Are Creators Really Thriving in the Digital Age? Doesn’t Look Like It | Robert Levine @ Billboard

“Free Ride” author Robert Levine takes on Steven Johnson’s stats and conclusions…

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, author Steven Johnson wrote a piece, “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t,” which ventured to examine the state of creative business in the digital age. Johnson conclusion was that it’s thriving. I have strong feelings on this topic, since I wrote a book that makes the opposite argument. I’d very much like Johnson to be right, since the health of the creative business strongly correlates with my ability to put food on the table. But although I think he’s a smart writer — we worked together, briefly, years ago — I think he’s looking at wrong information in the wrong way. He ends up oversimplifying a complicated subject to make a contrarian point.

Johnson’s premise is that the best way to assess the health of the creative businesses isn’t to look at falling sales or struggling companies but how actual creators themselves are faring. It’s a smart, refreshing approach. But his evidence that creators are thriving is far flimsier than it looks.


Trichordist Bookshelf – Essential Reading for Artists Rights


The Dazzling New Masterwork from the Prophet of Silicon Valley

Jaron Lanier is the bestselling author of You Are Not a Gadget, the father of virtual reality, and one of the most influential thinkers of our time. For decades, Lanier has drawn on his expertise and experience as a computer scientist, musician, and digital media pioneer to predict the revolutionary ways in which technology is transforming our culture.

Who Owns the Future? is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy. Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries—from media to medicine to manufacturing—we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.

But there is an alternative to allowing technology to own our future. In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow. It is time for ordinary people to be rewarded for what they do and share on the web.

Insightful, original, and provocative, Who Owns the Future? is necessary reading for everyone who lives a part of their lives online.


“A wonderful book that catches an encouraging shift in the zeitgeist. Ruen’s epiphany regarding the effects of his own piracy and freeloading of the bands he loves was eye opening.” – David Byrne

“Fascinating.” – The Village Voice

“The original slacker’s dream of free everything may have been realized by the Internet-but along with it came the slacker’s nightmare of never getting paid for one’s creativity. Freeloading seeks-and to a large extent succeeds-to wrestle with the collapse of the commons and the possibilities for a renewed social contract.” – Douglas Rushkoff

“Brooklyn’s Chris Ruen is one of the most compelling and forward thinking critics of our current download culture.” – M3 Music Conference, Netherlands

“A book…that promises to contribute greatly to copyright debates.” – Terry Hart, Copyhype

Author Chris Ruen, himself a former dedicated freeloader, came to understand how illegal downloads can threaten an entire artistic community after spending time with successful Brooklyn bands who had yet to make a significant profit on their popular music. The product of innumerable late-night, caffeine-fueled conversations and interviews with contemporary musicians such as Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Ira Wolf Tuton of Yeasayer, and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, Freeloading not only dissects this ongoing battle-casting a critical eye on the famous SOPA protests and the attendant rhetoric-but proposes concise, practical solutions that would provide protection to artists and consumers alike.


“A book that should change the debate about the future of culture….With this stylishly written and well-reported manifesto, Levine has become a leading voice on one side of our most hotly contested debate involving law and technology.”
—Jeffrey Rosen, The New York Times Book Review

“Turbo-reported….Free Ride is a timely and impressive book–part guilt trip, part wake-up call, and full of the kind of reporting that could only have been done with a book advance from an Old Media company.”

“[A] smart, caustic tour of the modern culture industry.”

“Brilliant…A crash course in the existential problems facing the [media].”
—Richard Morrison, The Times

“The most convincing defense of the current predicament of the creative industries that I have read.”
—James Crabtree, Financial Times

“With penetrating analysis and insight, Levine, a former executive editor of Billboard magazine, dissects the current economic climate of the struggling American media companies caught in the powerful fiscal grip of the digital industry…. This incisive book is a start at an informed dialogue.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Can the culture business survive the digital age? That’s the burning question Robert Levine poses in his provocative new book. And his answer is one that will get your blood boiling. Rich with revealing stories and telling tales, Free Ride makes a lucid case that information is actually expensive – and that it’s only the big technology firms profiting most from the work of others that demand information be free.”
—Gary Rivlin, author of Broke, USA

“One of the great issues of the digital age is how people who create content will be able to make a living. Robert Levine’s timely and well-researched book provides a valuable look at how copyright protection was lost on the internet and offers suggestions about how it could be restored.”
—Walter Isaacson, President/CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Benjamin Franklin

“This book thoroughly documents a wide-spread outbreak of cyber amnesia. Despite libertarian delusions, industries often get Free Rides, especially in their early days, but they eventually give back. Taxpayers build roads, then get hired to build cars. The Internet gives back a lot in exchange for its Free Ride, but one thing it defiantly isn’t giving back is a way for enough people to make a living. No matter how amusing or addictive the Internet becomes, its foundation will crumble unless it starts returning the favors it was given and still depends on.”
—Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget

“Free Ride is a brilliantly written book that exposes the dark side of the Internet. A must read for anyone interested in the horrific undermining of our intellectual culture.”
—Edward Jay Epstein, author of The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood

“Robert Levine deftly dissects the self-serving Orwellian freedom-speak being served up by Silicon Valley’s digital new lords as they amass fortunes devaluing the work of artists, journalists and other old-fashioned ‘content creators.’ Free Ride begs us to remove our blinders and take a hard look down a cultural dead-end road.”
—Fred Goodman, author of Fortune’s Fool: Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis

“Without being a Luddite, Levine makes the phony digital media gurus of our day seem as simple-minded as their slogans.”
—Ron Rosenbaum, author of How the End Begins and Explaining Hitler



A programmer, musician, and father of virtual reality technology, Jaron Lanier was a pioneer in digital media, and among the first to predict the revolutionary changes it would bring to our commerce and culture. Now, with the Web influencing virtually every aspect of our lives, he offers this provocative critique of how digital design is shaping society, for better and for worse.

