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Archive for November, 2004

Record Labels As Musician Services

Monday, November 29th, 2004

A friend of ours did some promotion work at CMJ recently for a new record label called UFO. UFO’s model is very musician-centric; it moves much more to the side of being a service for musicians rather than having musicians as ’employees’. This flips the pyramid that usually puts the artists at the bottom, working as “employees” of the label. Here’s what our friend reports:

So, I took a job I saw in a bulletin on Myspace. I had to hand out
fliers at CMJ (the big annual music industry conference in NYC) for a
new record label called UFO. I felt a bit weird since the fliers
weren’t ‘my project’, but it was easy money, so I grabbed a friend
and did it.

The idea was to hit up artists and record industry types entering and
exiting the various panel discussions and booths with fliers and tell
them a brief synopsis of what UFO is about so people start buzzing
about it and visit their website. (www.ufomusic.com) The idea with
UFO is; artist friendly label backed by industry expertise. They
split all profits on album sales 50/50 with the artist, the artist
owns the masters (like prince!), 3 year contract (with option to
break) and complete creative control. UFO lets you log in to the
website and view sales reports, inventory and expenses. The band does
provide a finished master, but this isn’t completely absurd in this
day in age when everyone seems to know someone who works at a
recording studio. So you get a real record label pushing you, putting
you in stores and marketing you, without signing your life away and
making dirt off the record sales. It’s a good idea that could work
out really well for certain bands.

CMJ was pretty interesting. Everyone that’s in attendance is involved
in the music industry to some capacity (the badges are $600, I snuck
in) and since they’re there on business, they’re willing to listen to
you. It is weird knowing there’s a bunch of people (music industry
people that make a living off other peoples music or reactionary
artists) attending lectures about what new twist is going to come next
in indie rock or hip hop so they know where to bet their chips. But,
the existence of panels on indie labels, file sharing and satellite
radio made CMJ not all bad. Unfortunately I couldn’t sneak into the
actual panels.

How’s Blog Torrent?

Thursday, November 25th, 2004

So… have you tried Blog Torrent? What do you think? Leave comments in this thread as we think about features and changes for the next version. And be sure to take a look at the priorities we list on BlogTorrent.com.

Blog Torrent Preview

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Today Downhill Battle is making its first serious contribution of free, open-source software to the public domain. It’s nice to be on the giving side of free software after being on the receiving side for so long.

Without further ado, here is the first, unpolished, public preview of Blog Torrent:

Blog Torrent

Big props to our lead programmer Nick Nassar and the folks that have pitched in on the dev list. We first announced our plans for Blog Torrent about 4 months ago, when it was called Battle Torrent (which was a better but less explanatory name). We are very excited to have finished a working version and it’s going to get even better before it hits the official version 1.0 release (and we still need programming help– especially for OS X).

Blog Torrent is a key first step of our plan to make software that builds participatory culture. Video (specifically television) is a huge part of culture. But it’s still an extremely top-down medium– even as the tools to high quality video and animation have become extremely cheap, very few people watch any significant amount of video other than what’s on networks and cable. We think homemade video can compete directly against professional television, especially as reality shows have brought down viewers expectations about the production values needed to make engaging TV.

For all the hype about “peer-to-peer”, most peer-to-peer content is the same mainstream commercial content. And a big part of why that’s true is because filesharing tools are much better at helping you search for something you already know about than they are at presenting things that you don’t know about. For that problem, blogs are the perfect solution, but video (and even audio) is simply too big for most websites. BitTorrent is web-based p2p and can solve the presentation challenge, but has it’s own weakness: it’s difficult to setup a website to ‘track’ files and it’s tedious to create a .torrent file and post it to your website. Blog Torrent solves that problem by making installation simpler and by making the process of creating and posting a torrent effortless. We hope this will encourage people to create and share more original video. The next step is to make watching video on a computer more like watching video on a TV. We’re working on that… stay tuned. For now, check out Blog Torrent.

Music activism on 500 radio stations

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004

Today we’re kicking off an ambitious project that we’ve been wanting to do for some time now: we’re sending out CDs full of music activism messages to 500 radio stations in the U.S, and they’re going to play them. The catch is, we need money (about $3/CD) to make it happen.

Make it happen

Here’s how it works (this will help for all you non-US folks). In the U.S., there’s a large number of non-commercial radio stations affiliated with universities, and they’re required to play public service announcements (PSAs) in the place of advertising. DJs often have quite a bit of discretion as to what they play; they’ll like these ads, and they’ll play them.

