Category Archives: ccMixter

dig.ccMixter goes Live

People have been complaining bitterly for years that music is hard to find on ccMixter. I was getting it from all sides, but the typical comment was something like “I need instrumental music for my YouTube video… why is that so hard to find?” It was embarrassing. Nobody wanted hear some long winded explanation how we couldn’t target a content seeking scenario with any gusto on a content creation site.

Yesterday the new music discovery portal for exactly these cases was launched: dig.ccMixter.

There you can’t do anything except search for music, listen to it, download it and get plenty of help on how to attribute it. We have some pre-canned queries for instrumental music for videos, podsafe vocals music, electro instrumentals for game developers and just for kicks some others like chill cubicle music. And of course, we make it brain-dead easy to find the other thing people are looking for: commercial free – royalty free music.

I’ve had the idea and desire to do something like dig.ccMixter for a long time (about as long as people have been complaining) but I knew I couldn’t pull off the user interface/web design that the site would require. Enter ArtIsTech Media who said “Let’s do it!” and we lucked out by nabbing nvzion who many of you know from the beautiful work over at BlocSonic.

As it is, thanks to trackbacks we know that 1 out of 10 uploads are already being used in videos, podcasts, compilation albums, etc. When we went out looking for other, non-documented (but attributed) uses, our calculations told us the number was closer to 1 in 6 uploads.

I’m really hoping the number of trackbacks quadruples thanks to dig.ccMixter because the musicians certainly deserve it, and I hope dig.ccMixter lives up to it.

Who Controls Music?

teru from a comment on Lucas Gonze blog:

“I do however find it slightly hypocritical that on one hand old model record labels are condemned for taking away musicians rights but on the other forgoing their rights completely for the good of the Commons is admirable. To me, it seems to sends out a conflicting and confusing message. Especially when trying to explain to those who are not yet familiar with CC.”

This is exactly the type of perspective us “experts” could stand to hear a lot more often.

Perhaps it would help to spell out the range of goals that liberal licensing, the free culture movements and Creative Commons specifically are trying to address:

1. The creative process itself is hindered when artificial rules and manufactured scarcity are in the way. Because art builds on the past, it suffers under these conditions. The art is better and culture flourishes when there is free access.

2. Restricting access to artistic and cultural material and tools spills into even more fundamental issues of free speech. Freedom of expression is hindered when you are forced to restrict yourself to state (or corporate) sanctioned methods. Many of us in the free culture movement can’t tell the difference between a society in which the state owns 100% of expression and four corporations own 95%.

3. Most artists are interested in getting the product of their work out there in the most efficient way possible. Those exact same artists are also pretty keen on keeping control of their work, even once it’s out there. Finding this balance seems daunting and contradictory, but some kind of combination of these forces is what artists are saying they want.

Note how #3 sticks out from the first two. When it’s laid out like this you have to wonder how in the hell we ever tied these issues together.

Boyle and Lessig have spent a lot of energy recently making the case for how the no-controls-gift economy and the whole capitalist thing feed each other and the organization they founded, Creative Commons, is bent on providing a philosophical backbone (not to mention real tools) to tie it all up.

I don’t want to over-emphasize the tension between these issues because there really is a huge overlap between them once you dive in. For example, you could make a similar list out of enviromental issues:

1. Scientists are convinced the world is dying. 25 years left, max.
2. Oil is the root of all evil, causes war, etc.
3. People love cars, will never give them up and want really, really cheap fuel. In fact, free would be great.

I suspect that if I was running site called ccHybrixter where people came together over ways of spending less on fuel and using their car battery to power monster speakers in the back seat, many regulars would get upset if I blurted out the idea that they should consider leaving the car in garage on Saturdays and walking 10 miles for the sake of balance.

Creative Commons is a hybrid solution. ccMixter’s simplistic facade on the issues notwithstanding, it’s a complicated, conflicting and contradictory affair that requires a multi-faceted approach. Guilty. If the issue was only about who has control over music then things would get simpler, because artists controlling their work would be the prime directive. Dios mio it would be a whole lot easier to recruit musicians to CC if everything revolved around control.

The solutions for all three issues, however, don’t always overlap neatly and cleanly. The case for CC0 is a clear case where it does not overlap at all. In that light: giving up control to an entity, like a record company, that is fighting you on all three issues is an act worthy of condemnation. On the other hand, giving up that control in a way that benefits the first two issues, even if it runs counter to the third, is worthy of praise.

