My most vivid memory from South by Southwest:
Thursday night in Austin, TX, USA, MSN threw a party across the street from the convention center. It was in a spare warehouse space, like a rave or fly-by-night underground party, but the fancy lighting, free drinks, and imported-looking crowd (L.A.) all said Big Bucks. The women checking the guest list looked as if they might moonlight on The Price is Right. The event was planned, from what I could gather, as a buzz-builder for MSN’s big move into the iTunes-style content business.
When I came in, the crowd — around two hundred, I’d guess — had gathered around
the stage where legendary DJ Grandmaster Flash was in the middle of a set. Rumor had it that DJ Dangermouse would be playing, but that a last-minute nastygram from EMI scuppered the plan. That rumor seemed dubious for a number of reasons — what’s that cause of action, exactly? And in any event, it was hard to imagine finding anyone better to preside over the birth of Microsoft’s cool than Grandmaster Flash, by most accounts the pioneer of turntable performance: the sample, the scratch, the fader-toggle, the break, the real-time remix. If this event was meant to kick-off Microsoft’s entry into Apple’s rip-mix-burn marketing niche, they could not have chosen an entertainer with better creds to preside over it.
That was clear within just a few seconds of watching Grandmaster Flash, whom I’d never seen perform live before, stand over the turntables and mixer. I wish I could have brought with me every single person I’ve met who have said they don’t believe DJ’ing or sound manipulation to be an art form in and of itself. This guy could make a vinyl LP do anything,
make any sound, scratch it like a percussion instrument over a completely
different track before putting the needle back to precisely the place he’d left a split-second before. And this was all analog: no digital tricks, no ProTools. If you’ve ever wondered how a trombonist or the player of a fretless instrument knows where and when to find a particular note, to pull it
out of nowhere with no orientation, all while maintaining the overall
energy of the tune, you could appreciate what Grandmaster Flash was doing. The crowd was eating it up. The only thing slightly off about the show was the DJ’s sidekick, who goofily bounced around the stage pantomiming the lyrics, like a sign-language interpreter for the hip-hop impaired. But even he was entertaining in his own way.
Then, after a compelling tweak of the bassline in
Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” Grandmaster Flash cut the music and prepared the crowd for some call-and-response. It was old-school audience participation time. He’d play a hook, then cut the music, and the crowd would shout an answer in time with the song.
The chorus of “Good Times,” a 1979 disco classic whose
bassline Grandmaster’s labelmates, the Sugarhill Gang, lifted for
their single “Rapper’s Delight” — probably one of the
top few most famous hip-hop songs ever, and one of the
When I do this, said Grandmaster Flash, playing the
vocal “Good Times,” then dropping the volume, everyone yell “MSN.”
People in the audience looked at each other.
Got it? he said into the microphone, Good times — MSN! Good times — MSN! Got it? Here we go.
A few people booed. The DJ played a few rounds of the vocal, then cut the volume.
Grandmaster Flash, and about a dozen audience members, shouted “MSN!”
A few scattered boos followed. Flash tried to rally the crowd. He played the call again: Good Times . . . Good Times . . . And the music cut out again — the audience’s turn.
This time they responded. But they didn’t say “MSN.”
What did they say? I asked the couple in front of me.
They said, ‘Bulls–t,’ the couple said, laughing. I asked my friends. They heard the same thing.
After a couple more such calls and responses, Grandmaster Flash went back to the regular show, and right away the crowd threw its hands in the air and danced again as if none of it had ever happened.
I don’t really blame Grandmaster Flash. Or MSN for that matter. It’s all just business.
Whether it’s smart business is another story. And whether the stunt’s layer upon layer of irony were intended or accidental is simply a mystery.Comments Off on Call and Response
By using a sophisticated set of audio fingerprinting and other technology, iEatBrainz and MusicBrainz allow you to re-tag all your MP3s. This is a killer feature for anyone that’s ever ripped one of their CDs with iTunes, but didn’t have a network connection at the time the songs were imported. Try it out, after a few moments MusicBrainz will likely find a match for all your “Track 01, Track 02, etc” tracks in iTunes. [via Ben Hammersley]Comments Off on MusicBrainz for OS X (finally!)
Although they’re not selling any Creative Commons licensed music, it’s worth noting that there’s a new player in the downloadable music arena: Audio Lunchbox. They specialize in small indie rock labels, selling albums for around ten dollars each in instantly available downloadable formats. Additionally, the high bitrate MP3 and ogg vorbis tracks contain no DRM of any kind; just unencumbered music.Comments Off on Audio Lunchbox
This week’s featured content is the wonderfully wacky and off-the-wall stuff at Goopymart. Flash movies and animated comics feature a variety of animal-like creatures. Yuggy is my favorite and a longtime popular fixture of the Goopy universe.Comments Off on Goopymart!
As far as I’m concerned, the very best among the many great things about being part of Creative Commons is getting to meet CC users and supporters face-to-face. Knowing that one and a half million web pages (and growing) carry Creative Commons licenses is always an inspiring thought, but getting together with musicians and writers and activists and business people who use Creative Commons — particularly when I’ve never met them before — is the most satisfying thing I can imagine. At such times, it’s as if our basement office in sleepy Palo Alto suddenly stretched out to hold the whole CC community.
