Trichordist Inaugural Nyan Cat Award- Mitch Stoltz of Electronic Frontier Foundation

Trichordist’s Inaugural Nyan Cat Award For Web Based Idiocy.

This weeks winner is Mitch Stoltz a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.   I caught him rudely and incorrectly lecturing someone on facebook.

Mitch Stoltz … Prove that the Pirate Bay is actually harming artists in any significant way, and that more copyright law will remedy that harm, and that new law will work better than market-based solutions like offering more lawful entertainment that’s easy to buy and use at reasonable prices. Then we’ll talk.

First Mitch Stoltz  you are a lawyer and you should know better.  The Pirate Bay and their ilk are  using artists copyrights without permission. You should know that in itself is a violation of the law and by definition is a “harm”. Taking away the artists right to chose how, where and when to exploit their own copyrights is “harm”.  The artist doesn’t have to show some other sort of “harm”.  Are you saying that any for-profit website should just be able to use an artist’s song however they want without compensation or permission until the artist  shows something like economic harm?  Where did you get your law degree?

Okay let me give you the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe what you actually meant was  “economic harm”.  Prove piracy economically harms artists? You are joking right?  It’s been proven time and time again.  There are 14 academic peer reviewed studies that conclude  piracy has a negative effect on revenue.  There is a very recent peer reviewed academic  meta-study by Stan Liebowitz (2011) which reviews the data from virtually all the academic studies and comes to the same conclusion.  I will gladly have copies sent to your offices if you can’t find them on the web.  But may I humbly suggest you venture outside the anti-copyright echo chamber every once in a while and you might learn something.

Regarding your implication that un-authorized exploitation  is the result of no one “offering more lawful entertainment that is easy to buy at reasonable prices?”   Have you never heard of iTunes?  Amazon? MOG?, Pandora?, Rhapsody?, Spotify? Netflix? Hulu?  How can you argue this  with a straight face?  Unauthorized file sharing exists because people get music for free and file-sharing sites make money from advertising or “premium” accounts.  Not because they are offering a better service.   This is a phony argument.  You know it.  I know it.  We all know it.  Be a decent human being and stop using it.

And please don’t throw around the term “market solutions”  unless you are prepared to honestly analyze the entire unauthorized use industry in the same light.  Unauthorized use takes away the right of artists to participate in the free market by forcing them to compete with free versions of their own products.  Refusing to enforce existing copyright  law and allowing rampant unauthorized  use amounts to mass collectivization.  A sort of digital maoism and that, my friend is the opposite of “free markets”.

Further the for-profit-unauthorized-use industry is what inhibits the formation of additional legal media sites. Not the other way around. Basic common sense should tell you this.  Why would people buy cars legally if they could get stolen ones for free with no threat of social or legal punishment?  Who’s gonna open a new car dealership?  This is the same nasty quirk of human nature that makes normal law abiding citizens loot.   Arguing that nothing is to be done in this situation is an unethical and immoral choice that YOU are consciously making.

What people like you refuse to understand: How are individual independent artists supposed to take on the entire for-profit un-authorized use industry?  99 percent of the people harmed by file sharing are the independent artists, the audio engineers, the roadies,  the independent recording studios, the independent and specialty labels, the independent record stores, the independent publicists, the bus drivers etc etc.  The vast majority of people harmed by unauthorized exploitation of artists rights are not rich and powerful. Unlike the EFF they do not have washington lobbyists to argue their case or employ staff lawyers to troll the internet arguing for their rights. The working class of the music business do not have foundations that receive large corporate donations to help them fight for their rights. The 99% are the 99%!  The basic point of the law and civilization is to protect the weak from the corrupt and powerful. When you were an idealistic young law student could you ever imagine that one day you would be arguing against the weak and powerless and for the corrupt and powerful?    How do you sleep at night?

I know what you are gonna argue next.  May I?

You agree with me on artists rights but inhibiting access to websites that  enable unauthorized file sharing, human trafficking, underage prostitution, counterfeit drugmaking and  child pornography will require “breaking the internet”.   In addition you will argue that there is something deep in the architecture of the web that will not allow any filtering of the web that won’t also be a danger to free speech.   I’ve got that right? Right?