Informed by Lanier’s experience and expertise as a computer scientist, You Are Not a Gadget discusses the technical and cultural problems that have unwittingly risen from programming choices—such as the nature of user identity—that were “locked-in” at the birth of digital media and considers what a future based on current design philosophies will bring. With the proliferation of social networks, cloud-based data storage systems, and Web 2.0 designs that elevate the “wisdom” of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and wisdom of individuals, his message has never been more urgent.

The Trichordist Random Reader Weekly News & Links Sun Jun 17

Grab the Coffee!

This past weeks posts on The Trichordist:
* The Wall Of Shame Continues…
* CopyLike.Org – Pay Creators Like You Pay Everyone Else
* FarePlay.Org – An Open Letter
* Launch & Iterate, Google’s Permissionless Innovation
* Google Launches “Hot Trends”, The Pirate Bay Tops News Items…
* Artists Deserve To Be Compensated For Their Work by Mark Isham (Guest Post)

The biggest story of the week is no doubt the Pro-Creator/Copyright win in the court of public opinion which has the pro-piracy crowd tongue tied. Oatmeal Versus FunnyJunk is no doubt a case study for creators when looking at the illegal exploitation of their work. We applaud Matt Inman for turning the tables on those illegally exploiting his work in such a profound way. There’s much to be found on the Web this week about this story, and it deserves it’s own in depth post, until then this brief overview from Copyhype is our favorite:

21 Cents per stream? We’re watching this one with interest. New music streaming service Arena says, “101 Distribution has announced the launch of 101 Arena, the first and only free streaming music service to pay 100 percent of all advertising revenue generated directly to artists and film makers.” To put this in perspective, Spotify is only paying out .005 Cents per Stream according to most published accounts. More info at this link from PR Newswire:

Independent film distributor Kathy Wolf has launched a legal and legitimate online movie distribution and sharing platform. We’re always excited to see new models evolve that respond to the marketplace while respecting creators rights. The Huffington Post Reports:

Here’s a fun little post we found from Moses Avalon this week following a panel at the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association Summit. Nice plugs for both Robert Levine’s “Free Ride” and David Lowery’s “New Boss / Old Boss”. More here on the StumbleUpon Blog of Moses Avalon:

There is a lot of debate over how search engines operate, including the filtering and ranking of search returns. The way search engines operate is suggested to effect everything from consumer choices to the aiding in the illegal exploitation of copyrighted works, SearchEngineLand.Com reports:

Think Social Media is a game changer? Maybe… Digital Music News Reports 93% of Americans still listen to Broadcast Radio…

Will Apple, Amazon and Google own .Love and .Music? Forbes is calling it the greatest land grab in history as tech and internet companies battle for the next generation of root level domain addresses.

One of our favorite thinkers, Jaron Lanier gave a fantastic speech at the Personal Democracy Forum titled, “How to Not Create a New Cyber Plutocracy.” You can read more about Jaron and the Personal Democracy Forum at the link below, the YouTube video of his talk follows.



The Trichordist Random Reader Weekly News & Links Sun May 13

Grab the coffee!

Last week the UK ordered it’s ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay, the Dutch are getting fed up too…,2817,2404269,00.asp

[Related]Pirate Bay angered over Faux Pirate Bay Proxies…

ASCAP President Paul Williams gives an impassioned speech to membership about Artists Rights…

Facebook removes Grooveshark App…

MP3 tunes files for bankruptcy, owner/founder still on the hook…

Music Industry discusses improved music discovery via TV Co-Viewing Apps…

Copyhype Debunks the Copyleft Theory of Hollywood Built On Piracy…

Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe Speaks Out for Younger Bands…

The Onion Reports on the “Bold Move” or “Charging for Content”…,19847/

Support the people supporting Artists Rights on the Hill, the Trans Pacific Partnership progresses…

and… then there’s this…

Fantastic talk by Robert Levine author of “Free Ride” on the Failure of The Internet to create better opportunities for Artists & Creators and the work to be done.

The Trichordist Random Reader News and Links Sun Apr 22

Grab the Coffee!

Here’s some interesting stories and links we discovered or were sent during the week. These may not be stories OF the week, as we share them as we find them.

German Court Rules Against YouTube in Copyright Case:–sector.html

Supporting Copyright Is Not The Same as Opposing Free Speech:

Rapidshare Writes Four Page Anti-Piracy Manifesto:

Interesting interview Between Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl and Journalist/Author Robert Levine:

Musician / Composer Mark Isham Launches

TechDirt Goes on the Defensive after Gearslutz thread asks, “Why does TechDirt hate musicians”:

The Chicago Reader Picked up On David Lowery’s “New Boss, Worse Than Old Boss” as posted at TheTrichordist.

Another shout out to TheTrichordist, this time from The Cynical Musician: