How Creative Commons Can Stifle Artistic Output

By George Howard
(Follow George on Twitter)

I have spent twenty years or so being inspired by artists.  Watching them work and refine their craft.  Watching them sacrifice so much for their art; servicing a muse that they didn’t necessarily ask for, but one they couldn’t ignore.  The one realization that I’ve come away with from these years of watching is that artists (and, I use the word inclusively: musicians, poets, filmmakers, et al.), are undercompensated.  Certainly, there are exceptions to this rule; undeniably, there are artists who are overcompensated.  Most artists, however, when they tally up their compensation on a per-hour basis, earn a low wage.

Now, the servicing of the muse is not compelled by money, but, rather, other impulses.  However, absent some type of financial return for the artists’ work, bad things happen: artists begin to believe that their work is without value, and they stop; or, artists have to subsidize their artistic income by working a soul-crushing job that eventually diminishes their ability/desire/time to create…and they stop.  In either case, art stops being created.  This to me is unacceptable.  I defy anyone to give me a good argument against the creation of more art.

All of this is why I react negatively to proponents of the so-called “copyleft” movement.  As a bit of background, the copyleft movement originated from software development, where hobbyist programmers desired to make software free (or very cheap) in order to reduce/eliminate piracy.  There are parallels and inter-connectivity with this movement and the Open Source initiative that makes a program/application’s underlying source code accessible to other programmers so that they may use it as they see fit (to build upon, etc.).

The musical fork of this movement is most widely represented in the woefully misunderstood Creative Commons initiative.  Developed by Lawrence Lessig, et al., Creative Commons provides artists with a means to opt out of certain of the exclusive rights that are automatically granted to authors when they record a song or write it down (also known as fixing an original work in a tangible medium).

There are several justifications for an artist or songwriter to give up copyrights.  The first is reasonable: that by providing a means for artists to more easily exchange rights, reduces transaction costs, and thus encourages collaboration.  The second — that current copyright law enforces and encourages a restrictive permission culture to the detriment of the public good — is not.  By this I mean that the idea that copyright somehow impedes creativity and artistic development is just plain wrong.  As I stated above, what really impedes creativity and artistic development is the artist’s perception that his or her music is valueless/the inability of the artist to monetize his or her output.

The real impact (intentional or otherwise) of the very vocal arguments put forth by Creative Commons with respect to copyright’s contribution to “restrictive permission culture” is that it leads people to make to an incorrect and dangerous conclusion.  People begin to believe that copyright is somehow bad or evil, and that anyone who wants to enforce copyright is anti-progress, anti-collaboration, anti-public benefit, etc.

This view implies that an artist whose sole asset is (or is directly related to) his or her artistic creation is somehow a non-progressive asshole for desiring payment for his or her work.

To be clear, a Creative Commons license is nothing more than a way to opt out of certain of the six exclusive rights you get with a copyright, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  One of the beautiful things about copyright is that you (and only you) have the right to do whatever you want with your rights…including give them away.  Creative Commons, on its surface, simply strives to make this process of giving away certain of your rights easier.  However, the judgment passed by this organization on any creator who doesn’t allow his or her work to be used by whomever so desires (the vague mantra of “information wants to be free” – full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing) is not only ridiculous but also dangerous.

An artist’s copyrights are her assets.  They are hers to do with what she will (again, including give them,or a portion of them, away).  No creator should be shamed, embarrassed or be made to feel guilty if she chooses to sell her art.

Artists tend to have — at best — an uncomfortable relationship with the monetization of their work, and need no encouragement to devalue it.  Rather, artists need to be reminded that their contribution to this deeply troubled world is valuable.  The exchange of value between an artist and his or her fans, is a means to allow the artist to continue creating art, and thus is crucial.

We don’t need an organization of high brow philosophical “all information and music should be free” people trying to convince a starving musician to forgo the $1 that he or she made to buy something off the Taco Bell $0.99 menu for the better of humanity.

What we do need is an environment that reinforces the value of art.  Copyright is one of the key elements of rule of law, and rule of law is a key element to an autonomous culture.  When we begin stripping away rules based on one person’s (or group’s) opinions of what is right/wrong/just, we move away from autonomy, and closer to fascism.  Fascism is not good for art.

George Howard is the former president of Rykodisc. He currently advises numerous entertainment and non-entertainment firms and individuals. Additionally, he is the Executive Editor of Artists House Music and is an Associate Professor of Music Business/Management at Berklee.  He is most easily found on Twitter at:

  • Astralpretzel

    Your points are excellent.
    Try explain them to the people of #OWS… and have a bodyguard.

    • Ronnie Pontiac

      What an uninformed remark.  All viewpoints are welcome at the General Assembly and nonviolence is the rule.

      • Mike

        You have to admit there are a lot of hardcore zombie leaders there who are practically using mind control to disseminate their ideas and are on a massive power trip. A lot of good, well informed people, and a lot more people partially informed, who mean the best, and just don’t know what that is yet. Logic and reason, not mob rule is the best path. No power trips. There are definitely intelligence agency infiltrators there and agent provocateurs on standby I’ve seen photos of them in the crowd. It’s a battle zone of ideas – on the one hand free marketeers, on the other statists who think the government can solve the problems it has created with even more protection and more control of the marketplace. Ultimately, just a lot of lack of understanding.

      • i don’t follow.


