teh s3quence 012 – the rapture edition (…or not)

Sometime before the world was supposed to end in earthquakes and fire I decided to make a playlist to commemorate the event.  No, actually I was just inspired by the #myraptureplaylist meme that @neilhimself started on Twitter and HuffPo’s Rapture playlist (most of which doesn’t appear on mine).  The majority of this mixtape was compiled post-rapture, so this is really more a the-rapture-didn’t-happen-and-we’re-all-still-stuck-here mix. 

with all the stuff that’s supposed to happen post-rapture, you’d think it would have already come…

 

[audio:s3quence-012-rapture.mp3]

1 Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Rapture
2 Radiohead – Exit Music (For a Film)
3 Laurie Anderson – The End of the World
4 Bauhaus – Kingdom’s Coming
5 Marilyn Manson – The Last Day on Earth
6 Sonic Youth – Do You Believe in Rapture
7 The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil
8 Dead Can Dance – Anywhere Out of the World
9 Skinny Puppy – Nature’s Revenge
10 Nine Inch Nails – The Day the World Went Away
11 Tool – Ænema
12 Gang Gang Dance – Thru and Thru
13 DEVO – Beautiful World
14 The Cure – The End of the World
15 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Death is not The End
16 Pizzicato Five – Happy Ending

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…and if you’re still waiting for the rapture…

fighting music piracy one rapidshare file at a time

sam rosenthal, of projekt records, is back on his piracy soapbox again.  he is asking each and every one of you to do your part to help stop piracy.  he breaks the world down into two camps: camp a says: “Music should be free, fuck you for thinking I should pay for your music.”  camp a is apparently the belligerent asshole camp.  camp b says: “I want to support the music I love, because I want you to keep making it.”  camp b is apparently the wishful thinking camp.

once again, sam is hurting the debate by oversimplifying the issue.  i refuse to believe that there are only two types of music listeners in the world — those that say “fuck you music should be free” and those that say “please let me give you more money so you can play for me.”  it would be awesome if the world was so binary — it would make the debate much easier to handle and deal with.  it would make the bad guys bad and the good guys good.  unfortunately, there really is no such thing as a black and white issue.

but, i’m not even going to necessarily get into that, because the truth is — regardless of whether the world fits into neat categories like sam suggests or not — he has a point: musicians need to get paid.  if they don’t, they will stop making music.  and that does nothing to fight the crappy state of popular music, where our choices are spoon-fed to us, and it’s increasingly difficult to find music outside the box of corporate sponsorship.  a system needs to be devised where the people who want the music can get it, and the people who make the music get paid.  back in the days of linear distribution and supply chains, that was easy: you make a record, you press it to vinyl, it gets sent to a distributor, who feeds it to record stores, where people buy it.  even when recordable cassettes came along, the supply chain remained more or less intact.  all that changes when the music is converted from atoms to bits; bits that can be duplicated onto your ipod, your friends’ ipod, your friends’ roommate’s ipod, your friends’ roommates’ ex-girlfriend’s laptop, etc, etc, etc.

sam describes three ways that music is traded illegally:

  1. russian mp3 stores that give the illusion of being legit because the have a real checkout process,
  2. bit torrent sites, and
  3. rapidsharemegaupload, and similar third-party file sharing/hosting sites.

sam says he can’t do anything about the russian sites, and they go largely unnoticed (or out of the jurisdiction) of organizations like the riaa.  he, likewise, considers torrent sites a lost cause for pulling down illegal content (more on this in a sec).  so, the solution to fighting online music piracy is: issue dmca complains against any and every rapidshare/megauploaded file you can.

wait.  what?

first of all, i disagree that torrent sites are entirely a lost cause.  i’d be willing to bet that the majority of music files traded illicitly on the internet happens across torrent networks.  back in the good old days, if The Pirate Bay got a takedown request, they’d laugh in your face.  but The Pirate Bay is no more, and whether they like it or not, their departure sets a major precedent in what can and can’t fly in today’s file-sharing.  the new heir to the throne as the most popular/widely used torrent site is isoHunt, which isn’t a torrent site, per se: it’s a search engine, pulling results from a variety of different source torrent sites.  as such, different rules apply.  but what’s also different about isoHunt is that they actually respond to takedown notices if a copyright owner issues them.  therefore, it’s not fair to say that there’s no chance of getting infringing material pulled off of torrent sites.  sure, getting the results removed from isoHunt is different than getting the files removed from their hosting torrent sharing networks, but if isoHunt has the most traffic of any single bit torrent site since The Pirate Bay, pulling it down from there would go pretty far.

