2009-02-20

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?

1 comment:

ronnie said...

I remember when someone took the time to write me an email about how excited they were about some of the samples I have on my website, freely available for anyone to download.
He had posted a link to a track he did with one of these loops and I was a bit shocked to hear he had basically slowed down one of my loops, looped it for like 5 minutes and pasted some horrible audio clips of offensive language over it.

You never know what people do with stuff they get for free...

I did put a Creative Commons license on my music recently, but might not stop people from doing horrible things with my songs either...