One Way To Fix Illegal Downloading

torrent_download The other day I saw another article discussing the harms of Internet Piracy and how much it hurts the artists and studios. First off, let me say that everyone deserves to be fairly compensated for the media and content they helped to produce, or own the rights to. There is no disputing that. And exactly how much damage piracy does is a topic for another discussion. What this discussion is about is a way for the movie and music industries to capitalize on the thing they are trying to stop.

Let’s get one thing straight. No matter how many lawsuits are filed, no matter how many bills make their way in front of Congress, or how many new different kinds of technology are put in place to monitor or block traffic, file sharing isn’t going to stop. There are 3 Certain Things in life: death, taxes and Internet Evolution. If you try to stop something from happening on the internet, it just finds another way to take place.

So why fight it? Why not capitalize on it? Find a way to monetize file sharing. Find a way to take advantage of the massive distribution infrastructure that users of things like Bittorrent technology have already established for you? Wouldn’t that make more sense – even financially – than trying to sue the very people who are trying to get your content? As music fans, we like to keep massive libraries of music. Even stuff that you can’t find in print anymore. And we are willing to store it on our hard drives, and distribute it with our internet connections, and pay the power bills to keep them up and running. It costs the entertainment industry nothing for the largest inter connected data center in the world.

The idea I’m going to highlight isn’t a new one. The Electronic Frontier Foundation proposed the idea back in 2003. The idea is called Voluntary Collective Licensing. Essentially what happens is as content consumers, we pay a collection agency a monthly fee for the right to download as much as we want. The EFF proposed the concept for digital content in 2003, but it’s a system that’s been around much much longer. And this system came about to solve the exact same issue the music industry has today

When radio came about in the ’20s and ’30s, the only music they were supposed to broadcast was live performances. Radio stations could play them freely. But they started to get in trouble when they played studio recordings. The copyright holders weren’t getting paid for their songs going over the airwaves. The record labels tried to sue radio out of existence. Sound familiar? They considered the radio stations pirates and tried to put them out of business. Instead ASCAP (and later BMI and a few other collection societies) worked out a deal that radio stations have to pay royalties each time they play a song. The collection society then turns around and pays the money to their copyright holders and performers accordingly. Good thing they didn’t put radio out of business because up until the 80s when MTV hit, it was THE way to hear new music as it was released. This page has a really great explanation of royalties and how money in the record industry works

The digital version doesn’t have to function much different. We, as consumers, would pay the collection society, either directly or indirectly, a small monthly fee to download whatever we wanted. We could do it via their website, it could be added to our internet provider bill, if you are a student in college it could be added to your tuition, there are lots of way to collect the money.

Distributing the money becomes slightly trickier, but not too hard. The industry has to give up the idea of 100% accounting. The only way you could get that would be to monitor what is being downloaded, and that opens up a whole bunch of privacy issues. Instead, the money could be distributed based on relative popularity of the current music scene. Or, people could volunteer to be a Neilson-like family and be monitored for what they are downloading. This could then be used to represent the rest of us. Or, as the EFF points out, if you are using a service like last.fm now and scrobbling your music, you are already doing this.

At this point, you may be asking yourself a few questions. Primarily, why would anyone pay up if it’s voluntary? Well, Apple, Amazon and the other various online services have already proven people will pay to download music at the right price point. You buy albums on iTunes for around $9.99. Wouldn’t you pay $15 a month to download as much as you want? And people already pay similar monthly fees to use streaming services like Pandora or Spotify to stream what they want, and they don’t even own the music in the end

You may also be asking yourself why the record labels and artists would agree to this. They seem unwilling to change, and have tons of money to go after whoever they want. Well, this plan actually benefits THEM more than it does us, the consumer. Here’s how.

Primarily, they get paid. In 2006, the EFF estimated there were 60 million file traders in the US alone. That number has increased significantly for sure since then. If some of those 60 million kicked in a $15/mo royalty fee the copyright holders and performers could net upwards of $3 BILLION dollars. Right now when someone downloads an album using file trading sites and services, they get (dun dun dun!) NOTHING.

Second, it’s almost pure profit for them. There are no hosting services to pay to store the digital content, no broadband costs to pay, no electric bills to pay, no CDs to manufacture and ship. We as the file traders are more than happy to fit the bill in this way. They just have to agree to do things a little differently than they are used to and it’s like free money.

