Music is the Product. |

Yup. Music is the product. Justin Vernon talks about Bon Iver and advertising.  The music is the product, not just the business card to book advertising and sponsorship gigs which some would like to suggest – and here’s why…

We did a photo shoot for Bushmills. To be clear: They gave us a bunch of money and we were able to finish without borrowing. It was great for us, and everybody that worked at the company was great, and I love Bushmills and wanted to do the deal because my dad loved Bushmills — we bond over Irish whiskey.

But the problem is that it isn’t just Bushmills. It’s run by a corporation, and you kind of forget that they’re not interested in you or really what you’re doing. They’re interested in your popularity and your reach, and it felt really sickening after a while. Not badmouthing Bushmills the company, but I regret it.

I regret it because it wasn’t us and they put my face on a fucking billboard, even though it was a cool billboard and I was with my brother and my sound engineer and we’re buds and we got drunk while we had the photo shoot. I just missed it. I missed the mark on that one and I let it all kind of get to me. It just doesn’t feel right after the fact, you know?


NP AAAARGGHHHHH: @NPR CEO Jarl Mohn Funded Piracy Client Vuze and Vuze Sponsors Torrent Freak

We’ve been reporting for the last few days on NPR joining Pandora, Clear Channel, National Association of Broadcasters and Google in the MIC Coalition which seeks to lower rates paid to artists and to keep songwriters under DOJ supervision (because what these large corporate and state chartered near monopolies need is  “anti-competition” protection from songwriters?  WTF?).

This has puzzled us because NPR already enjoys a dramatically lower royalty rate than most other radio.  Further we artists often waive our rights and allow NPR use of our recordings royalty free  in perpetuity.  We willingly support NPR in this manner because we believe they provide a public service. We have been a solid ally of public and community radio. Why would they turn against us and join this dark side coalition?

Now we think we have the answer.

NPR CEO Jarl Mohn is a card carrying member of the dark side. He funded the  bittorrent piracy client Vuze not once but twice.  He was part of the B series round of $12 million and the C series round of $20 million.  And make no mistake Vuze is a key part of the piracy ecosystem.

Yeah yeah yeah, we heard it before:  “Vuze is just a tool and they don’t profit from piracy”  Bullshit.  Vuze profits directly from the illegal distribution of my material by knowingly serving advertising against it.

Allow me to demonstrate with the tracks from my latest album.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 10.58.33 PM

This is a screenshot of the Vuze client while downloading an unlicensed copy of my new album Berkeley to Bakersfield.  Down in the left hand corner there is an ad for American Express served by the publicly traded web advertising firm Quantcast. (Coincidentally a couple of years ago I privately defended Quantcast against similar charges, now I feel like a fucking idiot.)

To be clear this is not a webpage and ad exchange banner advertising. No one played some “tunneling” or DNS forwarding trick to make American Express and Quantcast think it wasn’t advertising on this site.  This advertising  is embedded into a piece of software that is used almost exclusively for downloading illegally distributed films music and pornography. How does American Express not know this? Quantcast? Or Jarl Mohn?

How did NPR come up with a CEO  with such questionable ethics?  This guy had to know what he was funding: A tool to infringe the rights of artists on global scale.  If not he’s really really dim.


Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 7.34.39 PM


But it gets worse. The piracy advocating website Torrent Freak appears to be sponsored by the very same company: Vuze.   That’s right the piracy revolution will not be televised but it will be sponsored by amoral Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists.   You really thought Torrent Freak was an ideological true believer fighting for your rights to “share” against the man?  Nope looks they are the marketing department for the man who makes advertising money off of your sharing activity.  


Here’s a screenshot from the Torrent Freak website helpfully alerting it’s readers to availability of the leaked Game of Thrones Season 5 on Kick Ass Torrents and the Pirate Bay.   Look carefully at the code.  The ad for Vuze isn’t just randomly served by some online adexchange. It’s embedded into the site.  Someone had to go in and place that link and that JPG into the code.  Plus the visible text actually claims them a “sponsor.”