This is absolute bullshit.  And I should know.  I was pushing and “acking” packets back when there was only TCP  without the IP.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can’t possibly know anything about the architecture of the internet.  There is nothing in the architecture of the internet that makes policing and free speech incompatible.  Anyone that that says otherwise does not know what they are talking about or they are willfully misleading the public under color of technological authority. 

To those that are not technologically savvy,  this is like saying that you can’t have any sort of traffic laws on the US Interstate Highway System because it will inhibit our freedom.

What the glassy eyed internet “freedom” types do not understand is that it’s not “the pipes’ of the internet that give us free speech.  It’s our democratically empowered institutions that give us free speech.   Plenty of dictatorships have “free” pipes.  What good is a “free” internet if the secret police come to your house and murder you for speaking out?  or Anonymous takes down your website for saying something they dislike?  According to your own organization Mexico has one of the most open and free internets on the planet.  Yet bloggers in the northern states routinely self censor so the criminal cartels won’t murder them.

Remember we had freedom before there was an internet.

Final question: Is it really the Electronic Frontier Foundations position that The Pirate Bay and other artist exploitation sites do not harm artists?  Cause I’d love to debate you on that.  We can do it at the University of Georgia next fall. I’ll see if I can get the Law School to sponsor it.   You game?  I’ll give you the Nyan Cat Award at the same time.



Musicians POV : 1,000 True Fans (an answer)

by Robert Rich
(re-posted by permission, copyright in the author)

1000 True Fans (an answer)

A few days ago, I got a question from Kevin Kelly (founding editor of Wired Magazine) asking me to give some real-world insight upon his theory that an internet-age artist can survive with around 1,000 “True Fans.” Stephen Hill from Hearts of Space had suggested that Kevin should contact Steve Roach and me because we each have been surviving in a likewise manor for a rather long time. I decided to write a long and carefully worded answer, speaking as close to the truth as I could. I recommend you read the original article that I’m responding to, if this interests you. It’s at<>

Get ready for a long diatribe that might involve you, if you listen to my music. I’m exposing some rather private stuff about real-life finances and the life of a full-time artist. I feel that the only way to communicate these ideas uses naked truth:


Dear Kevin,

I agree strongly with your basic thesis, that artists can survive on the cusp of the long tail by nurturing the help of dedicated fans; but perhaps I can modulate your welcome optimism with a light dose of realism, tempered by some personal reflections.

I have operated on a premise similar to yours for almost 30 years now, before the internet made the idea more feasible. I wanted to make the sort of uncompromising quiet introspective music that moved me deeply when I first heard others do it back in the mid ’70′s. Because of the lingering aftermath of the popularization of psychedelic culture, certain memes leaked out from the avant garde into pop culture, and publishers from the old model were willing to try marketing experimental art-forms to the mainstream. Thus, into the mind of a suburban adolescent growing up in Silicon Valley, merged the unlikely combination of European space-music, minimalism, baroque, world music and industrial/punk, most of which received the benefits of worldwide distribution and marketing – even though we all considered it “underground” at the time.

That means, I grew up as a benefactor of the old system, before demographic marketing analysis helped to cripple the spread of radical thought across subcultural boundaries. I realized from this leakage of experimental culture into the mainstream, that I wanted to be an artist like the ones that moved me deeply. I wanted to speak my personal truth, regardless of the cost. I wanted to serve the role of a modern shaman, while embracing the complexities and ironies of our modern world.

When one sets a course like this, one quickly ponders the financial realities of obscurity. I remember telling myself when I was about 15, “If I can move one person deeply, that’s better than entertaining thousands of people but leaving nothing meaningful behind.” That’s the long tail talking. I suppose when you multiply this idea by a thousand, you have your thesis.

I began self-publishing my music in 1981, struggling to get paid from slippery distributors, trying to keep track of all the shops where I had my albums on consignment. I was relieved over the years when a couple small labels showed interest in helping me, and I could avail myself of their infrastructure. I think I benefitted immensely from this exposure, through labels like Hearts of Space and smaller ones in Europe. I feel in retrospect like I snuck in under the collapsing framework of independent distribution, at a time where small companies could cast a medium-sized fishing net, to catch the interest of listeners who would otherwise never have known they liked this type of music.