    • Mike

      Yeah, I’ve seen some of it… intellectual thugs abound in society, and there is a case to argue that kind of bullying and one-mindedness is what has prevented people from taking to the streets a long time ago. Everyone knows what is going on, what has happened, there is no rule of law, or democracy but they don’t viscerally identify it in the forefront of their consciousness. What they lack is articulation of ideas in their own psyche. Nobody, least of all government education has explained to them the simple obvious common sense principles of the free market, (which they are taught is a free for all, it is not – so it is wrongly demonized as the best solutions often are), and the age old principle of just weights and measures. If you don’t have just weights and measures, you have theft. The monetary system globally of today is an antithesis of just weights and measures. Real capitalism would soon fix all this… but that word has become very dirty indeed…. there is a brilliant brilliant lecture you can find over at MISES dot ORG called “The barbarians at the gate”. It’s very academic in it’s delivery, but worth it. We have to realize, all of this ties together. Music has suffered for a lack of free markets, and we’re in a hangover stage right now. We will recover, and music will take it’s rightful place in society – something cherished, valued and very important for our souls and culture – with much more variance than we have now. Recorded music might necessarily just become souvenirs. I am hoping that a new far superior surround sound analogue format will be invented and taken up by a new generation of quality loving people… maybe that’s a far fetched dream… but you never know, stranger things have happened. But it would put value back into recorded music anyway and stop piracy. Ok enough ranting from me I’m taking up all the space here. 

      • while  I’mnot a libertarian, i do believe in the power of the free market, and, of course, am familiar with Mises, etc.


  • Amen

  • Mike

    Yep, you know what’s going on. It’s like the protestors on Wall Street, some of them are blaming capitalism (many are not and do correctly identify the problem). In essence they recognize that corruption in some form is the problem but they lack the education of the situation to articulate correctly what is wrong, and what should be instead. What they should be protesting FOR is capitalism – because a free market means the government is the referee and protector of the marketplace, not businesses and industries within it – it prevents anti-competitive behaviour, and fraud, instead of coddling and bailing out those kinds of activities. It jails mafia activities, instead of rewarding them. This is the fundamental breakdown in the masses comprehension of what the rule of law means. They believe the law is to blame, the system is to blame – in reality, the system is barely existing. It is so corrupt, so circumvented by law*breakers* in high positions, who write laws to suit and protect themselves and their buddies, that you can’t call it law anymore. It’s a crony system. In effect those big bankers and other high officials of the oligarchy and their minions are the true anarchists, not the protestors. We want law, they do anything they can to get around law, because in a true free market you can’t have a businesses that has 0.1% assets to 99.9% leveraging. That’s just insane. The point of that commentary is that this same philosophy or culture of ignorance naturally has extended in all directions like a virus. And it applies to copyright and property rights as well. After all if big money can steal the world 50 times over on paper, why can’t they take your royalties and other rights too – right? This article is exactly precise in diagramming the problem – we do indeed have a severe breakdown in the rule of law, and it is everywhere, from high office to small. The lack of understanding of the rule of law is the problem. People have grown ignorant, not only apathetic. Everything said in this article is excellent. Your commentary on art, the nature of the artists relationship to monetization of their work and the comment on the rule of law. 

    There is however the question of enforceability. How are we going to enforce copyright on the internet. Perhaps general copy protection could work, but ultimately it is always gotten around. I argue that the old method of buying CD’s was in fact a slight con to the buyer. How many CD’s you bought most of which you didn’t listen to but a couple of songs, and how many you bought and hardly listened to. The cynic would say “your loss”. I don’t think so. I think this is a karmic situation as well for musicians / writers and record companies. The old system was a con. What about the con that you bought a license, but if you lost the CD / record or it wore out, you have to buy a whole new license. Another con in my opinion. And they charged big money while they could. So this is a hangover for me in one way. Sad I myself didn’t get in on the good times, but that’s neither here not there to the fact of the matter. Personally, I follow my conscience. I listen to a lot of things on youtube, online, and if I genuinely like a song, and want it as part of my collection – ie. I listen to it regularly or at least more than once and I value it as a piece of art, I go and buy it to support the artist. Directly if possible or through itunes. For many, I only buy individual songs, but there are also rare artists whose entire album as a singular piece of art I genuinely appreciate, for example for me Mark Knopfler comes to mind – and I do buy the whole album, even at a CD store. I know, most people do not live by principle of their conscience, but at least idealistically speaking, it seems to me far better to be able to buy what you want to buy, knowing what you want before you buy it.

    Are we going to scan ipod and laptops at airports? I would rather not make money than see the world change for the worse as an excuse to recover royalties. You mention fascism – which is defined commonly as the merger of corporate and state – corporations running government for corporations or visa versa, it is the same result. Water and flour, flour and water, same result. We don’t need more of that, we don’t need more police checks invasions of privacy, hands down childrends pants by fed goons at airports and train and bus stations, x ray body scanners driving past your house to radiate you through the brickwork. That is no solution at all, and certainly not worth a buck. I personally don’t know what the heck the best solution is, and I can’t see one that we can engineer, which leads me to believe that what will happen will be necessarily an organic revolution of necessities rather than anything we can systemically “come up with”. I’m starting to believe that the average musician and composer will start to have to make humble money once again from concerts that people attend for the “vibe”, and no more easy money from  big sales. Actual quality and great performances rather than making one album in a studio and waiting for the dollars to roll in while you sit by the pool. Of course many artists already know this today if not most. I’m stating the obvious, but what isn’t perhaps obvious is that this trend is not going to change but continue, but the market will start to support it more than it has been, and so it will prove itself that way, rather than become another dead end, if that makes sense. There is little demand monetarily for recorded music in and of itself. But performances will come into increasing demand as people and the renaissance we are living through continues to return to and awaken to true human and dare I say, spiritual or soul values – community, music, shared experiences, great vibes, healthy escapism and outlets, which real concerts provide. I remember a Robert Plant concert I went to one time in Australia years ago when this trend was still forming. He had to shout to the audience “Get up, come on you’re like a bunch of dead bodies”. The music was fantastic, it was a brilliant concert. The musicians had life, the people were stupefied by modern culture. People lost the plot, their humanity and their instincts of existing. That we are living breathing souls having a human experience, not “consumers” or “persons”. I think that trend is on the rebound. To make money of course the obvious: there are gimmicks, signed copies, and souvenirs.  But no more big CD sales. iTunes and the like must go the way of the dodo as the US economy and the US dollar continues to unravel due to all the high stakes global gambling that has taken place, and all the trillions in money printing and derivatives that must come home sooner or later inflating and ruining their domestic economy until there is real reform (if I was an American I’d be voting Ron Paul that man is an economic and philosophical living legend). People just aren’t going to buy it anymore. But they will attend concerts and get the real deal, be it acoustic or big stadium extravaganzas, perhaps buying albums at the event to commemorate it.  We all want easy money, but I think the music industry just like every other industry and everyone else in the world is going to have to accept that is no longer possible in the way that it used to be. The internet has killed it. But humanity is more adaptable than any machine. And anyway, the old way only benefitted the few, and bred corruption and control in the industry. I remember hating it – don’t you? Sure if you were Brittany Spears or Led Zeppelin, life was good, but 99% of the other artists out there, it just felt like a big con. I’m glad the record companies are failing miserably. I hope they die forever. Sorry but I do. I have faith in the ingenuity of humanity to overcome, and of the free market to balance out and properly supply monetary rewards for artists based on their output / performance to the market in the long run. Yes, in the short term, it’s not the best.

