Here’s a totally unrelated side-project that I whipped up over the weekend.
Get it here: PutinStopSnitching.com
The Problem with Music - A rock producer explains how bands get screwed.
The Reasons - Why it's so crucial to break the major label monopoly.
Free Culture - How the copyright regime threatens culture.
Five major record labels have a monopoly that's bad for musicians and music culture, but now we have an opportunity to change that. We can use tools like filesharing to strengthen independent labels and end the major label monopoly.
How do musicians get paid for downloads? Simple: collective licensing lets people download unlimited music for a flat monthly fee ($5-$10) and the money goes to musicians and labels according to popularity. This solution preserves the cultural benefits of p2p, gets musicians way more money, and levels the playing field.Our plan is to explain how the majors really work, develop software to make filesharing stronger, rally public support for a legal p2p compensation system, and connect independent music scenes with the free culture movement.
We have an amazing chance right now to take back music from the big corporate record labels and build a fairer music business. There's a huge amount of work to do, so we need everyone's help. If you want to be involved in what we do, the best thing to do first is check out the Get Involved Page.
Phone is the preferred contact for press. For everything else, email is preferred.
Downhill Battle is a non-profit organization working to break the major label monopoly of the record industry and put control back in the hands of musicians and fans. Downhill Battle launched in August 2003 to create a public voice that could counter the distortions of the RIAA and the major record labels.
Downhill Battle is a collaborative project and we work with musicians, music fans, artists, and designers around the world. There is a core group of people working full-time, based in Worcester, MA. We see an unprecedented opportunity to create a decentralized music business and a level playing field for independent musicians and labels. We're doing everything we can to make that happen.
There is a window of opportunity to make dramatic changes that put musicians and fans at the top of the music industry, but this chance may not last long. Downhill Battle has been leading the fight for reform, and it's become a full-time effort for several of us. We are completely dependent on support from individuals to stay alive-- so if you like what we do, help us keep doing it.
Help build our street presence. Download flyers and hit streets and concerts in your area.
The major labels and the RIAA knew they'd be revealed on the internet. They didn't know we'd take the fight into record stores. See the photos and get stickers.
When the copyright cartel attacked the Grey Album (a critically acclaimed unauthorized remix), we organized "Grey Tuesday." For 24 hours, over 170 sites made the album available in protest, defying legal threats. Also see our more recent, 3 Notes and Runnin' project.
Grey Tuesday demonstrated a huge need for a permanent resource that could make the music effectively banned by copyright law available to everyone. So we built bannedmusic.org using our own customized p2p delivery system.
An international student movement for free culture (free speech, free software, a democratic internet) could be the most important student movement of the decade. Downhill Battle, working with pioneers like SCDC, is getting it rolling.
Downhill Battle's second project, the Peer-to-Peer Legal Defense Fund, raised money for families that were sued by the major record labels for filesharing. The Fund itself is peer-to-peer: contributions go directly from donor to recipient.
It's important to get our message out in lots of different ways. For two weeks before Christmas 2003, whatacrappypresent.com was getting 20,000-40,000 unique visitors per day.
Downhill Battle's first project, this critique and parody of Apple's iTunes Music Store looks at the questions that really matter: how does the service affect music lovers, musicians, and the structure of the music industry?
A response to and protest of the Sixth Circuit sampling ruling.
iPods hold so much music that very few people can fill them at 99 cents / song -- but there is an alternative.
A group of website opposed to the RIAA lawsuits campaign.
Interviews with leading independent musicians and labels.
Our software development group makes free, open-source software for online organizing and strategic filesharing. We're just getting started but we have a talented lead developer and focused projects that will have an impact. Programmers wanted.
Why is it so important to break the major label monopoly? These are the reasons.
The drop in major label record sales isn't the cause of homogenization in mainstream music, it's the solution.
For decades, the major labels manipulated musicians and fans. Now millions of people refuse to support a corrupt industry.
An attempt to smear p2p.