If it weren’t for that brief window of exposure, I doubt I would have my “1,000 True Fans” and I would probably have kept my day job. If I hadn’t also developed skills in audio engineering and mastering, I would be hungry indeed. If it weren’t for the expansion of the internet and new means of distribution and promotion, I would have given up a long time ago. In this sense, I agree wholeheartedly that new technologies have opened the door for artists like me to survive. But it’s a constant struggle.

The sort of artist who survives at the long tail is the sort who would be happy doing nothing else, who willingly sacrifices security and comfort for the chance to communicate something meaningful, hoping to catch the attention of those few in the world who seek what they also find meaningful. It’s a somewhat solitary existence, a bit like a lighthouse keeper throwing a beam out into the darkness, in faith that this action might help someone unseen.

Now in my mid-forties, I still drive myself around the country for a few months every year or so, playing small concerts that range in audience from 30 to 300 people. I’m my own booking agent, my own manager, my own contract attorney, my own driver, my own roadie. I sleep on people’s couches, or occasionally enjoy the luxuries of Motel 6.

In your article you quote the term “microcelebrities” which rings ironically true to me. I suppose I experience a bit of that, when some of the 600 people whom I see on tour come up to me after a show and tell me that my music is very important to them, that it saved their life, that they can’t imagine why I’m not performing in posh 3,000 seat theaters rather than this art gallery or that planetarium or library.

In reality the life of a “microcelebrity” resembles more the fate of Sisyphus, whose boulder rolls back down the mountain every time he reaches the summit. After every tour I feel exhausted but empowered by the thought that a few people really care a lot about this music. Yet, a few months later all is quiet again and CD/download sales slow down again. If I take the time to concentrate for a year on what I hope to be a breakthrough album, that time of silence widens out into a gaping hole and interest seems to fade. When I finally do release something that I feel to be a bold new direction, I manage only to sell it to the same 1,000 True Fans. The boulder sits back at the bottom of the mountain and it’s time to start rolling it up again.

So let’s look a bit at the finances. If I can make about $5-$10 per download or directly sold CD, and I sell 1000, I clear a maximum of $10,000 for that year’s effort. That’s not a living. Let’s say, after 20 concerts I net about $10,000 for three to four months worth of full time effort. That’s not a living.

In my case I’m lucky. I can can augment that paltry income through some of the added benefits of “microcelebrity” including licensing fees for sample clearance and film use rights, sound design libraries, and supplemental income from studio mastering and engineering fees. So, I make about as much money as our local garbage man; and I don’t smell as bad after a day of work. (Note that if copyright laws vanished then much of that trickle of supplemental income would dry up, so you might imagine I have mixed feelings about both sides of the free-information debate.)

Thanks to the internet, I am making more money now, selling directly to 1000 True Fans, than I was during the days on Hearts of Space selling 20,000 – 50,000 copies. But had I not benefited from the immense promotional effort that it took for HOS to sell those albums, I probably wouldn’t be surviving today as a full time artist.

A further caveat: it’s easy to get trapped into the expectations of these True Fans, and with such a tenuous income stream, an artist risks poverty by pushing too far beyond the boundaries of style or preconceptions. I suppose I have a bit of a reputation for being one of those divergent – perhaps unpredictable – artists, and from that perspective I see a bit of a Catch 22 between ignoring those expectations or pandering to them. If we play to the same 1000 people, and keep doing the same basic thing, eventually the Fans become sated and don’t feel a need to purchase this year’s model, when it’s almost identical to last year’s but in a slightly different shade of black. Yet when the Fans’ Favorite Artist starts pushing past the comfort zone of what made them True Fans to begin with, they are just as likely to move their attention onwards within the box that makes them comfortable. Damned if you do or don’t.

I don’t want to be a tadpole in a shrinking puddle. When the audience is so small, one consequence of specialization is extinction. I’ll try to explain.

Evolutionary biology shows us one metaphor for this trap of stylistic boundaries, in terms of species diversity and inbreeding (ref. E.O. Wilson). When a species sub-population becomes isolated, its traits start to diverge from the larger group to eventually form a new species. Yet under these conditions of isolation, genetic diversity can decrease and the new environmentally specialized group becomes more easily threatened by environmental changes. The larger the population, the less risk it faces of inbreeding. If that population stays connected to the main group of its species, it has the least chance of overspecialization and the most chance for survival in multiple environments.

