journalism

CC Talks With: Innerviews’ Anil Prasad – Music Without Borders

Meryl Mohan, October 14th, 2013

Anil Prasad
photo by: Jeremy Harris

“Could you please print out your website on company letterhead and mail it to me to process your request?” This is the kind of question Anil Prasad received from music industry professionals and publicists when he began Innerviews in 1994—the internet’s first and longest-running music magazine.

The internet has evolved since then, but the concept of Innerviews remains the same as it did 20 years ago: to share and bring attention to outstanding musicians. Innerviews is Prasad’s labor of love—a site dedicated to long-form, in-depth interviews of musicians. Coming up on its 20th anniversary, Prasad has interviewed 400+ artists to date, with the site averaging 1-1.5 million visitors a year. Despite this success, Innerviews remains a not-for-profit venture, allowing Prasad to spend weeks, and sometimes months ensuring pieces are meticulously researched and edited.

Coincidentally, Prasad is also the author of the best-selling book, Innerviews: Music Without Borders, now available as an eBook under a Creative Commons BY-ND license.

Below, Prasad shares his thoughts on his recent decision to adopt Creative Commons licenses for Innerviews and his eBook, and delves deeper into how musicians can incorporate Creative Commons into their work.


Where do you hope Innerviews will be in the next 5 to 10 years? Are there any new directions for its immediate future?

The ultra-long-form content format will remain the same, but the site’s ability to adapt to the new universe of devices and screens will radically alter. The next version of the site, going live in 2014 to coincide with Innerviews‘ 20th anniversary will be totally adaptive, meaning no matter what device you view it on, it will be the same experience. Having said that, the current site works well on mobile devices as is. But it will be significantly optimized in the near term. It’s interesting to contemplate the idea of Innerviews being 25- or 30-years old. The concept of the audience extending for a ride that long is very gratifying. If you had told me that this site, started as an experiment in 1994, would turn into a life’s work and legacy, I would never have believed you. The truth is, I would like this site to live forever in one form or another. It’s a key reason for why I adopted a Creative Commons license for the entirety of the site. It means the content can be mirrored anywhere, anytime, by anyone. I’d like the site’s content to remain as snapshots of these incredible musicians’ thought processes 25, 30 or even 100 years from now. Creative Commons has created a way for that to happen.

Innerviews Book Cover

You framed the adoption of Creative Commons licenses as a “major decision.” Why did you decide to adopt CC licenses for Innerviews as well as your eBook?

It reflects a decision to totally let go of this content that I have slaved over across 25 years. It’s an acknowledgement that all of this work belongs not to me, but to the world at large. Innerviews has always been a not-for-profit endeavor, so why not formally codify it in the unique way that Creative Commons enables? Through the Creative Commons license, the content will go further than it ever has before. I had previously been rather protective of the content. I would police other sites that “ripped off” the work and get it removed, thinking Innerviews needed to be a little fortress that exclusively housed the writing. That view was misguided. Over the years, many people have asked permission to use the work in a wide variety of commercial, nonprofit, and academic environments. There are often a lot of those requests, so this decision also frees me from having to respond to each individual enquiry. Now, everyone can do whatever they want.
It’s also a major decision because I used Creative Commons to transform the for-profit Innerviews book into a not-for-profit, Creative Commons—based entity, too. As my friend, the author Robin Slick, put it, “Books have the lifespan of a cup of yogurt.” It’s true. You get maybe a year, perhaps a couple, before things totally drop off, sales wise. So, why not just release it to the world in the same way? Perhaps it’s a new model for authors and artists to consider—sell your product for a year or two to recoup or make some money via people that want to support it and want it rapidly. Once the inevitable fall-off occurs, freely release it like a pigeon into the wind.

Why did you pick a CC Attribution – No Derivatives license?

I want people to be able to distribute my writing freely, even to the point of reprinting it for commercial purposes. However, I remain protective of the integrity of the content itself. I want the features to remain completely intact. The pieces cannot be pulled apart. They represent a conversational flow that is meticulously architected. They are the equivalent of a long-form concept album in that way. You can’t just take parts out of them and still have them make sense.

Have you seen any financial or other benefits to making the switch to CC licenses for Innerviews and/or your eBook?

