the “…exclusive right to their respective writings….” I wish.

These days, when I read articles about the ‘new’ music business in technology oriented magazines, sites and blogs, (most recently the “Emily from NPR” dust-up, where she stated she had 11K songs on her Ipod, but had only purchased 15 CD’s in her lifetime.) I’m invariably told that it’s now all about the ‘artist/fan’ relationship, not about sales or royalties. I’m instructed that if you have good content, an ability to connect with fans, and a good business model, you’ll succeed. I’m presented with examples of successes of forward thinking DIY (do it yourself) bands. Types like me are scolded for not emulating them. Hmmm.  Thought I’d already been there, done that.

Folks, here’s the reality of the music business I inhabit. It is made up almost entirely of former DIY artists and band members who beat up the road for God knows how long, honing unique talents that eventually led them not to stardom and the stage, but through the side door into the studio, the vocal booth or the writers room. Here, they no longer have a direct ‘artist/fan relationship’. Here, they use their talents to support the ‘stars’ that do. Their days are mostly spent using those talents, not amassing facebook friends, stapling flyers on telephone polls or promoting a Kickstarter fund.

Maybe it’s a drummer who has killer time and chops, maybe a guitar player who looks like a bridge troll but who can come up with licks that make other’s songs come alive. Maybe it’s a songwriter with a tin voice but a golden pen, maybe a former sound guy who now sits behind a recording console because he can hear the difference between a 10 and a 20 millisecond reverb pre-delay. It’s the programmers, producers and background singers, all of the amazing talent who make a living, not a killing, in an incredibly competitive corner of the music business, the one that helps create 90%+ of all music heard, purchased–and stolen. When songs are P2P’d, stars still have gig and merch $. We get zip.

Yes, I receive an advance from my publisher, and studio guys and girls get paid by the session, but since revenues from music sales are down by over ½ in the last decade, there are correspondingly less dollars and far fewer opportunities. Royalties are in the tank. In Nashville there has been a 2/3 reduction in staff writer positions over the same period. If our music were not desired or if it were bringing in less money overall, I’d say it’s time for us all to pack it up and go home, but that’s not the case. The desire and demand for music has never been greater, (Think Emily and her 11K songs) but a large % of the money it generates is now diverted to entities that have no stake in the creation of that music, who have no interest in seeding the next generation of artists and the talent that supports them. Think Kim DotCom.

Does anyone reading this remember or realize that the Beatles gave up touring in 1966 to be a ‘studio band’? With their time freed up, they went on to create Revolver, Sgt Pepper, The White Album, Abbey Road, etc.? Would that happen in a model where it’s all about tickets and T-shirts? (I would pay top dollar for a George Martin beer cozy.) Maybe the animators who worked on Avatar, the most P2P’d movie of all time, should go audition for bit parts in summer stock, get with the new fan-based model.

I’ll bet that as I type this there is a tech savvy, DIY band embracing the new model, gearing up for a tour of the Northwest. I hope they make great music, great money and lots of new fans. I also hope that if, God forbid, their band eventually breaks up, one or two of them has the audacity to keep going, to see if there might be a place for him or her off the road, out of the spotlight, where they might make a living using their unique skills while being home often enough to coach a T-ball game or two. If I’m still around, I’ll welcome and encourage them, and do all I can to make sure they are compensated in accordance with those skills and contributions, even if, especially if, they don’t have a facebook band page.

Thanks for your time. This DIY-nosaur is going to lumber off to the tar pit…er I mean studio. Crazy as it seems, some still mistake me for a fleet-footed, highly adaptable mammal.

Bob Regan
Nashville Tn

 

You many also enjoy reading : If The Internet Is Working For Musicians, Why Aren’t More Musicians Working Professionally?

Making Music You Like by Maia Davies

by Maia Davies
(re-posted by permission, copyright in the author)

Artist and Repertoire. How relevant are the tried & true industry opinions on an artist’s choice of material? Nowadays, we will find most artists and bands penning their own songs and sound. But in pining for the prize of popularity, many start considering shifting their creative focus in order to fit in more. Can’t play it on top40 radio.  Too commercial for college radio. Can’t put pedal steel on a pop record. Can’t be political in a country song. These are phrases we know to be tossed around so liberally, we seem as an industry to dismiss their implications, ones especially relevant in today’s changing context. I played with the mighty ensemble Broken Social Scene this last weekend at Ontario’s Northern Lights Festival, and here is what I have learned from them.

A rich creative collective, they have engineered a unique sound and genre that’s both enchanting and commercially successful, and this seemingly based on one simple principal: they make music that they like. It neither tries to conform nor subvert accepted formats in my opinion. They are merely inspired and empowered to enjoy what they do, a model which they’ve proven can work. I believe they make great records that people buy, put on a great show that sells tickets.

I’m not implying there aren’t a few dozen more reasons that account for the success of such musically honest groups (like BSS or the Black Keys), but it seems to me that making great art that is a true representation of your artistic expression is a damn good place to start. Especially in a climate that shows poor sales using established marketing and A&R practices. I will be sure to follow my own advice. Wish me luck.

The Trichordist Random Reader Weekly News & Links Sun Jun 24

Grab the coffee!