This metaphor becomes relevant to Artists and True Fans because our culture can get obsessed with ideas of style and demographic. When an artist relies on such intense personal commitment from such a small population of Fans, it’s like an animal that relies solely upon the fruit of one tree to survive. This is a recipe for extinction. Distinctions between demographics resemble mountain ranges set up to divide one population from another. I prefer a world where no barriers exist between audiences as they define themselves and the art they love. I want a world of mutts and cross-polinators. I would feel more comfortable if I thought I had a broader base of people interested in my work, not just preaching to the choir.

Indeed the internet is a tool that allows artists to broaden their audience, and allows individuals in the audience to broaden their tastes, to explore new styles, to seek that which surprises them – if they want surprise, that is. The internet can also give us tools more narrowly to target specific demographics and to strengthen those assumptions that prevent acceptance of new ideas, nudging people towards algorithmically determined tastes or styles. Companies can use demographic models and track people’s search patterns to pander to their initial tastes and to strengthen those tastes, rather than broaden their horizons. This problem doesn’t lie within the technology of the internet, but within the realities of capitalism and human psychology.

Like most technologies, the internet is morally neutral and we can better use its powers to assist the broadening of artistic expression, to assist minority artists to make a better living by communicating directly with their audience, to create tools that help people discover the surprising and iconoclastic, rather than to reinforce only that which supports their existing inclinations. Starving artists will probably remain starving, although perhaps with new tools to dig themselves a humble shelter; and as in the past, some of these artists will use those tools to build sand castles or works of great art.

Robert Rich,


Specific answers to original questions:

Q: Specifically, if you think you have a following of “true fans”, how big is that following?

A: About 600 “true fans” and 2000 seriously following listeners… and an unknown halo of others on the outer fringe. My database has about 4,000 names but I only hear from most of these people every few years. Occasionally someone new shows up and buys everything I ever made. It’s not a simple answer. For example I know I have at least 500+ serious fans in Russia who never paid me for anything, because they get it all as bootlegs. My 4 or 5 “True Fans” in Russia inform me of these things. Many “fans” don’t feel compelled to pay for the art that moves them, or perhaps they cannot pay because of economic circumstances or the inverse laws of convenience.

Q: What percentage of your annual revenue comes from them?

A: About 30% give or take

Q: Could you estimate how much a typical “true fan” spends on you in a year?

A: $14-40 depending on the number of releases I put out

Q: Are you taking advantage of new production/distribution technologies?

A: Yes, always or whenever possible within my means and schedule.

Q: If so, how is that affecting the type and quantity of what you offer your fans?

A: More stuff, lower quality, lower price. Not a direction that interests me. There is already too much crap out there, I don’t want to contribute to the informational rubbish heap.

Q: How has it affected your relationship with your “true fans”‘ and your “true fan” count?

A: Incoming number of new “fans” roughly matches attrition, perhaps. I am certainly able to communicate more directly with each individual, but that also means I have less time in the day to actually create new art (half the day doing email is not unusual.) Digital distribution seems to lower perceived value and desirability. Ease of access reduces any sense that it’s special or personal. Compressed audio quality and lack of physical artwork create the sense of a lowering in collectible value. I try hard to counteract these forces with high quality audio and informing listeners about the importance of the source… but people don’t always think about the details.

Before I sign off …. A passing thought about “freedom of information” as it relates to the “Gift Economy”: When information is free, always question what the information provider has to gain from its consumption. William S. Burroughs’ rants on Material’s Hallucination Engine (Words of Advice for Young People): “Beware the whore who says she doesn’t want money. To hell she doesn’t want money. She wants MORE money. Lot’s more money.” Just an ironic word of caution that the gift economy is funded in large part by advertising!

Yet, on a kinder note, I know that many internet developments, and many artistic efforts, are driven by a sense of duty or perhaps a need to help push the world forward into a better place (knowing of course that the military funded ARPAnet, so tools for killing people can also play a productive role.) I embrace and welcome any communal and life-affirming sentiment and consider myself part of it. I just try not to be naive about the stuff I see out there masquerading as something other than advertising.

Much Respect – Robert Rich

[Editor’s Note : this was originally posted by Robert on his blog on April 18, 2008]



The Trichordist Random Reader Weekly News & Links Sun May 27

Grab the Coffee!

If you have not visited, please do so – it is a wealth of information for Creators and Artists Rights!