The stakes are high. Charge the confusion to my expense account.

ccMixter: A Memoir

I wish I was better writer because the story of ccMixter is very cool. If you can overlook the atomic level hair-splitting, churlish, defensive, chatty exaltations then I hope you’ll enjoy a document that tries to capture the history and lessons from the first four years of ccMixter. I’m releasing 33 pages in a PDF document called: “ccMixter: A Memoir OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the RIAA and Love the Unexpected Collaborations of Distributed Creativity During the First Four Years of Running ccMixter”

DOWNLOAD PAGE for “ccMixter: A Memoir”

I don’t have a research assistant or literary editor and it shows. Still I had several volunteer reviewers and I can’t thank them enough because this document was a real mess before they helped clean it up.

Leave your comments and typo finds on this thread.

Thanks everyone for a killer four years. What happens next is what happens next….


Jason Scott (2): You’re Dead

On the flight back to Sydney from having spent a great evening with CC Australia folks, it occurred to me that Jason Scott did me a grand favor with his churlish hostility yesterday:

…how’s it feel to be dead?…Respect for the dead…Where do I send the flowers? I miss you already.

and continues on his own blog “dead dead dead.”

In the post he was commenting on I explained how my family came to a financial crossroad: either hang on to all our “stuff,” or travel the world indefinitely. By choosing the latter, to Jason, I have shuffled off the mortal coil. I am “dead.” (Of course, I didn’t realize this at the time – had I known the choice to experience life to its fullest, amongst the world, would kill me, I probably would have chosen to hang on to my records and books a little longer. I mean, I liked Stockholm a lot but I wouldn’t have died for it.)

Still, the last four years at ccMixter has taught me something pretty spectacular about the act of gifting. Personally, I was in it because I thought musicians could benefit from an alternative to the music industry, because I having was fun, because it dove-tailed a lot my disparate careers and interests and many other reasons. What I was not prepared for was the connection between gifting, the act of giving music into the Commons, and the creative process itself. And the same awakening happens all the time with musicians participating in the project. Last week colab commented on the fact that, since moving to ccMixter from the Peter Gabriel remix site, several producers he thought he knew well, were producing completely unexpected pieces of music. The exact same musicians, simply by changing from an All Rights Reserved environment to ccM were now making more innovative, creative works.

I’m working on a long winded explanation of how I think this continues to happen on ccM but Lewis Hyde, a scholar who inspired Lessig and many others at CC and who’s work is foundational to Creative Commons, put it this way in the “The Gift” from 1979:

…the primary commerce of art is a gift exchange, that unless the work is the realization of the artist’s gift and unless we, the audience, can feel the gift it carries, there is no art.

When my family and I ran the finances it was obvious to me that we’ve been given such a gift through this opportunity, that after we cleared the amount we needed to travel, we would gift the rest back and we ended up giving away a lot of stuff — in the artistic spirit taught me by ccMixter. Through a crazy, lucky (stupidly so) set of circumstances, my life had philosophically merged with my art and career.

Too bad I’m dead and can’t enjoy it.

That Jason chooses to misinterpret my post and lump me in with others, who I don’t know or have contact with, is his own way of doing things. Hell, I don’t even know this Jason guy. I have no idea who he is. In my few contacts with him I have been nothing but civil and humble and very enthusiastically carried water for him and his documentary and endeavors. In response he’s been nothing but uncivil, unpleasant and insulting. Personally insulting — did I run over this guy’s cat or something?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since that kind a narrow, pugilistic conversation style has re-emerged in the last 10 years. (Many of us are old enough to remember millions of “America, Love It or Leave It” bumper stickers as something other than a compassionate outreach to the counter-culture.) We live in a time where a satire of this bully-style insulting in the form of Stephen Colbert gets higher ratings than the explicit pleading for civil discourse by his lead-in, Jon Stewart.

One of the things I’m most proud of at ccM is that for about 50,000 forum posting, reviews and interactions between musicians, the discourse has been genuinely cool. I don’t think I’ve had to nuke 10 postings in four years due to ad hominem attacks. People get the gifting relationship they have between each other and insulting somebody as you present them with a gift is not socially accepted.

