The State of Music: Thoughts About Allowing User Submitted Content

In the world of YouTube Royalty Free Music, there are two types of content Creators.

You have creators like Kevin Macleod, who create their own content which is hosted on their own website.  In many respects, my project started because of Incompetech.com and its founder’s unrelenting stream of music that has become a staple in the traditional YouTube vlogging and skit sphere.

The second type is more an aggregate type of channel, like Audiopad or the ArgoFox channel.  Instead of creating their own music, they usually host other people’s music with their channel graphics on the video.  Artists submit music to these channels in exchange for promotion in hopes to generate interest and sales in music.

If you can trust the Kevin Macleod types (myself included), then the advantage of using music from these sources is that you can always count on your right to use the music in your content, provided that you properly source your material.  But, even though there may be quite the genre-spread that these people can handle, you may detect familiar patterns in their works and might generate a sort of fatigue of their music.  And since their genre-spread is so great, coming back to find the type of music you specifically want may be something that wears your patience thin (This is something that definitely affects my audience as well).

With the aggregate types, you have the advantage of different artists’ takes on a more focused genre-spread.  In most cases, this involves EDM (more specifically, Dubstep) as the major focus of the channel.  There are different equipment and different instruments involved making the same genre, so it keeps things more interesting when keeping to one specific form of music.

The problem with these aggregate types of Royalty Free Music channels is trust.  In every single one of these channels, I’ve seen music videos eventually taken down, subtracting from their view-count greatly.  This would indicate that titles previously available to creators for use are now no longer safe for anyone to use against the Content I.D. system.  In many instances, this is because track being used has become popular enough that the submitting artist decides to put it into a distribution site and also activating the Content I.D. option.

When an artist suddenly decides that his content should be in the Content I.D. machine, making it no longer free to use in the YouTube community, the YouTube community suffers.  This is not just because people can’t use the music anymore, but more due to YouTube creators having multitudes of their videos flagged by Content I.D. matches to audio tracks they previously understood to be free to use in their videos.  In every sense, the artist who backs out of their promises leaves huge numbers of YouTube creators up a creek without a paddle and no solution other than to take the hit or delete their video.

This brings me to user submitted content on the TeknoAXE webspace.  I’ve had numerous requests for me to host other artist’s content over the last three or four years.  I’ve not taken a single one seriously–not because I don’t respect other artists, but because I fear for the scenario that these aggregate channels face every time one of their artists back out deals.  This not only affects the creators suddenly in Content I.D. hell, but it also affects the reputation of the aggregate channel as well.  Part of me does feel a little guilty and somewhat selfish for now allowing other artists to get a space here, but the other part of me knows full well what I would be bringing on with a slew of other people that I don’t control and don’t necessarily trust.

So is there a middle ground here?  Can I open up my space to other people with a disclaimer that the reputation of the track being used is based on the artist and not the hosting channel?  I feel a more diverse cast of producers than just me may benefit both the channel and website, but I can’t be sure that same short term benefit would not end up as a long-term headache later.

–Matt

Musings on Extra YouTube Channels for Genre Separation

For the longest time, I’ve had only one YouTube channel to showcase my music and allow for the user to find what is best for their videos.  With my main channel nearing 1000 public videos in a huge number of genres, however, I’m feeling like my audience is getting lost in a sea of stuff that they may or may not like.  Additionally, it also feels like music tracks get lost in the abyss two or three months after release;  they’re good tracks, but they have the stumbling block of competing with my most popular tracks and also the newer tracks that I come up with later down the line.

So, as an experiment, I’m going to construct additional channels to showcase certain divisions in my musical pool.  I’ve already constructed channels specifically for EDM, Soundtrack, and Rock, as well as an additional one for any tutorials I do for music.

There are many reasons to do this.  For one, my main channel is already bunched up with 30+ playlists trying to aggregate my catalog of music.  Although playlists are my number 1 source of views on YouTube, I have a feeling that even the list of playlists on the channel have become a confusing mess for those trying to look for specific things.