The ongoing Amanda Palmer experiment (like those previously done by NIN and Radiohead) continues it’s fascination in the media, interestingly, this week Palmer had this comment,“i don’t want this album to be remembered as “the kickstarter record.” i do want this record to explode. and i want this record to explode because it is awesome.” Read more on her Kickstarter Blog:

Those illegally exploiting artists work commercially without consent or compensation insist that they are providing “advertising” for the creator, but yet the largest, most popular internet site in the world (Face Book) just lost $10m in advertising funding from GM due to ineffectiveness… a forth coming post will explore in more depth, for now, Forbes reports:

Related to the above is the fascinating insight of how valuable web traffic is (or rather is not) in helping to promote creative works. Cartoonist Lars Martinson experienced at 25,000% increase in traffic on his website and only sold 23 e-books as a result, details from the artist’s blog here:

This week Google revealed stats on DMCA takedown requests for it’s web search – over 300,000 per week and climbing, Tech Blogs respond, “What Problem?”, Digital Music News reports:

Another interesting piece from Digital Music News, if you want your music to be valued, start by valuing it yourself and charging for it:

We found this debate between German pop star Jan Delay and Christopher Lauer, a Pirate Party member of the Berlin state parliament interesting, given that the Pirate Part does not want to “put all copyright holders out of work.” No, they would just like to “change the rules regarding copyright holders and distributors.” Right, change the rules so people don’t get paid… Fascinating… Germany’s Spiegel reports:

Publishers Association chief executive Richard Mollet speaks up on Artists Rights, The Bookseller reports:

Filmmaker David Newhoff responds to the Supreme Court decision to not hear the appeal request in the Tenenbaum case, “What the children of the digital age need to learn as they are now entering the world of grown-ups is that it’s not the song or the movie or the book they’re stealing, but the rights of the creator.” Seems like common sense, more at David’s blog:

Music Tech Policy reports on Google’s on going anti-labor attempts at Union-Busting:

We discovered this week that many artists are unaware of this service that allows DIY artists without a label to report venue sales to Soundscan:

We were particularly inspired this week by the courage of a wounded Israeli soldier turned musician:




Musicians POV : Are You Worthy?

By Doña Oxford
(re-post by permission, copyright in the author)

I have been a professional working musician since I was 16. I’ve been fortunate enough to have played with legends such as Keith Richards, Bob Weir, Levon Helm, Buddy Guy, Albert Lee and many more on every level: arenas, festivals, even dive bars. This is how I make my living, gig to gig, paycheck to paycheck. I’ve spent countless hours and serious money investing in my education and skill.And I’m getting really tired of giving away my art for free.

Its expected. We as artists are expected to give away free downloads, free CDs, free videos. We even pay the nightclubs to play for a crappy 40-minute time slot, all under the guise of “exposure” or “promotion.” It’s bullshit. When has an A&R rep ever showed up at your gig?

Just last week, a local blues band asked me to play on their album for free, as a marketing tool to get better-paying gigs. So I’m expected to spend my gas, my time, wear and tear on my car, my ideas and my hard-earned skill in the hopes of your band getting a few paying gigs on which you might hire me?

This is my living. I don’t work at the donut shop or as a temp at an office. I’m not a weekend warrior. I make music. I have rent and bills, overheads and employees, just like the record companies and club owners do.

In 1970, the average band made $400 a gig in a local bar. Today in 2012, it’s even less. We are one of the only sections of American society whose income has not increased with inflation. It’s appalling.

And yet top record labels, managers and agents all complain that they’re losing money and want to raise their fees. Some are charging the artist 35 to 50 percent for representation. Labels are now taking a cut of tee-shirt and non-album-related merchandise — money that isn’t theirs. And I’m so tired of hearing big companies whine because they say they are losing money. The artist is and always has been, throughout time, the lowest paid. Yet… remember… without the artist, they have no product to sell.

In 1999, everyone laughed at Metallica for going against the new Napster concept of file sharing. And look where it has got us. Why should the consumer buy music when they can get it free from YouTube? Why should the consumer buy your entire album when they can buy one track for 99 cents. Of which, if you are lucky or savvy, you may get a whopping 30 cents.

And now everyone is up in arms over the SOPA and PIPA laws. They are so afraid they will lose access to their beloved internet and their freedom of speech.