I just made the switch a few weeks ago [in September 2013], but already I’ve approached to have content run in magazines all over the world, as far away as The Netherlands and Russia. I’ve also seen the number of downloads of the eBook jump 1,000-fold since the decision, which has given it a totally new life, which is fantastic. At the end of the day, the goal is to get the work in the hands of as many people as possible and Creative Commons helps make that a reality.

“I’ll never have an idea of the totality of the penetration that will occur as a result of this decision, and that’s a great thing. More albums will be sold. More music will be listened to. More attendees will show up at gigs.”

How does CC bring you closer to the goal you mentioned in a 15 Questions interview: “A desire to share and bring attention to what I believe are outstanding musicians.”

Creative Commons is the exact embodiment of that idea. Creative Commons licensing means many more people will find out about the artists I cover. It enables the content to propagate all over the world, working its way into nooks and crannies of the web and far beyond. I’ll never have an idea of the totality of the penetration that will occur as a result of this decision, and that’s a great thing. More albums will be sold. More music will be listened to. More attendees will show up at gigs. At the end of the day, what Innerviews does is about helping artists. By making this content available via a Creative Commons license, those artists get an even bigger potential, global boost.

How do you feel about musicians putting their music under CC licenses?

It’s one of many valuable ways a musician can release music in a way that can reap rewards, both immediate and long-term. These days, it’s next to impossible for artists to earn a living through recordings, either because of piracy or streaming services that pay in fractions of pennies. The important thing is that putting music under a Creative Commons license is a choice. It’s up to the musician whether or not they want to do it, as opposed to their music being unceremoniously ripped off legally via streaming services if they are signed to a label or illegally via piracy.
A Creative Commons license is an invitation for the world to not only explore, but interact with music. Some Creative Commons licenses enable other musicians to take music and remix or build upon it. That means music becomes a conversation between musicians, as opposed to a fixed expression cemented in a moment in time. It’s a very exciting concept that many more musicians should examine. However, the question of monetization always looms large in these discussions. One approach is to put certain tracks, EPs or album chunks out via Creative Commons to create interest and intrigue as a roadmap towards an album that is available via more traditional means that encourage payment. There are endless permutations for how an artist could use Creative Commons to promote their work. As we have seen through services like PledgeMusic and Bandcamp, people are still willing to pay and support artists, even though they already often have full access to the music. It’s all about being creative, encouraging goodwill, and being open to the possibilities.

“The choice to invoke a Creative Commons license is a choice to get your content or music to as many people as possible, without restrictions, filters or gatekeepers. It’s about taking your work directly to the people and experiencing and enjoying the unexpected connections that get created.”

You mentioned in an interview with Radio New Zealand that if an artist is not at the point of selling, maybe that’s where Spotify and Rdio can benefit you. How does that idea tie into musicians who choose to license their music under Creative Commons?

Creative Commons offers another valuable option for musicians that are trying to crossover to the point where they can monetize their music. And unlike Spotify or Rdio, it enables them to do it entirely on their own terms, specifying how the music can be shared and made available. Jamendo, Freesound, and SoundCloud are just a handful of the many options that now exist for an emerging artist to distribute their Creative Commons-licensed music at scale, worldwide. Adopting a Creative Commons license can be a key tool in promoting work to an audience interested in reaching beyond the mainstream for new sounds.

Can you explore the idea of CC licenses as a means of spreading knowledge, and how music works with that idea?

Creative Commons is about treating the entire planet as a single global community, in which media is a shared resource that benefits the human race as a whole. This is in stark contrast to the siloed mentality and digital land grab approach the power players of the corporate media attempt to enforce on society. The choice to invoke a Creative Commons license is a choice to get your content or music to as many people as possible, without restrictions, filters or gatekeepers. It’s about taking your work directly to the people and experiencing and enjoying the unexpected connections that get created. As for music, in a way, it’s the purest manifestation of Innerviews‘ tagline: Music Without Borders.

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Data Journalism Handbook to launch under CC BY-SA

Jane Park, April 26th, 2012

This Saturday’s International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy will unveil a months-long collaborative effort — the Data Journalism Handbook, a free, CC BY-SA licensed book to help journalists find and use data for better news reporting.

