Monday, June 28, 2010

ASCAP vs Free Culture

I read a nasty story about ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), the American counterpart to SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada).  They are claiming that Creative Commons does not believe in Artist Freedom.  I was browsing Twitter on Friday night when I read it from @blocsonic, and I was recording Part 2 of my CC Sampler at the time.  It threw me so hard that it caused some "technical difficulties" during the recording.

Before I dive into this, let me just preface my article by saying that this is a largely opinionated rant.  Any facts in the article are sourced, but it is primarily a reaction to a nutty situation.

Ever since my first year university Mass Communications class, I've been into the whole copyright debate.  My professor - who I will grant was probably a bit biased - explained how the current copyright laws have been amended over the years to actually stifle creativity under the guise of protecting artist rights.  The short of it is that because so many works are protected under copyright, artists can't build on pre-existing works and create new things.  Some would argue that just means that artists are free to create original works, but I say that you should look at a movie like Star Wars and explain to me what's original beyond the setting and names.  Everything is recycled in one form or another, it's just the packaging that is original.

So when something like Creative Commons exists, which actively promotes the free and legal sharing of creative works to create new and innovative things, I see that as a Very Good Thing.  People like Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow have the same mindset.  This blog/podcast exists on the foundation of Creative Commons sharing.  I absolutely love the "copyleft" free culture.

ASCAP, on the other hand, does not.  They see the rise of free culture as a direct threat to their business model.  And like any good corporation focused on keeping their profits healthy, they are bending facts to show that their rights and their artists' rights are being trampled on.  Let me summarize: an artist using a Creative Commons license immediately has more options at their disposal for distributing their work, and ASCAP says this is a Very Bad Thing.

Wait.  That can't be right, can it?  Actually...yes, it can.  Here's a quote from the letter from the article I linked above ("ASCAP Claiming That Creative Commons Must Be Stopped"):

At this moment, we are facing our biggest challenge ever.  Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote "Copyleft" in order to undermine our "Copyright."  They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth is these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music.  Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.

Take a minute to read over that paragraph, and you'll realize just how crazy ASCAP is being.  It's a prime example of how they are bending the truth to get financial support to stop Creative Commons.  They're misrepresenting the true goal of Free Culture, which is not "to spread the word that our music should be free."  It's not about free in the literal sense of the word, it's about being free of limitations.

Just because you release your work under a Creative Commons license doesn't mean that you're not able to sell it.  While most people do give it away for free, they also provide their work for sale.  Cory Doctorow sells his novels in book stores, but also gives them away in various formats and encourages people to "remix" them.  And wasn't there a news story about how most fans paid for Radiohead's In Rainbows album, even though they could enter "$0" as the price they wanted to pay? (Edit: Yes, there was; according to, 2 out of 5 downloaders paid for the album and the band "netted $2,736,000 in digital sales."  Hardly chicken scratch.) Let's not forget about the deluxe album set they made available to purchase.  I'm sorry ASCAP, but your arguments hold no ground here.

One positive I take out of all this - which is hard, considering a major organization with a lot of power in congress is behind this ludicrousness - is that they view Free Culture as a threat.  This means that the movement has grown a lot, and more people are realizing that they don't need to put their artistry under stupidly restrictive licenses in order to protect their work.

It means that people are starting to listen to what advocates are saying about the awfulness of current copyright laws - and proposed bills too.  We have quite a ways to go yet, as evidenced by the thickness of ASCAP, but we're getting there.

What would be awesome is for those who support Creative Commons and free culture to speak up, and let everyone know that we won't stand for this kind of treatment.  Write to whomever you need, but whatever you do, make yourself heard.

Edit: I will be writing a follow-up to this.  There are a lot of thoughts I didn't put in here that I should have.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ahead of Schedule

I finished recording the Canada Day podcast on Wednesday night - a full 8 days in advance of when I wanted to release it.  It's actually uploaded -right now-, I just need to write up the blog post for it and update the RSS feed.  And then it's all ready to go!

It's really taking all my willpower not to put it out right now, because I'm really excited about it.  For the first time in a while it sounds really good, by my standards anyway.  I think part of that is because I've got my audio set up the way I want it, with keyboard shortcuts to do everything from muting the microphone to playing the next song.  I barely have to use the mouse while I have the mic on, which is more freeing than it sounds.

Also, I have plans in my head to add a second sound card to my PC - not sure how that would be beneficial to the set up of the podcast, but it sounds like a good idea in my head.  So, next podcast for me to work on will be Part 2 of the Creative Commons Sampler, which as I said is all laid out as far as what music I'm going to play.  After that we should be back to business as usual as far as featuring a particular artist is concerned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I'm sure everyone between Toronto and Montreal knows of the Earthquake that was centered just North of Ottawa this afternoon - I'm pretty sure no one is doing any productive work anymore as a result.  I'm surprised Twitter hasn't crashed.