Announcing the protest.
Fighting music censorship.
A fast start for DHB.
Rock superproducer Steve Albini explains exploitative major label record contracts.
Kembrew Mcleod's NYTimes op-ed explains legalized filesharing with a flat-fee collective licensing system.
A simple, practical way to compensate musicians and record labels for music sharing. Everyone should read this.
99 cents per song won't last.
How copyright is stiffling culture.
Creativity builds on the past.
A movement to reform copyright.
Tech policy public interest group.
The number one force in media reform.
Click the Vote
Electoral activism for P2P.
Prometheus Radio Project
Tireless low power radio (LPFM) advocates.
Using copyright to change copyright.
Student movement for free culture.
Repository of artwork outlawed by copyright.
Absolute best copyright news / analysis.
Leading public intellectual for free culture.
Copyright intellectual and activist.
Anonymous filesharing, free speech.
Dynamic websites for activists + NGOs.
Community Wireless Networks
A clear guide to public WiFi.
Tells you what music not to pay for.
Distributed web-based p2p.
What to do with Bittorrent
Torrents+RSS+Myth= Democratized TV.
Tags your mp3s, builds public metadata.
Future of Music Coalition
Music policy coalition-builders.
Music industry gadfly and educator.
Innovative online CD / digital distribution.
Music for America
Politicizing young people through music.
The Pho List
A debate forum for digital music issues.
Independent music reviews.
More music reviews.
Gold standard of label-run music stores.
Smarter than A&R, uses Creative Commons.
Like the late mp3.com, but better.
Punk / hardcore band space and mp3 host.
Leading P2P news site.
Another P2P news site.
Filesharing news & software portal.
Great open-source Windows filesharing.
p2p radio: free and fully authorized.
Flash music player and mp3 search spot.
Here’s a totally unrelated side-project that I whipped up over the weekend.
Get it here: PutinStopSnitching.com
Summer is over and Girl Talkâ€™s NightRipper seems to be surviving the hype without the legal battles. For those who missed out on said hype, Pittsburghâ€™s Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) blew the sample-based music scene wide open on May 9 with the release of his second full-length album, NightRipper. The album boldly samples over 160 artists (all thanked in the liner notes) without going through any of the legal channels, and Gillisâ€™s label/ art collective, Illegal Art, has been poised to use the Fair Use portion of copyright law in their defense. Lucky for them, Gillis hasnâ€™t even gotten a cease and desist. If there was ever a â€œGirl Tuesdayâ€ itâ€™d most likely be a dance party, not a protest.
For those of you who havenâ€™t heard Girl Talkâ€™s latest album, NightRipper, here is a brief synopsis. Imagine yourself falling asleep in the middle of the dance floor, say in the crossover period between The Black Eyed Peas â€œMy Humpsâ€ and Annieâ€™s â€œHeartbeatâ€. Then imagine yourself dreaming in music, and forget about the experts who say it canâ€™t be done. Picture your brain piecing together all the songs you listened to that day, from the most recent dance hits you just heard to the songs you played in your room before you went out, and then throw in a few nostalgic grunge and indie-rock favorites that have been stuck in your head since adolescence. Finally, imagine that it is all cut up, spliced, and arranged in perfect time with the beat that you are somehow, magically, still dancing to.
It may all seem a bit far-fetched, but Girl Talkâ€™s Gregg Gillis pulls it off. The samples he uses (over 200 in all, and none of them legal) are well chosen and eclectic, and yet his delivery steers safely clear of music snobbery and hipster irony. You may be too cool to admit to liking Neutral Milk Hotel, and you may secretly be sick to death of Juelz Santana, but when those samples come on (and they doâ€”at the same time) you will be dancing.