    Perhaps what is happening is a healing crisis, a good thing, from which music and the arts will emerge all the sounder. That’s what I now believe, only the timeline is in question. After-all if the true value leans toward the performance in person then we don’t anymore need lawyers and governments to enforce our property rights. Since they can’t do that evidently, (you cannot and must not enforce the internet, it has other, far too important functions that the rights of musicians however valuable to us individually and to society as a whole do not trump) maybe that is a good thing. It will also encourage diversity and artists that yesterday and today would give up but shouldn’t, might start to realize there is a chance for them afterall. The big names will only be big names if they really are good. No more fake promoting of empty mindless trash. You know what I’m talking about. Maybe also when the other crummy soul smashing jobs are also no longer or far less available, they’ll have no other choice but to do what they were perhaps many of them put on Earth to do. Make music.

    • thanks for the comment.

      my hope is that as we move to an almost entirely digital distro/consumption model it will be easier to track and compensate artists, and enforceability will be manageable.


    • Evan paul

      Mike, I’ve read your responses here and like the way you ‘tell it like it is’. As a song I wrote back in the 70’s and recorded recently says it, it’s a ‘slightly tainted world’.

  • Tosh! Creative Commons is amazing and gets around all the crap of the old music industry.

    • Mike

      Can you elaborate on that? I don’t mind it, I just see what the author is saying that yes people can have that if they want, but we need a broader wake up.

    • can you give some examples?


      ps – love that you used the word “Tosh!”

  • Duke

    Don’t neglect to take remixers into account. They’re really the ones it’s for. And nobody’s forcing anybody to accept Creative Commons. It’s just a simple way of identifying works by people who don’t mind if you remix their art.

    • Mike

      I think the article is a comment on the philosophical and practical direction of things. And he is rightly calling for a correction of positions, if I have taken it the right way. Yes, people should be able to do what they want with their own property, excepting hitting others over the head with it, nobodies arguing that.

    • i tried to point this out in the article when I said:

      To be clear, a Creative Commons license is nothing more than a way to opt out of certain of the six exclusive rights you get with a copyright, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. 


  • Adrian Durlester

    I think the author completely mis-characterizes the Creative Commons position on copyright. I am, and have always been, a strong defender of copyright. I am known in my professional circles as a stickler for both the law and intent when it comes to copyright and protection of intellectual property. I have also been a member of Creative Commons from their beginnings. I do not believe Creative Commons has any negative impact and in fact has done a great deal to educate the public on matters of copyright. They are not wrong in describing ours as a “restrictive permission culture.” One never knows if one’s use is a fair use until, if and when, it is litigated in a court. The law is simply too fuzzy. The copyright office simply says “when in doubt, don’t” and that is clearly an artifact of a restrictive approach.

  • Just wanted to clear up a few points from what I read.

    You don’t have to give away your stuff for free to use CC license. You can still charge them whatever you want. You are just allowing people to share it with others and saying it’s okay. No DRM, no police knocking down your door for burning a copy for a friend. And depending on the Creative Commons version you use, you can allow them to build upon it or use it in other manners like background music or for a film. And that person that uses it has to do so under the same license and give you the credit for it, which as a bonus is giving you more exposure.And it works both ways, after they use it in that manner, you can do the same with what they have done, and so can others.You can still have your works under copyright AND creative commons. You keep your copyright but you are telling them you allow use of your work in the manner specified.

    Our music has been used in student films, video game promotions, documentaries, youtube mashup videos, satellite radio (which we get a share of even under CC license) and ring tones. And every time I was told it was because we flat out say “share this” because of creative commons license.

    A few years ago Napster was a criminal now everyone is stumbling over themselves to be part of the music on demand revolution. We need to adjust if we want to be a part of it and not get screwed over again.

    I’m a CC artist and my music is on spotify, which is pretty cool.

    • Mike

      The question is from what you say, you’re making money – a living – purely from music, even if this is just one facet of your income – is that fair to say? Or do you have a day job / do other things? (note, day job includes where you are paid a wage for doing music!) Genuinely interested.

      • Yes we do make money and truthfully it has actually improved over the years, even using creative commons based services like Jamendo that also offer revenue sharing and a number of royalty free services. But no it’s not my only income. I do have a day job, but did before using CC licensing too. And we are actually one of the groups that do offer a pay your own price for download model. Which people do actually pay for.

    • Thanks for the comment, and I tried to convey a similar point in the article when I said:

      To be clear, a Creative Commons license is nothing more than a way to opt out of certain of the six exclusive rights you get with a copyright, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It seems like you are an example of an artist who has successfully used the CC license, and still found a way to make $ in order to keep doing what you do.Thanks,


  • It’s not about shaming artists for asking for money. Creative Commons does all the legal work of providing an easily-understandable protectable means for artists to share some rights and reserve others. The licenses are flexible and varied:

    This is especially valuable in our new technological culture, where an artist can benefit way more from the widespread potential of sharing (a teenager making a dance video using your music and posting it on youtube, a remix by another artist, a charity or political organization using your work in a video ad and crediting you) than focusing entirely on sales.