Anyway here's an album in celebration of the Earthquake:
The Dada Weatherman - EarthQuakes and Failed Mutations

Cool folk/rock/blues music from an artist who has a ton of albums up on Jamendo.

Lillith Fair

I thought you might be interested to know more about Lilith Fair.  You know, the fair that's all about female musicians front and centre, raising money for women's charities.  It hasn't been around since 1999, but is making a comeback this year.

Well hey, do you remember Bella Ruse?  They are one of my favourite discoveries in this journey of finding free music online, and I was pleased to read on their Twitter/Facebook stream that they are a part of Lilith Fair this year!  I think it's really awesome, especially when you consider who else is playing the festival.  There are a lot of big names on that list.

I'm not sure what dates or cities Bella Ruse is playing, but check out the Lilith Fair website for cities near you to find out who is playing when and where.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Native Folk Rock from Sean Wright

Don't tell anyone, but one of the artists I'm playing in Part 2 of my Creative Commons Sampler is Sean Wright, who has some cool stuff that seems at least partially modelled after Bob Dylan.  I don't want to give away too much about the track I'm going to play for now, but I do want to highlight a new single he's released on Jamendo.

The single, called You're Calling Mgesso Watsowsen, is a fusion of Wright's folk stylings and Makwabid, a member of the Abenaki Nation.  Makwabid is responsible for passing on the knowledge and traditions of the Abenaki language to Seven Generations.  At least, that's what Wright sent out in a private message on Jamendo.

The song is really cool, and has real power behind it.  It's available to download free, as always.

Blog Role

Haha, see what I did there?  I made a pun based on Blogger's Blog Roll :P  I grant that it wasn't a very good one.

I thought about this post for a long time before posting it; about whether I wanted to even put it up.  In the end - I made some changes to what I originally wrote.  I hate these type of posts but sometimes I need to put them out there for myself.

Here's the deal: I realize that I've been taking on way too many things since I started the podcast.  No need to list them all, but I think that's happened in part because I've been pretty good about keeping schedule with regular updates, up until recently.  Shortly after putting the podcast out I started this blog, as a companion.  The reasoning was pretty simple - I needed a place to post any notes to go along with the show, playlists, etc.

But then I wanted to add more to it to try and entice people whom I didn't know to check out the podcast.  I wanted to write up music reviews, and links, and what not.  That's a great idea - except that I am a terrible music writer.  I have tried to review a lot of different artists, and I just can't do it.  It is a limitation, and I accept it.

So what is the blog's new role in Interweb life?  In short, it's going to be about the same, but simplified.  I'm going to let it be more of a companion blog to the podcast, without trying to push it.  You'll continue to find podcast show notes when an episode is released, and occasional links to CC-licensed music I think is exceptionally good.  The only difference is that this way, I won't feel the need to continually update it and feel horrible for not doing so.  It will be in my best interests to update it on a regular basis, but the primary focus is the podcast.

I'd also like a place to put up my own random thoughts, and I'd rather throw them on this blog rather than start yet another new site (I've probably created enough websites to provide one for a small country's population).  I'm going to try some new things along the way.  One of them is writing Flash Fiction (which are stories shorter than 1000 words, not fan fiction about The Flash) on Fridays.  I don't know what else yet.

Here is the tl;dr version: I'm cutting back on my need to write regular blog updates so that I can just work on my podcast without worry.  While music and links to good music will dominate blog entries, I plan on writing about other stuff too.  I really like writing about artists and hearing back from them, so I plan to continue doing that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stretching Myself Too Thin

Hey all, looks like I missed my opportunities this week to get a podcast done.  I was too busy, once again.  Rest assurred the music is all lined up and ready to go, I just need to find the time to sit down and do it.

I really hope I can get it done soon, because one of the things I'd like to do is a special Canada Day podcast.  Whether or not I can do that depends on time constraints; I may skip my planned #9 podcast, save it for another week, and focus on the Canada Day podcast.

To be honest, that sounds like a spectacular plan.  Thank goodness for writing things down!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Cover Songs? Not Quite.

I think it was a few weeks back now that I wrote a post about free cover songs.  After finding the gems that I did on Jamendo for episodes 8 and 9 (yes...there is one more coming!), I wanted to find more.  Unfortunately there is no "cover" tag, and searching for "cover song" doesn't really yield anything helpful.

