Off Topic Messages

Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:46 am

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I just don't like the free pass some of these shops think they deserve. Hey, I no purist myself and prefer stores that carry some bootlegs or other unofficial material. But the open piracy of new material is just wrong. Maybe not super wrong, but it is wrong -and no, I don't work in the industry.

Now "they" think they "deserve a free pass" to make and sell duplicates of newly released industry cds? The situation is getting more dire every time I log on. Maybe you don't work in the industry but I'll bet there is a job waiting for you. ;)

Were you just as concerned when the labels were found to be price fixing by the FTC a few years ago, and when they then subverted the penalty settlement by dumping tens of thousands of unusable cds on libraries across the country who had to find funds in their shrinking budgets to sort, document, and dispose of them? I'd rather direct my finite outrage at the executives that subverted their judicial agreements and abused a wonderful public institution like the taxpayer funded library system. I'd rather be bothered by all the years those label execs got "a free pass", and about the free pass they are STILL trying to get, and by them using their illegal profits to purchase culture-deadening legislation like the DMCA and fund borderline if not outright illicit RIAA activities.


Fri Oct 21, 2005 10:43 am

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:re: what I call phony charges of "ethnic bias" and "cultural suppression."
Eileen wrote:Well I read the entire article and I don't agree with your interpretation, as I explained. And I don't find the issues presented in the article or in #1 and #2, to be on the same plane as your restaurant example, a case in which I did agree with you.

I agree that different people can have different interpretations, but I think it's rather factual that the authors fear that the FBI / RIAA actions are targeted ethnoculturally. Their questions (#1 & 2) explicitly mention it. Whether this is "playing the race card" is merely my frank term but the difference is little, to me at least.

To me it's a huge difference. The local release/college band and DJ scenes have been around for decades, including mixing. There ARE huge cultural implications. Your average garage band, hip-hopper, and DJ cannot afford to be part of the major label scene, nor do they have access to get INTO the label scene if they so choose without creating and releasing much of the type of product seized in the Kim's raid - which did not discriminate between cdrs of wholly original local music, original music containing samples, original remixes of retailed industry product, and solely pirate material. Label A&R staff freely admit in interviews that they watch mixtape sales to see who is 'hot' in the underground and possibly deserving of a contract, same with local musician releases. This has been done for ages. Nor is the system set up to work for the average part-part-time starter DJ who would need to go through an onerous and unaffordable permission/copyright/payment process to create one cdr track of an original dance mix using a mediocre album filler tune to play whereever they can get a slot to spin on two Saturday nights per month. The A&R side of the industry enourages and relies upon the same system the sales side of the industry is targeting and they all know it.

An example truly on par with your restaurant tale would be if Kim's Video simply purchased 1 copy of each Top 40 cd from Best Buy, ran 500 duplicates of each, used those as their entire industry-related store stock, set up shop across the street from Sam Goody, and said they couldn't buy industry wholesale because they hadn't learned english yet. And I would have no problem in calling that an incredibly illegal business deserving only immediate closure, and would expect a smackdown the minute they accepted money for one of those pirate cds.

So far as #2 goes - that is a legitimate question IMO. It might have a straightforward and legitimate answer - maybe mapping of indie stores showed the most locations in area A so that area made for the most efficient use of [investigate and raid] resources. Or maybe it IS label frustration with a booming Latino music market and their inability to get a foothold, which then raises other issues that need addressing. Or maybe it is wholly illegitimate - maybe it's area A because none of the white kids of the people directing the operation have after-school record store jobs in THAT neighborhood. Until the question is asked and answered you don't know who, if anyone, might be playing 'the race card', and it just perpetuates REAL race and class divisions to manufacture outrage when such questions are asked.


Fri Oct 21, 2005 12:37 pm

This discussion about the Google Print Library lawsuit and morphing into Amazon features is relevant to many of the music issues also. I think it's quite interesting and see many perspectives represented.


Fri Oct 21, 2005 6:32 pm

LiketheBike and Eileen, thanks for your commited and thoughtful responses. I begin most every post (especially on OFF-TOPIC) not so
much to get an "Amen" but to get a good discussion going. I'm not always sure of the answers - nor what is actually the problem! :D

'Bike: You've made a convincing indictment of the industry. Much as
when Bob Costas is proposed as the new commissioner of baseball
- that is, to save it because he's a purist / true lover of the game; I take your comments on the ills of the industry as someone who also loves music, and even the process and joy of buying a good record (or "download," etc. Alas, I don't see the RIAA calling you to be the new president anytime soon! And too bad for that!

Eileen, you raise good points. The point of entry is ever tighter now compared to, say, the '50s and '60s when small-time acts in the cities could spring to prominence based on a shrewd local record label that had some spunk and good luck to finagle a way to issue a 45 that might get noticed. Today, as with all of corporate America, the giants have sewn up most opportunities. So in that way, culture is suffering. And so much of what is actually released by the majors is evidence of such a stifling environment. Some of the best music made today is heard locally but will never be on the radio or be downloaded. RCA/BMG, if I recall, recently was popped for engaging in modern-day "Payola" in New York, for some
female acts that couldn't get played on their own merits...