We are humbled and overwhelmed as without a doubt the biggest story of the week for Artists was the debate inspired by David Lowery’s “Letter To Emily” in response to a post by an intern at NPR’s “All Songs Considered.” What followed was an out pouring of support by musicians, artists, creators of all kinds and music fans. We are grateful to everyone who took the time to read David’s thoughtful words, discuss, retweet and repost on Facebook. In a few short days the voice of artists sharing the response resulted in attention from major media news outlets such as Time Magazine, USA Today, The LA Times, The NY Times, MSNBC, Forbes and countless others. The point is not so much whether these outlets agreed or disagreed with David in part or in whole, but rather that the voice of artists uniting on the issue of fair compensation became unavoidable as a mainstream topic of conversation. Probably our favorite report of the week came from Digital Music News who stated, “Our Digital Innocence Just Died. And David Lowery Killed It…“.

We also want to thank all of the artists who also spoke their minds in the comments, Tweets and other posts.  We want to continue to support you and invite you to suggest posts if you’d like to write on the Trichordist as many of you have.

Of course there were some who disagreed, but that’s why it’s called debate, right? At least this time both sides were heard.  Although we had no idea that so many of you guys would pass it forward to your friends and fans—hundreds and hundreds of thousands of you—we were really impressed by your efforts and the overwhelmingly positive support you gave to David.

MORE NEWS!

Hypebot and WhoSampled present information and an inforgraphic on 30 years of Sampling which appears to directly contradict claims made by anti-artists rights groups about the benefits of innovation in copyright when all stakeholders are compensated fairly.
http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/06/stats-and-figures-on-30-years-of-sampling-infographic.html

Interesting reports from Japan passing a law that would jail illegal downloaders:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/22/japan-passes-jail-for-dow_n_1618479.html

Pirates really don’t like going to Jail…
http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2012/06/21/pirate-bay-founders-pin-their-hopes-on-human-rights-court/

Pirates and Jail part two… Appears that Judge in Germany favors Fair and Ethical Internet:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kinoto-founder-dirk-b-jailed-337795

Digital Music News reports on how Major Advertisers appear to support YouTube Piracy:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2012/120620video

In related news Hypebot reports Google/YouTube to take legal action against YouTube to MP3 sites:
http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/06/google-looking-to-shut-down-youtube-to-mp3-conversion-sites.html

Amanda Palmer signs a distribution deal with the Cooking Vinyl Record Label:
http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/indies/amanda-palmer-partners-with-u-k-indie-cooking-1007385352.story

Most artists sell less than 100 Downloads per year, probably not what TuneCore and Jeff Price want to hear. Digital Music News reports on the economic reality for most musicians:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2012/120618download#YPz6TGC-qHVGRC1NdT04lw

CopyLike.Org – We Do This For The Love

Check out this Organization:
http://copylike.org/
https://www.facebook.com/copylike

We do this for the Love,
But unfortunately the supermarket
doesn’t accept love, they want money.

You might have heard that music is very cheap to make these
days and computers make everything easy, and you don’t even
have to be able to sing.

That’s partly true. Big businesses have made a lot of money
selling cheap crappy junk to you. But that’s not our fault,
we’re real artists, we make real art.

Art takes time, its not easy at all. If you don’t believe us
try writing a song or directing a movie.

We all need to eat and keep warm. If we want to charge
anyone for our work, why should we feel any shame?

Defend Copyright.
It’s All We Have Left.
COPYLIKE.ORG

The Bad Science And Greed Behind The “Intellectual Property Inhibiting Innovation” Argument.-Full Post

For some time now the web/technology lobby has been arguing that copyright and other forms of intellectual property rights are stifling innovation.  And if you don’t actually  think about it you might agree.  I mean it sound sort of like the argument against government over regulation. Having to get permission from all those IP owners.  And then having to pay them?  Bad for innovation!

But is this really true?

No. And  the evidence is right in front of us.  Sites that exploit artists by ignoring copyright obligations are not any more innovative or “better” than sites that honor copyright and don’t exploit artists.  You can easily measure this. I’ll show you  how in part two. .  The only reason consumers prefer these sites is because they get the stuff they want without paying for it. And the only way they can do that is by ripping off the artists.  This is not innovation.

Second the Apple App store provides a stunning example of the innovation that occurs when you protect intellectual property.  When you allow content creators to be rewarded for their efforts innovation blooms.  And  remember it’s not just those that create the content that profit from these works. Consumers are richly rewarded with very useful and stable products.    Everyone wins. It’s a net plus for the economy.

With a little more work you can compare the levels of innovation in countries with weak intellectual property protection and copyright protection with countries with robust IP protection.  There’s a reason China did not invent the iPhone, the web browser or search engine.

In fact you could argue that  the very triumph is of western capitalism is due to our decision to reward innovators by protecting IP.  The collectivist soviet union was brought down not so much by our missiles and aircraft  but by our robust economy and snowballing innovation.  They couldn’t compete.