    Increased internet visibility can do more for an independent artists’ sales and show attendance than pretty much anything else ever has. Creative Commons licenses allow artists to extend their work when they want and how they want, without worry that they need a lawyer to figure out if they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

    On a related note, I’m pretty sure the copyleft movement also embraces the idea of open source business models that thrive in a collaborative environment. Look at all the developers making a great living off WordPress.

    • Well said, thank you. 

    • Denise, 

      thanks for the comment, and agreed to a point. as i stated:

      To be clear, a Creative Commons license is nothing more than a way to opt out of certain of the six exclusive rights you get with a copyright, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. 

      agreed also about developers making a living off of WP; are there similar examples with respect to CC and the music business? I ask with genuine interest.


      • Check out Nina Paley’s “Sita sings the Blues” – it cost her (say) $50,000 to produce (shouldn’t have been even that much but there were reasons). She gave away the distribution rights under Creative Commons – she’s nearly made all the money back. (Might have done by now.)

        It was very amusing the way script-kiddie rip off merchants were crowing about pirating her work – when it had already been on YouTube for 6 months – because she put it there.Fact is copyright in the digital world is difficult to police – nigh on impossible to police – and whining about how it hurts so much isn’t going to achieve anything. Creative Commons provides a new way of looking at things.

  • joey

    creative commons allows your music to be spread more easily. which in turn makes you more popular. which in turn gets you more fans. which in turn makes you more money.

    this article is a sham.

  • Djwaker

    absolute political BS from a man out of touch with modern music

    • Billyjoerich

      I agree it’s “absolute political BS” but not that the author is out of touch with modern music. He’s enough in touch to realize that Creative Commons is a real threat to companies like Tunecore.  His use of  Tea Partyish buzzwords like “fascism” to demonize a perceived enemy, “rule of law” and coining of the word “copyleft” (which I rather like) tells me a lot about where he’s coming from. Corporate self-interest.  I agree with much of what he said about creativity, but the fact is, nobody is forcing anybody to participate in CC.  If there were, that would be a different story.  Tunecore is just covering their own ass.  I’ve got a friend who uses Tunecore and he’s paid them far more than he’s ever made from iTunes or Amazon.  The other article in this email seemed to favor eternal copyright and seek to do away with Public domain entirely.  Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass who makes money off my songs 70 years after I’m dead.  If my great-great-great grandkids want to make money from songs they can just write their own.  Ultimately, music belongs to the people.  That’s who it’s written for. 

      • wow. never in a million years would i have thought i’d be compared to the tea party. in any case, i did not coin the word copyleft. 

        i couldn’t agree more that no one is forcing people to use CC, and I say in the article that it has its purpose:

        To be clear, a Creative Commons license is nothing more than a way to opt out of certain of the six exclusive rights you get with a copyright, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. 


        • Karl

          ” a Creative Commons license is nothing more than a way to opt out of certain of the six exclusive rights you get with a copyright”

          You are completely wrong. You do not “opt out” of any rights whatsoever. You retain all of those rights. You simply place conditions on who can use those rights, and under what circumstances – just as you would under a traditional copyright.

          The only thing that is always allowed is NON-COMMERCIAL distribution of your works – and only those works, verbatim (you can prohibit derivative works). That’s it.

          You can still be a member of a PRO. Radio stations and TV shows are still required to pay you. Record labels can’t use your material without permission and/or payment. And so forth.

      • Joel

        Yeah, anything worth real money eventually ends up in court. 50k for Sita is not much. How would you feel if you were living in your car and the only great song, book, poem, or movie etc. was stolen and the money that might keep you alive gone. It takes decades or sometimes longer for case law to be settled. With Creative Commons every case is virgin territory…yeah, let’s go that route. First give all your rights away, then in the slim (but yet better than winning the lottery) chance you have a winner financially and some burger joint clips you for it, then you get the extra insult of forking out more to a lawyer to try and get paid or worse yet none will take the case because …oh, yeah there’s not an evolved Copy-left branch of intellectual property law. Giving your work away is foolish. The argument for it falls under fallacy of composition — what is true of the part (individual) is true
        of the whole. I’ve been hearing these great tales about how effective it is for about four years. I’m not finding it to be reality from an evidential standpoint. I am disgusted with the whole environment, it is toxic to creativity.

        • Anonymous

          you’re totally missing the point of the article

          the point is artists should have the choiche to do what they want with their music – either give it away or sell it or both
          the choiche is theirs, its their music

          however, if an artist chooses to sell their music, they should not be ridiculed, its their choiche
          And some people that associate themselves with creative commons literally put down, admonish and yell at artists that choose to sell their music.
          And we just think thats wrong.

          An artist should be supported if they choose to sell or give away their music.
          There is nothing wrong with either provided the artist makes the choiche
          You certainly dont believe an artist should be ridiculed if he/she wants to sell their music? Or do you?

    • not sure you know enough about me to know if i am or am not out of touch  with modern music.

      as an aside, i oversee Daytrotter (; not sure if you’d consider the artists on their modern or not, but their current. and i want them to be paid.


  • Anonymous

    An interesting argument, and one I don’t entirely disagree with – (some forms of) CC does have the potential to superficially devalue the works it is applied to – but I can’t help feeling some of the unsubstantiated statements in the piece, such as: “what really impedes creativity and artistic development is the artist’s perception that his or her music is valueless/the inability of the artist to monetize his or her output.”

    Now, I’ve sold some of my music, and a lot of it I’ve given away for free, just to share it, to have it heard and critiqued by friends and strangers alike. Nothing would please me more than having a dedicated hardcore of fans (I’m not talking millions, here) willing to give me some of their hard earned in return for my (hard worked) music. But the absence of such good fortune doesn’t force me to conclude that my art is valueless; on the contrary, I know a good many people whose tastes and opinions I respect, for whom my music has given some joy (however much or little), which serves only to elevate my perception of the value of my art, regardless of whether they have given me £10 every time they’ve heard 12 new tracks of mine. Ability to monetize is not in direct relation to the artist’s perception of their art’s value.