One other reason is subscription related, where I fully acknowledge that my main channel probably has at least three different audiences, subscribed for different reasons.  No doubt, there are people on my channel that like everything that I do, but there are probably a number of people who only subscribed for the EDM music, as opposed to things like accordion music with a fiddle in the background.

And of course, the tutorials probably have a different audience entirely, so that’s why I created that channel.

Which is not to say that I will get rid of the main channel.  That channel will always remain the main place that I post music to.  But my thought is to allow for the option of people to subscribe to their specific taste in music.

Any thoughts on this topic are appreciated.  If you have a comment, please post it below in the disqus panel or respond to me on twitter.

-Matt

My Current Thoughts on Patreon

Late last year, I changed the goals of my Patreon to be less serious and a little more comical, plus totally unobtainable. The reason I did this is that one of my backers for that site got ‘declined’. I’m not sure what that means, but I would guess that the backer in question didn’t have enough funds in their accounts to go through the transaction.

My thoughts towards Patreon has changed over the few years it’s been up, from initial skepticism, to trying to embrace it, to now my taste going a little sour on the whole thing.  I guess you can say that I’m a very poor salesman when it comes to convincing people to sign up and that I’ve not spent the time needed to gain a significant amount of patreons.

But there are a lot of people who are worse off than I am and the thought of people giving to me–for nothing in return–even when they don’t have the funds to even make their ends meet.  It’s not something I can get behind anymore.  This is compounded further by the fact that I have albums on sale and stream-able from various stores and services.

The amount of money that I make off of the actual music–even when it’s distributed for free on my site–far exceed anything that I’ve accomplished on Patreon.  It’s not enough to make a living off of, but of all the things that is generated by my music, that’s where it’s at for me.  My youtube and adsense earnings are dismal, not enough to even cover an average cell-phone bill.  So it makes sense not to bother with you guys asking for donations.

If you wish to give to my patreon, I appreciate it, but please think of yourselves before you give to me.  If you’re strapped for cash and still want to support me, there are ways you can do it for free, even.  If you listen to music on Spotify or Deezer or other music streaming platforms, chances are that most of my music is there.  You don’t have to pay anything additional to listen to my stuff there and I make far more per music stream than I ever have with YouTube video plays.

And if you do wish to support me monetarily, please consider buying one of my bulk albums instead and possibly rating them.  Not only do you get 101 tracks right away, but you support me more by helping the ranking of these albums in services like iTunes.

Again, I appreciate all your support and can’t tell you thanks enough for getting me to where I am now.  I’m just not sure Patreon is for me is all.

 

 

Open Source Music: Ramblings

The term ‘Open Source Music’ has been used more than once (not many times, admittedly) to describe my project here with teknoaxe.com.  It’s been tempting for me to rush to define what this term exactly means.  I’ve admittedly done little research on the term to see how ubiquitous the term is on the net, but I also feel that the term is not normally used in everyday life.

A google search of the term actually brings up a website with the name:

http://www.opensourcemusic.com:

“Music was the first open source language”

The site describes itself as a source for free music.  It seems to basically be a news feed listing various artists in different categories, including Famous Artists, Unknown But Great, and Public Domain.  It also has a news feed of various articles with interesting tidbits of information about how certain music is composed and whatnot.  I’m not sure, but it seems like the site hasn’t been updated since 2014.

While Opensource.com provides a list of good free artists, I’m not sure this actually qualifies as “open source”.  People familiar with Open Source in the programming world will no doubt bring up Linux as a prime example of what they consider it to be.  Linux is free to the public, but its source code is also available to the public for people to download, modify and improve.  The resulting Linux kernels are not quite as well known as IOS or Android, but they’ve been the backbone of portable device operating systems for at least the last decade.  Hell, even Android was developed from a Linux kernel and it is one of the reasons why there’s such a lax in standards for Android App programming.