That’s why I find it curious that there are a number of strange academic and “scientific” studies on the horizon attempting to show the opposite.  Call me jaded but I’m pretty sure  the next few months the digital maoists will be up on capitol hill waving their little red “internet freedom” books citing these studies.

http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=49249

This  is one from the National Academy of Sciences that is studying whether copyright inhibits innovation.  Much like Tony Blair telling his ministers “the fix is in” on the Bush administration’s Iraq pre-war intelligence,  I was told by several people  that this study has been “hijacked”  those that want to set us back 400 years by collectivizing intellectual property.  These studies often use private money to help fund and determine who’s on  these “ad hoc” committees,  hence they can be hijacked by commercial interests. And looking at the list of contributors to the study? I’d say the fix is in.*

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~jwaldfog/pdfs/w17503.pdf

Here is a study from the amusing  Pop Economist  Joel Waldfogel. Normally I like this guy.  He is arguing the same point but in reverse.   This is a little harder to explain. But basically he is arguing that he can measure the “quality” of music. And since advent of  file-sharing the “quality” has not decreased therefore file-sharing has no effect on musical “innovation”.  Which also implies that  this kind of copyright does not encourage innovation.

Don’t worry about it if you didn’t follow all that.  Just remember you laughed or scoffed when you read “he can measure the quality of music”.   And you should.   No one can measure the quality of music.

To Prof Waldfogel’s credit he has devised an ingenious and very complex way of  seemingly measuring current  music “quality” and comparing it to past music.  The only problem is it does no such thing.  Frankly it doesn’t measure anything.  Further I’m reminded of a phrase normally applied in the financial industry:  Complexity is Fraud.  In this case a needlessly complex formulation leads to false conclusions.

I say needlessly complex, because there are much simpler and concrete ways to measure whether file-sharing is harming musical innovation:  sales,  length of albums,  time between albums,  number of “hits” on each album, ratio of old to new music in films and TV, etc etc.

But regardless even if you could measure “quality” and hence make an argument that not enforcing copyright isn’t harming music “quality”.  This study is totally useless to the broader argument about IP in general. Musicians can (unfortunately) sometimes subsidize production of recorded music with live revenues. Movies studios, actors, directors,  authors, comic book illustrators can not do anything like that.  Beyond the entertainment business what would Apple do  if Foxconn could just make it’s own version iPhone?  Sell t-shirts to recoup their R&D costs?  I believe the copyleft knows that because musicians will make  at least some music regardless of whether they are paid or not,  that some musicians can fall back on live revenues, they have a golden opportunity to argue copyright stifles innovation.  If this sounds totally cynical it because it is totally cynical.  How many digeridiots are out there arguing authors and film directors need to sell t-shirts? well actually there are a few,  but not many.  Everyone knows that won’t work.   The entire copyleft is focused on musicians cause this is the only place they can sort-of-just -barely make the half assed argument.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One of the most common arguments about innovation and copyrights concerns music copyrights.  In particular it is often argued that copyrights are inhibiting innovation in the music tech space.  The idea is that  sites that ignore copyright  like The Pirate Bay provide a much better service than the legitimate music sites. Never mind that these sites out-sleaze the record labels by paying nothing to the artists. Magazines like Forbes hail them as hubs of innovation! “Piracy is a service problem” the magazine states.

Here is Google’s Sergey Brin making the same argument:

“I haven’t tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like; it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work – and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy,” he said. **

And yes if you don’t think about it very hard this seems to ring true. Until you actually engage your neurons.

Are file-sharing sites really better than legitimate music sites like iTunes?  Are file sharing sites really hubs of innovation?  Do they really provide consumers with a better service?  I mean you can test this in your own living room.

And we did.  We put the Trichordist interns** to work.  We had a race.  I was to legally download “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga and the interns were supposed to illegally download it.  I beat them both times. The first time using iTunes and my iPhone and the second time using my MacBook and Amazon MP3 store. Both times I had the song in less than one minute and thirty seconds.

We tried the same thing with a much more obscure song.   “Swim” by The Glands.  Again I won handily.  Actually the interns couldn’t even find the album version of “Swim”.  About ten minutes later  they found a legitimate free live version, giving lie to the notion that File-sharing/BitTorrent provides a distribution service for obscure and independent artists.

I was intrigued by the fact that the obscure yet critically acclaimed  Glands were not to be found on the illegal sites.  I started going through my own catalogue and discovered many of the rare Camper Van Beethoven tracks were also not available on bitTorrent or other file-sharing sites.  Time and time again I have heard from people that illegal file-sharing provides fans with access to these obscure and hard to find songs and artists.  Not true.  Yet all these “rare” and hard to find songs were readily available in iTunes.

This is typical of the bad science at the heart of the “copyright stifles innovation” argument.  It is an argument that flies in the face of easily accessible facts.  It is remarkably easy to disprove this argument yet no one seems to challenge this argument.  It’s another one of those quasi-religious beliefs we often find associated with the web.  It is one of the tenets of the religion of the internet. Proponents are given a religious exemption from the facts.

Further Sergey Brin and others are confusing an illegal arbitrage strategy with innovation.  Arbitrage is a strategy whereby a buyer exploits the difference in price of a commodity in two different markets.  In other words the file-sharing sites are exploiting the price difference between the “free”  illegal unlicensed version of the song  and the licensed paid version on iTunes or Amazon. This price difference, this arbitrage, is why file-sharing is profitable.  This is not innovation.  “The wall” brin describes is not the disincentive.  “The wall”  does not exist.  The disincentive is the price. Here Brin is  simply providing  a bullshit rationalization for unethical behavior.