When it comes to crime, I just don't like whining. Life's a bitch and I
think one takes their chances. I've seen these ghetto stores and respect
what they're trying to provide, but they have to take the bad with the good. I also find most ethnic / racist bias charges today to mostly
be laughable last refuges of scoundrels and serve to spit on the real
economic challenges of workers in the US today. Indeed, it serves to
foment division among workers as the bad guys cut benefits, use
strike-breakers and run off with the money.

There may be "something there" to bias charges. I doubt a "white" or
"middle class" neighborhood would so openly have such stuff for sale. Is that bias? Or just reality? It's besides
the point, which for the feds to to crackdown on illegal merchandise and piracy, which may, as you both claim, be a poor use of resources for taxpayers...

But to see the author playing
the "I want my lawyer" and "I have my rights" screeching of the last
question (asking about a search warrent, etc.) is like watching a parody
why Democrats can't win elections anymore.

Fri Oct 21, 2005 10:11 pm

Well having a search warrant is pretty important. It's one of the cornerstones of the constittution.

For the record, I've downloaded maybe three songs in my life because someone insisted I here the piece. I'm a person who is like the record industry's ideal covers in that I like having a CD, I like the covers, I like liner notes. If they lose me- and I have cut way back on my music spending- you know there's something wrong.

Fri Oct 21, 2005 10:24 pm

I'm all for it search warrents, but it is kind of like "pleading the
fifth (amendment)" in terms of strategy. As soon as one can't
justify their contents, if you're falling back on that, it's not
looking good for the cause...

From what I've read, the RIAA is prepared to reclaim the download
phenomenon. Perhaps that's their right, but I for one will
mourn the record store and holding the thing in your hands...

The best ones I've known can be part of the heart and soul of a community,
such that sitting at a computer can't replace...

Fri Oct 21, 2005 10:28 pm

Here's an interesting related article:

Minister of counterculture

Gilberto Gil is a musical legend - and a senior Brazilian politician. He tells Oliver Burkeman how poverty can be challenged if ideas are shared for free
Friday October 14, 2005 The Guardian
From music to politics ... Gilberto Gil.

Gilberto Gil wears a sober suit and tie these days, and his dreadlocks are greying at the temples. But you soon remember that, as well as the serving culture minister of Brazil,

....Gil's constant references to the hippy counterculture are not simply the nostalgia of a 63-year-old with more than 40 albums to his name. For several years now, largely under the rest of the world's radar, the Brazilian government has been building a counterculture of its own. The battlefield has been intellectual property - the ownership of ideas - and the revolution has touched everything, from internet filesharing to GM crops to HIV medication. Pharmaceutical companies selling patented Aids drugs, for example, were informed that Brazil would simply ignore their claims to ownership and copy their products more cheaply if they didn't offer deep discounts. (The discounts were forthcoming.) Gil himself has thrown his weight behind new forms of copyright law, enabling musicians to incorporate parts of others' work in their own.

And in one small development that none the less sums up the mood, the left-wing administration of President Luiz Inacio da Silva, or "Lula", has announced that all ministries will stop using Microsoft Windows on their office computers. Instead of paying through the nose for Microsoft operating licences, while millions of Brazilians live in poverty, the government will use open-source software, collaboratively designed by programmers worldwide and owned by no one."This isn't just my idea, or Brazil's idea," Gil says. "It's the idea of our time. The complexity of our times demands it."

He is politician enough to hold back from endorsing the breaking of laws, for example on music downloading, but only just. "The Brazilian government is definitely pro-law," he grins. "But if law doesn't fit reality anymore, law has to be changed. That's not a new thing. That's civilisation as usual." (He is not a hi-tech person himself, he says, but readily concedes that his children have "probably" done a fair bit of illegal downloading.)Gil has lived by this philosophy - his guitar-based music has always been, in its own way, open-source, mixing the influences of bossa nova, samba, reggae and rock - and he has suffered for it, too.

Tropicalia, the anti-establishment movement he helped found in Brazil in the 1960s, threatened the grip of the military dictatorship there and in 1968 he was jailed, along with his musical collaborator, Caetano Veloso, with whom he shared the status of a Latin American Lennon and McCartney. Freed after several months, he was instructed to leave the country and moved to London. His fame followed him to Europe and he went on to perform with, among others, Pink Floyd and Jimmy Cliff."Like most artists and musicians, I considered myself detached from the political life," he says. "But I had an insight that maybe we would have a political contribution to make in the future. I remember telling a Brazilian girl who used to be part of our community here in London, 'I'm gonna have a role to play in politics in the future!' And now ... it is the future."