    Why do I give my music away? Because there are some people who can’t afford to pay for it, some who wouldn’t invest their time and energy into exploring it if they first had to gamble their cash on whether they like it, and some who I simply want to share it with. I make music for the joy of making it, and while I’d love to earn my crust solely through my creativity, I’m fortunate enough to have a job that pays for my food, while the music, my passion, validates ME.

    I fully support the selling and buying of music (have done and do my share of both), and wouldn’t ever want to seem to cast aspersions on those who try to make it work as a day job – as Mr Howard feels CC does – but equally I don’t think CC and its philosophy can be held responsible for the microscoping of the arts market. This is merely an inevitable byproduct of an oversaturation of the market, thanks to technologies such as the Internet and digital audio making it so much easier for ordinary people to be artists and merchants. Supply and demand rules all, and with such a ready supply of music through both legal and illegal channels, CC really cannot be made a scapegoat for the devaluation of music in the eyes of the general masses.

    The inverse argument also applies: in light of all I’ve said above, does Mr Howard feel I too am guilty of Helping to devalue music, and thus deprive artists of their dues?

    As for Mike’s lengthy arguments (not that I’m one to talk), two comments:
    1) Musicians making money from performance rather than recording – all very well, but I’m not sure how works of art such as Pet Sounds, Sergeant Pepper’s, etc would ever have seen the light of day. Recording is an art in and of itself, and the “make music by gigging” argument always sounds to me rather like telling Van Gough he ought to do some interior design to make ends meet.
    2) How to solve the problem of rewarding artists while allowing a digital generation consumer such fundamentals as try-before-you-buy, unlimited downloads and freedom to make copies? Simple. An opt in music tax run centrally by government, with a national archive of art online (you could have different packages eg Film only, Music only, etc) and royalties paid out as a proportion of tax revenue based on unique user downloads (and perhaps even a “like” button) each month/quarter/whatever. This would grant the consumer all the benefits they’ve been used to since they discovered P2P sharing over a decade ago, whilst ensuring artists received a fairer share than many have become used to, with the added upshot that more consumers would be more willing to experiment and diversify the sadly homogenised face of contemporary popular culture. Indeed, the only real drawback is that it would certainly force record companies (and, to a lesser extent, the film studios, too) to massively downsize, but in truth that’s probably a bonus too.

    • love this.

      thanks for the great comment.

      it’s exchanges of ideas like that that make this worthwhile.


  • Rob

    First… is this a blog or do you get paid by the word? Cut the first 4 paras and lose nothing. Blogs are not articles. There’s a difference.

    Even the responses are long and bloated. “This article is exactly precise in diagramming the problem…” Sheesh! Thanks Mike for agreeing with something by expanding on it exponentially and offering unsupported opinions as facts.

    Look at Joey’s comment – perfect!

    This article does not address the real reason artists give up copyright. And Creative Commons is not about giving up copyright – on the contrary.

    In a world where radio is mainly commercial crap for tradesman to use power tools the audience for real music turn to MP3 downloads to find new artists. And the artists turn to alternatives to get the exposure they once got through mass media as they march on without the record companies that still control it.

    So what can a poor boy do? Why not throw your art out into the big wide world, let people copy it, use it in their films, etc. I know that the exposure will lead to sales eventually. Creative Commons supports this stratgey.

    • thanks for the comment. didn’t realize there was a word limit on blog posts; I’ve certainly read some long ones.

      in any case, can you point me to some examples where an artist using a CC license have gained exposure of any meaningful level; and thus to sales?


      • Pzychotix

        Off the top of my head: Jonathan Coulton. A very popular musician among gamer/geek circles, who uses a CC-nc license.

        But a simple google search “creative commons successful artist” yields a bountiful number of success stories, including Coulton, so why take my word for it? Why not take the tiniest bit of action and research this on your own before writing a lengthy article about it?

      • Karl

        “can you point me to some examples where an artist using a CC license have gained exposure of any meaningful level; and thus to sales?”

        Trent Reznor, for one. Also, Amanda Palmer, Yoko Ono, and the Beastie Boys released music under CC licenses. That’s just off the top of my head.

        Of course, most musicians on major labels are not legally allowed to release music under CC, because, as I’m sure you know, they had to assign their copyrights to the labels.

  • So — the only people who will participate in CC are indie musicians (who nobody would be willing to litigate the rights of in the first place) in the hopes it might be some “Magic Bullet” to get them heard — read: mediocre hacks filling the market place with license-free fluff.

    So Downy can use a amateur mash-up of your song, not pay & even if it does resonate your average fan can just download it on Mediashare and NOT come to your shows — and even if someone still uses your “some rights reserved song” improperly, you’re back at square one ie: trying to find someone to go to bat for you, which will never happen.

    Sounds super-awesome — and by super awesome I mean not awesome.

  • Artmaker

    HUHUHUH ? what the hell are you guys doing over there ?

    this is total BS. creative commons allows artistis to set THEIR INTENTION of SHARING.

    get it straight. ridiculous.

    • thanks for the comment; i believe i have it straight. i said many times in the article that CC is a license tool:

      To be clear, a Creative Commons license is nothing more than a way to opt out of certain of the six exclusive rights you get with a copyright, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. 

      my issue is not with that. my issue is that there is undercurrent of disapproval should you elect not to use cc.


  • Skid

    I will not be playing out which is where the “more fans” comes in. The only outlet is to produce and sell over the web for those people who value what I create. 

    If I was to give that up, then the only outlet would be to give my craft away and therefore create a valueless piece of art.

    If I were to sell only 3 pieces a year, that would make it worthwhile for me but…

    this Creative Commons is all about what youth wants for free… this attitude is a sham

    Did anyone see the article about a rapper who DID NOT release his album on iTunes and made 3 million dollars more?

    He created value by limiting his distribution. 