So you are really gonna tell me with a straight face that no money is changing hands here?  Vuze is not paying “Ernesto” the editor of Torrent Freak?  While Ernesto is pretty much inducing piracy and giving advice on how to avoid prosecution?

How is this not a conspiracy?  I mean conspiracy like  RICO Conspiracy (See details below).

And it all started with money from NPR CEO Jarl Mohn.

Fire this guy.

NPR affiliates, DJs, Journalists and independent public radio stations need to stand with artists against these assholes. Heres our olive branch.  Please join us.


It’s Torches and Pitchforks time.  It’s not gonna be prett.y




I’m not a lawyer but the intent of the law seems pretty clear. To prevent groups of people-even if only informally organized-from engaging in coordinated criminal activity.  Specifically when it disrupts legitimate marketplaces like those for recorded music or online advertising.

“RICO is designed to attack organized criminal activity and preserve marketplace integrity by investigating, controlling, and prosecuting persons who participate or conspire to participate in racketeering.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1286 (8th ed. 2005).  

There are a host of organized “scams” that generally occur in the peer to peer advertising ecosystem including within the Vuze client. Maybe there are some prosecutors or litigators out there who can help me with this? Aren’t the following part of the RICO statute?

1)  Mass copyright infringement.

2) Advertisers publicly claim to not know where there ads are being served.  If this is true then there is fraud going on.  Someone along the way, advertising agencies, ad exchanges, and/or companies like Vuze are behaving improperly. Since it involves the online ad ecosystem wouldn’t this be Wire Fraud?

3) Uh… how do I say the obvious? P2P networks have a lot of pornography?  A lot!     I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine illegal pornography isn’t also being monetized with advertising as it’s transferred using the Vuze client.  How can you possible be allowed to make money off of illegal pornography and not be prosecuted?

4) Anyone visiting a site like The Pirate bay has probably noticed the relentless advertising for Russian or Asian Brides.  Human trafficking anyone?

5) These same sites often feature ads for third party websites that claim to enroll applicants into a  “US Green Card Lottery.”   The US has never used third parties for its “Diversity Visa” program and at the present time the US is not accepting applications for diversity visas.  All websites advertising for the 2017 lottery are highly suspect.  (An early version of this article made it seem as if the US never had a Diversity Visa or “Green Card Lottery” that was incorrect). 

Now check out the RICO definitions. My bold italics added.