Let me tell you something: Michaelangelo, Dalton Trumbo, Eugene O’Neill, Reinaldo Arenas… none of them had websites and yet these artists found a way to get their expression out to the people. It’s all a facade.

Don’t get me wrong, I oppose the SOPA law because it is quite dangerous the way it is written. However, I am thrilled that it opens up the anti-piracy conversation. And so what if someone actually had to pay another artist for the use of their work in order to put their self-serving bullshit video up on YouTube? That artist deserves to be paid.

The “Occupy” movement is all about casting light on corporate greed. But what about the greed in all of us? It has become so commonplace that we expect to get everything for free. Especially if it’s art-related. Free music, free movies, free TV (don’t have to watch commercials now with DVR). My momma used to say, who will buy the cow if they can get the milk for free?

By expecting everything for free, we have devalued ourselves. We have bartered ourselves down to the lowest common denominator. We have increased the amount of crap we now have to wade through in order to find the gems. We have lowered our standards and the quality of our art has suffered. Lip-synching, auto tune, horrible lyrics, reality TV, bad sequels, etc. Every Joe Schmo is in the game now. So we have to compete against crap for no money and false opportunity.

Bill Cosby once said, “Mediocre people are very, very dangerous when they get together. There’s one thing they are not mediocre about and that is fighting off people who are superior. They bring standards down and make it appear that you’ve really got to be a genius to be mediocre.” Thank you, Mr. Cosby.

We are the artists. We are the free thinkers. We are the creators. We are the innovators.

Doesn’t that deserve respect? How about self respect? I know times are tough and it’s hard to say “no” to what looks like an opportunity. But how much are we really gaining in the long run?

Artists need to know their worth. We need to start demanding that we get paid for our talents. We need stronger unions, anti-piracy laws and maybe something as simple as integrity. We need to support our fellow artists instead of asking them to do us a favor. And we need to feel worthy enough to say, “No, I deserve better. I am worthy.”



Everyone Gets a Trophy Day

And the winner of the “most humble” award goes to… me.

Last week, Boing Boing writer Xeni Jardin posted this self-congratulatory story:

Constitutional law expert Marvin Ammori, one of the First Amendment scholars along with Larry Tribe who explained how SOPA would violate the First Amendment, shares a wonderful story with Boing Boing. Snip from his blog post:

When I was quite young, I saw the first Star Wars movie and believed that, if I took part in a great cause, it would end with a medal ceremony and a princess conferring the medal. It has finally happened.

Last night, I received a medal from Princess Tiffiniy Ying Cheng of Fight for the Future, representing the “committee for the Defenders of the Internet.” Bestowed upon me was the Nyan Cat Medal of Internet Awesomeness, the “highest honor known to Internet Defenders.” I could not be more honored.

The “great cause” here was a decade long effort by academics, tech companies, venture capitalists, and the nonprofits who love them to redefine the rights of creators in their own works as tools of oppression that would “break the internet.” To understand why this is self-congratulatory, it helps to understand the players involved. (And note, this is certainly not the first time this group of digital activists have engaged in such circular award ceremonies — see here and here.)

Tiffiniy Cheng is a serial activist who has held a grudge against record labels since 2003, when she helped form Downhill Battle. (To read more about the chilling tactics used by the group, read this series of posts). Next came the Participatory Culture Foundation (whose board includes Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow), a group whose biggest accomplishments seems to be getting money from the Mozilla Foundation.

Her latest venture is Fight for the Future, a group whose hyperbolic headlines involving Justin Bieber — and a whopping $300,000 grant from the Media Democracy Fund (the organization, which has previously awarded grants to the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge, awarded less than $4 million total in grants for the previous five years) — helped it lead the charge against SOPA last winter. (According to this article, the key meeting between Fight for the Future and the other advocacy groups involved occurred November 9, 2011, at Mozilla headquarters.)

Marvin Ammori is an Affiliate Scholar at the Google-funded Stanford Center for Internet and Society. He’s also a legal fellow at the New America Foundation — a nonprofit group chaired by Google’s Eric Schmidt.  He also, by the way, represents Google. *

You wouldn’t know it by reading Boing Boing or other tech blogs — to them, Ammori is simply “a leading First Amendment scholar.” Perhaps this is because the connections between this subset of the tech world extends to the people who report on them.