College radio stations are hubs for independent music culture in America–and their listeners are exactly the people we need to reach. Not everybody who cares about independent music reads slashdot and boing boing–we’ve got to reach all those indy/underground music heads who aren’t reading webpages 24/7. This mailing is far and away the most cost effective way to do it, but we need your help to get the money together.

We need this to happen.

Donate now

A Night At The Hip-Hopera

Monday, November 22nd, 2004

Not too long ago, some peoples called The Kleptones made a great album called A Night At The Hip-Hopera. It weaves music from Queen, other classic rock, pop, and hip-hop. The Queen stuff brings this really up and up feel to some harshly-laid down raps and some epic guitar riffs (see the full sample list) – truly a funny feeling is to be had from listening to these songs. And the tale of this album begins with an innovative new sound and ends with some “broken” copyright laws and less access to the album.

Back in September, Waxy.org mirrored the album and had a list of other mirrors. For some history, Waxy was also the first website to host the now contextualized Grey Album, which eventually led us to Grey Tuesday. Sadly, but predictably, as he did for the Grey Album, Andy Baio at Waxy received a cease and desist letter on Nov 17th from Disney who controls the Queen copyright. He’s been ordered to remove the direct download links on Waxy by November 23rd, which is tomorrow (these are just links– by the time the C+D came in, he wasn’t even mirroring).

The Kleptones say they don’t have the money to host their album due to bandwidth costs, but are very grateful to the people who are mirroring the album and acting as important political dissenters. With Waxy.org getting shut down on this, we need to make sure people can get the album through a chain of links and mirrors– it’s easy for us to keep this from getting censored. We are joining the mirrors while bandwidth allows (which might not be very long): Download Night at the Hip-Hopera. Better yet, try this Night at the Hip-Hopera blog torrent link and help us keep bandwidth down (did i just say ‘blog torrent’? stay tuned…). If we and other mirrors get a cease and desist, hopefully more sites will step up to host and we can link to the next site that has the mirror, and so on and so on. Waxy also has this list of active mirrors here, but it may soon need to be updated.

Disney’s c+d letter is another classic example of how an outdated copyright system and music industry uses censorship of creative works to keep control. Even free, non-commercial sample-based music is being shut down. Big thanks to Andy for being on top of this.

Can you and will you be the next mirror? Any site that has the album mirrored, please post a comment to this post about your whereabouts and help us make a chain of channels for A Night At The Hip-Hopera. And please check out the final, somber track, question.

Also, if you missed it, here is the crazy interesting video for the Grey Album: Grey Video (hosted by waxy, of course). And also definitely take a moment to check out our interview with DJ Z-Trip— get the real deal on these issues straight from the world’s leading mash-up DJ.

Librarians and Internet: Intriguing Filesharing Defenders

Thursday, November 18th, 2004

People have been sending in great tips about all the different ways MPAA and BSA are growing their curricula in schools and other groups that are doing amazing things to turn this issue on its head and into a debate. Okay, here is something that possibly smells of effectiveness:

1. MPAA hired the pro-business bridge to schools, Junior Achievement to teach MPAA’s filesharing curriculum in underfunded schools. They also hosted a letter writing contest that got kids to convince other kids about what was bad. MPAA gave away DVD players, trips out to LA and the like.

2. This year the contest is still around, but there will be no prizes. Darrell Luzzo, the vice president of education for JA Worldwide said,
“In retrospect, if we were to do this again, we would want to talk more about fair use than we did this time around.”
Luzzo said discussions with educators at the National Education Association helped them realize that the program should have taken a broader perspective on copyright instead of focusing on one side of the issue,
in Wired News’ article.

3. The NEA also objected to the lavish prizes and freebies offered by the MPAA. They say, “We want to teach children to be thinking human beings,” said Melinda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the NEA. “Not a parrot for some corporate agenda.”

4. The said JA curriculum called “What’s the Diff?” can not be found on JA’s site. There is no mention of the curriculum anywhere on their site. I was last able to download the curriculum at least a month ago. You can find bits of the curriculum at Kids Smell Bullshit.


From the same article, the American Library Association has beat everyone in the United States to the punch in the most efficient and offensive way possible; they are introducing a fair and balanced filesharing curriculum into schools and are distributing their materials through school librarians this winter or spring.Their curriculum must be interesting and we wanna help. If anyone knows of a better way than email to get to somebody in their offices, please let us know. In any case, librarians are so awesome, they spearheaded a strong opposition to parts of the Patriot Act, getting rid of user backlogs so that officials just couldn’t get to them and successfully standing up to barriers to distribution of knowledge and now this – they are so smart and so humble. Too bad it’s a fight of teachers vs. librarians here, though I would suggest that they both win in this case.