Open data
Data Journalism Handbook – Cover Mockup / jwyg / CC BY-SA

A joint initiative of the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation, the collaborative book effort was kicked off at the 2011 Mozilla Festival: Media, Freedom and the Web — which gathered reporters, data journalism practitioners, advocates, and journalism and related organizations from around the globe. Over three days, participants researched, wrote, and edited chapters of the handbook. Contributors include the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, the Chicago Tribune, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, the Financial Times, La Nacion, The New York Times, ProPublica, The Washington Post, and many others — including Creative Commons. Creative Commons contributed to various pieces of the “Getting Data” section, including “Using and Sharing Data: the Black Letter, Fine Print, and Reality.” You can preview the outline here.

From the announcement,

Now more than ever, journalists need to know how to work with data. From covering public spending to elections, the Wikileaks cables to the financial crisis – journalists need to know where to find and request key datasets, how to make sense of them, and how to present them to the public.

Jonathan Gray, lead editor for the handbook, says: “The book gives us an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at how data is used by journalists around the world – from big news organisations to citizen reporters. We hope it will serve to inform and inspire a new generation of data journalists to use the information around us to communicate complex and important issues to the public.

You can sign up to get the handbook when it goes live at http://www.datajournalismhandbook.org. The entire handbook will be available for free under CC BY-SA, with an alternative printed version and e-book to be published by O’Reilly Media.

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation releases archival news footage under Creative Commons

Jessica Coates, March 27th, 2012

ABC Mobile Studio Caravan
ABC Mobile Studio Caravan provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation / CC BY-SA

This is one for all those interested in the use of CC licences by archives, broadcasters or news organisations.

CC Australia has just announced that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia’s largest public broadcaster and news service, has used Wikimedia Commons to release a selection of historically significant television news stories under CC BY-SA.

Much of the material on Wikimedia has been released along with other archival material to celebrate the ABC’s 80th birthday as part of the 80 days that changed our lives website. However, this is just part of a broader Open Archives project by the ABC which has released hundreds of archival objects, encompassing audio, video and photographic material, including many more news and current affairs broadcasts, for reuse under CC licences. All of this builds on the ABC’s social media site, Pool, which has been working with the CC licences for some time and which we’ve written about before.

While other news broadcasters are also making material available under CC licences, what makes this project significant is that the news segments that have been released aren’t obscure archival material or raw footage, but rather polished stories broadcast by some of the ABC’s premier current affairs programs about major events in Australian history. It includes, for example, news reports on the Apollo 11 moon landings, the Azaria Chamberlain case, and the floating of the Australian currency. Not to mention this 1974 footage of Arthur C Clarke predicting the internet, with uncanny accuracy.

The release of the material via Wikimedia Commons will act to encourage its reuse on Wikipedia, like this report on the introduction of World Series Cricket. This in turn will expose it to a far broader audience than the ABC’s own website, and encourage its dissemination further. As Angela Clark, Director of ABC Innovation, says in the press release, “sharing content in this way not only makes more ABC content available to everyone, it also facilitates creativity and the possibility of new audiences for the footage.”

Wikimedia notes that this is “the first collection of broadcast “packaged” footage released to Wikimedia Commons under a free license,” aka CC BY-SA, the same license Wikipedia uses. We’d love to hear about any other similar uses to add to our Case Studies wiki.

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Dan Gillmor talks about the challenges and rewards of publishing “Mediactive” under Creative Commons

Jane Park, December 21st, 2010

Dan Gillmor is a journalist and established author, having previously published We the Media back in 2004 under a CC BY-NC-SA license. His subject is the changing landscape of media, and the focus of his first book was on distributed, grassroots journalism and its effect on the Big Media monopoly of news. Six years later, We the Media is still in print, and Dan talks about how this encouraged him to stick to his principles when publishing his second book, Mediactive, under Creative Commons as well. Dan turned down a publishing deal with a major New York publisher because they would not allow the CC license. In a reflection well worth reading, he writes,

“Almost a decade after Creative Commons was founded, and despite ample evidence that licensing copyrighted works this way doesn’t harm sales, book publishers remain mostly clueless about this option, or hostile to it. As David explained to editors, the main reason I’m still getting royalty checks for We the Media is that the book has been available as a free download since the day it went into bookstores. This is how word about it spread. Had we not published it that way, given the indifference (at best) shown by American newspapers and magazines, the book would have sunk without a trace.”

Also Mediactive “isn’t just a book; at least, not in the way most publishers understand books, even as they dabble online. And if a principle means anything to you, you stick by it when doing so is inconvenient, not just when it’s easy.”