(All proponents of file sharing: If you want music for free, if you feel that artists don’t need to be compensated, be a man about it,  just come out and say it instead of making up these bullshit arguments.)

When Google, as it is wont to do, argues that it is being hamstrung by “Hollywood” and copyrights you have to wonder if they are smoking crack.  Google’s revenue rose 29% last year to 37 billion dollars!  The much less evil Apple saw  iTunes revenue rise to 6 billion in 2011 and is predicting growth of 39% annually.  Spotify isn’t having a problem growing,  so where is the hell is innovation being stifled?  Google TV?   That’s not copyrights stifling innovation that’s just a sucky product.

It also should be also noted that Google suffers from terrible corporate governance and maybe shouldn’t be made the example for all the tech industry.  I feel bad for Google shareholders,  If this company had some “grown-ups” on board it’s possible that someone might have suggested that “declaring war on hollywood” was a bad idea when the very success of Google TV depends on those you are declaring war upon.  Instead Google TV becomes another expensive shareholder boondoggle like the Chrome Book or Driverless Car.  But I digress.

Maybe it’s just me,  but I’m tired of hearing how artists like myself,  how our  constitutional rights to control our own artistic works are inhibiting innovation in the tech world. It’s simply not true. Further Google should stop blaming copyright for their own unforced errors. The tech/web industry has been enormously successful.  How much more money do these guys need?  When your company is  wildly profitable and you are demanding even more ?

“There’s a word for that:  Greed”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A few months ago I spoke at the SF Music Tech Summit.  My talk was entitled “Meet the new boss, Worse than the old boss?”.  As a bit of hyperbole  I compared the new digital paradigm to the old record label model.  My conclusion was that under the new digital distribution model the artist gets a lower share of recorded music revenue.  And many of the profitable players in the new digital paradigm pay artists nothing.  Zero. Zilch. Nada.  As part of my presentation I was gonna stream  Nyan Cat with the following caption:

“Our Dystopic Future: This is what you get when you don’t pay content creators”

What is Nyan Cat?  If you are under 40 I suppose it needs no explanation.  But if you’re older?  Well Nyan Cat is the Pet Rock™ of the YouTube generation.  A nearly static animation of Nyan cat with an endlessly looped theme song. This version is 10 hours long.   And it has 457 trillion views or something like that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZZ7oFKsKzY

I wouldn’t bother making fun of Nyan Cat except for the fact that some on the Copyleft regard Nyan Cat as a great cultural achievement.  I’m not kidding.  As detailed in an earlier Trichordist post  Fight For The Future gives out Nyan Cat awards to people who do “really awesome things for the Internet”  like making sure artists continue to be exploited by for-profit file-sharing sites. ( Right on! Fight for the Power! Way to unstick it to the man!)

Fight for the Future has all the hallmarks of another one of these Astroturf  “internet freedom”  groups but they have a special twist: a teen idol pop group sort of  cuteness.  Their “about” page reads more like it was written for a teenzine than a ”foundation”. They got Justin Bieber on their side! How adorable and teen oriented! So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we get Nyan Cat showing up with Fight for the Future for extra special “cuteness”.

But cute or not we are “sharing” that Nyan Cat Award.  We’re gonna start giving out our own Nyan Cat awards to deserving Digeridiots.  

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I got in a really tired and  boring argument with someone recently about what the founding fathers intended when they decided to:

promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

It’s totally clear. There are no subtle distinctions.   The founding fathers believed that people would innovate if they knew they would be rewarded for their innovations.    That’s the purpose of copyrights.

Right now some dumb ass from the copyleft is about to email me a Jefferson quote concerning patents. First of all  Jefferson would say anything after a glass of wine or four.  But more importantly quoting Jefferson instead of Madison on copyright is like asking Ringo instead of John about Strawberry Fields Forever.  Wait it’s worse. Quoting Jefferson instead of Madison on copyright is like asking Charlie Watts about Strawberry Fields Forever.  Again Jefferson was nominally  the patent guy!  But I digress.

The point is this. Copyright and intellectual property have been wildly successful.  And here are some easy quantitative ways to measure it:

Ask people how much they are willing to pay to watch Nyan Cat or any other user generated youtube phenomenon.  Compare that to how much people are willing to pay to watch The Avengers or some other Mega blockbuster for-profit and studio-funded movie. Do this over and over again. Unpaid content will always lose.

Compare the sales of state funded movies with sales of privately funded movies. (quantity)

Compare critical acclaim. Are there any not-for-profit movies in the AFI top 100 movies?  (quality)

This seems obvious to everyone right? I mean it’s stupid in this day to have to defend the right of creators to profit from their work? It’s stupid to have to explain that people will innovate if they are rewarded?  That this intelligent  system benefits everyone. right?

So did I wake up this morning in Soviet Virginia?  Why is a moderately successful rock musician having to argue the basic tenets of capitalism with the tech industry?