So when you try to apply “Open Source” to music, it should imply that any song or musical music produced by an artist should be open to re-interpretation by other artists.  In this way, our culture moves forward by allowing artists to explore different avenues of approach to a familiar platform.

The best example that I can give to this would be the rock standard, “Hey Joe”, its ambiguous beginnings, including the copyright claim by an obscure artist known as Billy Roberts, have allowed numerous artists to revisit this track in the 60s and later.  One of the more famous versions of the track was, of course, done by Jimi Hendrix, but the song has been covered by Time Rose, The Byrds and Cher.

One would note that renditions of “Hey Joe” by these various artists weren’t exactly free to their audiences, as they had to buy the recordings made by Hendrix and others.  But this was one song that artists could seemingly visit and dabble in without worry of legal repercussions from greedy music corporations.  In a similar fashion, the Android Operating system may not be “free”, as anyone who buys an android phone will either have to pay for the hardware running the OS or sign a phone contract, but the building blocks that made that operating system–and even most of the building blocks of the android OS are open for programmers to stitch together new apps for the platform.

So “Open Source” shouldn’t necessarily mean that the final product is free, but that work is left open to reinterpretation by other people without paying huge legal or licensing fees to do so.

Certainly, in this day and age, we do have many artists ‘remixing’ and doing their own covers of popular songs on platforms such as YouTube, but there is always the inherent risk that Content I.D. matching on YouTube will take away your rights to the final product unless you either a) pay the money needed or somehow gain explicit permission from the original artists/distribution companies, or meet some sort of threshold that you are famous enough to get away with it.

(to be continued).

 

 

The State of Music: Lessons for Tidal Music…or what JayZ should have learned from Google+

The other day, while looking through Tunecore, I discovered that my music was on the streaming site Tidal.  I have to admit that I didn’t know what this was; I’d heard through the grapevine that Jay-Z had started up his own streaming service and that there was a launch party packed with A-list celebrities to hype up the event.  People like Madonna and Deadmau5 were supposed to convey that Tidal was the hip place to go to, and you should definitely jump from Spotify or your other streaming services and defect to Tidal to be apart of the hip crowd.

In tech terms, this launch smacked of the same kind of arrogance as google has expressed when they tried to force their YouTube users into Google+.  Here were the professionals basically telling you that if you wanted to stream their music, you had to go to this platform to do it.  Oh, but you had to pay them 20 dollars a month to do it.  The rewards for this fee were an advertised better sound quality and the knowledge that your favorite artists were getting paid more per stream than Spotify.

I guess I have great timing, because not long after I established the existence and the purpose of this site in my head, I happened across rumors that Jay-Z was selling the whole thing to Spotify which were posted today..

http://www.unrealitytv.co.uk/showbiz/jay-z-to-sell-tidal-to-spotify-as-part-of-his-exit-strategy/

Really, anyone who’s kept up with the whole Google+ debacle could have seen this one coming a mile away.  Here we have, yet again, a specific service that mirrors the functionality of another, more well established service.  There are tweaks here and there to the formula, but there’s not enough of a difference to be of value to the users.  So the next step is to take away functionality/content from said user in hopes to coax that user onto their service.

With YouTube, Google took the ability for users to comment and have channel presences unless they signed up for a Google+ account (they even forced the switch over for those who refused to do so themselves).  With Tidal, these celebrity ‘artists’ restricted their content to that one platform alone, so that listeners wouldn’t be able to hear it anywhere else.

The backlashes from both user-bases were pretty much the same.  And if it’s true that Jay-Z is looking to sell his music streaming project to Spotify, neither of these projects survived for a long period of time.

So what can we learn here?  I think the internet has time-tested and proved a few things about what you can and can’t pass for muster to your audience.