The team had just such an encounter here this week, when we got together with the EFF, EFF Austin, Common Content, and Magnatune to celebrate our common cause at El Sol y La Luna in Austin, Texas, USA. And we’ll get to do it again this Thursday, when Magnatune and Creative Commons co-host a party during SXSW Music. Thanks to all of you who came by, to those of you who’ll make the next shindig, and to all of you out there who have turned Creative Commons the idea into Creative Commons the community.Comments Off on Community
Bricks in the Wall
Theater and drama fans are familiar with the Fourth Wall, the conceptual boundary between
performer and audience. It’s an artistic term, but we’ve now extended the concept in a Creative Commons way. At the South by
Southwest Film Festival this week, I moderated a panel, “Can Copyright Bring Filmmaker and
Audience Together?”, that explored creative ways for filmmakers to (1) maximize distribution
and/or (2) encourage interaction with their works by going Some Rights Reserved. The premise for the talk was the idea that any worthwhile discussion of film today has got to address the copyright bricks in the Wall.
We were lucky to have a fantastic group of panelists. Creative Commons contest winner Justin Cone
described the making of “Building on the Past” and explained how the process of working with public domain
footage opened his eyes to a new range of aesthetic possibilities. (Justin, a newcomer to moving images,
is now pursuing other film projects.) David Jacobs, chief technologist of youth media activists MediaRights.org,
explained the group’s decision to Creative Commons license their Media That Matters Film Festival.
All-around media head Wiley Wiggins put his finger on the single app that we need to make Commons’d film catch
fire: a simple “share” button and license menu in Quicktime and other film editing tools.
Zack Exley, organizing director of Moveon.org, reflected on Moveon’s Bush in 30 Seconds contest
and told of his brushes with copyright trouble in his former life as a political satirist.
Finally, in a headlong dive through the Fourth Wall, actor-writer-director David Ball announced the release of his full-length feature
Honey — plus all its component parts, from script to soundtrack — under Creative Commons
licenses. Ball is opening up the free copying and trading (for noncommercial use) of the final film, but also encouraging
film schools and aspiring editors and directors to re-interpret selected scenes by digging into the
raw footage and re-cutting it to their tastes. On the new Fourth Wall Films website and blog (which I highly
recommend you check out and participate in, esp. if you do film), Ball explains his decision and calls for others to do the same:
Comments Off on Bricks in the Wall
I want to seed a movement, one where filmmakers and the filmgoing community
are more directly linked, where people can make up their own minds, and where a diversity
of voices can be heard-not just the voices a few hundred decision makers decide are
“marketable.” So many times I heard from people that my movie was good, but not
marketable. When I heard that, I realized something was wrong with the market. Here’s to
making our own market. I hope Honey is a start.
From the South by Southwest Music Festival, Creative Commons brings you the new Music Sharing License and Get Content search engine. This copyright license lets your fans know they can download, copy, and share your music online, but not sell, remix, or make any other commercial use out of it. (The license is based on the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license but now includes new music-specific language.)
Musicians already distributing their MP3s online should opt for the Music Sharing License to invite listeners to legally download the songs they love — and to get noticed with our new Get Content search engine, which points people to music free to share.
We announced the Music Sharing License at a panel this week entitled Legal Music Promotion: File-Sharing, Sampling or Both?. We also previewed Mixter (more details soon), an application that will expose connections between different remixes of songs. The panelists described how Creative Commons licenses facilitate music distribution, discovery, and community on the Internet, in reference to their own projects. Panelist Sal Randolph from the Net label Opsound, discussed how an open-source philosophy guides Opsound to make sounds available to be remixed and curated by members of the community. Matthew King Kaufman of MP34U discussed the enourmous amount of free music on the Internet, and how groups like his are working to promote music discovery by curating personal playlists. Jake Shapiro of Public Radio Exchange, discussed how opening up content has allowed an important peer review process to enhance the value of the content. Great thanks to Chris Kelty, Professor of Anthropology at Rice University, who facilitated the whole panel. I wanted to throw out a bunch of questions to the panelists and audience, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time. Here are just a few:
*Why use the Music Sharing License rather than put your MP3 on the Internet with no official notice — why formalize it?
*Are people really afraid of downloading — even if it’s legal — in the face of possible lawsuits? Do we really need a license to clarify this?
*Could a CD that includeds noncommercial remix rights be more valuable than a CD without these rights? For example, if you sold a Madonna CD that included the right to make a noncommercial remix, could you charge more? Would this create more buzz about Madonna? If someone does end up making a great remix that could be commercialized, couldn’t this be a great new revenue stream for Madonna?
Music authoring software applications are easier to use than ever before — will this create demand for more Creative Commons licensed sounds to play with?
If you consider new sound software, legal tools like Creative Commons, and open online communities like Opsound, you’ll see a whole infrastrcuture that allows people to create their own sounds and build off others’. What’s the demand for this infrastructure? Do people really want to create and remix?
Bloggers have proven themselves to be an invaluable source of ideas and information — will self-published music authors and remixers be next? Will consuming music become more interactive — more like a video game, where the fan can participate in the process by making remixes?Comments Off on Music Sharing, SXSW
Machinista, an arts festival focusing on machine-related art, will use Creative Commons licenses for the DVD containing the winning entries. The winners will be chosen out of the 280 submissions, which are themed as “the world as seen by the machines.” Since the content will be CC-licensed, we’re also hoping to have it hosted at the Internet Archive so the world can download it for free — by using your own machine, of course.Comments Off on Machinista Festival
If you’re at South by Southwest in Austin, come by our panels at 10am (music and copyright) and 11:30am (film and copyright) Monday morning. Special guests include two Austinites: tech-media renaissance man Wiley Wiggins and GET CREATIVE! contest winner Justin Cone, whose 2-minute short “Building on the Past” perfectly exemplifies the CC mission. (How many films do you know of that involved zero in royalty costs?)Comments Off on Local Heroes