And why is the very pro capitalist  tech industry arguing against private property rights, one of the basic tenets of modern capitalism?  You know, like the right to sell and own shares of stock?

Especially  since within the Tech sphere you see many current examples of very very strict IP protection encouraging innovation not inhibiting it.

The Apple App store as a closed and protected system ensures  software developers will be rewarded for their efforts.  There is virtually no piracy in the apple app world.  Innovation has blossomed.  Developers, Consumers and the platform creators have all been richly rewarded.

The computer gaming world? The best talent, the most popular games and virtually all the money is in the DRM  (digital rights management) protected ecosystems like Xbox or Playstation.  Microsoft even goes so far as “banning” individual xbox’s from their servers if they detect “cracked” or pirated games.  If in fact copyrights inhibiting innovation why isn’t it hurting  the console gaming companies with their hyper strict DRM?  Shouldn’t their sales an innovation be lower?

Valve software which operates the Steam™ platform and is usually seen by gamers to be less restrictive  than the console gaming companies,  is ultimately just a digital rights management system.  A system for protecting the creators rights to profit from their copyrights.  And once again a highly innovative ecosystem of independent game makers has developed around this platform.

Sometimes the Digeridiots throw Steam into the anti-copyright pro “remix” camp because Steam has a lot of  “free” user generated content.   While it is true that Valve allows users to “mod” their games, make custom maps and host independent servers–Valve decides to let them because they have that choice. The notion that the creators of this user generated content don’t treat it as their IP and attempt to exploit it as their own is belied by a black market of kids buying and selling “admin” privileges for their custom maps and servers.  What are they selling?  Property rights in admin privileges.

The anti-copyright crowd can’t seem to bring themselves to admit that there is something  natural and fair to the notion that idea creators and authors should have the right to control and exploit their own creations.  In order to support their position that copyright laws need to be weakened or eliminated they have to make a non-reality based argument that somehow “the public” is suffering.   First the public is not suffering.  Second as my libertarian friends rightly point out, whenever someone is advocating violating individual rights  in favor of  “group rights” you are usually in a danger zone.  The copyleft is advocating a digital maoism.  A forced collectivization of intellectual property.  The “copyright is harming innovation” putsch  in academia is the first step.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is from the home page for Lawrence Lessig’s book “Remix”.

For more than a decade, we’ve been waging a war on our kids in the name of the 20th Century’s model of “copyright law.” In this, the last of his books about copyright, Lawrence Lessig maps both a way back to the 19th century, and to the promise of the 21st. Our past teaches us about the value in “remix.” We need to relearn the lesson. The present teaches us about the potential in a new “hybrid economy” — one where commercial entities leverage value from sharing economies. That future will benefit both commerce and community. If the lawyers could get out of the way, it could be a future we could celebrate.

The academic Lawrence Lessig is the intellectual leader of the Web 2.0/ Hybrid Economy/Remix movement.   Lessig argues that there is a store of value and innovation locked up by “antiquated” copyright laws.  The idea is that if everyone could freely “remix” others work innovation would blossom and great value would be released.  In particular he states that then “commercial entities would leverage value from the sharing economies.”

Or as Stephen Colbert smartly put it to Lessig himself .

Colbert: Well let’s see (laughing)…so the hybrid economy is where everybody else does the work and Flickr makes all the money?

This in a nutshell is the main problem with Lessig’s formulation.  He would weaken copyright so that corporations could make money from artist’s copyrights (and the efforts of the “remixers”) without compensating them!  Does this sound fair to you?

I’ve been challenged before on this exact same statement.  The challenge is always  “but Lessig isn’t against compensating artists and copyrights.” And they point to some statement where Lessig says he “supports” copyright.     But the kind of “copyright” Lessig supposedly supports is quite different from the rules of copyright that the rest of the world has agreed upon for hundreds of years.  It doesn’t really  protect artists from unauthorized exploitation so it’s not really copyright at all. It’s like saying that you like “guacamole” but then you have your own private  recipe for “guacamole” that is actually creme brule but you just you call it “guacamole”.

And it is pretty clear that what he really means by “remix economy” is a system that allows commercial interests to profit from the work of artists, professional and amateur.  There is nothing groovy, idealistic or  progressive about it.  It’s unpaid exploitation for corporate profit.

That is why Lessig takes great care in creating a public face of being against corporate exploitation and for some ill defined cultural eden.   Yet all his theories benefit corporations the most.  Especially YouTube and Google.  After a while, you start to believe that he’s way too clever by half for this to be unintentional.  I believe that he presents himself as friend of artists when he is actually a bitter, bitter foe.   Why would he choose the language he uses? “Hollywood should get over it” or “In support of Piracy”.  He telegraphs his contempt towards those that create art in virtually all his essays and books.  It’s often seems personal.  Maybe it’s like the Saturday Night Live skit  that “explains” Albert Goldman’s hatred of John Lennon. In the skit Goldman was The Beatles trombone player until Lennon fired him.   Was Lessig kicked out of a ska band?  Did  “hollywood” kick his ass in a couple court fights?   Is that what all this is about?

