Stuff costs money 

Recently someone made an interesting observation about paying money to have art made:

Yeah—lots of “art” doesn’t make sense from the standpoint of return on investment. But then again, we have this:

And I’m reminded of the claims that we need gatekeepers (i.e., contemporary patronage) to ensure the quality of art doesn’t degrade away.

Money, Not Quality

Back in 2006 tech entrepreneur Andrew Keen wrote an article for The Weekly Standard entitled “Web 2.0” that criticized the increasing rise of democratized media and growing ability for anyone to publish books, make movies, or record an album with newly inexpensive technologies. Keen argued that traditional curators of content, the “media and culture industries,” perform a valuable service by making sure that the best works of art and the best artists find their audiences:

The purpose of our media and culture industries—beyond the obvious need to make money and entertain people—is to discover, nurture, and reward elite talent. Our traditional mainstream media has done this with great success over the last century. Consider Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo and a couple of other brilliantly talented works of the same name Vertigo: the 1999 book called Vertigo, by Anglo-German writer W.G. Sebald, and the 2004 song “Vertigo,” by Irish rock star Bono. Hitchcock could never have made his expensive, complex movies outside the Hollywood studio system. Bono would never have become Bono without the music industry’s super-heavyweight marketing muscle. And W.G. Sebald, the most obscure of this trinity of talent, would have remained an unknown university professor had a high-end publishing house not had the good taste to discover and distribute his work. Elite artists and an elite media industry are symbiotic.

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Furious 7

Today the news broke that Furious 7 raked in over $380 million worldwide during its opening weekend. When I first heard that Universal Pictures would be making a seventh film in the series during Superbowl IL (I had forgotten that Paul Walker had died in an automobile accident back in 2013 when the movie was still in production), my immediate reaction to the trailer was to start laughing. When a film series reaches part seven, I expect only the worst.

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Blurred Lines: The Final Chapter (I hope)

In the light of the recent verdict regarding Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit, “Blurred Lines,” there has been a several articles positing the doomed future of music now that someone was found infringing upon another person’s material. Continue reading

“Vanishing Scarcity” at NABIG 2015

On Sunday March 1, I had the opportunity to present at the North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress (NABIG) on the issue of arts, technology, and basic income. Basic income is a form of social security in which every person, regardless of their wealth, health, or any other distinction, is given a certain amount of money regularly (once a month is the usual interval mentioned). Suffice to say this is a radical idea and currently no government or jurisdiction in the world awards a basic income to their citizens (Alaska has something similar with the Alaska Permanent Fund, and Brazil has the plans to enact a basic income). A basic income needs to meet the basic survival needs of an individual—enough to pay their food, shelter, and clothing costs—and nothing else. It is only there to ensure the survival of the individual. Continue reading

Piracy, Cyberlockers, and Free Content

On September 18, 2014, the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) published their report, “Behind the Cyberlocker Door: A Report on How Shadowy Cyberlocker Businesses Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions.” The report claims that several file-hosting services, also known as cyberlockers, are running exceptionally profitable businesses that are essentially dealing in unlicensed content such as music, movies, and television shows. The content is uploaded to the cyberlockers by users, who then share the content with each other. Links to the content are usually shared via message boards and forums. Anyone who’s downloaded unlicensed content has probably gone through these steps—basically engaging in digital piracy.
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Blurred Lines, Again

A little over a year ago I wrote an article about Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ track “Blurred Lines,” and the allegations by the estate of Marvin Gaye that Thicke and Williams had copied Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Got to Give it Up.” The two songs have striking similarities, in particular the falsetto singing and percussion groove, but “Blurred Lines” is not plagiarism. In fact, if Thicke and Williams had truly copied “Got to Give it Up,” “Blurred Lines” would have been a much more interesting track.
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Why people matter; or, why I’m changing music notation software

I’ve used Sibelius Software since 2002. When I started taking my own composing seriously I had decided it was time to purchase scoring software so I downloaded both Finale and Sibelius previews and tested them both out. I chose Sibelius because it was easy to figure out—I struggled to learn the most basic things with Finale (like note entry). Eventually I learned Finale because my undergraduate institution required two semesters of Finale, but besides that brief dabbling, I’ve been a die hard Sibelius user and I haven’t looked back.

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Blurred Lines

More often then I like to admit, I’m surprised by my lack of awareness of pop culture and pop music. About a week ago I saw an article on the BBC that was about Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris Jr.’s recent single, “Blurred Lines,” and the claims of copying from the estate of Marvin Gaye. In brief, the article addressed issues of music authorship and ownership, and it raised in my mind the question about what constitutes copying, and what constitutes an original work.

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