For example, the author of this piece, Xeni Jardin, also happens to sit on the board for Global Voices Online, along with New America Foundation fellow Rebecca Mackinnon. In another shocking twist, one of the sponsors of Global Voices Online: Google.

In other words, this story reflects the insular community of tech companies, nonprofits, and lobbyists who contribute to the ongoing erosion of creator’s rights — and award themselves medals for their efforts. In their eyes, they are playing the role of the Rebel Alliance. What’s chilling is that they have cast anyone who disagrees with themselves as the evil Empire in this fantasy.

This isn’t about SOPA, or any other particular law. Rational minds can disagree over proposed legislation, debate it, look for compromise or even shelve it. That’s not what happened here. What happened here was a “win” by a specific, interconnected group with a specific worldview that is hostile to the hard-fought rights of creators. And if you don’t agree with this group, you are part of the dark side, an enemy of free speech, a dinosaur who doesn’t “get it.”

And you certainly don’t get any medals.

* Also among the medal winners: Derek Slater, policy analyst for Google (and formerly a fellow at the Google-funded Berkman Center for Internet and Society and intern at the EFF and Creative Commons).



If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally?

We keep hearing from web/tech gurus about how empowered artists are in the internet age, but yet, the numbers just don’t add up. It’s also ironic that tech bloggers like to promote the idea of  “touring and t-shirts” as a solution to the difficulties musicians are having online. But it really sounds to us, more like an admission that there is no money for artists online in the Exploitation Economy to develop new and sustainable professional creative careers.

This is why, an ethical internet for all citizens is so important. Sometimes, the facts are just so simple…

Ted Cohen: Breaking Through The Noise | | midemblogmidemblog

“The Internet was supposed to be the ultimate leveler, great music would be able to find its audience, the ‘big label’ gatekeepers would no longer control access to the masses.

It hasn’t exactly played out that way. According to my friend, Tommy Silverman/Tommy Boy Records and the co-founder of the New Music Seminar recently told me that he did the math and only 228 artists broke 10,000 units for the first time last year out of 105,000 albums.

That’s 2.17% but only 15 of those did it without the help of a real label.

That’s not very encouraging to the other ninety-eight percent. While tens of thousand of artists are self-releasing their music, their ability to get noticed in a meaningful way is stifled by the sheer volume of music that is arriving daily at iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, MySpace Music, Yahoo, Rhapsody, Pandora, iHeart and others. Ten years ago, there were roughly twenty-five thousand album releases a year.

In 2009, it is estimated that there will be over one hundred thousand albums put into digital distribution. That’s roughly a million new tracks a year, four million minutes of music, or almost three thousand days-worth of song. But, maybe, if I listen really, really fast, I could….nope!”

The numbers below are equally sobering. Not only did the volume of sales drop from 2009 to 2010, but also the number of new releases also dropped. Many promoting the exploitation of artists are also proposing that the new lower barriers for access to distribution will increase creative output, but that also appears to be false.

Business Matters: 75,000 Albums Released In U.S. In 2010 — Down 22% From 2009 |

75,000 Albums Released In U.S. In 2010 — Down 22% From 2009

Not only were fewer albums released, but the weakest sellers took up a smaller share of new release sales. The 60,000 titles that sold from 1 to 100 units represented 0.7% of all sales from titles released in 2010. In 2009, 0.9% of sales came from the 80,000 titles that sold from 1 to 100 units.

So there were quite a few new albums that sold fewer than ten units.

Put another way, the 60,000 new releases that sold 100 or fewer units averaged just 13.3 units per title.

The statistics above do not support the assertion of the tech blogosphere that the internet has created more opportunities for professional creative careers, or expanded a working middle class of musicians. It’s actually very much so the opposite of their claim.

It’s clear from the numbers above (and continued below) that the democratization of production and distribution has not democratized talent. The most exploited music, is not surprisingly, the most popular. These are the artists and titles which are also developed and promoted by traditional media outlets.

Here’s another interesting stat reported by Digital Music News. Does this look like the empowerment of a new creative middle class to you?

99.9% of Tunecore Artists Make Less Than Minimum Wage…

99.875% – or nearly all – of Tunecore artists are making less than minimum wage through the platform, based on revenue figures recently shared by the company.