Jason’s original post was framed as a general argument against “cloud computing” which he later narrowed to people who thought the cloud would be there forever. The tone of the piece then narrows that down even further to people who are willing to be in an abusive relationship with him while he calls them names. In my line of work I can’t afford to narrow the field that much even if I had a Tourette’s tick that disallowed me to have a decent exchange of ideas with someone.

All this hatred, all this venom, all this hostile machismo because I dared to present a different point of view.

Jason: As far as I’m concerned, I’m willing to have a discussion about the merits of the cloud, about my feelings on the Franklin Street Statement, I’ll even take a shot at the existential meaning of being and having, as I understand it.

But talk to me without couching it insults because, since you really have no idea who I am, the insults can’t possibly apply to me and are only a reflection on you.

ccMixter Going Viral

I noticed the other day that Trifonic had gone to using a cool viral embedding from MixMatch for their latest stems.

I thought I could do the low-rent version and 4 hours later I had it checked in to ccMixter. (For people in feed readers you may have to just, you know, come to the site).

Now the MixMatch version has some cool Flash(tm)y features that I didn’t even try to match, but still… there it is. I even documented the whole process of making this feature.

MixMatch, the site, is a fully monetized version of ccMixter. They hope to make money for all their remix artists and stem providers by charging everybody (including remixers) on a per download basis. Now, I’m radically simplifying their revenue model – it’s actually pretty complicated — but the fact is they charge money for sharing — including your own remix. Like I said, it’s really complicated – I just thought the viral “remix me” thingy was kind of cool and wanted to see if I could take our publicize feature and use it for this kind of thing.

All of a sudden: Attribution

Tracking an attribution tree, including across sites, has been something we’ve been playing around with for a few years now on ccMixter.

The biggest problem with attribution is that it takes work, even when you want to “do the right thing,” knowing what to say and where crosses a line that most people don’t want to: it involves thought.

Molly Kleinman is now becoming famous for spelling out in human terms what this means to bloggers and other content consumers. No doubt she is providing an invaluable service (seriously). Just this morning the PlayTheWeb group is hashing out the implications of nested attribution with Lucas chiming in explaining how the XSPF playlist format handles derivation.

Maybe because my background in software is in development tools and call me Abraham Maslow but this problems looks very much like a nail to me.

Attribution, on both ends, has to be brain dead simple. We’ve simplified it as much as we could at ccM (given my limited imagination for such things) with a search function during the content submission process. (In fact, the ‘Submit’ button is inactive until the artist posting the remix has attributed somebody ;))

We’ve been using a simple api called the Sample Pool to communicate with other sites (freesound, magnatune, etc.) so that when a remixer is using a sample from one of those sites they select that name from known Pools that are searchable instead of ccMixter. The search results are offered as checkboxes. Again, that’s as simple as I could think of. When I say the api is “simple” I mean we invented no markup. We have a URL calling convention and all return values are RSS 2 feeds.

In order to be a Sample Pool, you need the following:

1. an RSS feed with a *.license element per entry
2. a way to search the feeds

It turns out that WordPress can be tweaked to do (1) with a few lines of code and already does (2). Just this morning I’ve confirmed we’ve successfully managed to convert a WordPress music blog called Audio Cookbook into a Sample Pool with 3 lines of mod_rewrite. (I’ll be publishing exactly how we did it on the CC Wiki in the next few days.)

To be a Sample Pool “client” you need to be able:

1. Construct an url
2. Ping a website
3. Parse an RSS feed

There is an implementation buried in the ccHost code but I’ll be the first to admit, I’m probably the only (non-masochistic) human who could easily extract it. Now that the WP-Sample Pool bridge has been crossed outbound, I’m definitely inspired to do this and then wrap it as an WP plugin so that when you are doing a post of content, you can search for the content you derived from and the proper attribution will be automatically embedded into your post.

My overall walkaway point is that attribution, in the real world, won’t happen until it is at least this easy for content creators and consumers alike.

BTW, the api does not track attribution further than one generation. We handle this on ccMixter by having users follow links. I have found, after nearly four years at ccMixter that there are only two classes of people that care about attribution further than one generation: commercial entities looking to clear samples and geeks. The second category includes the people I work for and other curious types. The artists don’t care about the larger attribution tree and the amount of UI flooding a typical song page is already crowded enough, thank you very much.