even that, though, barely addresses the issue.  issuing dmca complaints (or bribing your minions to issue dmca complaints for you) is a band-aid solution to the problem.  it’s a feeble attempt to staunch the bleeding.  and it’s the same approach the major labels have been taking since the beginning of napster, and they are still no closer to “fixing” the problem than they were then — on the contrary, file sharing has proliferated.  it’s not an insane notion to consider that the kids entering college next year might not even realize or think about the fact that what they are doing is in the least bit wrong — it’s just what’s done, it’s how music is acquired.  whether or not that’s a “fuck you for telling me i need to pay for it”, the real challenge is to persuade those listeners to pay for what they’ve downloaded — or find some other gateway to a purchase — rather than alienating them more by saying “what you are doing is wrong.”  reprimanding your audience is not the way to get more sales.

maybe sam is right.  maybe putting your music out there for free and asking your audience to kindly pay if they feel like it really only works for established acts like nine inch nails and radiohead.  but that doesn’t mean it’s an entirely wrong approach.  the fact remains — and it always will be the same — that the music is there if you want to get it bad enough; pulling down one illegal copy of 10 neurotics will only prompt two or three more to show up in its place.  i still maintain that the music industry needs to take a freemium approach to selling music — give away a limited or restricted version of your product for free (say, the full album in 128kbps mp3 files), and grant access to premium content for purchasers or subscribers.  i may not be chris anderson, but i know that his own experiment in freemium still managed to get him a national bestseller.  and despite the fact that the copyright laws in canada are more lax when it comes to file sharing, their digital music sales are actually increasing, rather than decreasing like everywhere else.

now i know sam is going to lambast me for expressing my opinion on my personal blog, in a forgotten corner of the internet that no one will read anyway, rather than on his facebook page where i can get flamed by project artists and die hards appropriately.  and that’s just the thing — people aren’t likely to do what you want them to do just because you want them to do it.  and just because you said “pretty please don’t steal my shit — if you really loved me you wouldn’t steal my shit” doesn’t necessarily make anyone less inclined to steal your shit if that’s what they are going to do.  pulling your shit down so they can’t steal it won’t even stop them from stealing it, if they are determined enough.  so attacking piracy one file at a time is kind of like trying to put out a raging fire with squirt guns.  i guess if it helps you sleep better at night to know that people are out there trying to pull your stuff off of those two sites, well, good for you.  but it’s not going to fix anything, and it’s certainly not any form of fight against piracy.

the truth is that the days of the record label are, largely, coming to an end, as more and more independent musicians are able to market and distribute their music themselves and make more profit from it.  eventually, if you aren’t making a pop40 record, you won’t have any need for a label — if you even need one now.  and maybe that’s why sam’s approach to music piracy so closely resembles that of the major labels — attacking the symptom rather than the problem.  i hope sam’s scrappy little independent darkwave label in new york — and every other indie label/distributor out there (kill rock starssub popmetropolisfat possum, etc, etc, etc) — makes it through these growing pains as we move from the dark ages of music production to a full-fledged renaissance, with or without indie or major label help.  i really do.  but i think it’s a good thing that projekt.com isn’t just a record label, but also acts as a distributor and online music store providing access to some really awesome, obscure music.  because, as i see it, labels and distributors will eventually become the same thing as many artists choose to sell their record themselves on itunes or bandcamp, and promote it on twittermyspace, and facebook.

don’t get me wrong, i’m not heralding the death of the indie label — i think that indie labels will become like artisan food makers: sure you can get the same basic food elements at a fraction of the cost at any old supermarket, but the specialty stuff, the limited run, handmade stuff is so much better.  it’s worth it to take the time to track down the obscure stuff, the local producers.  and an essential part of specialty, artisan foods?  free samples.  hell, even the traditional drug pusher knows that the first taste is free — if you can get them hooked on the first freebie, they’ll be coming back for a long time to come.

teh s3quence 006

2009-10-10 12-57-42.033so i finally got around to checking again on what was wrong with my media center.  i hooked it up to my other monitor and a spare keyboard and mouse i had lying around and first checked BIOS for any signs of processor issues like overheating, but there were none.  i turned on all the integrated monitoring stuff anyway, just in case.  after booting it up on my newly reinstalled windows os, it was doing the same thing, namely flickering picture and graphic “archives”.  i vaccuumed the thing out last weekend thinking maybe dust was causing the issue, or the processor overheating, but seeing it again today made me go back to my original hunch that it was a graffics card issue.  sure enough, i swapped the card with another one i had lying around (have i mentioned that i have a lot of hardware lying around?) and it worked fine.  so there’s that.  i’m glad i figured it out, and that it’s easy (and not a motherboard or cpu issue), and also that i haven’t lost my touch with diagnosing hardware issues.  i looked again at the card and it’s fairly obvious what happened — the resistors, literally, popped, so that would be the loud, ice-cracking noise i heard several weeks ago.  this time around i’m getting the same card (which doesn’t have an onboard fan, hence the overheating and frying) but i’m getting a fan that fits into an expansion slot specifically designed to cool off your video card.  the case doesn’t get really good ventilation and doesn’t have any extra fans, so this should keep this from happening again (i hope).
night-shots-006