Despite this fact, some tech bloggers can’t even understand how the simplest mechanisms function in the recorded music business. In an attempt to discredit some of the reports above one tech blog let lose with this gem below, alleging that because Tunecore and CDBaby releases are not reported directly to Soundscan their releases are not counted in Soundscan stats creating a massive unreported pool of revenue being ignored by the industry.

TuneCore does not report results to Nielsen Soundscan and it puts out a hell of a lot of releases. Similarly, CDBaby/Disc Makers points out that Soundscan doesn’t count its releases either — which number around 50,000.

The problem with the above is not understanding that Tunecore and CDBaby can’t report to Soundscan, because Soundscan collects the data from the point of sale such as Itunes, Amazon, etc. So in fact, all Tunecore and CDBaby releases and sales are actually cataloged and reported by Soundscan afterall. So much for all that unreported sales and revenue.

But of all the numbers, this one is the bottom line. Salon recently reported stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that number of working professionals in the music industry are suffering a catastrophic decline. If these numbers were reported by any other industry it would make national headlines:

No Sympathy for the Creative Class

“Musical groups and artists” plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011.”

This is also graphically represented here at Digital Music News:



All of this gave us pause when we saw a report given by The Future Of Music Coalition (FOMC) in Digital Music News that artists earnings are benefiting from digital technologies? How? As opposed to what? I can see that some digital technologies may be helping artists, but “overall” is simply, statistically, not true given the information above. So it trouble’s us to see statements like the one below made in public by the organization’s Kristin Thomson at SF Music Tech in February of 2012.

 “Overall, digital technologies seem to be having a positive impact on musicians’ earnings capacity”

Really? Maybe it’s not surprising that FOMC is also aligned with Public Knowledge who held a joint workshop to help musicians understand that, “Copyright law is changing rapidly in the face of new technologies.” The only problem is, copyright law is not actually “changing rapidly,” but it appears that Public Knowledge would like it too! Make no mistake about it, Public Knowledge is advocating for less artists rights and protections.

So the real truth is this; if the internet is working for musicians, why aren’t more musicians working professionally?


Robin Gibb Remembered 1949 – 2012

It is with great sadness that we report on the passing of Robin Gibb who in his later years was a strong and vocal champion of Artists Rights serving as the President of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) for the past five years.

Robin served as the President of CISAC, acting as the voice of three million creators around the world as the leader of the members of CISAC’s 232 authors’ societies in 121 countries. Following a first term as president, Robin was unanimously re-elected for an additional three-year mandate in June 2010.

Below is his impassioned closing speech from the World Copyright Summit in 2009 in which he said, “I’m proud to be President of CISAC, and I will keep on fighting for creators’ rights as long as I can draw breath.”

More here:
Robin Gibb Website

Kate Bush – Why Music Matters [video]

Another example of Why Music Matters, this time by Kate Bush.

Website :
YouTube :



The Trichordist Random Reader Weekly News & Links Sun May 20

Grab the coffee!

The end of an era as Roadrunner Records is shuttered and causes one writer to ponder what the true cost of free music is to consumers in the long run, the Galleon reports:

The Cynical Musician reports on “The Curious Case Of The Pirate Bay” after mandatory ISP blocking has gone into effect in several Countries…

A great article from the Austin Chronicle looks at the realities and effects of the “Spotify Effect” on developing artists. The band “Quiet Company has garnered over 60,000 song plays since October. For those 60,000 streams, the band has earned $342.” Read more here:

Blair Witch Project director goes on record against Piracy as it “makes it very difficult for micro-budget filmmakers to make a living.”

A funny thought by Wayne Rosso that labels would sell to Google for $1b each… highly unlikely. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Plus is Google actually bought the labels, they would also be buying the roylaties obligations, and we just can’t see that happening…

Has Silicon Valley created it’s own religious cult in “The Singularity?” The New York Times reports:

Eric Clemons reviews an ongoing legacy of bad behavior by Google at the Huffington Post:

A very interesting and insightful interview with Jim Steyer regarding Children and Online Privacy at TechCrunch:

Musicians and bands always ask, how do I rank higher on Google, well, here’s how to rank #1, by Matt Cutts:

hint, use adwords… use adsense…

Online Piracy, It’s Different…

A comical exploration of common piracy arguments…

If you enjoyed that video, you may also enjoy this one: