Hey ASCAP: Your Shit Stinks Too

OPEN LETTER TO ASCAP:
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You know, I love music. I just saw Neil Young perform tonight and I realized just how much music stirs me up. Some folks have video games, some live for fishing, some dig cars and while I don’t begrudge anybody their passions, for me, it’s music. And it’s why for the last five years, I’ve devoted my time to trying to make musicians’ lives a little easier, a little more productive and even, a little more profitable.

It’s all the more reason why it stings to read that you see those of us in the free culture movement as something to demon-ize. Something that needs to be addressed in order to “counter the growing prevalence of the ‘copy left/free culture’ pontificators in the public discourse about creators rights.” [via].

Now, Creative Commons is not a perfect organization (trust me) and Professor Lessig is hardly an infallible god, but these folks, and I as a supporter and contract worker for them, think they are doing musicians a valid service — providing an alternative, not a replacement, for other avenues. You’ve expressed concerns and I think Lessig has addressed them rather reasonably. The fact of the matter is that CC and Lessig are as an agreeable bunch as you’re going to get in this world that advocates reforms. (His positions are certainly more “reasonable” that I, personally, would be.)

I can’t figure out what’s in it for you to characterize the free culture movement, as expressed by Lessig, as so dangerous.

I don’t want to construct any straw men here, but maybe it’s that by licensing a piece of music under CC, a musician might be passing up collection opportunities?

Well, when I do a search of the word ‘music’ on Google and filter by “free to use or share” I get 41.8 million results – and that’s just for NonCommercial licenses. (Yes, that’s ccMixter, the music site I admin for CC, at the top of the results.) Yet, in five years I’ve never heard of a single musician complain that licensing a piece of music under CC has cost them money. Now, it’s possible that I live in some kind of sycophantic bubble where bad news never reaches me, in which case, I ask you to educate me. Of the tens of millions of CC licensed music out there, do you have documented cases where musicians were hurt in any way?

I recently heard John Buckman say that the people at collection agencies are “good people stuck in a bad system.” I’d love to have you prove him right on the first part and wrong on the second part. But I keep reading about cafes and clubs closing because they can’t afford or don’t see why they have to pay your very high rates for songs they may or may not have performed. As clubs and other venues are no longer available to new artists, how does that help any musicians earn a living? It seems heavy handed and counter productive to me. Most musicians I know would love to make money, but when circumstances don’t live up to that goal, getting their music out there is a valid next best case scenario.

Our goals are the same, it doesn’t make sense to me why we can’t work together to them happen. Are you sure the best way to go is to continue pissing on this community? You know, we’re not just Princeton law professors and “pontificators” [sic] – we’re musicians too. That “growing prevalence” you’re seeing gaining in your rear view mirror is not just a bunch of blowhards – it’s that plus tens of millions of musicians.

We’re not perfect. Are you? We think we have a few things to teach you and we think, together we could do a lot of good for musicians on the Internet and beyond. You can deal with us now, or take a chance on being overrun by musicians who see something that you don’t seem willing to even discuss.

It’s not too late and February 3rd sounds like a great time to have some mutual education.

Otherwise, keep holding your nose when you take a crap over musicians who would otherwise embrace your service, keep using Yakuza-style intimidation on restaurant, bar and cafe owners and forbidding them to play any music at all, keep charging too much for any Internet music service to consider paying you anything at all — basically don’t change a thing in your attitude and tactics and you’ll be making our case all that easier that maybe, there was a time when you represented the needs of musicians, but that day has passed.

Peace,
VS

One thought on “Hey ASCAP: Your Shit Stinks Too

  1. John

    Vic,

    There needs to be a link on Larry’s response to Ascap on the ccM site, under a banner that says “READ THIS”.

    Also, maybe…it’s time for an educational spot at ccM.

    I am attending a panel on “opportunities for song placement in movies teewee etc etc” in Chicago this week. I have tried to contact the organizers, who supposedly represent the “chicago musicians community” (something I guess I am not a part of…) about having a chance to talk up my involvement with ccM..as a way of opening doors, especially for people with 1) no contacts/experience and 2) who don’t live in NYC/LA/London etc.

    No response..but I will be attending..if your ears are burning next week, you’ll know why.

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