This reminds me of the classic book by Richard Condon and film directed by John Frankenheimer, The Manchurian Candidate.  Lessig is “for copyright” but secretly he is on a secret mission to destroy copyright and impoverish artists. This is why I refer to Lessig as The Manchurian Candidate.    And here is the rather obvious explanation:

Everything that Lessig proposes about the Hybrid/Remix economy is possible right now under the current copyright regimen.  Except for one small item.  The only difference between Lessig’s ideal hybrid economy and the copyright protected creator economy?  In Lessig’s proposed hybrid economy corporations would not have to seek permission of artists to use their work or even compensate them.  That is why he wants to weaken copyright.  (Although I would not support it)  I could understand if he wanted to create a system of collectivized ownership for state controlled exploitation, but he doesn’t want to do that.  He wants to specifically collectivize artist’s works for corporate exploitation.

Of all the digital ink that has been spilt over Lessig’s pseudo-intellectual tropes,  not one writer has noted that Lessig is proposing a solution to a problem that does not exist.  Again why is it left to a moderately successful indie rocker to do the job of serious journalists? Where are the grownups?

 The “remix” economy already exists and is doing just fine.  It’s been around for at least 35 years.  And it did not require us “mapping a way back to the 19th century”

You say, “What the remix economy already exists?!!!”

Yes.  Have you ever heard of Hip Hop?

Hip Hop already has a working system for the permissions  that Lessig says is being inhibited by copyright law—it’s called a sample license.  The one main difference is that sampling licensing in Hip Hop is generally more fair than the corporate exploitation proposed by Lessig.  This is fundamentally because it starts by respecting rights.   The permissions conventions regarding sampling at least try to treat all stakeholders fairly.  Hip Hop is the most popular form of music on the planet.  It has produced great innovation and value. And it has done it while generally respecting artist’s rights and taking the time to get a license. Further–copyright has forced corporations to share the wealth among the independent writers, producers, beat makers and sampled artists.  If we adopted Lessig’s view of copyright,  there would be nothing stopping a giant music conglomerate  from turning themselves into a Web 2.0 “remix” site and start paying the artists nothing!  Yes you read that right, nothing.

Seriously, has anyone ever thought this through?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So if it’s so obvious to everyone that intellectual property encourages innovation instead of inhibiting it  why is the National Academy of Science sponsoring a study on intellectual property and innovation?

Greed. Plain and simple.  Very narrow commercial interests would make more money if we weakened copyright or just completely got rid of IP.  They’d make more money in the short term anyway.  Never mind that the long term effect on the US economy would be disastrous.  These same commercial interests are enormously rich and powerful. They are able to manipulate the political and academic discussions through the money they funnel to political advocacy groups and academic institutions.  Just look at the list of corporate sponsors to this “scientific study” if you don’t believe what I’m saying.

 And besides, should scientific studies have commercial sponsors?  Why don’t we let the oil industry to fund a study on global warming?
Yes it would be fantastic for a very narrow set of commercial companies if they didn’t have to pay anything to movie studios,  television networks, authors or musicians to use their works. Google would be able to make billions by servicing ads to the no-longer illegal file sharing.  Heck they wouldn’t have to play charades with the “mail order brides” (a/k/a Human Trafficking) sites.   Kim Dotcom wouldn’t be in jail and he would be able to buy more yachts and pet giraffes, maybe even a Dornier Alpha Jet.  A little of that money might even trickle out to exotic game breeders and yacht manufacturers, maybe even NASA.

But this is not innovation.  This is stealing from the creators—in one of the most parasitic ways I can think of.

Sadly few people really seem to understand innovation anymore.  Innovation isn’t just the “giant leaps forward”.  Yes the steam engine,  electricity,  the internal combustion engine,  wireless communications and even the Internet were all great innovations.  But much of the innovation that creates wealth and increases productivity are in the tiny improvements or  thousands of small new uses—remember the wah-wah pedal before Jimi Hendrix?  Innovation often atomizes after giant leaps forward.  Thousands of small corollaries to the big innovation are rooted out by small teams and individuals in the shadows of the original breakthrough.   For instance the unsexy project management software industry probably has probably contributed more to our GDP than Facebook.

Much of the handwringing about innovation is really unnecessary. Innovation is still occurring. It is likely accelerating.  The problem is that many in the tech industry are wrongly picturing what innovation looks like.  They are looking for big breakthroughs  like driverless cars or spaceships.  Or they are looking for things that look just like the innovations of the last decade.  Maybe we’ve wrung all the great innovations out of “social”  and web 2.0 websites.  But  it’s likely somewhere someone is creating a little app that is gonna revolutionize police work and save communities billions of dollars a year.  Or something like that.  Innovation is not always sexy.

Or sometimes innovation that creates great wealth is whimsical. Video gaming anyone?  Angry Birds?  It’s somewhere much farther up the hierarchy of needs but still adds great value to our GDP.  Many miss that innovation is occurring in areas that people now regard as luxuries but in a few decades may be seen as necessities.   May I remind you that TV, mobile phones and high speed internet access were all once regarded as luxuries.

 I read a great blog recently by Nicholas Carr on this very subject.  He proposed a Hierarchy of Innovation.  It’s well worth reading and I have to say his blog helped crystalize my thinking on this topic.  (Thanks Nicholas!)