1)  If you’re mimicking an established service with too little difference in what you do in hope to compete with the big dogs, you’re going to lose.  The most successful business ventures exploit the weaknesses of current business models by filling the needed gaps.  They don’t carbon copy something that’s already worked because you’re not going to convince your audience to switch over to something that’s time-tested.

2) The cult of Celebrity won’t help you succeed if 1) fails.  Google tried to use Celebrity to set its user-base at ease.  It failed the second that celebrity cooking-girl video was posted on the YouTube channel.  It failed so bad that Darth Vader could only use the force to hold his lightsaber (in other words, massive thumbsdown, Rebecca Black style).  And the internet reception for traditional style ‘celebrity’ is still–and probably always be–a lukewarm thing at best.

3) Taking away functionality/content from your audience/user-base will only aggravate and make enemies out of them.  People are smart enough to realize when problems are made for the user to move to the competing product were contrived by same the people who are offering you the solution.  It’s so obvious and condescending that you’re going to loose friends fast.

The End

Ninth Circuit court and YouTube

About a week ago, the Ninth Circuit court made a ruling concerning DMCA policies and takedown notifications utilized on sites like YouTube, app stores, etc.   Here is a brief summary of the major points:

  • The court found that Universal was in violation of 512(f), a statute which     prohibits misrepresentation by a copyright holder when issuing a takedown notice.
  • Fair use is legal use, but it doesn’t excuse illegal copyright infringement.
  • The Ninth Circuit Court’s decision runs contrary to other circuit court decisions.

The Fair Use Analysis

Lenz doesn’t actually bring the fair use analysis into the ruling itself, nor did it rule one way or another on whether the “Let’s Go Crazy #1” video constituted fair use. That wasn’t the question presented to the Court. Instead, the Court offered some guidance on the manner copyright owners must consider the fair use analysis when issuing takedown notices.

The rest of the detailed summary of judgment can be found here: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MonaIbrahim/20150917/253803/The_Games_Industry_Under_the_New_Lenz_of_Fair_Use.php

Although, I want to focus on this particular tenant, because I feel this is relevant to the automated systems of Content I.D. matching and claiming on Youtube.

A Copyright holder’s consideration of fair use need not be searching or intensive. The court proposed that a computer algorithm setting standards based on the four factor test and individual review of those that aren’t culled through the automated system would be sufficient.

Even though prior to this part, the court apparently stated this:

Lip service insufficient. It isn’t enough to say “we don’t think this is fair use.” There must be some evidence in the takedown notice issuance procedure that the four factor fair use test was actually considered in the analysis of whether the use is infringing.

The first thing to consider here is that this decision is made by the 9th Circuit court, which means that the judgment is only valid for a select few states in the west of the U.S.A.  Furthermore, it runs contrary to decisions made by other circuit courts, which means that we could be seeing this issue being brought up to the Supreme Court fairly soon for a final verdict.

The second thing to note here is that even though the court has stricken down the notion of ‘lip service’ as sufficient for a takedown notice, it then expresses faith that a computer algorithm can be developed that considers ‘the four factor test’ in determining how to issue them.

It’s tough to tell whether this will have an effect on the copyright situation for YouTubers.  If this decision is to be seen as the benchmark on which YouTube reconsiders its requirements towards copyright owners/content I.D. match systems, then some progress has been made.  Specifically, this places channels based on critique and online debate in a much better position than they were before.  This goes especially for the video response debate, where YouTubers inter-splice clips of other YouTubers or Television Shows/Movies along with their own for the purpose of debate or critique.

Hopefully, YouTube would enforce a stricter standard on Content I.D. companies who specialize in audio content I.D. matching and takedown notices.  This is something that’s been woefully lacking with youtube, with horror stories popping up of people being flagged for Public Domain and Creative Commons material–material that is supposed to be immune from these actions.

Since this judgment was against Universal, the bigger companies, such as Warner Bros. and Sony may need to take a step back.  Hopefully, YouTube gets pressured in the near future to obliterate the random companies that have popped up to try to claim anything and everything they can match a word to.