18 U.S. Code § 1961 – Definitions:

As used in this chapter—
(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), which is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: Section 201 (relating to bribery), section 224 (relating to sports bribery), sections 471, 472, and 473 (relating to counterfeiting), section 659 (relating to theft from interstate shipment) if the act indictable under section 659 is felonious, section 664 (relating to embezzlement from pension and welfare funds), sections 891–894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1028 (relating to fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents), section 1029 (relating to fraud and related activity in connection with access devices), section 1084 (relating to the transmission of gambling information), section 1341 (relating to mail fraud), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud), section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1351 (relating to fraud in foreign labor contracting), section 1425 (relating to the procurement of citizenship or nationalization unlawfully), section 1426 (relating to the reproduction of naturalization or citizenship papers), section 1427 (relating to the sale of naturalization or citizenship papers), sections 1461–1465 (relating to obscene matter), section 1503 (relating to obstruction of justice), section 1510 (relating to obstruction of criminal investigations), section 1511 (relating to the obstruction of State or local law enforcement), section 1512 (relating to tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant), section 1513 (relating to retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant), section 1542 (relating to false statement in application and use of passport), section 1543 (relating to forgery or false use of passport), section 1544 (relating to misuse of passport), section 1546 (relating to fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents), sections 1581–1592 (relating to peonage, slavery, and trafficking in persons)., [1] section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering), section 1953 (relating to interstate transportation of wagering paraphernalia), section 1954 (relating to unlawful welfare fund payments), section 1955 (relating to the prohibition of illegal gambling businesses), section 1956 (relating to the laundering of monetary instruments), section 1957 (relating to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity), section 1958 (relating to use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire), section 1960 (relating to illegal money transmitters), sections 2251, 2251A, 2252, and 2260 (relating to sexual exploitation of children), sections 2312 and 2313 (relating to interstate transportation of stolen motor vehicles), sections 2314 and 2315 (relating to interstate transportation of stolen property), section 2318 (relating to trafficking in counterfeit labels for phonorecords, computer programs or computer program documentation or packaging and copies of motion pictures or other audiovisual works), section 2319 (relating to criminal infringement of a copyright), section 2319A (relating to unauthorized fixation of and trafficking in sound recordings and music videos of live musical performances), section 2320 (relating to trafficking in goods or services bearing counterfeit marks), section 2321 (relating to trafficking in certain motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts), sections 2341–2346 (relating to trafficking in contraband cigarettes), sections 2421–24 (relating to white slave traffic), sections 175–178 (relating to biological weapons), sections 229–229F (relating to chemical weapons), section 831 (relating to nuclear materials), (C) any act which is indictable under title 29, United States Code, section 186 (dealing with restrictions on payments and loans to labor organizations) or section 501 (c) (relating to embezzlement from union funds), (D) any offense involving fraud connected with a case under title 11 (except a case under section 157 of this title), fraud in the sale of securities, or the felonious manufacture, importation, receiving, concealment, buying, selling, or otherwise dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), punishable under any law of the United States, (E) any act which is indictable under the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, (F) any act which is indictable under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 274 (relating to bringing in and harboring certain aliens), section 277 (relating to aiding or assisting certain aliens to enter the United States), or section 278 (relating to importation of alien for immoral purpose) if the act indictable under such section of such Act was committed for the purpose of financial gain, or (G) any act that is indictable under any provision listed in section 2332b (g)(5)(B);
(2) “State” means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, any territory or possession of the United States, any political subdivision, or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof;
(3) “person” includes any individual or entity capable of holding a legal or beneficial interest in property;
(4) “enterprise” includes any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity;

screenshot-www vuze com 2015-05-03 18-48-20


screenshot-www crunchbase com 2015-05-03 18-46-16








Zoë Keating Publishes Google/YouTube Transcript : Clarity | Zoë Keating Blog

With friends like these…

If i wanted to just let content ID keep doing it’s thing, and it does a great job at and i’m totally happy with it and i don’t want to participate in the music service, is that an option?

That’s unfortunately not an option.

Assuming i don’t want to, then what would occur?

So what would happen is, um, so in the worst case scenario, because we do understand there are cases where our partners don’t want to participate for various reasons, what we basically have to do is because the music terms are essentially like outdated, the content that you directly upload from accounts that you own under the content owner attached to the agreement, we’ll have to block that content. but anything that comes up that we’re able to scan and match through content ID we could just apply a track policy but the commercial terms no longer apply so there’s not going to be any revenue generated.

Wow that’s pretty harsh.

Yeah, it’s harsh and trust me, it is really difficult for me to have this conversation with all of my partners but we’re really, what we’re trying to do is basically create a new revenue stream on top of what exists on the platform today.


* MUST READ * YouTube’s Heartbreaking Extortion Of Musicians Begins… | Zoë Keating Explains New Rules

Below is the opener, after that – it gets worse…

“My Google Youtube rep contacted me the other day. They were nice and took time to explain everything clearly to me, but the message was firm: I have to decide. I need to sign on to the new Youtube music services agreement or I will have my Youtube channel blocked.
This new music service agreement covers my Content ID account and it includes mandatory participation in Youtube’s new subscription streaming service, called Music Key, along with all that participation entails. Here are some of the terms I have problems with:

1) All of my catalog must be included in both the free and premium music service. Even if I don’t deliver all my music, because I’m a music partner, anything that a 3rd party uploads with my info in the description will be automatically included in the music service too.

2) All songs will be set to “montetize”, meaning there will be ads on them.

3) I will be required to release new music on Youtube at the same time I release it anywhere else. So no more releasing to my core fans first on Bandcamp and then on iTunes.

4) All my catalog must be uploaded at high resolution, according to Google’s standard which is currently 320 kbps.

5) The contract lasts for 5 years.”

Seriously the whole post is an absolute must read, in full, probably at least two or three times to have it all sink in.