Gil is in London as a signatory to the RSA's Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation and Intellectual Property, which calls on governments to restrain corporations from further locking down their ownership of ideas. The campaign encompasses everything from the music industry's myopia over downloading to the recent efforts of one agribusiness firm to patent basmati rice, then charge Indian farmers for the privilege of growing it.Defenders of such developments insist that strong patent laws are crucial - without them, nobody would have the incentive to develop new ideas - and that anything else would impede innovation.

Gil and his ministry team have an opposing theory: tough intellectual property law is a 20th-century idea and most of the blossoming of world civilisation has happened perfectly well without it. "The 20th century is a cul-de-sac," says Claudio Prado, Brazil's digital culture czar, in London with Gil. "And the engine of progress doesn't have a reverse gear, so it's hard for the first world to get out of the cul-de-sac." The fact that many Brazilians still live in 18th or 19th-century conditions, he says, means that the country has an opportunity to accelerate into the 21st century without entering the cul-de-sac in the first place.Internet evangelists are fond of hyping the "network society", but this, Prado argues, is what Brazil has been for centuries. "In a Brazilian favela, that's the way it works," he says. "You go and help your neighbour build their house. Or take carnival - that's a totally collaborative process. Sixty thousand people, unrehearsed. That's what you do when you don't have money. You collaborate."

Brazil has ploughed millions of dollars into bringing computer access to the poorest parts of the country, but the bigger picture is not that President Lula's government is embracing the internet. It is that Brazilian society, in a manner of speaking, was itself a kind of internet before the fact.All this leaves the minister with little time for writing songs. "I haven't even thought about it," Gil says. "It's a very different, drastic kind of time that you have to give to writing music. So for three years I haven't even considered it - the last song I wrote was before the ministry. But now, as my routines become a little more controlled, I'm gathering momentum again. I might be reading documents for work, for instance, on a plane, and an idea comes and I write it down on the back of the page. It's not a preoccupation, but I'm letting it come, slowly."

Performing, he says, is more important to him, and he frequently leaves his wife Flora, with whom he shares a home in Rio de Janeiro, to perform abroad. He must surely be the only serving politician to have completed a 22-gig tour of Europe earlier this year.The two worlds of Gil's music and his politics merged most closely when he announced that he would license some of his own songs for free downloading. Time Warner, which owned the licences in question, quickly announced that, actually, he would not. "That showed me how difficult the situation is," he says. "An author is not the owner anymore. He doesn't exercise his rights. His rights are exercised by someone else, and sometimes the two don't coincide."

Explaining his view, he cups his palms and traces curved shapes in the air.Time Warner won - "for the moment" - but it is characteristic of Gil that he regards the experience as a largely positive and most certainly rather amusing one. "I think it's a good development that the minister of culture of Brazil is looking after the interests of a Brazilian artist," he says, "who happens to be himself."A similar mischievousness seems to have explained the government's response when an official accused Microsoft of behaving like a drug dealer in handing out free software to make customers dependent on its products. Microsoft Brazil sued, but the administration simply ignored the case, and the company eventually withdrew it. "But this is not demagoguery," Gil insists, if you accuse him of just being provocative. "This is pedagogy." Eventually, in other words, the world will learn.

Fri Oct 21, 2005 10:39 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote: I've seen these ghetto stores and respect what they're trying to provide, but they have to take the bad with the good.....
There may be "something there" to bias charges. I doubt a "white" or "middle class" neighborhood would so openly have such stuff for sale. Is that bias? Or just reality?

Outside of NYC and LA most college towns and student housing areas are majority white and that is where indie stores w/local releases tend to cluster, as well as being the 'cool neighborhood' where high school and college students want to work. A big part of their appeal and reason for existence (besides the burning incense and paraphernalia) is the open availability and promotion of the local music scene; that's kept most such shops from going under - as chain Sam Goody did - in the face of Best Buy and Walmart. These are the neighborhoods where Starbucks first flourished - hardly 'ghetto'.

You can see it directly by comparing indie booksellers to indie music shops. The general indie bookseller didn't have another market to push to distinguish themselves from B&N and Borders so they suffered huge losses when those chains spread. Not so with indie music shops, which I think are being hurt now more by the internet because college students and local bands tend to be wired. However you still can't download a good bong. ;)


Fri Oct 21, 2005 11:43 pm

Eileen, we never knew...! :lol:

Sat Oct 22, 2005 11:23 am

Hehehehehe good one. :)

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:RCA/BMG, if I recall, recently was popped for engaging in modern-day "Payola" in New York, for some female acts that couldn't get played on their own merits...

Yes, it was mainly Sony that got nailed and it covered all types of acts. Many of the articles mentioned Avril and J-Lo just as a summary. An interesting point to consider is that the payola can continue quite legally as long as we don't mind hearing "and for the third time in this commercial-free hour, here's Avril Lavigne, sponsored by Arista!"....."and next up, Island Records presents Bon Jovi!"

Any takers? ;)

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:Life's a bitch and I think one takes their chances.

That doesn't bother me, I pretty much agree. That's how I feel when I'm at a record show. ;) I just have kind of a thing about noticing whose chances really seem to pay off and whose don't.