Success Stories

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I have been talking for some time about the virtues of kickstarter funding for music recording projects.  The indie album Move by Matt Phillips and the Philharmonic could not have been made without kickstarter funding.  But the more I learn about the world of music kickstarters, the more I see there is to learn.

The Set Chopin Free project reached its $75,000 goal scarcely two weeks into its seven week funding schedule.  It is already more than $5,000 above its funding goal, and could well surpass $100,000 by the time its funding window closes.  And the Open Well-Tempered Clavier project (launched by Robert Douglass) has already reached 50% of its $30,000 fundraising goal from more than 450 supporters in its first 5 days!  That kind of strong start virtually guarantees funding success, and leaves us only to wonder whether it will achieve 160% (like Open Goldberg Variations), 200% (like Fractal Journeys and the Twelve Tones of Bach), 350% (like the Well-Tempered Clavier Tour), 600% (like Musopen’s Set Music Free) or more than 1100% (like Amanda Palmer did in her amazing 2012 record).  The possibilities are quite wide open.  But real questions remain: how did this happen?  what does it mean?

A press release today invites the press itself to consider some more pointed questions:

If both Open Goldberg and Musopen succeed with their Kickstarter campaigns, collectively raising over $100,000 for new recordings of standard repertoire, it is probably worth asking “Who is holding classical music in shackles?” and “Why do so many people feel it is so important to set Bach and Chopin free?” Continue reading “Success Stories”

Speech text from the grand opening of Manifold Recording and The Miraverse

He set his mind to work on unknown arts and thereby changes the laws of nature – Ovid, Metamorphoses

Welcome, and thank you for coming to the grand opening of Manifold Recording and The Miraverse!  Some years ago Amy posted a little quote on my side of the mirror we share in our bathroom that reads “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”  After five years of planning and construction, we have realized a dream, a dream that is now so real you can see it, you can touch it, you can enter it. You are welcome to do so-once we cut the ribbon.

Today we want to share with you an even bigger dream, the one that begins today.  This dream cannot be built with concrete and steel, but it can be realized the old-fashioned way: with magic.

Continue reading “Speech text from the grand opening of Manifold Recording and The Miraverse”

Glee? Not for me…

Last month after the buzz reached a fever pitch, I finally sat down to watch an episode of Glee.  I have not watched it since, but I have been thinking about why not.  I came across this blog posting, which begins:

The fictional high school chorus at the center of Fox’s Glee has a huge problem — nearly a million dollars in potential legal liability. For a show that regularly tackles thorny issues like teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse, it’s surprising that a million dollars worth of lawbreaking would go unmentioned. But it does, and week after week, those zany Glee kids rack up the potential to pay higher and higher fines.

Indeed.

I’ve watched enough television to know that sometimes a deliberate distortion of reality is part of a show’s appeal.  The Office clearly (and hilariously) offends virtually every HR law on the books, but we’re in on the joke no matter how straight the actors play it.  In its day, Ally McBeal did the same thing with courtroom antics.  On the opposite side of humor, the TV drama 24 created a “hero” who could always be relied upon to use torture as an excuse to continue to protect a regime that condoned such illegal and reprehensible actions.  I never watched 24, but from all the advertising and imagery that surrounded that show, it was pretty clear they knew and the audience knew that the show was stepping over all sorts of legal, ethical, and moral lines, and that was quintessential to the drama.  Glee appears to be entirely tone-deaf when it comes to the subject of copyright:

In one recent episode, the AV Club helps cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester film a near-exact copy of Madonna’s Vogue music video (the real-life fine for copying Madonna’s original? up to $150,000). Just a few episodes later, a video of Sue dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 hit Physical is posted online (damages for recording the entirety of Physical on Sue’s camcorder: up to $300,000). And let’s not forget the glee club’s many mash-ups — songs created by mixing together two other musical pieces. Each mash-up is a “preparation of a derivative work” of the original two songs’ compositions – an action for which there is no compulsory license available, meaning (in plain English) that if the Glee kids were a real group of teenagers, they could not feasibly ask for — or hope to get — the copyright permissions they would need to make their songs, and their actions, legal under copyright law. Punishment for making each mash-up? Up to another $150,000 — times two.

[…]

It’s hard to imagine glee club coach Will Schuester giving his students a tough speech on how they can’t do mash-ups anymore because of copyright law (but if he did, it might make people rethink the law). Instead, copyright violations are rewarded in Glee — after Sue’s Physical video goes viral, Olivia Newton-John contacts Sue so they can film a new, improved video together.

If Glee decides to bring copyright into its storyline, and treat it as intelligently and as sensitively as it attempts to treat other social issues, then perhaps I’ll watch.  Until then, no Glee for me.

Jazz Music and Open Source Software

Who knew that Open Standards maven Andrew Updegrove was a jazz fan?  He riffs:

Jazz, of course, is open source all the way — it’s the ultimate freedom machine. Once you’ve grasped the melody line and basic chord structure of any song, you’re on your own, encouraged to take the author’s initial inspiration anywhere you wish. A jazz musician isn’t judged by the faithfulness of his rendition but by what he codes at the musical keys.

Even the legal underpinnings of jazz are different, at least in the trenches. No one who is really serious about jazz goes out and buys, say, an Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis or Mahavishnu John McLaughlin song book, setting down note for note what the great musician played. How could you? They played it different every time.

You can read more of this wonderful entry here.  Me?  I need to go practice more songs from The Real Book.

Freedoms promised in 1976 may finally be realized

A posting on the  WIRED magazine property Epicenter has some pretty exciting news about the Copyright Act of 1976, including the fact that a good-sized catalog of music will revert to the control of artists from the control of record labels.  Unfortunately, the title of the article frames the story as terrible news instead of the good news that it is.  Bands like the Eagles are lining up to take advantage of this part of the copyright bargain coming to pass.  Hopefully they will get what they were promised 35 years ago.  If I were paying a mortgage on a house for 35 years, I would expect that with my final payment, the house would finally accrue to me when the mortgage expired, but the history of the US government and copyright (at least in the past 100 years) has been to consistently change the bargain at the last minute so that those of us who are due rights promised to us in the future never actually see that future arrive.

Will this time be different?  I hope so, because I’d like to see what happens when the artists, not the labels, can act as stewards of the artists’s works.  I think we’ve suffered the monopoly control of the labels for far too long, with far too little good to show for it.