When Iggy Pop can’t live off his art, what chance do the rest have? | The Globe and Mail

But a new reality has tripped him up and it’s the same one shafting artists all across the world: Namely, that everyone wants to listen, and no one wants to pay. This week, Iggy gave a lecture for the British Broadcasting Corp. called Free Music in a Capitalist Society. Artists have always been ripped off by corporations, he said; now the public is in on the free ride, too: “The cat is out of the bag and the new electronic devices, which estrange people from their morals, also make it easier to steal music than to pay for it.”

To keep skinny body and maverick soul together, Iggy’s become a DJ, a car-insurance pitchman and a fashion model. If he had to live off royalties, he said, he’d have to “tend bars between sets.” As I listened to his enthusiastic stoner Midwestern drawl, I thought: If Iggy Pop can’t make it, what message does that send to all the baby Iggys out there? In a society where worth is judged by price, for better or worse, what are you saying to someone when you won’t pay for the thing he’s crafted?



Announcement From c3 (The Content Creators Coalition)

“Google is in the process of systematically destroying our artistic future… if the creative community doesn’t intervene now, and by now, I mean, fucking now — we will be bound to a multigenerational clusterfuck that will take 40 to 50 years to unravel.” – Kurt Sutter Attacks Google: Stop Profiting from Piracy (Guest Column) | Variety

when:  THIS SUNDAY, Oct 19th, at 4:30-5:00pm
where: Google 8th ave btwn 15th and 16th sts in Manhattan)

MARCH WITH US at 4pm sharp from Le Poisson Rouge
(158 Bleecker St., btwn Sullivan and Thompson in Manhattan )
MEET US at Kelly Park at 4:15 pm
(W 16th St., btwn 8th and 9th avenue in Manhattan)

This action is sponsored by the c3, the Content Creators Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to the achievement of economic justice in the digital domain.

*  Google: Stop the Attack on Artists’ Rights.
*  Google/YouTube: Pay Creators For All Use Of Copyrighted Materials: When Profit Is Being Made, The Artist Must Be Paid:  Support An Artists Right To Choose: Take-Down-Means-Stay-Down!
*  Google: Stop brokering ads to corporate black market sites.

Please Forward

SUPPORT ARTISTS RIGHTS! #supportartistsrights
Join Us:


This Weekend in NYC : Benefit for Content Creators Coalition (c3): Defend Artists’ Rights: Economic Justice in the Digital Domain! w/ Marc Ribot, John Zorn, and friends

A Benefit Concert for c3

Featuring John Zorn, Eric Slick (Dr Dog), Steve Coleman, Marc RibotHenry Grimes, Marina RosenfeldTrevor Dunn, Brandon SeabrookSatomi Matsuzaki (Deerhoof), Amir ElSaffar, and more!

The event will also feature a short screening of highlights from Michael Count Eldridge’s upcoming documentary film “Unsound”.

General Admission: $20 pre-sale (ends at noon on 10/18) $25 at Doors

Special Artist Rights Supporter tickets include reserved balcony seating and access to a one hour meet and greet prior to the show // Doors at 7pm




Pandora: money trumps morality, ran ads for anti-gay group.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 1.12.23 AM


Above Pandora CFO Mike Herring shows how down with the gays Pandora really is!  The link goes to a custom Pandora radio station for “Oakland Pride Radio.”   Wow that’s really going out on a limb there Pandora! I bet some of your best friends are gay! I wonder what Oakland Pride thinks of Pandora using them as a prop to excuse their donations to an anti-gay demagogue?  And what will they say when they find out Pandora ran ads for “Speak Up University?”   


When I worked for Pandora, I took my job seriously. My title was “Listener Advocate”, and, as a listener myself, I tried to bring the opinions of the listeners to the company. Of course, most of our job was helping people to be able to simply listen to the online station, sort of minimal tech support. However, there were several legitimate things that we initiated meetings with management about, and many times these were met with new ways to word our responses to ameliorate listener concerns.

