Free music…and filling a niche

I have no illusions about my ability as a composer.

I’ll never be a Mozart. Or a Beethoven. Or a Bach – and I don’t even like his stuff!

But what I do well is fill niches. I fill gaps. I’m good at figuring out what people want and need, and then creating the music to fill that need.

I create music that people want and need.

And what people want is free, accessible music.

People also generally want music that is easy to perform. A lot of choirs are cobbled together these days, musical directors don’t know who is going to turn up from day to day or week to week, and they need easy music that people who cannot sight read can just pick up and learn quickly.

I try to create that – fast, easy to learn music that is fun and accessible.

Then there’s the children’s music niche, and that’s one area I’m currently working in. I’m in the process of creating a children’s nativity play, hopefully in time for Christmas this year. It’ll be – you guessed it! – freely available, and easy to perform. Nothing too hard to stage-manage, and fun and easy for audiences to sit back and enjoy.

Oh, and music teachers in primary schools will be able to download as many copies as they need. For free.

So…what’s in it for me?

I’d compose music if I were stuck underwater with a brick on my head. I’d write too. I’m just someone who does those things, and I do them because I love them, not because I’m hoping to get rich doing them.

To be honest, I just dislike the whole way the music industry has gone – which is a let’s rip off the musicians and make as much money as we can model. To me, that’s not music – that’s profiteering.

I don’t like the way music that is over 50 years old is still under copyright, and I don’t like the way that choirs still can’t afford to perform Gershwin – because, yep, copyright.

You want to know why there are a thousand performances of the Mozart Requiem and Handel’s Messiah, but that brilliant composer down the road can’t get her stuff performed?

Yep. Copyright.

It sucketh mightily.

gershwin_copyright

Why copyright sucks…especially for choirs and composers

So much beauty is being stalled, and lost, because of huge companies wanting to throttle the neck of art and keep us all choking on copyright laws that are out of touch with what real artists and performers want and need.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem at all with people earning a fair living from their work. But when choirs don’t risk buying new music because the new music is too expensive to buy it’s quite clear to me that the old model of pay per copy and keep on paying for as long as copyright exists which is WAY too long is a broken, destructive model.

I disagree with it, and I won’t use it. I’m voting with my feet.

If you think the old model is broken, vote with your feet too. Support composers that offer free music. Support people who agree with your ethics. Perform the music of people who write because they love to write. Support CPDL and other free music ventures. Give new freely available music a go. And be vocal in support of the Creative Commons.

That’s my 2c for the penny arcade. What do you think?

Now here’s the Hutt Valley Singers & Major Minors Children’s Choir – a lovely community choir – with Sing Christmas. Thanks for posting on Youtube! 🙂

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Please pirate my music! Why SOPA and PIPA are so, so wrong…

There’s just one thing that makes humans different from other animals. We can communicate ideas so easily.

We have language, and writing.

Better than both, we have music – something that transcends language and writing, and crosses cultural, age, and historical barriers.

Mozart’s voice comes down to us, as clear and sparkling and witty as if he’d written his music yesterday.

Beethoven’s beauty and majesty from two hundred years ago is shared with us and becomes our own. No matter what country we come from, or how much we earn, or where we live.

“Communication” is another word for sharing. And the more we do it, the stronger the ideas that we share become, and the more critical they become to the community that shared them.

Which is why SOPA and PIPA are so, so wrong. Ideas that are censored and under tight restriction have the guts pulled out of them, whether they know it or not. By restricting their ability to be shared, they are immediately devalued in a society of creatures whose development and intelligence is based on sharing.

SOPA and PIPA threaten to devalue the internet, because we absolutely need the creativity, innovation and the sharing of cultural wisdom that the internet can provide.

To threaten the openness of the net is to take a step backwards in human development.

Illegal to sing Christmas carols?

Imagine a world where it was illegal to sing Christmas carols. Imagine our kids not being able to sing “Away in a Manger” at their nativity play.

Imagine a Passover celebration without a family being able to sing “Dayenu”.


Dayenu – one of the songs we sing every Passover (although we sing it a lot faster).

Imagine not being able to sing “Happy Birthday” without fear of recrimination (oh wait…)

The point is, these songs became our culture because they could be expressed freely, and without recrimination. They “went viral” in our culture, and are now solid, core parts of what it means to be Christian, or Jewish, or just to have a birthday in a Western society.

(As for “Happy Birthday” – fancy going to jail? You just might, if you sing it next time your child has a birthday, if you record it on camera and upload it to Youtube for your overseas relatives to see.)

The internet – history’s greatest sharing device

And then along came the internet. It enabled people who could never communicate, from different social groups and different parts of the world to suddenly be able to talk to one another, as equals. Of course we shared ideas. Of course we shared our favourite music, and movies. That’s what people have always done (remember dubbing cassette to cassette? I do!). It’s just that now it was open, and visible, and trackable.

Of course a lot of our favourite content is created by the mass media. What else would you expect, when we’ve had TV and radio and movies and mass-produced and mass-marketed CDs shoved in our faces all our lives? If none of our favourite content were created by the “entertainment industry”, the industry would have died a long time ago.

That doesn’t mean people are criminals. It just means to a large extent we’re mirrors and products of our society and culture. We share what we like, we buy what we like, and we repeat to others what we like.

And now, if you think these new potential US laws will only affect the US, well, if you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Oh, those poor, poor millionaires!

Is “piracy” such a huge problem? Really?

I’d argue no, but then, I’m a weirdo who offers her work freely, for no charge. I benefit from people sharing my music, because I can’t compete with the heavily advertised, heavily subsidized commercial industry. (I also can’t compete with Mozart and Beethoven, but that’s another story…)

My view is that piracy is simply the world telling Hollywood that their prices are too high, and they need to face up to reality. No movie star is worth $77 million a year (Leonardo DiCaprio’s reputed earnings for 2011). My husband and I paid $32 to go see “Mission Impossible” last night – and that was just for tickets. No popcorn or drinks. Affordable? Not really, if you’re on any sort of a budget (it was our anniversary).

By the way, the movie was rubbish. Don’t bother.

As for DVDs, they cost cents, not dollars to make, so a new release DVD should not be costing $36 in the shop. The industry is massively overcharging people (a.k.a. ripping us off). No wonder people download! If DVDs cost $5 instead of nearly $40, maybe piracy wouldn’t be a problem.

What you can do about it

If you don’t agree that the internet should be censored simply because a few companies who overcharge for their products and want even more control say it should be, you can learn more about this issue and take action here.

If, like most of the world, you’re not in the US, you can write to your local Department of Foreign Affairs and make your voice heard.

I wrote to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Here’s a link for my Kiwi readers: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

What else can you do?

If you’re a content creator, consider offering your material – or some of it – under a Creative Commons license. Visit the website, and you can learn anything you want to know about this worthwhile project: Creative Commons.

And share my music freely. Share your music freely. Create new content, and share it. Because great ideas are meant to be shared. It’s what we humans do best.

And Mozart and Beethoven would give you the big thumbs up.

Darth Vader plays electric guitar – and conducts a Christmas flash mob

This may be the coolest flash mob I’ve ever seen – Darth Vader on electric guitar conducting a Christmas flash mob at Algonquin College.

The choir note that “Lord Vader is not enrolled or on faculty at Algonquin.”

Merry Christmas!