Creative Commons

Taking a page from Jonathan Coulton‘s playbook, I have released the tracks from my debut album (“Seven Cities”) under the

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

This license allows you to freely share these tracks, remix or remaster them, mash them up, use them in videos, etc. as long as you:

  • Give credit where credit is due (i.e. always include my name and a link to this web site whenever you share or use my songs)
  • Let people know if you modified the songs in some way (i.e. add “remix” to the title or whatnot)
  • Do not use the songs for commercial purposes (if you want to use my music for commercial purposes, please contact me.)

You can download MP3 and FLAC files of “Seven Cities” for whatever price you deem appropriate (including $0) from my BandCamp store.  High-definition (24-bit 88.2 kHz) version is also available.

“But you must be crazy, DRC.  How will you ever make money if you give your music away for free?”

The answer is simple:  volume.

Seriously, though, indie music in general has become much more of a patronage game here lately.  The game is to build your fan base and get people interested in your music, then hopefully some of those people will be interested enough to donate to the cause– either directly or indirectly (by way of attending shows or buying merch.)  I’ve decided that, if the choice is between a few people buying my music and a bunch of people hearing it, the latter is always the better artistic choice.  I would rather die poor and known than rich and unknown.

To understand why Creative Commons is such a powerful concept requires a brief lesson in copyright law.  Originally, copyrights in the U.S. lasted only 14 years and could be renewed for another 14.  After that, the copyrighted work became a part of the public domain and thus a part of our collective culture.  The public domain includes many of our most beloved works of music and literature, such as the works of Mark Twain and Irving Berlin.  Throughout the 20th Century, however, the term for copyrights was extended– first to 28 years with a 28-year renewal in 1909, then to 75 years (or the life of the author + 50 years) in 1976, and finally to 120 years (or the life of the author + 70 years) in 1998.

For a work of art to truly become part of our collective culture, people must be free to share the work or to make derivative works from it.  However, copyright law now basically makes it so that this cannot happen for many generations after the work is created, unless permission is obtained from the owner.  Further, it is often the case that the owner is a corporation, not an individual, and permission usually comes with a price.  Thus, our collective culture has been eroded to the point that, for the most part, very little art that was made in the latter half of the 20th Century is truly a part of it.  Our collective culture helps to define us as a nation, and if we no longer own our culture, then to a large extent, we no longer own our national identity.  And that’s a problem.  Creative Commons is an attempt to restore some of this lost collective culture.  Through Creative Commons, an artist can grant permission for their works to be shared and used freely under certain conditions (for instance, they can allow free usage only for non-commercial purposes, as I have done.)  The artist still owns the copyright to their work.  They are simply granting you an automatic license to use or share the work, as long as you obey some basic rules.

Woody Guthrie famously wrote on the sheet music to “This Land Is Your Land”:

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern.  Publish it.  Write it.  Sing it.  Swing to it.  Yodel it.  We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.

Woody released many of his songs into the public domain, thus relinquishing all rights to them. While he was no small inspiration to me in making this decision, I chose to license my music such that I can still get a piece of the action if someone decides that it’s a commercially viable product.  However, if another artist isn’t making money from their use of my music, then why would I object to them using it?  They’re just giving me free publicity, and it’s easier to tell people outright that this is OK rather than making them ask for permission.

Indie artists these days have to be both artists and businesspeople, and it can be a little hard to wrap one’s head around Creative Commons, from a business point of view.  I have the advantage of coming from a background in open source software, and through my work in that field, I’ve seen how it is entirely possible to make a living developing something that you give away.  Basically, you are no longer selling a product.  You are selling a service.  Ultimately, I had to acknowledge that this is now how indie music works as well.  People aren’t buying music anymore unless it’s really popular, and while giving away the music for free is no guarantee that it will become popular, not giving it away for free virtually guarantees that it won’t.  Creative Commons is just another tool for me to help my music find its home.

In short, share and enjoy!  Help my music find its home.