After I had been there for about a year, and had responded to many complaints about specific ads, we started hosting tons of ads for Meg Whitman, who was running as the republican candidate in the California gubernatorial race, 2010. She came from being CEO of Ebay, (then to Hewlett-Packard afterwards) and was rich as hell, and apparently spent more of her own money on the race than any other political candidate in history ($144 million, $178 million including donations). The company was thrilled to take her money and run her ads all the time, which of course generated complaints, which I thought a lot about, and then brought them to the company.

I advocated on behalf of establishing a rule that we take ads only selling goods and services, and nothing dogmatic (i.e. politics or religion.) The company’s party line was that we would accept any advertising that ran on “major mass media”, ignoring the fact that the term “major mass media” is essentially so vague as to be meaningless. For example, we explicitly stated that we would not accept advertising about pornography or gambling, while Clear Channel, which is obviously mass media, ran billboards advertising gambling casinos all up and down the state.

I had several conversations with Joe Kennedy and Tim Westergren about this. Joe basically heard me out and then dismissed me. With Tim it was more difficult. One thing that I pointed out to him was that when we played political or dogmatic ads, it reflected on the company’s political stance. He absolutely did not believe that, he said “TV stations always run advertising for all political parties”. I said, “yes, but we see television companies as being driven only by money, so we distrust them implicitly.” Tim, as well, refused to believe that his public political action had any bearing on how the company was seen by the public-at-large. I thought that this was very short-sighted of him, and said to him that simply because he was very visibly active in politics, for example asking our listeners to advocate on the company’s behalf vis-a-vis royalty rates or other congressional mandates, that anything political that the listener hears on Pandora would be viewed with the inherent politics of the company in mind.

I brought up the hypothetical situation of running ads promoting Proposition 8, which was on the California ballot at that time, which was opposing same-sex marriage.

Tim blew me off on this, adding cryptically “I’d love to argue about this, I’m a student of Chomsky!” If he actually were, I would think he would currently be living in some sort of nightmare of cognitive dissonance. Anyway, I still advocated the idea of only advertising goods and services, and questioned the whole idea of trying to be parochial to “major mass media”. If we wanted to be a shining light in the field of “radio”, we should make our own rules, we absolutely did not have to be mini-Clear Channels. I tend to think that making our own rules about such things would work out better in the end, both internally and externally.

I didn’t realize at the time how the lip service we gave to being “pro-music” and being “about music” was covering that fact that it was, indeed, in the end, all about money, and only about money. Being moral has nothing to do with business, especially if you are in the United States, and, it seems, especially if you in the tech world. One of the engineers came by my desk and mentioned that the Meg Whitman ads were paying dollars where other paid nickels, so she was gonna get those ads placed in any case. (She lost that election, regardless.)

It was the following year that the company held its IPO and became a publicly traded entity. Then it got really bad. While Joe Kennedy claimed “an IPO is just another round of funding”, being even more beholden to the investors started to become evident. The advertising and programming choices became even more suspect, listeners began wondering what was happening. And along with the political things, came advertising that was even weirder. We got many complaints about “Speak Up University”, who appear to be a support group for “straight Christians”, but a little more research into the Speak Up organization proves it to be essentially and anti-gay hate group, among other things.

(It’s a fallacy to think that any dominant culture would need support in the face of abused minorities, the same way that there is no such thing as “masculinism” battling the tenets of feminism: feminism strives for equality; being against it is being for the current inequality of all people, regardless of gender. Nonetheless, there is so much misunderstanding of it that people are duped into thinking that they should be against it because somehow it promotes more power to one side (women in this example,) instead of simply promoting equality. One would think that the anti-gay marriage proponents believed that allowing it would make it mandatory—or Worse!)

I brought this up to the management, again. This, surely, was a moral line we should not cross in our blind acceptance of money for political or dogmatic advertising. This slightly stirred things up, partially because my team had several gay members, to say nothing of those who were simply trying to advocate morality and refused to accept that there was any difference between people regardless, and hence advertising that is divisive or hateful in any way should be avoided. We never really got closure on this, as the advertising sales people were the cream of the business crop, in their own little money-driven world, and couldn’t be bothered so much with whom they sold to, so long as they sold time or web space.