With that in mind, I turned to Google.  What is the most covered song?  According to one database, it's Yesterday by The Beatles.  I plugged that word into Jamendo's search bar, hoping to find some really cool covers hanging about, waiting for someone to listen.  What I unearthed was not cover songs, but instead albums or artists containing words from the song I was looking for.  And they're not bad - here's the short list.

  • Yesterday Evening (Single) by The Wagner Logic - This pair of songs are quiet and fairly laid back.  They barely qualify as rock, as the Jamendo tags suggest, but lie more in the genre of indie folk, maybe pop.  Actually, the tone of Yesterday Evening is quite close to that of Yesterday, so I'm just a little short of shouting "Success!" on this one.  Good for quiet-time listening.
  • Yesterday by The Fumes - This one tricked me off the bat.  It almost sounded like the singer was going to launch into that iconic tune.  Still a good track though.  It's an acoustic track, and the audio quality is a little low - but it is a pretty positive tune and worth a listen.
  • Permanent Crisis by Dust River - I got this album from a search for Cry Me a River.  I think you can tell why that came up.  They're labelled as "grunge" and "garage" alternative, and that is pretty accurate.  They seem to be trying to sound like Nirvana - if that's the case, then they're doing a good job.  What's unique about them is that occasionally the singer's voice picks up a little "countrified" twang in some tracks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

#8 - CC Sampler Part 1

I finally got to do the podcast this weekend!  Life has been very busy: sudden funeral 8 hours away, a softball tourney this afternoon (B Pool Champs!!), hockey tonight...well there was a lot.  I finally finished the final mix tonight, which required very little effort thankfully.  I stumbled in a couple of places but I felt the podcast fit together well, and there was some very cool music played.  Speaking of which, here's the playlist with artist info

  1. The Dead Rocks - One Million Dollar Theme 
  2. Brad Sucks and The Hip Cola - SOS
  3. Brittani Louise Taylor - Everything's Gonna be Okay 
  4. Carbon/Silicon - Make it Alright 
  5. No, Really - Molten 
  6. Jamie Rumley - Anywhere But Here 
  7. InAshton - It's Ok...It's Ok 
  8. I Am Not Lefthanded - Boats (Swept Away) 
  9. Julandrew - It's Easy 
Part two should be coming this week - most likely to be done again on the weekend when I have some more time.  I was going to record it at the same time as Part 1, but I wasn't able to get to it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Reviews

I would space these out, but I am taking a last minute trip up north for a funeral so I figured I'd get these posted before I go away.  Wait a sec - I'm writing this on Wednesday...maybe I will conveniently release these on Thursday!  Oh, the magic of blogging.  Incidentally, if I do a podcast this week it'll likely be on the weekend.

Mister Jingle – Et si la jeunesse…
Genre: Ska / Punk

In searching for some new music for the blog, I quickly remembered why I only occasionally listen to ska: all the bands playing the music tend to sound similar to each other. It’s really only when a band does it wrong in some way (see my last review) that puts me right off the music. Ska should make me feel simply satisfied, and pumped up.

Mister Jingle does that with their EP Et si la jeunesse…. From the title, you can tell they’re French. I am bilingual, but I usually have difficulty understanding French lyrics (especially when it’s at such a frenetic pace). So, throw lyrics right out the window when listening to this EP. They have a tight sound in place, and it doesn’t seem overdone to my ears. In short, they’re not doing anything really wrong. I will note that they have some hints of scream-o in there, but it’s not distracting. As I mentioned, there’s enough in the EP to keep me satisfied, so they get a recommendation in my book. If I had a book.

The A.G.’s – This Earth Sucks
Genre: Punk

This is one massive album up on Jamendo – it has a grand total of 34 tracks (why not 35?). It only runs 57 minutes though, so it reminded me of Sloan’s Never Hear the End of It. Oh, The A.G.’s album is called This Earth Sucks. The title kind of makes me wonder – is there another Earth they prefer? Who knows…and I thought I might gain some kind of insight from their songs, but they don’t seem to have a unified theme, other than perhaps This Earth Sucks.

The subject matter of this group varies quite a bit – from the eloquent I Like Boobs and Taking a Shit to – well, that’s about as deep as they seem to get, to be honest. Those songs are about exactly what you think they’re about. The album is sort of like a trainwreck – I felt compelled to keep listening, no matter how horrible it seems.

I’m not sure that I necessarily recommend this music – it sounds like it’s a bunch of high school kids trying to shock their Principal at the talent show. On the other hand, there is one redeeming track: a pretty good cover of Jesse’s Girl. I guess I can recommend it, after all. Pop it in the CD player in your car (if you still have one), and go on a road trip; or listen to it at the cottage. That’s the kind of album this is to me.