Of cource, there are some old habits the entertainment industry will have to get past in order to make this work and be profitable for them. First and foremost, it ALL has to be available! All of it. Stop with the crazy licensing deals. If you don’t make the music available via the blanket license guess what? People are still going to get your music the same way the do now – illegal download. If people want something, they will find a way to get it. So why not actually get paid via an already in place model (like they do with radio) instead of dragging your fans to court and trying to make money through litigation.

Second, the price has to be right. If the industry sets the price too high, people are just going to give them the finger and continue to do it for free illegally. If the price is right (somewhere between $10 – $20 I would say) people will do it.

Also, we as consumers have to be able to play the digital content on as many PCs, laptops, phones, tablets, and stereos as we want. We are paying for the content, it’s ours. No restrictions. We also have to be able to do it on whatever ISP we are with and use whatever software we want.

I’m sure there are lots of other ideas we could come up with to allow us to get our content, and make sure those who own the rights to it get paid. This is just one of those ideas that struck me as making sense. Hopefully, it would make sense to the industry, too.

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Would Michael Be Singing “Just Leave Me Alone”?

MIchael Jackson Leave Me Alone Video Shoot  Many people tuned in for the return of The King of Pop at the Billboard Music Awards on May 18th when we were witness to his holographic performance of “Slave To The Rhythm”. To say the presentation met with mixed reviews would be an understatement.

For the record, the Jackson family was all for it. Jackie Jackson said “when he started walking and dancing, I was teary-eyed,” Billboard reported him as saying. “It’s hard to please Michael’s fans and Michael… I’m telling you it’s amazing.” Public reaction ran the gambit from “it was the creepiest thing ever” to sharing Jackie’s watery response.

This wasn’t the first time a departed musician has been reanimated in front of a crowd. Tupac gave a posthumous performance with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog at Cochella in 2012.

As a music fan, I get the cool factor. I want to believe that this is a way for people who may not have seen these artists perform to be able to get a small taste of what they were like. Or a way for life time fans to get that performance one more time. But the cynic in me has a hard time swallowing that pill.

Michael Jackson left us many things in his 50 year life time. He left us a massive list of chart topping hits, best selling albums, revolutionary music videos, a few movies, and an attraction at Disney theme parks. If there was no Michael Jackson, there would be no Usher, no Justin Timberlake, no Pharrell Williams. Unfortunately, he also left with anywhere from $400 – $500 million in debt. So, it’s little wonder the record company is trying to find ways to milk the cash cow and recoup some of it’s losses. With that in mind, it’s a little hard to believe that the record label is putting out this new album “for the fans”.

L.A. Reid, CEO of Epic Records, was granted access to Jackson’s extensive vault of unreleased tracks (Jackson would reportedly record up to 70 song ideas for each album), and chose several songs that he felt should be finished and released. He tapped big time producers such as Timbaland, Jroc, Rodney Jenkins, and Stargate to take the vocal tracks and give them a modern musical makeover. The track “Love Never Felt So Good” was originally recorded in 1983 with Paul Anka. In the version off of “Xcape”, Anka was replaced by Justin Timberlake.

The question then comes to mind why didn’t these tracks get released originally? All of these were originally done between 1983 (just after Thriller) and 1999 (just before Invincible). Jackson died in 2009. So, if he wanted them released, wouldn’t he have done so?  Don’t get me wrong; the stuff is really good. The producers all have a great sense of contemporary pop sounds, and regardless of when MJ laid down the vocals, they fit in perfectly with the current musical landscape. On the other hand though, when in the studio, Michael had almost total control of the song. How would he like what was done with these tracks?

I have mixed feelings on the hologram. As an MJ fan, I get the appeal. It’s still kinda creepy, but cool at the same time. And, it wasn’t a total marketing ploy for the show, although it likely turned into one. Originally, the “performance” was supposed to be a secret. But, a lawsuit brought on the Thursday before the show by Alki David – claiming he owns the rights to the hologram technology – let the cat out of the bag. So, for this instance, it’s possible to believe that the show wanted to give the fans something special to talk about the day after. However, where I would have serious problem is if this show goes on the road, and charges admission to see it. Would that be right? And where would it end? How long until we see Jailhouse Rock era Elvis shaking his hips on stage again? Or Jimi Hendrix setting his virtual Strat on fire?

Personally, I’m a fan of the Circle of Life. Artists come, they touch our lives, and then they go. Let us be nostalgic watching the films they created, or the music the recorded before they passed on. Unless they were about to release something before they died, anything that comes out postmortem these days feels forced, contrived, and like a play to cash in on someone’s death. It doesn’t capture the essence of the artist. Once someone has moved on to that great Gig in the Sky, let’s just leave them alone.