I realized at this point that the entire area of “customer service” within Pandora was backwards. The listeners were not the customers, the advertisers were. The listeners got music in exchange for listening to ads. That was the deal. Again, music was irrelevant, we could have been pumping sausage through a pipe into their mouths all day long, in exchange for watching ads. But the public perception of the company was still that it was somehow “pro-music and musicians.”

I tried to accept this all, but still had to speak out when we ran ads for “Minnesotans for Marriage”, another anti-gay hate group opposing gay marriage in Minnesota. And, looking around, our very team was segregated: the gay contingent was off to one end by themselves…This time was the last straw for management, I was brought into a meeting and told to “stop questioning decisions that had been made by the company”, that is, get with the program or get out. They said “you have some tough decisions to make”. The next day I was told to clean out my desk. Many people asked me about whether I wrote this article after I was fired (I didn’t, but it is all true.) Take a look.

Losing my job was bad, of course, that always is, and it makes one a pariah in the tech world to simply care about the morality of what is done. I wrote this a year later:

(To repeat some of that blog entry, when I was told by the new over-manager  “you can’t keep questioning things that the company has already made decisions on”, I replied that of course I have to keep questioning! What if people hadn’t kept questioning during the civil rights protests in the 1960s? He became really angry and reared up and said, you can’t compare these things to racial issues! I said, “uh, yes you can, I’m talking about civil rights, this ad is for an anti-homosexual group…?” When I left that day and went to a yoga class, I spoke with an expert: none other than Angela Davis was a student in the same yoga class that I went to in Oakland. She was fairly adamant that I was on the right track!)

In the past two years, Tim Westergren has proven that all he really cared about all along was the money, he and many of the other upper management and investors have been cashing out millions of dollars in stocks all the while lobbying against royalty rates to pay for the music that supposedly the whole Pandora concept is based on. And as he, and the company, become more and more politically involved, it reflects more and more on the company as a whole.

Now it has come out that Tim and Joe and others even donated to the radical right wing anti-gay congressman Jason Chaffetz. Presumably, they simply did this to throw money at him to sponsor IRFA, the “Internet Radio Fairness Act” (a very Orwellian name!) Of course doing so supports him in his entire agenda. So, they really don’t care? Or is the company based in such a sense of pseudo-morality that these people like Tim are actually supporting Chaffetz’ anti-gay agenda? How could we know?

If it is that, then this company is sick at its core. If it is only about money, then the company is amoral. That same sort of amorality and hypocrisy permeates the rich industrialists of the world, see here for example regarding the Koch family.

In any event, the Pandora bosses have made out like bandits already, so I doubt they care what happens. Maybe the company will wither, and in its withering prevent similar IPO-based “funding”.

We can only hope that they are replaced by music streaming companies that really care about music.


-post by Jonathan Segel

Some cold analysis of the YouTube-Indie labels story, and some long term reflections | Wildcat Blog

So what’s going on with Google, YouTube and Indie labels?

There’s been so much fuss, indies tearing their hair, lawyers trying to tone it down: I try to sum up the whole thing here for your delight and delectation.

Alright, this is not a music law blog. It is, however, a blog where law and music meet. So, here we go. If you don’t know the ante-fact, have a read here or here.

And there’s also this update that Google may be revising its position now.

Why is the contract so bad? Wait, is it really bad?


Pan Handling For A Career in Music | Guest Post By Dustin Mitchell of Katagory V

Recently, my band Katagory V created a crowdsourcing campaign to finance the release of our latest album, which had been completed (recorded, mixed, and mastered) over three years ago.  As much as Silicon Valley seems to laud this as “the way” to finance a musician’s work, I personally was very resistant to it for a long time.  This was more of a moral issue for myself than one of not wanting to “get with the times”, as we artists are so often accused of.  Recently, however, it became far more than a moral problem; it became a political one, too.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the whole crowdsourcing concept is brilliant.  It’s a fantastic way to kick-start your craft if you have no capital to work with and arejust getting started as a band, filmmaker, writer, etc.  It is something I wish had existed when I started my musical endeavor years ago.  However, the more I look at it concerning my own band which has existed for 15 years, I feel like we are essentially panhandling. It is one thing, in my opinion, to use this to “kickstart” your dream career, it is another creature all together when you rely on it as your sole source of income to maintain it.

