Free Music?

I have always made my music freely available. There are a handful of reasons for this:
  • it's not very good
  • it's my hobby
  • I have a day job
  • I believe in the ideas enunciated by people like Lawrence Lessig
This is an admittedly naive and idealistic place to be. Occasionally, I play my stuff to my guitar teacher (who is a professional musician). He asks me what I'm doing with the music and is shocked and horrified when I say that I just put it up on the Internetz for anyone to do anything with. "Well, he just doesn't get it," I would think to myself.

Today, I learned of something that challenges all that. A while back I wrote gushingly about Zoe Keating's hauntingly beautiful work. Recently, a snippet was used in an episode of the NPR show All Things Considered. Zoe twittered about this, expressing some concern about the absence of credit. Expecting attribution, for me is a no brainer so fair enough. What struck me, however, was how the music was used. It was used to foreshadow a coming tragedy.

My reaction to this is mixed. On the one hand, as a listener, it was very evocative; exactly what a soundtrack producer is looking for. On the other hand, wearing my artist's empathy hat, I'd be completely creeped out if my music was used in this way. (Yes, you should listen to the story that I'm trying not to spoil; the music in question is played within the first two minutes or so)

Now, Zoe is a professional and operates in that parallel universe that us hobbyists can only dream about and I don't mean to imply that our situations are similar. This story does, however, make me wonder if I'm really ok giving away my music to all comers.

Ask yourself, do you want your music used in another production that is:
  • an instructional video for teen suicide?
  • promotional material for a hate group?
  • Girls Gone Wild XIII?
  • or just not very good?
How strong is your idealism?


RPM Progress Report

The first nine days of February are pretty much gone and I have three tracks. Still rough and in need of some mixing love but not too bad. Was hoping to have a little more done up front so that I could spent some time towards the end of the month on the polish. Still don't know where I'm going but that's part of the fun...

Good news is that I won't be able to track any guitar this week so things should go faster. The bad news is that I won't be able to track any guitar. My playing still blows but I'm having a blast.

I do have a title for the album, "They See You As Trouble" which I lifted from an Ian Rankin book I recently read... I leave you to meditate on the possible meanings.


American Idol Is A Scam

The news today that AP is going after an artist for copyright infringement over an image of the new US President came up in an RPM Challenge chat room. Somebody quipped that the average person doesn't know or care about copyright issues and will not until it affects American Idol.

I responded that copyright abuse will never affect American Idol because the show glorifies licensed copying. About 10 seconds later, the full weight of what I said hit me.

Each time somebody sings, butchers, whatever a popular song on American Idol there's a long line of people that get paid. I don't fully understand the business but thanks to some seminars I have attended I now know that there's a byzantine shadow world of publishers, PROs and others that are busily making sure that monies are collected for as many performances as possible. And that includes those annoying Hallmark music cards. Fuck, Desmond Child and Ricky Martin made money when William Hung became a minor celebrity butchering "She Bang".

So that's the scam. In exchange for the promise of stardom, you have people performing music that makes other people money. Music that might be good, might have been popular but no longer sells records.

Fucking evil genius.

Incidentally, I took the above image from Why Idol Auditions Are Packed With Bad Singers, an article that, in trying to answer the question, fails to follow the money.