Incubus, ‘NSYNC and the Sex Pistols: Meet the New Cast of Jesus Christ Superstar

What do you get when you combine the self proclaimed Antichrist with a former teen heartthrob, a Child of Destiny, and a So. Cali beach denizen? Why, you get the latest cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jerry Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar of course!

The newest incarnation of the musical stars Brandon Boyd (Incubus) as Judas Iscariot, JC Chasez (‘NSYNC) as Pontius Pilate, MIchelle Williams (Destiny’s Child) as Mary Magdalene and John “Rotten” Lydon (Sex Pistols, Public image Limited) as King Herod.

Never one for political correctness, Lydon said  “I’m here to sing with the King of the Jews, who could ask for anything more?” when asked about his role as King Herod.

The tour starts June 9th in New Orleans, and winds it way across North America, including parts of Canada. Before it’s final date in Philadelphia on August 16th, it will make stops in 48 other cities in including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Columbus. For a full schedule, visit the show’s official website.

Jesus Christ Superstar was originally a rock concept album written in 1970 and made it’s first appearance on Broadway in 1971. It loosly follows the last weeks of Jesus’ life.

When interviewed by Rolling Stone, Boyd said “I was actually confounded by the offer at first. I started watching the most recent shows they did in the UK and Australia and I was blown away with what they had done with the story, because they had brought it into a contemporary setting and modernized it.”

 

AC/DC’s Future Up In The Air

 

acdc_by_aerokay-d4aefk5The blogosphere was buzzing on April 14th when rumors started circulating that a member of AC/DC was suffering from serious health issues. According to Australian Radio station 3AW, a close family friend of Malcom Young said he didn’t believe Malcolm Young would ever perform again. While there has been no official announcement as to what the exact illness is, music “insiders” report he had a massive stroke and physically cannot play anymore. This was reportedly confirmed by family friends.

Amidst rumors that AC/DC would never play together again, lead singer Brian Johnson said they were still on track to spend time in the studio starting in May. “We’re going to pick up some guitars, have a plonk, and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas. If anything happens, we’ll record it,” he told the Daily Telegraph on April 15th. He wouldn’t confirm that the health issues were with Malcolm, but he did say “one of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don’t want to say too much about it. He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We’ve been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much.”

Later on the 16th, this was posted to the AC/DC Facebook page.

acdc_malcolm_post

 

True to his word, Brian Johnson hit the studio in May with Grammy-winning producer Brendan O’Brien and the rest of his AC/DC bandmates, sans Malcolm. It will be interesting to see what comes out of these sessions. The normal AC/DC writing process is for Angus and Malcolm to write most of the material before calling the rest of the guys to the studio to record. Bassist Cliff Williams said in March of 2013 that Malcolm and Angus were working on new material then. So, since the recording session was already scheduled for May well before Malcolm’s announcement, it’s possible most of the stuff is already worked out. Then the question becomes who would fill in for Malcolm. Possibly his nephew, Stevir Young, who has taken Malcom’s spot before in 1988 when he was taking a break battling alcohol addiction.

If anything comes from these sessions, look for new material the first of the year 2015

Found My Hat

Some people spend their entire lives trying to figure out why they are here. What is my purpose we often times ask ourselves. I know I’ve had this problem. One of the things that makes it so difficult for me is I have so many interests. I love technology. So much I made it my career. I love movies. I love jiu jitsu. I love history. I love genealogy. I love reading. I love writing. I have a great curiosity about the world in general, so you can see how it is hard for me to answer The Question.

Aside from our interests, we have real world “jobs” (hats). I am a father and a husband. Therefor I wear the father hat. Sometimes that requires I wear my handyman hat. Sometimes it requires I wear my Drill Sergeant hat. At work, I wear several hats within my IT job. Lots of hats.

To be clear, the most important hat I will ever wear is that of a father. And because I wear this hat every moment of my life, I find myself often trying to answer The Question. This fact then leads us to ask a related question: what legacy do I want to leave behind? Besides the obvious Be A Good Person stuff, what do I want my kids to take from me? Which of my hats do I want them to wear?

I find that I tend to have a Passion of the Moment so to speak. I’ll get all fired up about something for a week or so and then something happens to derail me into something else. Last week, I was convinced my purpose was to do our family tree. The week before that, I was heavy into a particular IT topic. The week before that, I was preparing to run a D&D adventure with my son and a co-worker. The week before that… you get the idea. And these things often come full circle. In a couple months, I’ll be back on the IT topic again. Having ADD sucks sometimes.