With that said, let’s not mince words here and just call it what it really is — crowdsourcing is panhandling on the internet.  I can’t be the only person that sees it this way…or am I?  I was raised to believe that hard work and perseverance gets rewarded, and when you reap these rewards, you do so with absolute humility.  Panhandling completely negates what I was taught. Granted, people who contribute get “perks” or a finished product IF…if it succeeds.  However, it is still asking for money for something that doesn’t actually exist yet.  Money for a promise: this is where my moral compass just spins out of control. Are we asking consumers, our fans, to become investors now?

The part that goes beyond my moral problems with this is that we are not crowdsourcing our unreleased album to get our career started, rebooted, as a noble cause, or even to try and break away from the whole record label cycle.  We are doing it because after three years, we have no other choice.  Labels are reluctant to take risks or give advances, consumers are using streaming or free options, both of which obviously pay us nothing, and we don’t have any more capital ourselves to fund it.  Nothing is more frustrating or humiliating than doing something that you find absolutely immoral AND politically backwards, yet knowing that you HAVE to do it as a means to an end.  There is no Plan B or C; this is the ONLY plan left.  It’s very ironic, but one of the songs we had written for this unreleased album, “I Am Change,” lyrically and inadvertently prophesied this very situation.

When I told the members of my band that I was going forward with this panhandling scheme, I insisted that our campaign bio had to explain to our fans WHY we were doing it.  Unlike most artists doing these funding projects, I wanted it spelled out in big bold letterson the front page of the campaign, that thanks to the “new boss,” we had no choice but to have our fans directly fund our work.  Otherwise, this album would never be released.

There are several paragraphs in our campaign explaining what has happened in the music business in the last decade, why our “middle-class” band had been forced at gunpoint to climb aboard the express train to “poverty,” and why we are now holding out our hands, begging for spare change.  By laying out the truth and thus risking the possibility of being viewed as sniveling and whiny, we may be pushing our potential contributors away.

Why would these potential contributors be turned off?  Because NO ONE likes cry-baby musicians.  They literally tune them right out.  Music consumers don’t want to hear our problems.  They just stuff cotton in their ears and mouse click over to the next free meal.  And you know what?  I don’t care…it’s already been three years.  I can wait another three, ten, or even twenty years if it means standing my ground on how I feel about the digital age and how we as artists are being bent over the proverbial barrel more than ever in the history of the music business.

The band was surprisingly supportive of this idea to add this segment to the campaign.  I had been preaching this possible doomsday scenario to them (and anyone else who would listen) as far back as 2007.  I always knew it was going to get worse before it got better when we started recording this album back in 2010; I just never imagined it would get THIS bad with no real resolution in sight.  I can’t help but wonder if this is the end of days for music.

Our fans (and others looking to contribute) need to know the truth.  Of course we want people to contribute; we want this album out there just as much as our fans do, or else we wouldn’t have resorted to creating a panhandling campaign!  If it doesn’t work, this album is going to go back on the shelf indefinitely.  Even if people don’t contribute and they walk away from it with a little education and a better understanding of how things work (or don’t work) in the world of music today, I will personally feel a little better about having to resort to this fundraising tactic.  I can only hope we don’t ever have to take this route again.

The financial ecosystem in which our band had worked under for over a decade has been eradicated.  It’s as if we are living out that John Carpenter movie, “They Live.”  The music industry isn’t even an industry anymore; they/we are the puppets of this new boss.  We put in thousands of dollars of our own money into this album thinking that things would get better, that someone would find this miracle “new business model” that would restore the balance to the force, and that we would at least see a return that would pay back our expenses.  This has yet to happen and, sadly, probably never will.  So now, after three years of waiting for the other shoe to drop, we decided to stop bruising our backsides from sitting on the fence, swallow our pride, and fund our music by turning our band into a PBS pledge drive.  I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be panhandling for my career in music.


Dustin Mitchell
Bassist/songwriter – Katagory V