The librarians have the right idea of coming up with a solid curriculum and distributing it to kids, can we make an internet-based one at copyright curriculum?

On the down side it seems that the Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper has come up with their own pro-business filesharing curriculum based on the MPAA model and are distributing it in England’s schools, where they “set up a class debate between ‘downloaders’ and ‘industry representatives'”. No room for Lawrence Lessigs or miscellaneous copyright law visionaries there, then’ and get kids to design posters for the MPAA. The Register has complete details and found parts of the subscriptioned curriculum here and this one on the Guardian’s claim that DVD’s have something to do with terrorism here. The Register debunks this theoretical correlation, illuminating that the Interpol report that makes this link solely refers to a study that says dvd-burning/selling is low risk and high in profit compared to selling cocaine or those other old crimes. Thus, Interpol concluded that it was possible to state that IP crime may become a major source of terrorists’ funding. Interpol had no clear reason to make such a strongly-stated and strong, dubious link, except possibly, and I am only saying possibly to appease some industry demand.

There is so much work being done on copyright education at the university level, when are we gonna get it to the elementary level where kids are also receptive and really care about the internet?

Grey Album Video

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

The Grey Video is an awesome music video for DJ Dangermouse’s remix of Jay-Z’s Encore. Watch it here: greyvideo.mov, grey.torrent.

The original site went down, but internet all-star Andy Baio is now mirroring the video.

Votes on articles of incorporation

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

This is a record of emails from members on the articles of incorporation:

Subject: [Plans] Vote
From: aross@nindy.com
Date: November 15, 2004 6:29:29 PM EST
To: plans@downhillbattle.org

I vote in favor of approving most recent version of the articles of incorporation.

Andy Ross

Subject: Re: [Plans] my vote
From: nassar@downhillbattle.org
Date: November 15, 2004 10:22:04 PM EST
To: plans@downhillbattle.org

I also vote in favor of approving the most recent version of the
articles of incorporation.

Subject: Re: [Plans] Fwd: Articles of Inclusion
From: tyc@downhillbattle.org
Date: November 15, 2004 5:20:09 PM EST
To: hw@downhillbattle.org
Cc: plans@downhillbattle.org

I vote to approve the articles of incorporation.

Tiffiniy Cheng
Downhill Battle

Subject: Re: [Plans] my vote
From: hwilson@gmail.com
Date: November 14, 2004 11:27:41 PM EST
To: npr@downhillbattle.org
Cc: plans@downhillbattle.org
Reply-To: hw@downhillbattle.org

I also vote in favor of approving the most recent version of the
articles of incorporation.

Subject: [Plans] my vote
From: npr@downhillbattle.org
Date: November 14, 2004 9:50:50 PM EST
To: plans@downhillbattle.org

I vote in favor of approving most recent version of the articles of incorporation.

Beginning Meeting Minutes Blog

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

This is the section where minutes from Downhill Battle board meetings will be posted.

Announcing: Kids Smell Bullshit

Monday, November 15th, 2004

Today we’re announcing two new websites in response to the attempts by lobbying groups for Hollywood and the software industry to force misleading and propagandistic curriculums about filesharing and online rights into public schools.

The first page is called Kids Smell Bullshit (kidssmellbullshit.com) and, as you may have guessed, this one’s for the kids. Complete with a letter / photo contest (win an ipod mini!), a wiki to transform the bogus curricula, and a ton of crazy crap that kids love.

The second is a slightly more serious page called the Collaborative Copyright and Technology Law Curriculum (copyrightcurriculum.com). This one’s for the grownups in the house who want to do some serious ass-whooping. It’s a wiki (a collaborative editing/writing tool) for building a balanced, accurate copyright curriculum for teachers that want to address these issues in their classroom. Help us make a real alternative to the self-interested materials foisted on teachers and students.

For some background on these projects, the MPAA has hired Junior Achievement to go into schools and teach an anti-filesharing, “safety on the internet” class, intimidatingly-dubbed, “What’s the Diff?”. The Business Software Alliance, meanwhile, is paying the Weekly Reader to include their anti-piracy curriculum in the publication which goes out to millions of students. Putting aside the extremely problematic nature of a education system that lets companies buy their way into the classroom, both of these curriculums are narrow, misleading, and intended simply to scare students away from using filesharing software (and the internet). They do not discuss the purpose of copyright law, the role of fair use rights, or the many different ways that filesharing technology can and is being used. On the plus side, both are lame enough that they probably aren’t making much of a dent into these impressionable young minds– nevertheless, substantial alternatives are in order.