Given the sheer intensity and volume of pop culture crammed into just one of Girl Talkâ€™s three-minute tracks, it is easy to see why this album has been getting so much hype. This is postmodern music making at its finest, a tribute to excess and re-appropriation. Gillis doesnâ€™t just spit out samples to create your standard mash-up, he turns these songs, through juxtaposition, into something totally new. And if anyone comes down on him for copyright violation, that is his defense. His label, Illegal Art, became infamous in â€˜98 for their release of â€œReconstructing Beckâ€, an album made completely out of Beck samples. At the time, Beckâ€™s lawyer called the album â€œbad jungleâ€ and Universal sent them a cease and desist order. Maybe the big labels are starting to get the picture. So far thereâ€™s been no cease and desist for Gillis. In fact, Beck invited Girl Talk to open for him at a show in London, and has commissioned him to do two remixes of his new song “Cell Phone’s Dead” from the un-DJ. Maybe heâ€™s just too likeable, and danceable, to stop.
Listen to some tracks here.
After years in copyright limbo “Eyes on the Prize” airs on PBS this month. “Eyes” is widely thought to be the best documentary on the civil rights movement. During the Eyes on the Screen protest in 2005 we watched Part 1 at a packed screening in Worcester, MA, and it was incredible. The footage of Dr. King is simply bracing; you get to see him as a razor-sharp young organizer inspired by the struggle, not as an icon. When King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott he was twenty-six!
Check PBS’s local listings page to see when it’s playing on your local station. On our own WGBH Boston, part one airs this Wednesday.
Thanks to Jason at Textbook Revolution for the heads-up.
The first thing Downhill Battle ever did was iTunes iSbogus (and it’s still the first non-apple result on google for “itunes”). Today, Slashdot has a story about how Weird Al makes less money from an iTunes sale than from a CD sale, even though an iTunes sale doesn’t involve any physical product, shipping, storage, physical store, and kid working at the counter. How iTunes Hurts Weird Al.
The Future of Music Coalition is one of the only groups that can truly claim to work on behalf of musicians. They are holding their annual Future of Music Policy Summit in Montreal from October 5-7, 2006. It’s timed to sync up with Pop Montreal— it should be an excellent location for the conference.
On Friday, Automatic Superstar, the rock musical about a masked rock star who’s record company is trying to kill him, started another run in NYC. You can download free music from the show at the link above.
The show plays every Friday at 8pm. Tickets are available here.
As has been predicted so many times, the internet is both destroying and creating ways of developing and distributing media. The movie industry will probably be the last piece of big media to really feel the effects– it’s difficult and expensive to make a film that looks professional. Equipment and distribution are rapidly dropping in cost, but people are not, and many varieties of feature film require lots and lots and lots of people. (Contrast this with a rock band recording an album, a reporter researching a story, a reality-show on TV, or a cable news report.)
So it’s appropriate that a new project seeking to radically invert the process of developing a big-budget feature film is starting with people. A Swarm of Angels is working to create and distribute a $2 million film over the internet, with the help of 50,000 members that will fund and steer the project. It’s an incredible undertaking, but is off to a roaring start.
You can join the project as one of the first 1,000 people for a membership cost of Ã‚Â£25. Not only to you get to support a film revolution, you also get to participate in shaping the script and production process. The best way to get inside the head of the folks behind this project is to start with the Swarm of Angels FAQ.
Senator Orin Hatch may be the single worst politician when it comes to copyright issues. This year there is a campaign to defeat him that could win, and our friends at IPac are leading the charge. Check it out: FireHatch.com.
Recently, the free and open nature of the internet has been under attack from a coalition of phone and cable companies. Now you can fight back, and the person who does the best job gets an iPod nano.
To start, sign the moveon.org petition. Then they’ll send you a link you can forward to friends.
ISPs want to be able to block or slow access to certain websites so they can charge sites for access to their customers. This is extremely dangerous: you don’t want ISPs (a few giant corporations) telling you what sites you can or can’t visit. Watch this video from Public Knowledge for a good explanation of the issue.
You might have noticed that we’re participating in the contest too. If we win I think we’ll use the iPod for a Downhill Battle contest.