it’s been a long time since i did a mix and i was talking about dj’ing yesterday and it made me want to do a set.  i’ve been running sets in my head for months, so it’s not like i haven’t been thinking about it.  i’ve been wanting to do a set based on the garage punk/psychobilly road trip cds we took with us on our last 2 road trips but that will have to wait for another time.  this set is based entirely around wanting to drop “becoming x” in to something, and also listening to bats for lashes and remembering how good they are.

[audio:s3quence-006.mp3]

1, bat for lashes, moon and moon
2, Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse, dark night of the soul (ft. vic chesnutt & david lynch)
3, can, oh yeah!
4, slow noise, deepness
5, sneaker pimps, becoming x
6, recoil, incubus
7, depeche mode, it’s no good
8, tortoise, spiderwebbed
9, thom yorke, and it rained all night (burial remix)
10, omni trio, diffusion loops
11, radiohead, i might be wrong
12, autechre, eggshell
13, coldcut, walk a mile in my shoes
14, public image, ltd., seattle

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1, bat for lashes, moon and moon
2, Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse, dark night of the soul (ft. vic chesnutt & david lynch)
3, can, oh yeah!
4, slow noise, deepness
5, sneaker pimps, becoming x
6, recoil, incubus
7, depeche mode, it’s no good
8, tortoise, spiderwebbed
9, thom yorke, and it rained all night (burial remix)
10, omni trio, diffusion loops
11, radiohead, i might be wrong
12, autechre, eggshell
13, coldcut, walk a mile in my shoes
14, public image, ltd., seattle

take that, corporate rock

in a magical fairytale land, closely resembling our own, there was a bard.  this bard appeared as just another travelling musician-storyteller, like most bards, from a small town and humble beginnings.  in fact, this bard was secretly a vassal under the employ of an enormous fiefdom, taking a small cut off the top of her tips and giving the rest to her liege.  in return, the lord arranged taverns for performances and spread the word about his bard, and the deal worked well.  however, the bard was trying to capitalize off of the “common bard” routine, when in fact, she had many more opportunities handed to her by her liege than most bards did, such was the nature of their agreement.  and so, everything was fine until another lord from a smaller fief revealed the deception and spoke publicly about it.  this angered both vassal and lord and they tried to sabotage his crops.

readers of Upstart Blogger may recognize this tale.

the music industry is in a period of turmoil.  the entire face of music and how we go about getting that music is altering on a fundamental level.  once upon a time, this fief and vassal relationship was the only way to make music and have it heard by a wide audience.  and while this method worked, what also worked was the fact that you could also listen to other music, if you so desired.  putting aside the medieval metaphor for a few minutes, back in the day when corporate rock wasn’t a bad word, and we listened to bands signed by huge corporate conglomerates without a second thought, what was also true was that radio was independently owned and operated.  this gave an opportunity for local bands to be heard, small indie band and travelling bands on smaller labels.  you would send your record to a radio station and if they liked it, they played it.  there were radio dj’s like frickin’ doctor demento who gave “Weird Al” Yankovic his entire career.  Weird Al had a single track he recorded himself on a cheap 4-track mixer but sent it to Dr. Demento and got an entire career out of it.

if you’re a musician and think you can get a break by sending your demo to a radio station, you are several decades too late for that.  why? because the greedy lord has expanded his fiefdom to include the radio waves.