Growing older has helped me to be real with myself in recognizing the derailments, and being able to admit to myself that this New Thing is probably going to go nowhere. So, with that in mind, I sit back and think what is the one thing in my life that never leaves me? What is the thing that is always constant no matter what? And that answer is simple.

Music.

Music is the one constant in my life. A lot of people remember when they were kids and opened that Transformer or G.I Joe they always wanted. I remember (vividly) my mom bringing me home Michael Jackson’s Thriller cassette. I can still see the long cardboard sleeve they used to package them in. I remember how when the Beastie Boys released Licensed to Ill it was this “dirty, obscene” album and how giddy I was when my cousin brought her copy over for Easter and I made a copy of it (still see myself sitting on the front porch with my dual cassette deck making the copy). I can remember the summer Sweet Child ‘o Mine from Guns n Roses came out and where I was when I first heard it. I remember driving in the Sepulveda Pass on the 405, listening to Rock 105.3 hearing that Dimebag Darrel was shot and killed. And on and on.

I’ve never taken drugs to get high. I’ve never been drunk. But I know what high feels like. High for me is turning off the lights, putting on your headphones, cranking Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Lenny from “Live at the El Macambo” and feeling utterly emotionally drained when he finishes. High is the way the hair on the goosebumps on my arms and the back of my neck stands up when Ann Wilson lets out The Wail at 2:48 in this live performance of Alone. High is listening to Dark Side of The Moon while staring up into a laser light show.

I’ve ALWAYS got music on. Hell, when I do the 2 minute walk to the grocery store, I put headphones on. People from high school and college probably remember me as the kid who always had headphones on. I was wearing headphones before they became a stylish fashion accessory. If I’m working around the house I find it hard to stay motivated to do the chores. But, I put music on, and I’m good. I stop thinking about what I’m doing, and start singing, rockin’ out, or gettin’ jiggy, and before you know it the work is done.

Armed with this realization, I knew the general nature of the hat I must where. But which one? There are so many! I enjoy playing guitar, but I’m not very good. Nor am I feeling the urge to put in the time that it takes to get really good. From the actual “making music” side I really enjoy producing. I like blending the various voices and sounds together like a painter does with a palette and paintbrush, and creating something better than the sum of it’s parts. But that kind of work requires a studio to work in. I’ve even started (and stopped and started and stopped) several music related websites that just kind of turned into nothing. So what then? Which hat do I wear? What musical legacy can I pass to my children? And then a couple things happened that made it all perfectly clear.

The first thing that happened, for whatever reason, was Joey (my 12 year old son) pulled out Guitar Hero last weekend. We rocked out all weekend. He played the guitar parts, I played the bass parts, and Izzy (my 6 year old daughter) sang her lungs out. And, as Joey would play his favorite songs from the game, I would show him that I had them in my music library in my computer already.

This led to the second thing that cemented My Purpose. He said to me “Dad, I need some music on my phone”. Oh son, you could not have asked me to do a more important job! So I armed him with a USB stick and sat him down in front of my 13,000 track library. He loaded up the stick with a bunch of songs and I helped him get them to his phone. Now, he’s listening to music everywhere. Riding his scooter to school, playing video games, doing homework,whatever. He, like his father, has a soundtrack no matter where he goes or what he is doing.

So there it is. My Hat. Music education – no evangelicization. I was put on this earth to spread the word of music. I am a Music Evangelist. That’s my purpose. I need to expose my kids, my friends, and anyone who will listen to as much music as possible. I have an opinion on almost any topic that comes up. But nothing keeps me talking more that a conversation about music. And I’m not afraid to tell you what I think is good, what you should listen to, and where the roots of that Hot New Band lies. Never fear, though, because my musical tastes are broad. My most knowledgeable areas are mid 60s to late 70s rock and metal. But I’m a child of the 80s, so I love hip hop and New Wave. I love Jazz and Classical. And there is something undeniably infectous about Funk and Motown. I’ve usually got an educated opinion on most genres.

So I’ve decided to use this blog as my soapbox. My pulpit. Like a religious leader preaches to his/her followers, I will preach to anyone who will listen. I may end up like Father Makenzie; writing a sermon that nobody hears, but preaching on none the less. I’ve decided to try and unleash my verbal onslaught on the willing readers. And if I can change the life of a few people, get just them to try something new and like it, it will all have been worth it.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” 
― Victor Hugo