We should be careful when listening to Silicon Valley on innovation.  While they were the most recent source of “giant leaps forward” they may have taken their technological playbook as far as it will go.  Their handwringing about innovation is actually more likely their own existential crisis,  not a problem with innovation in general in this country.    Before we throw out intellectual property-something which has time and time again encouraged innovation -we should consider that this argument is largely coming from Silicon Valley and their Manchurian Candidates.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Why are we always picking on Google?

They started it.

On the web today there exists an army of foundations, charities, bloggers, fake studies, fake musician advocacy groups, DC lobbyists and manchurian candidates that advocate  the weakening or elimination of all copyright and intellectual property protections.  What do many of them have in common?  (My hunch is all of them.) Direct or indirect funding from Google.  “Indirect” could include foundations funded by Google, or foundations that black box contributions from Google that get washed through a 501(c)(3).

Many people misunderstand something about Google.  “Don’t be evil” is not their corporate slogan.  It’s their corporate reminder.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

*The project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Ford Foundation, Google (Tides Foundation), Microsoft Corporation, Intel Corporation, American Chemical Society, Business Software Alliance, Motion Picture Association of America, and the Entertainment Software Association.
** The Trichordist has no interns.  The “interns” consisted of (very hungover) members of the Cracker touring party.

The Bad Science And Greed Behind The “Intellectual Property Inhibiting Innovation” Argument. Part 4

For some time now the web/technology lobby has been arguing that copyright and other forms of intellectual property rights are inhibiting innovation.  And if you don’t actually  think about it you might agree.  I mean it sounds sort of like the argument against government over-regulation. Having to get permission from all those IP owners.  And then having to pay them all?  what a hassle!

But is this really true?

The Hybrid Economy/Remix argument against copyright and how it’s inhibiting innovation.

This is from the home page for Lawrence Lessig’s book “Remix”.

For more than a decade, we’ve been waging a war on our kids in the name of the 20th Century’s model of “copyright law.” In this, the last of his books about copyright, Lawrence Lessig maps both a way back to the 19th century, and to the promise of the 21st. Our past teaches us about the value in “remix.” We need to relearn the lesson. The present teaches us about the potential in a new “hybrid economy” — one where commercial entities leverage value from sharing economies. That future will benefit both commerce and community. If the lawyers could get out of the way, it could be a future we could celebrate.

The academic Lawrence Lessig is the intellectual leader of the Web 2.0/ Hybrid Economy/Remix movement.   Lessig argues that there is a store of value and innovation locked up by “antiquated” copyright laws.  The idea is that if everyone could freely “remix” others work innovation would blossom and great value would be released.  In particular he states that then “commercial entities would leverage value from the sharing economies.”

Or as Stephen Colbert smartly put it to Lessig himself .

Colbert: Well let’s see (laughing)…so the hybrid economy is where everybody else does the work and Flickr makes all the money?

This in a nutshell is the main problem with Lessig’s formulation.  He would weaken copyright so that corporations could make money from artist’s copyrights (and the efforts of the “remixers”) without compensating them!  Does this sound fair to you?

I’ve been challenged before on this exact same statement.  The challenge is always  “but Lessig isn’t against compensating artists and copyrights.” And they point to some statement where Lessig says he “supports” copyright.     But the kind of “copyright” Lessig supposedly supports is quite different from the rules of copyright that the rest of the world has agreed upon for hundreds of years.  It doesn’t really  protect artists from unauthorized exploitation so it’s not really copyright at all. It’s like saying that you like “guacamole” but then you have your own private  recipe for “guacamole” that is actually creme brule but you just you call it “guacamole”.

And it is pretty clear that what he really means by “remix economy” is a system that allows commercial interests to profit from the work of artists, professional and amateur.  There is nothing groovy, idealistic or  progressive about it.  It’s unpaid exploitation for corporate profit.

That is why Lessig takes great care in creating a public face of being against corporate exploitation and for some ill defined cultural eden.   Yet all his theories benefit corporations the most.  Especially YouTube and Google.  After a while, you start to believe that he’s way too clever by half for this to be unintentional.  I believe that he presents himself as friend of artists when he is actually a bitter, bitter foe.   Why would he choose the language he uses? “Hollywood should get over it” or “In support of Piracy”.  He telegraphs his contempt towards those that create art in virtually all his essays and books.  It’s often seems personal.  Maybe it’s like the Saturday Night Live skit  that “explains” Albert Goldman’s hatred of John Lennon. In the skit Goldman was The Beatles trombone player until Lennon fired him.   Was Lessig kicked out of a ska band?  Did  “hollywood” kick his ass in a couple court fights?   Is that what all this is about?

This reminds me of the classic book by Richard Condon and film directed by John Frankenheimer, The Manchurian Candidate.  Lessig is “for copyright” but secretly he is on a secret mission to destroy copyright and impoverish artists. This is why I refer to Lessig as The Manchurian Candidate.    And here is the rather obvious explanation:

Everything that Lessig proposes about the Hybrid/Remix economy is possible right now under the current copyright regimen.  Except for one small item.  The only difference between Lessig’s ideal hybrid economy and the copyright protected creator economy?  In Lessig’s proposed hybrid economy corporations would not have to seek permission of artists to use their work or even compensate them.  That is why he wants to weaken copyright.  (Although I would not support it)  I could understand if he wanted to create a system of collectivized ownership for state controlled exploitation, but he doesn’t want to do that.  He wants to specifically collectivize artist’s works for corporate exploitation.