The first class, people who make a living clearing samples or looking to distribute royalties should have an easy way to expand the attribution tree and that might be necessary on my next job, but for this one, a non-profit remix hosting site, it just wasn’t called for. To accomplish this I would claim that no more spec’ing need to be done, just use the Dublin Core “source” element and follow each of those down.

I’ll be pontificating more about remix attribution tracking across the WWW at CC Nordic and FCONS, both in Sweden in late October.

“Cool Music” ccMixter Radio

I just want to say a huge thanks to MC Jack in the Box for taking the initiative to put together a weekly playlist of the best of ccMixter. We’ve now made the “Cool Music” series of feature of the site.

I did this not simply because he puts together the list – but because the “shows” themselves are so over-to-top great. That it spreads good word about the site is fine, but the music he picks and the flow of the thing is just freaking superb. I really do just love it. The API

I’ve just been sitting here the last 3 days tightening up the ccHost Query API 2.0, getting it ready for wide public release. As of this writing about 85% of ccMixter is driven by the API and I figure if we’re going to integrate into social sites to spread the good word I need to make it “real” – that is, robust, by actually checking parameters and returning meaningful error messages and other boring and friendly geeky things.

What a coincidence, here comes the API.

There’s no point in comparing the two, the ccH QAPI is a really basic affair with simply a view on looking at the data. To be honest, it’s mainly about making my life easier by having a uniform programming model to add features into ccMixter.

The API is really about Big Game.

A quick jargon lesson: When a programmer writes the code that makes up a software application it is not done in a vacuum. They are instructing some piece(s) of hardware to act a certain way. The problem is, there are thousands of different pieces of hardware and their instruction sets are all randomly different. So along comes a guy or company or a group of gun-toting Libertarians open-source movement, somebody to relieve that pain who says “I’ll make it so you don’t have to worry about the hardware. I’ll do this by writing a piece of software that goes between your application and the hardware. You just (re)write your application to a new instruction set that I give you and I’ll take care of the rest.” So you forget about the hardware’s instruction set and invest time, energy and money in learning this other guy’s instructions that he calls an “operating system.” Things are going OK except that all your friends are driving faster cars and even faster women and seem flush with the green. You figure out they’re having the bling life because all their applications are on this whole other operating system. Now along comes another set of bozos that say “Forget about all those operating systems. We’ll make it so you don’t you don’t have to worry about that stuff. You just (re)write your application to a new instruction we give you and we’ll take make sure it runs on all those operating systems.” So now you embark on re-investing your time, energy and money in learning this whole other thing and now you’re good to go with what these guys call an “application stack” – yes, as in stack of trays like in a cafeteria. You only worry about your “food” (aka script) on the top tray and the forget about the rest of the trays.

No matter whether the instruction set you use is meant to obscure hardware differences or operating differences or networking protocol differences the concept is called a “platform.”

Targeting a specific platform can be tricky because when you commit to one of these you become dependent on it until it is more cost efficient to rewrite the thing yet again. So at some point you are make the critical decision to pick which platform you are going to take to the dance. If enough application developers pick the same platform then the folks that provided that platform are the Big Winners.

The Web changed the game a bunch but there’ll always be a group of folks who want to be the Grand Gate Keepers and Key Masters. They stock their cubicles with developers who love to invent APIs and platforms because it’s just plain fun. When facebook invented their own platform and the site exploded because of all the cool platform widgets that developers wrote (typical facebook widget guy can pull down $2k per widget which is about a two day job) and birds were singing again. Except at Google which is so big they share mini-APIs out of strategic good will more than anything else. They don’t need to share their actual platform so much, just the applications.

I’ve forgotten where I’m going with this other than to say I hope it’s somebody else who goes and builds the widget and it isn’t left to me.

CC is Good, ccMixter to Rescue and Who Knew?

Some days you eat the bear…

Kristin says: “CC is good because…” someone used her song to a cool video. Once you get that first taste of auto-collab….

ficbot at “The Best Media in Life is Free” says: “ccMixter to the rescue…” because he gets to use open music in a slide presentation. …you keep coming back for more.

LA Times says: “Intellectual property law is supposed to balance public and private interests — a feature that Congress often forgets when responding to copyright holders.” Who knew anyone left in Hollywood actually feels this way?