Music, tech and culture roundup

October 13, 2009


Help with research on music blogs: This came out a month or so ago, but I forgot to share it. Sophie Vernon, a master’s student at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, is trying to understand the relationship between music blogs and word of mouth. She’s put together a survey; it’s really short, and if you’re reading this it’s relevant to you, so go help her out.

Billy Bragg on piracy. A couple of weeks ago, a group of UK artists convened to discuss the issue of Internet piracy. Billy Bragg wrote an editorial for the Guardian where he makes a point I haven’t seen very often: he argues that any attempt to suppress filesharing entirely (by the recording industry asking legislators for ever-more-draconian sanctions) would entail giving unacceptably high control of the Internet to corporations. Read the full editorial here.

Sun Box installation: Important Records is hosting an installation art piece by Craig Colorusso this Saturday, October 17th. The piece consists of an array of speakers, each playing a guitar sample. As they’re solar-powered, what you hear will depend not only on your trajectory through the site but also the length of the day. Important is a Boston-area label, but it’s not clear where the piece will be set up; you can e-mail for details. (Via Justin Snow of Anti-Gravity Bunny.)

Policing leaks with politesse. Last year, z=z covered the new Hold Steady album, which had been leaked. We had noted that a company called Web Sheriff was sending ‘highly civilized takedown notices’ to blogs posting leaked tracks, so we posted a link to the approved track—and received a thank-you note, much to our surprise. The Guardian has an article on the company that is policing unauthorized tracks with reason and social engineering, not by threats.

What CD sales mean for artists. Last year, of 115,000 CDs released, only 6000 sold more than 1000 copies. Over at CNet, Matt Rosoff takes a sobering look at what different levels of CD sales means for artists. This is not likely to be news, but it pretty succinctly makes the case that CD sales alone aren’t going to make being an artist sustainable.

And, finally, some nerd love. Rolling Stone has a track-by-track guide to They Might Be Giants breakthrough album, Flood.

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  1. Super-nerd Flood love available via Jonathan Coulton’s full album live cover last Saturday in Chicago, starting at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-4FDNfAd-c

    I agree with Bragg’s conclusions about the practical solution, although I don’t think the argument you note is a particularly compelling one. It presumes a slippery slope that I’m not convinced of. Industry would, as he suggests, keep asking for tighter and tighter restrictions, but that doesn’t mean that they’d get them. In general, as more draconian measures get put in place, the affected constituencies get larger and more powerful. Consider, for example, the differential impact of Cory Doctorow railing against attacks on net neutrality versus Google sending executives to testify before Congress on the issue. Admittedly, this approach often still results in suboptimal outcomes, which is why I think Bragg’s answer is definitely the better one, but scare tactics aren’t the way to make his case.

  2. Just completed the survey and looks like it could be an interesting piece. Hopefully we might be able to read it once she has finished.

    I am also a student and will soon be starting research on peoples views and behaviour with regards to marketing and music piracy for my dissertation. This idea of offering the survey link to music blogs is one that i think could be very useful in gaining a good insight into the real music enthusiasts and one i will definate try to utilise when i come to do mine.

    With regards to filesharing i completely agree that it would be impossible to stop. Digital content, by design, is reproducable without the need for any physical or original source. As such once one copy exists there is always the possibility of another exact copy being made. As a marketing student i am interested more in how products/services/content can compete with the free alternative.

  3. The Guardian makes a small but inexcusable error in its piece that I feel priggishly compelled to note here — “I was a bit surprised to find out that there is already a policy in place (and has been for years) which requires ISPs around the world to cut off customers who repeatedly infringe copyright – the Acceptable Use Policy.” Everyone here already knows (but I’m going to say it anyway) that AUP’s *permit* ISP’s to take action against their customers; they of course do not actually *compel* ISP’s to take action. Big difference!

    Anyway. The Web Sheriff guy always strikes a slightly off-key note with me, if possibly just because his nom de guerre is so inane. Stopping leaks is great – musicians gotta eat – but I don’t love the artist’s (or, more to the point?, their label’s) representatives looking over my shoulder to decide whether they approve of how I’m enjoying their work, either.

  4. on the other hand, i just read the comments on the guardian article and this comment by the ubiquitous mr. sheriff is actually pretty interesting:

    “as it happens, we are currently in the process of compiling archives of bootleg recordings of various artists / clients and shall then be making them officially available off these artists’ web-sites for the benefit of their fans worldwide … .. this way, the artists / bands shall have some say over how their live work is presented on-line / to-the-world and, equally, they can ensure the best in terms of the quality of the material that is uploaded (especially if they have recordings taken straight off the desk).”

    isn’t it nice to think that we might not be playing a zero-sum game?

  5. Scott, I think the interesting element of Bragg’s case is that he is one of relatively few people to point out that draconian restrictions don’t just disadvantage individuals, but that giving unacceptably high control of the internet to corporations (and I don’t know if that your example – Google going to Congress when things get bad – is exactly reassuring me).

    Tim, I’m not thrilled about Web Sheriff either. I thought that the interesting element was that they don’t go straight to the big stick, and instead go with the social niceties first (an approach which seems sorely lacking in these days of kajillion dollar lawsuits).

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