Sticking by his principles seems to have paid off, as just three days after publishing Mediactive under CC BY-NC-SA online, 1,500 visitors to his site downloaded the book, and more viewed pieces of it online. At this point, Dan notes that “Far few have purchased the book, of course, but it’s selling — and I’ve barely begun the real marketing process, which will take place in the new year.”

Without Creative Commons and the internet, Mediactive would still be on the publishing floor somewhere:

“Incidentally, had I signed with a traditional publisher, the book would not have reached the marketplace for a year or more from the date when I signed. With a company like Lulu, you wrap up the project and you’re off to the races. In a fast-moving area like media, that’s a huge benefit to foregoing the standard route.”

You can download, donate to, or purchase Mediactive and read more about Dan’s experience with publishing here. You can also help us improve our case study on Dan Gillmor.

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Student Journalism 2.0 takes off at The Paly Voice

Jane Park, October 16th, 2009

Article CC BY-NC by Sydney Rock and Rachel Harrus

Article CC BY-NC by Sydney Rock and Rachel Harrus

Remember back in April when I first mentioned Student Journalism 2.0, ccLearn’s pilot project to bring Creative Commons and the power of new media into high school journalism classes? Well since then ccLearn and two SF Bay Area high school journalism classes have been busy getting the ball rolling.

Yesterday, The Paly Voice, the student-run newspaper at Palo Alto High School, announced the integration of CC licenses, allowing its writers to choose to share their articles and op-ed pieces with the world. Already, Sydney Rock and Rachel Harrus’s article announcing the collaboration has gone viral via the CC BY-NC license, as the CC Google Alert picked it up and placed it squarely inside my morning radar. From the article,

“Starting today, readers of The Paly Voice may notice a new graphic — a Creative Commons licensing logo — tagged at the bottom of some stories.

The addition is due to a new collaboration with Creative Commons, a nonprofit corporation that allows published work to be available to the public for fair and legal sharing.

As a part of the Student Journalism 2.0 Project, The Paly Voice, along with the staff of El Estoque, the student news publication of Monta Vista High School, and the staff of The Broadview at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School, is the first high school in the nation to use Creative Commons licensing, which could potentially revolutionize the way creative works are available online.

Campanile adviser Esther Wojcicki, who is the chair of the board of directors for Creative Commons, believes that the collaboration will positively influence student journalism at Paly.

“It gives people the legal right to share their story,” Wojcicki said. “It’s like your own PR firm.”

Click to read the full article. For more about Student Journalism 2.0, visit our website, fan our Facebook page, or follow our Twitter.

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Back to School: Student Journalism 2.0

Alex Kozak, August 31st, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

In the minds of many students, back to school means back to the same old textbooks, tests, and classrooms. Instead of getting excited about learning new ideas on the forefront of human life and experience, students often dread returning to the old methodology in their classrooms.

But for journalism students in several California Bay Area high-schools, school in the 2009-10 year will mean becoming research collaborators in the world of Creative Commons licenses, copyright, and so called “new journalism”. After months of planning, ccLearn at Creative Commons will be partnering with 5 bay area journalism teachers to introduce and research how a copyright and Creative Commons-related curriculum influences (or not) the practices of budding journalists.

From the original announcement:

For journalism students, the digital age requires more than hands-on reporting, writing, and publication of stories. Students must also embrace the capabilities of the Internet for virtual collaboration, viral dissemination, and feedback loops that inform and deepen original stories. All of these web-based opportunities depend on knowledge and proactive application of open content licensing, such as with Creative Commons, and appropriate metatags and technical formats. Student Journalism 2.0 engages high school students in understanding legal and technical issues intrinsic to new journalistic practices. The lessons learned during this pilot project will be documented in anticipation of a national-scale, follow-up project.

In the initial phase of the project, we hope to develop a successful model for engaging journalism students with new ways of thinking about content, copyright, and their goals as journalists in the age of the Internet and viral communication.

And at the same time, we are hoping that projects similar to Student Journalism 2.0 will impact how students perceive their place in the developing information ecosystem. Whether they go on to become professional journalists, artists, bloggers, or participants in social media platforms, students will be armed with a firm understanding of copyright and licensing, and how their decisions in those areas affect how their work will get distributed, used, and then redistributed.

We want students, both in school and after, to become part of the information ecosystem rather than passive consumers of information products. This will lead to better pedagogies, higher quality teaching and learning materials, and a more informed society.

Visit the Student Journalism 2.0 website for more information.

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