 

 

Mainstream Music Critique (be more offensive)

If there’s anything that can be said about the current stream of pop stars on the radio station, it’s that they’re about as offensive as a lollipop with its wrapper still on.  Nothing really thought provoking or even the slightest bit aware of what’s going on around them — even on a local level.  And when things get “offensive”, it’s almost always for shock value, for which has been done a million times before in much edgier ways from people who graced the radio waves generations before them.

And this is pretty much ubiquitous too.  I recently drove coast to coast with my family– a four day trek across I-90 from the east coast to the west–and when browsing the radio stations of every part of this country, everything was the same.  There was nothing different in the channels we listened to, really.

These days, country music is really just pop music with an added violin and not even a western accent, but with the subject material of what the latest bar was visited or some ‘grandiose’ ‘patriotic’ anthem that cracks under its own weight of false emotion.

A particular anomaly popped up in the middle of the drive, though.  A playing of ‘Shutting Down Detroit’ by John Rich, which apparenlty was released in 2009 (I don’t follow country that closely, admittedly).  This song, firmly in the Country genre instead of a clumsy half foot into hip hop or pop, is a protest against the bailouts for corporations that happened just after the 2008 crash.  Suffice to say, it was a nice breath of fresh air to hear something on the radio pulled back on in your face thematics and notched up a bit on substance.

For one, this six year old song is nowhere near irrelevant and probably even more relevant now in present day.  The economy recovery has been a sham at this point, and we’re seeing our country being dragged back into recession after years of the government telling us things are looking up.  To make matters worse, for two years now, our government has been beating the war drums and drumming up shabby pieces of propaganda for any excuse to drag us back to war.

Surely the topics of poverty and social unrest should be on the minds of people all across this nation, right?  And in response, music should reflect some of those concerns in the lyrics and the compositions.  In a previous age, economic hardship and government injustice were the targets of scathing criticism from at least the hip hop community.  Similarly, bad economic conditions in the early nineties served as a brooding platform for grunge to emerge and serve as therapy for those enduring that recession.

Again, perhaps I’ve not listened to enough radio music to know, but right now it seems like the content of mainstream music has been dulled to an extremely narrow and non-provoking range of love and break-up songs, peppered by something about parties and regurgitated declarations of rapper bling or whatever they’re calling it these days.

I’m reminded of a book I read in high school.  You may also know it as Fahrenheit 451.  And if you’ve read that book and understood the fabric in which the society existed in that book, and the underlying threat of nuclear war that was present–and ignored– throughout the entire story, then you’re aware of the similarities we have to this book in present day.  In 2015, there’s been a war against free speech and art in precisely the age in which we need to be offensive–we need to challenge the ideas coming from the official narratives being presented to us by our governments and not ignore them.

Matt

Thoughts on YouTube

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I absolutely appreciate my subscribers and the people who use my music.  I plan to continue producing royalty free music and posting it on YouTube and my website for as long as the internet exists.  Also, I will continue posting blogs here on a regular basis; this week has seen me occupied with the overhaul of my main site, but that overhaul is nearing its completion.

That being said, I would love it if all of my listeners and my subscribers were to hang out here on this site instead.  I think the overall desire to have my own piece of the web be a place where you guys can hang out has been there since two years ago, when YouTube handed down its Cosmic Panda channel designs to its user-base.  They pushed that design and the subsequent snow-flake design on us despite the massive protest from the user-base.

And the same goes for every other change that they made from then until now.  Curiously, the changes haven’t been so drastic this year, and there have been some small good changes that add to the usability of the site.  YouTube, however, has very thoroughly demonstrated that your channel is not really your own channel.  Your artistic choices you’ve made to customize your space on YouTube can easily be destroyed in an instant, no matter what previous concessions you’ve made.