Of all the digital ink that has been spilt over Lessig’s pseudo-intellectual tropes,  not one writer has noted that Lessig is proposing a solution to a problem that does not exist.  Again why is it left to a moderately successful indie rocker to do the job of serious journalists? Where are the grownups?

 The “remix” economy already exists and is doing just fine.  It’s been around for at least 35 years.  And it did not require us “mapping a way back to the 19th century”

You say, “What the remix economy already exists?!!!”

Yes.  Have you ever heard of Hip Hop?

Hip Hop already has a working system for the permissions  that Lessig says is being inhibited by copyright law—it’s called a sample license.  The one main difference is that sampling licensing in Hip Hop is generally more fair than the corporate exploitation proposed by Lessig.  This is fundamentally because it starts by respecting rights.   The permissions conventions regarding sampling at least try to treat all stakeholders fairly.  Hip Hop is the most popular form of music on the planet.  It has produced great innovation and value. And it has done it while generally respecting artist’s rights and taking the time to get a license. Further–copyright has forced corporations to share the wealth among the independent writers, producers, beat makers and sampled artists.  If we adopted Lessig’s view of copyright,  there would be nothing stopping a giant music conglomerate  from turning themselves into a Web 2.0 “remix” site and start paying the artists nothing!  Yes you read that right, nothing.

Seriously, has anyone ever thought this through?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So if it’s so obvious to everyone that intellectual property by rewarding creators actually encourages innovation instead of inhibiting it  why is the National Academy of Science sponsoring a study on intellectual property and innovation?

Greed. Plain and simple.  Very narrow commercial interests would make more money if we weakened copyright or just plain got rid of IP.  At lest in the short term. Never mind that the long term effect on the US economy would be disastrous.  These same commercial interests are enormously rich and powerful. They are able to manipulate the political and academic discussions through the money they funnel to political advocacy groups and academic institutions.  Just look at the list of corporate sponsors to this “scientific study” if you don’t believe what I’m saying.

And besides, should scientific studies have commercial sponsors?

Yes it would be fantastic for a very narrow set of commercial companies if they didn’t have to pay anything to movie studios,  television networks or musicians to use their works. Google would be able to make billions by servicing ads to the no-longer illegal file sharing.  Heck they wouldn’t have to play charades with the “mail order brides” (a/k/a Human Trafficking) sites.   Kim Dotcom wouldn’t be in jail and he would be able to buy more yachts and pet giraffes, maybe even a Dornier Alpha Jet.  A little of that money might even trickle out to exotic game breeders and yacht manufacturers, maybe even NASA.

But this is not innovation.  This is stealing from the creators—in one of the most parasitic ways I can think of.

Sadly few people really seem to understand innovation anymore.  Innovation isn’t just the “giant leaps forward”.  Yes the steam engine,  electricity,  the internal combustion engine,  wireless communications and even the Internet were all great innovations.  But much of the innovation that creates wealth and increases productivity are in the tiny improvements or  thousands of small new uses—remember the wah-wah pedal before Jimi Hendrix?  Innovation often atomizes after giant leaps forward.  Thousands of small corollaries to the big innovation are rooted out by small teams and individuals in the shadows of the original breakthrough.   For instance the unsexy project management software industry probably has probably contributed more to our GDP than Facebook.

Much of the handwringing about innovation is really unnecessary. Innovation is still occurring. It is likely accelerating.  Many in the tech industry are wrongly picturing what innovation looks like.  They are looking for big breakthroughs  like driverless cars or spaceships.  Or they are looking for things that look just like the innovations of the last decade.  Maybe we’ve wrung all the great innovations out of “social”  and web 2.0 websites.  But  it’s likely somewhere someone is creating a little app that is gonna revolutionize police work and save communities billions of dollars a year.  Or something like that.  Innovation is not always sexy.

Or sometimes innovation that creates great wealth is whimsical. Video gaming anyone?  Angry Birds?  It’s somewhere much farther up the hierarchy of needs but still adds great value to our GDP.  Many miss that innovation is occurring in areas that people now regard as luxuries but in a few decades may be seen as necessities.   May I remind you that TV, mobile phones and high speed internet access were all once regarded as luxuries.

 I read a great blog recently by Nicholas Carr on this very subject.  He proposed a Hierarchy of Innovation.  It’s well worth reading and I have to say his blog helped crystalize my thinking on this topic.  (Thanks Nicholas!)

We should be careful when listening to Silicon Valley on innovation.  While they were the most recent source of “giant leaps forward” they may have taken their technological playbook as far as it will go.  Their handwringing about innovation is actually more likely their own existential crisis,  not a problem with innovation in general in this country.    Before we throw out intellectual property-something which has time and time again encouraged innovation -we should consider that this argument is largely coming from Silicon Valley and their Manchurian Candidates.