    This is not a cut and dry debate…

    • But the point behind creative commons is, without it, if they shared this album or played it in a public place should the people who bought it be sued for doing it? Because they can, or the record company he signs with could decide that for him even if he disagrees. Adding creative commons to music the artist says to the fans this is your music too and here is what you can do with it. Usually it’s just what people normally do with it, share it with others be cause they like it. 

      And the outcome is more people usually come back.

      • where are you getting the data that supports “the outcome is more people usually come back?”


        • Opps, I was not saying MORE people come back I was trying to say “people usually come back” and I think my wife asked me a question while I was typing and then think I changed what I was saying to “more people came back than you would think.” and it kinda became a mix of both.

    • you nail it: produce for those who value what you create. they will compensate you.


  • To be honest, the assumption that all music has value in a commercial sense is laughable for starters – or that people will stop making music because there’s no money in it equally so.

    I’d rather give my music away at this point than have to keep paying iTunes extortion fees for listing tracks – pay to play is just as offensive.I’ve done it with one album but it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    We’ve gone from macroexploitation from labels to microexploitation from the gatekeepers to the minimal revenues from mediocre sales.

    • totally understandable, but it means that you are a hobbyist – nothing wrong with that, of course.


  • Francois

    I agree with this article totally. I have been giving away some of my music for free download to encourage fan growth. However, the common perception is that free stuff has no value and it hasn’t helped me at all. To give an example, my best selling single on iTunes had been available for free on my Facebook page for 4 months before I started selling it on iTunes. In the first week it was up on iTunes, I had more sales than I had had downloads for the entire 4 months when it was available for free.

    In my opinion, CC does the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. It basically allows cheapskates to take another person’s creation and make money off it by making the relenquishing of rights by the author an official statement. CC is just a nice way to help artists conceed that they don’t deserve to be paid for their creations.

    • thanks. exactly what i was getting at.


  • Hans-Rainer Mayer

    I have started reading your artiicle. After a few lines I printed a hardcopy for reading it more deeply.
    I’m presently writing about my experience with artists, mainly musicians and painters, about the same topic. There is a saying in Germany “In young days a musician, in the old days a beggar”.
    This is the situation of many musicians, neither they are so-called professionals or semi-professionals (SP).
    I was a marketing professional more than 30 years. Since 10 years I am working as a musician and painter (SP).
    Hans-Rainer Mayer
    Gersthofen, Germany

  • Randr68

    The information presented in this article outlines the trouble the music industry has currently found themselves. The confusion that songwriters, musicians artists in general have is due promises made that haven’t been delivered upon. As a Ent attorney I see it all the time.

    • precisely – my point wasn’t that CC is bad, it’s that it’s misunderstood/confusing, and that can be detrimental.


  • Realitycheck

    Reality Check!!!!!!

    People aren’t buying music like they used to.
    Independenmt artists for the most part make very little money

    If no one ever hears your music because you are afraid
    to loose something, than no one will ever hear your music.

    Tunecore is just another group tring to make money from the cuurrent system

    Artists can put their music(unlimited) on Amazon for free with Createspace

    • it’s not about being afraid to lose something; it’s about finding ways to create value exchanges between the creator and the constituent.


  • Jim Near

    I can give you an argument against the creating of more art. Most of it sucks and should never see the light of day. In the absence of talented writers creating music that will be stolen off the internet the creative vacuum has been filled by agressive no-talent hacks and writers who suck.
    Jim Near

    • Anonymous

      these very same artists existed before the net and will exist after the net
      difference now is the general population of the world gets to decide if the music has value, not some random dude

  • “All of this is why I react negatively to proponents of the so-called “copyleft” movement.  As a bit of background, the copyleft movement originated from software development, where hobbyist programmers desired to make software free (or very cheap) in order to reduce/eliminate piracy.”

    This is absolute bullshit and an insult to anybody who partakes in the efforts around free software. You seriously need to get your facts right.

    “Free” in “free software” is “free as in freedom, not as in free beer”. A lot of free software is developed by people who get paid for it. In fact MySQL, a company which produces only free software has been bought for 800 mill. USD ( All modern web browser except internet explorer are free software for vast parts or even entirely. Yet again, people get paid for creating them.

    It doesn’t surprise me, that some Business/Management whatsoever doesn’t get this. But please just stop talking about things you clearly don’t understand.

    The core of free intellectual property is not, that it’s gratis or that it’s creator doesn’t get paid. It is about the recipient being free to do with it, what he wants. Like sharing it with friends or basing new work off it.
    What this really aims at it cutting out the corporate middlemen who – let’s be honest – are the ones really getting rich on the authors and their audience.

    And it is those corporate middlemen, who have poisoned the values of normal people and let them to believe, that anything that is “free” comes without cost. Common property means common responsibility and requires the recipient to contribute, either by supporting the author with the financial means, or by helping to improve it. But to the few people, who haven’t lost their sanity, this is obvious.

    • ad hominem (“business/management whatsoever”) attacks aside, I respectfully disagree. I stated several times that my issue was not with the fact that cc provides a license which people can use to do whatever they like with their rights; my issue is with the idea that doing anything other than making your work free is somehow wrong.

      i am fully aware of organizations – be they things like red hat or the various mozilla elements – that make money by servicing open source software.

      could you point me to a similar one with respect to music?


  • Evan paul

    Each to his own belief whether CC is for them or not. For me, I believe in me and my music and want it to remain as it is, pure. I uploaded my CD at Tunecore and made enough to pay my yearly upkeep, a tiny bit more for me. Was it worth it? Yes, in today’s world of a saturated market, to be in the black is good, (not counting expenses of equipment, if we count that, we’d be in the hole forever, we spent that money for the love of it).
     I was uploading my new CD the other day for the special of 19.99 or whatever the figure was, I went through the whole thing, then proceeded to pay….surprise, next year the upkeep would be $50. I wish I knew this before I went through the whole upload…now I’m thinking…if last year was any indication of the money made, I’d be in the red….Hmmmm….that doesn’t go down as good in my mind. Not putting Tunecore down now, they have to make something for their softwear and effort and time put into it. But in order for me to make enough to cover, I’d have to spend a lot of time promoting and convincing people to buy my art. Even then, there’s no guarantee.
    But in my mind, my music is great and I don’t want it bastardized in any shape or form, if I do a collab and I have done a lot of them, that’s different, but CC, no.