The aftermath of the sweeping changes that completed sometime last year left us with a white channel with nothing but a banner at the top and few options to organize your content.  And while those choices have gotten better with the addition of new modules to your front page, the sad fact is that the front page really is nothing more than a jumping off point to a video screen, where you can either be in a playlist of stuff that is yours (which is the smart thing to do), or among the suggested videos, for which you can get picked off by mostly the videos with millions of views or more.

I will say things have gotten better.  People are getting used to the new YouTube layouts.  If Google can keep them around for a while and not completely change them to something 100% foreign, then these changes are something that people can live with.  The playlists do mimic the old beta channel functions, which is good, especially if you took the effort to make those playlists.

The comments are still an annoying push for Google+.  I can see in my email, that push for Google+ replacing my regular comment messages (which I’ve specifically filtered into their own group) with new activity messages.  Clearly Google is not willing to listen to the outrage of their user-base regarding this system, even though prominent YouTubers like Pewdiepie and Totalbiscuit have shut them off in favor of third-party ways of commenting.

So slowly, I’ve been bringing up my site, which is what most of you who’ve been using it have seen in the last couple of weeks.  My site is my own territory, and the artistic and layout choices are my own.  So whether it’s good or not is up to me and not the cookie-cutter design of an executive staff.

I feel that for me, this site IS my channel page.  It’s better than a channel page.  I have my own comments section.  I have my own forum people can post in.  In time, this wordpress will have tutorials people can refer to if they want to know more about how I produce music.  The basis is there for community.

And who knows?  YouTube has survived the scathing backlashes it received because of their disregard for the user-base.  It may be here to stay.  Or it may not.  If not, this site will still be here, ready for that change.

Music Theory: What is a Musical Note?

A Musical Note, in its most fundamental definition, is a defined frequency of audible sound.  It’s the most basic building block of musical theory.  In modern musical theory, a note is defined universally no matter what genre of music you are in or musical instrument you are playing.

Quarter and eighth notes on a score

There are 12 basic notes in an octave. European culture has assigned abstract values to these notes to make it easier to express ideas using them. The note annotations range from A to G, with ‘sharp’ or ‘flat’ to fill the 5 gaps.  The distribution of these notes, and their sharps and flats, are based on the layout of the traditional piano, with the letters falling on the white keys, and the flats and sharps falling on the black keys.

300px-Klaviatur-3-en_svg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_keyboard

The black keys, or the sharps and flats, have two different names assigned to them that you can refer them as.  The key between the C and D can either be called C Sharp (C#), a half-step above C, or D Flat (Db), a half-step below D.

Notes are usually assigned lengths based on a beat, or tempo.  The definition starts with a whole-note, then half-notes, which are half the length of whole notes.  Then quarter notes, which are a quarter length of whole notes, and so on.

Duple_note_values_comparison

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_note

In the graphic above, the top note is known as the whole note.  The two notes that are below the whole note are known as the half note, while the four notes below the half notes are known as the quarter note.  As you can see, each succession of notes are half the length the previous succession and therefore it takes twice as many notes to fill in the same time as before.

The overall definitions of the beat of a note is assigned by a time-signature.  A beat is a point in a steady rhythm that is used to define measures.

Common_time_signatures

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature

In the first time signature above, the bottom number ‘4’ indicates that the value of a ‘quarter note’ is the beat.  In the second time signature, the bottom number ‘8’ indicates that the ‘half note’ is assigned the beat.  In the last time signature, it is the ‘eighth note’ that is assigned the beat.

When a particular note is assigned the beat, all other notes are relative to it.  For instance, if the bottom number is ‘4’, the quarter note is assigned the beat.  This means that the half note is now 2 beats, while the whole note is 4.  An eighth note is 1/2 a beat, while the sixteenth note is 1/4 a beat.

I will stop here.  Let me know if this is an adequate job of explaining these concepts in the comments below.  For those who are thinking this is a bit basic, I figured I would cover the absolute basics before getting into the more advanced stuff.