Trick Seventeen – Spot On
Genre: Pop/Punk

I’ll be honest – I didn’t listen to The A.G.’s album in full. I pretty much got the whole picture after listening to a small handful of their 34 tracks. So when I listened to Trick Seventeen’s EP Spot On, a very tangible wave of relief washed over me. I’m really not kidding you – the difference in quality of content was enough to make me really excited.

I’ll stop there, though, because this EP isn’t necessarily Excellent. It’s really good, but I’m starting to give it a little too much high praise because I’m listening to it in contrast to something mediocre. So here’s the real scoop about Trick Seventeen: they have a solid pop-punk EP on their hands here. From the first two tracks, it’s clear they know how to hook you in with their music.

It’s well-balanced, too. While the pop elements take the main focus, their punk roots show through underneath the surface. They are primarily a pop group though, but they don’t let themselves get carried away trying to create a “sellable radio sound”. What I mean to say is that they sound as good as any pop band on the radio, but it doesn’t sound “fake”.

I’ll stop trying to get people to understand what I mean, because I find it really hard to describe it myself. The short version is: Trick Seventeen is a really cool pop-punk band from Germany, and you should download their EP Spot On from Jamendo.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Reviews

I didn't know what else to title this post, so Tuesday Reviews seemed to fit.  Not sure yet if I'll make it a regular feature, but I'm considering it.  Just a quick note before I get into the reviews: I wasn't able to make a podcast this weekend, because life is increasingly busy (I've been working two jobs for a month now, but I was still able to get 2 May 'casts out).  I'm going to aim to get something out this week as well as next week.  Worst case scenario I'll release two next week.

The Sovereigns – Pick It Up!
Genre: Ska / Punk
The Sovereigns are an interesting ska/punk band from Hamburg, Germany. Their short, 9-track album - Pick It Up! - was released in January, 2010. When I say it’s short, I really mean it: it’s only 20 minutes long, with most songs clocking in at two to three minutes. I just did a rough calculation of the average track length, and it’s something like 2:11.

The album is standard ska/punk fare. You’ll find fast-paced songs with a strong mix of guitars and brass instruments. Supposedly, the songs are about politics or something, but I honestly can’t understand the lyrics. That didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the music though, as I like some good fast-paced music to pump me up on various occasions. I definitely recommend checking them out at Jamendo. My favourite track has to be No One Can Win This Fight, followed by Sunday Jam.

The Rising Hope – Have a Rise Day

Genre: Punk / Ska

Released June 25, 2008, Have a Rise Day is a little disappointing. I was searching for bands similar to Streetlight Manifesto, Boxing Fox, and illScarlett, and my search led me to The Rising Hope. On the surface, they have all the “requirements” to fall under the Ska banner, but I didn’t get anything out of the album.

The musicians definitely fit together cohesively, but I feel like their sound is a sort of “been there, done that” with poor audio quality. 90% of the artists I’ve listened to on Jamendo have been able to put up music of excellent quality, and I think that’s my main beef with The Rising Hope. They may be talented musicians, but I can’t get past the audio problems. I do not recommend them.

That's it for today - I have a couple of other reviews waiting in the wing, but I'll save them for another day this week.  I seem to get a lot accomplished when Blogger is temporarily unavailable!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

InAshton - Videos of their NYC Live Debut!

I got an e-mail from InAshton the other day telling me about a couple of videos they have up on YouTube of their recent live debut at Arlene's Grocery in New York City.  I'm personally not familiar with New York City (despite having been to Manhattan once when I was in high school), so I immediately thought that Arlene's Grocery was actually a grocery store.  Good thing I looked it up!

Anyway it looks like InAshton had a pretty good set that night, and they have videos up of two of their songs (which happen to be two of my favourite tracks from their free album, which you can get it at, by the way).

InAshton - It's Ok... It's Ok (Live)

InAshton - Waitin' (Live)

If you're interested in checking out InAshton live, you can see them at the following locations...
  • Thursday June 3rd @ Rox Box in Philadelphia, PA (would there be a Stanley Cup Final game that night? I hope not)
  • Friday June 25th @ Sully's in Hartford, CT
Take a look at their MySpace page for more details.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Teeth of Tomorrow

I couldn't fit this one in to my playlist but I thought it was decent enough to be worth mentioning on the blog.  This Canadian group is known as The Silence Industry, and their EP - their 5th release - is The Teeth of Tomorrow.  The band describes the sound as "Layers of cold guitars and driving bass riffs dominate the band's sound in these songs of alienation and industrial decay" - personally it sounded like somebody mixed a hair metal band with Nine Inch Nails.  It's tagged as gothic rock, but I'm not sure I have a frame of reference to verify the correctness of that tag.

I don't have much to say except that they definitely seem to have a good, consistent sound throughout the EP.