    • Evan,

      fantastic that you have been able to make money with your music. as you say, there are no guarantees, but – as you’ve proven – you can do it.

      keep on.


      • Evan paul

        You’re funny George, you call that money? Hehehehehe……

    • Love that price increase, I paid full rate last year to list a CD, and the only reason I paid the extortion fee was because renewals were cheap ($10ish).

      No way in hell am I paying $50 to relist something.

      No way in hell.

      • Anonymous

        i hear you rfurtkamp

        TuneCore has to work for you. It cannot be what I think should work for you. You are the customer, I am here to serve you. Your opinions are, by default, right, as they are your opinions. As you can imagine, I could not disagree with you more.
        As you have been extremely honest and open with me, I hope you dont mind me being honest back.
        When I started TuneCore 5 1/2 years ago, it was the first time any artist could gain access to distribution, keep all their rights, get all their money. I made the pricing up while I was taking a shower. It used to be $7.98 per release per year + $0.99 a song + $0.99 for each store you wanted to the release to go to. As I added more stores, the price started to climb. It did not feel like it to people as it was a-la-carte, but they were paying more than we charge now. Over the years I fiddled with other pricing trying to keep costs down while improving the system. I added more al-la-carte, and then people were paying over $65 on average. It just felt wrong to me. So I did what I could to lower pricing while adding more.
        That being said, this is the part I think you are not going to like. Sometimes, I don’t get it. That is, I ran a label for 20 years. My entire life from college though now life I have been surrounded by musicians. When they gig, they blow more than $50 in one night on beer. Many will Fed Ex masters and art for over $50 and think nothing of it. Than there are the fuzz pedals, Pro Tools, guitars and all the other gear costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
        Then there are all the other things paid for from time to time – pizza, beer, movies, Berklee school of music, pot, video games and so on.
        And somehow many of those things are OK to spend money on, but $49 ($4 or so dollars a month) for worldwide distribution of an album, collection of all the money, storage, new stores, new technology, protection of your copyrights, having a team – your own record label with a staff there to help and support you – is too high?
        Im sorry, I truly am. I want this to work for you. I want you to think of it the way I do but I can see you do not value it the same way. The TuneCore staff is your staff, they work for you. They yell at retail stores on your behalf, they chase people down and get your money, they fight for you to get better payout rates, they will go to the matt for you to fix any problem, provide information, make changes or take on someone or something that is trying to take advantage of you.
        For about $4 a month for an album.

        We are the best in the world at what we do and we work for you. Every day, in and out. Your music, your art, deserves it. I owe it to you.
        I wish I could make it free, I truly do, I can’t. All of this stuff costs money. But what I can do is improve, provide more outlets, more value and services. Launch new things to get more of your money (click here for more info – )
        Hire new people to market and promote your music – click here to see the results
        Hire people to create deals with brands on your behalf – click here to learn about what our EVP Business Development/Integrated Brand Marketing does for you (starts at about 26 minutes) –

        Robbery to me is when someone lies or steals from you – click here to see how they do that –

        and here –

        Robbery is not when you are clear, open and transparent, provide information and give the artist the information to make the decisions they believe are best for them.

        There are so many things I see musicians spend $50 on a year – sometimes I am stunned at how they value three beers and a large pepperoni pizza more than what we do.

        But its moot, as I am here to serve you. You have to agree with me, and you dont. There are other things you think are worth $50 a year, having worldwide distribution, keeping your rights, getting all the money from the sale of your music, have a full team working to market and promote your music while protecting your copyrights and more is not worth it to you.

        I wish to god I could change your mind, I understand I can’t.

        All I can say is we are here if you want us to be there for you if you would like to stay with us.


        • I know where you’re coming from, but for a lot of us it’s simply ‘have something listed’ and we can justify subsidizing that to a degree.

          Here it’s the equivalent of the Netflix price increase; 5x for what is a non-commercial project in practice (I do experimental wierd/free jazz/soundscape stuff dpeending on my mood) is a bit much.Sorry it won’t work out long-term for both of us – and that “half price” anniversary specials are more valuable than existing customers.

          Such is life I guess.

          • Anonymous

            oh i would not say that at all

            without you, i dont have a job.

            its about pleasing all of you – which is really tough to do, but we really do try!
            i will ask Artist Support to reach out to you


          • Mike

            No offense man, I mean I haven’t made any money on it either but that means you haven’t sold more than $50 of stuff in a whole year that means your stuff just isn’t selling. I made money in other ways commercials etc, and my album didn’t sell because I just didn’t promote it because I didn’t have the confidence to promote it. But I know if / when I write something I can get behind more, I will have a great distribution mechanism right at my computer. I can’t possibly complain about the price – how can you? If your music didn’t sell more than $50 in a year, that means nobody bought it. Whose fault is that? It’s not tunecores fault.

          • The fault here is the unadvertised price hike to be honest as much as anything.  When I signed up last year, was 40-something to list and renewals for albums were around $10 per. I understand price increases and all but it’s a bit much in this economy for a free jazz/experimental wierd vanity project.

        • Mike

          Hey man, I just want to say I have at all times been thoroughly impressed with tunecore and suspected there was someone with the intelligence and passion behind it all that you seem to have – but never found out. Reading your post I can see my impression or intuition was right. Listen man, you should know, it’s a fantastic revolutionary experience that it seems is massively underestimated by people. You were the second half of the Steven Jobs / itunes revolution. You gave us global access to the biggest online music store – and many others. As you say for $50 a year or whatever. As you say, people spend a lot more on rubbish and don’t value it but they bitch about this. I agree. I myself have not made money on tunecore, but that’s because my music didn’t sell! That’s not your fault. You got me a spot in the store. I know, if I write something that I believe can and will sell, and I promote it, I know that my distribution is down within 30 days, over the internet, no middleman. Dude, I can’t praise what you’ve done highly enough. Thank you for all the musicians out there who would of had to go through a fricken record label in the old days. You’re the man.