now, huge conglomerates decide what music that plays on the radio.  all the stations (or most of them anyway) are part of the same network, meaning they get the same playlists fed to them by the huge record labels who are funding the radio station’s broadcast.  this means no variety, no independent travelling musicians, no demos.  (i’m speaking very generally here.  there may be some stations that do some of this, but it’s not on the scale that it once was.  here’s a tangential anecdote: when i was in high school there was an awesome alternative station in San Francisco, Live 105.  they played what was new and happening in alternative music, stuff that was just emerging on the radio and MTV, so Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, all when they were just barely getting big.  they also had an amateur hour — more like a couple hours, actually — in the dead of night.  you could try to get on the show by sending in a playlist and a letter of why you should be on the radio, or you could just enjoy what people had to play.  i happened to tune in one night and heard Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Revolting Cocks and all sorts of other underground industrial that I had only heard from friends before.  it was astounding — Skinny Puppy on the radio?  holy crap!  if you think you could do that now, on Live 105 or any other radio station, again, you’d be sorely mistaken.  </tangent>)

right now, the record industry is in growing pains.  the major labels are scrambling to retake control and figure out how to make money doing what they are doing, which is promoting music, while independent musicians are realizing that they can make music without a record company.  upstart blogger’s ashley morgan is one of them.  also? amanda fucking palmer.

here’s something i found last night, via neil gaiman’s tweet: why i am not afraid to take your money.  amanda palmer gets on her soapbox about why she’s sick of people trying to guilt her into taking people’s money for events.  about people not really liking that she made a bunch of money off a webcast.  her response: get over it.  and she’s totally right.

pirates figured out that we could essentially grab a copy of any piece of music we want, for free.  maybe it’s illegal, but in the age of bits vs. atoms, we’ve adopted this belief that bits (i.e. information transmitted via computer) should be free.  and that’s okay.  file sharing has become an integral way to find new music that you can’t hear on the radio because it’s not sponsored by the corporate record labels.  for myself, i support these bands by going to their shows, and hitting the merch table.  or going to their website or their indie label’s site and buying their album directly and not from best buy.  occasionally i still use amazon for used cds, but i still buy cds because i value the atoms.  i like having the physical disk in my hand and i like leafing through the liner notes.  i realize that i’m becoming old fashioned for this preference.

but music shouldn’t be free, and there shouldn’t be a problem with paying an artist for what they do.

even if paying that artist comes in a different form, and from a different means of commerce.  (and here’s where i spin this right back around to upstart blogger.)  this morning i found this on upstart blogger: confessions of a blogger.  and from that post i realized that the whole shenanigan with a certain uk pop star and emi didn’t end when ashley got his twitter account suspended and pulled the posts about said pop star and emi.  no, then his new twitter account and the twitter account of a completely unrelated band he plays in also got suspended.  what gives?

well said pop star resembles the bard, backed by a powerful lord who enjoys making money from his bard’s performances.  but in an age when that music can be found for free, the lord (and other, similar lords) need to take a stand against finding music for free because then it is no longer controlled solely by the lord.  they perceive it to mean they are losing an income stream.  i disagree, but that’s besides the point.  so they urge their artists to take a stand against file sharing, saying that it is stealing money from artists and labels.  even when artists have come out with ways that you can make money as an independent musician without a label. artists like trent reznor, radiohead, and amanda palmer.  artists like ashley morgan, who uses his blog to generate his income and fund his music career.

once upon a time i saw the chief architect of genesis rocket sitting on a pile of cash and able to talk his way into getting freebies like an awesome frickin’ microphone from a top manufacturer.  that was before he told me in an email that the uk takes away 50% of those earnings in taxes.  even disregarding that, the scope is wrong; genesis rocket isn’t just a get-rich scheme from some anonymous marketer trying to cash in on twitter — it’s an income stream for an independent musician.  and as we all know (or should), music costs money.  it costs money to get a recording studio, to buy the software and the gear, to mass produce your cd, to promote your music.  and as we all know (or should) musicians aren’t rich.  not most of them.  and it’s because they have to pay all these extra expenses that we can’t even fathom.  they have all the same expenses as you or me, but additionally, their chosen means for making money costs as much as it makes.  but they do it anyway, because they are doing what they love, and we respect them for it, but usually only in words.  i don’t know if anyone stops to think about what it actually means that their favorite musicians are, often quite literally, starving artists.

but this isn’t an ad for a product.  it’s an observation about the music industry.  and it’s been made before, and it’s getting old.  but it still needs to be said.  major labels need to wake the fuck up.  shutting down filesharing is going to get you nothing but resent from potential fans.  and fans, you need to wake the fuck up.  music isn’t free.  period.  grab the mp3s from bit torrent, go ahead.  but if you like what you hear, support the fucking artist.  buy their cd, their tshirt, their commemorative fucking plate.  go to the show.  tell your friends.  you are an income stream. your favorite musician isn’t going to your workplace and telling your boss not to pay you for a day, so you shouldn’t expect them to do what they do for free.  if you do, your favorite musicians will no longer be able to support their music, and stop making it.  if you want to listen to more records by your favorite artists, do them a favor and actually buy some of them.