          • Anonymous


            your words mean a lot. Thank you!

            TuneCore is my song….


  • Really enjoying reading everyone’s viewpoints, thanks.
     I agree with the most restrictive of the CC licences, because people will copy my album for their friends anyway, so I don’t want to make them feel guilty for spreading the word about me to other potential lifelong fans. But I don’t agree with them selling it to their friends. That’s where I draw the line with my original music.However I respect a creator’s right to keep using standard copyright and “All Rights Reserved”. If I cover their work I pay mechanicals and put the “All Rights of the copyright holders Reserved” on the CD. 

    It is interesting though that anyone has a compulsory license to perform any cover song previously released. I find it strange a copyright holder doesn’t have control over that. 

    Thanks Again,



  • Snowy Furrkat

    am i the only one who noticed that the author only refers to artists as “her” or “she”? Men can and do create art just as often and just as skillful as women do. I would appreciate if the author would change this article as the fact that they do not give credit to the fact that men are artists too makes me feel insulted because I am a male artist and you basically just slapped me in the face and said what i do is not art simply because i am not a female.

    • Anonymous


      i suspect the author wrote “she” as 99.9% of the time articles refer to musicians as “he”

  • Fascist really …I was respecting your perspective until you finished with fascist. There are plenty of artists that want give the world their art and they are NOT hobbyists. Its simple no one is saying you MUST register the work in the creative commons library, it is a choice….like not doing it and keeping all your rights in place is a choice.

    I have been wondering what the world of music would sound like if “mash-ups” were given more credence and air too breadth. I am not saying stepping is good but really we are all inspired at some level by others. Isn’t it about time we all acknowledge it  …. collaboration is so beautiful why not let it grow.

    With that I happen to be the registered owner of and would be happy to point it to the cause. If the people behind the .org would like. I have no monetary motivation. Peace

  • I’m sorry man, but pull your head out of your ass…

  • Me

    “Copyleft” is theft. People use “creative commons” as a blanket excuse to post others’ music online (i.e. on the Internet Archive) without compensation to the artists, and often without even crediting the musicians/composers, which violates the principle of “moral rights,” which is a legally-protected concept everywhere but in the USA.

    I have been recording music of my own for three decades, and have come to expect to receive little or no remuneration for my efforts. It’s never been as though I’m punching a time-clock and waiting for an hourly wage at the end of the week, nor as though I had spent four expensive years in college for it and expect to land a lucrative job just because I’d paid tuition, fulfilled requirements and done homework. My music has been played on radio stations, but I’ve never received a red cent from BMI; I just accept that I’m below a “line” above which rests the RIAA’s stable of elite music-workers. I had even quit making music for 15 years (until a couple years ago), because living for my art had driven my life into the ground.
    I have to ask: to what should I feel entitled? That even my close friends deign to listen to my music, let alone to give me feedback or encouragement? That people feel obliged to buy the cow after having sampled its milk through the fence (so to speak)? That because I am a one of those “real” artists that people always hear about, people should sling me some cash out of the principle of “appreciation,” or that they should just buy my CDs or downloads because my music is well-crafted, diverse, singular, and moving? That there should be public support for artists such as I (as there is in Europe, so I hear – like health-care benefits) just for my having narrowed my possibilities in life for the sake of what I feel I’m on Earth to do, or at least what I do best?

    Thanks to the Internet, there is a lot more possibility for musicians to get their music heard – but it has also rendered it less possible, given the glut of musicians posting their music online and clamoring for attention. Music, to an extent unlike that with any other art-form, has been devalued because of this and because of its no longer being tied to a tangible product-object for its playback. Music has thereby become almost conceptual, freed from its material association, and thereby freeing the listener-consumer from viewing music as a purchasable commodity. People now don’t have to pay for music, much less a tangible form thereof, so they expect not to have to pay for it.

    The result of these factors is that music has become more “about” selling and promoting it rather than producing or playing it, and “about” competing for the ears and dollars of the public. That’s why there are so many sites exploiting the perpetually-mounting competition for exposure by nickel-and-diming aspiring musicians for “tiers” of service which supposedly give one the “edge” in marketing one’s music. The music industry isn’t being crippled by digital music and the Internet – it’s just taking-over the Internet and increasingly permitting only “what sells” to get through. Music, to the public, has become something that people are badgered to superficially, obligingly “check-out.” Music had used to be something to which to listen and take into one’s life; now it’s noise to filter-out of one’s life.

    What has all this changed for me? Absolutely nothing. People can somehow download, and somehow be content with, all the music that I post on my site, regardless of the far-superior quality of my commercially-available recordings. A couple decades ago, in trying to personally sell copies of my cassette albums for a mere $5 apiece, people who professed to appreciate my music would reply, “That’s okay – I’ll just tape my friend’s copy.” What also hasn’t changed for me is that, taking a life of poverty and obscurity as inevitable, I make music that I myself want to hear and which expresses what I have in my heart, mind and sou, while trying to communicate and connect with others, perchance to express something that relates to their experience. Tell me what the fiscal value of that is, and then get Whoever to write me a whopping check for back wages.

    • karl

      “Me”: You are absolutely, 100% wrong when you say “People use “creative commons” as a blanket excuse to post others’ music online (i.e. on the Internet Archive) without compensation to the artists”.

      You can no more do this with a CC license than you can with a traditional copyright license. This is because ONLY the legal copyright owner can release their music under a CC license. If you are not, then not only are you guilty of copyright infringement (like a simple pirate), but you are additionally guilty of “copyfraud” – claiming copyright on material that is not yours.

      It’s all the more bogus because it simply doesn’t happen. Pirates don’t give a rat’s ass about copyright, whether it is a CC copyright or not. CC is designed to be used by artists, and that’s mainly who uses it.

  • Michael

    The “Fascism” comment completely misses the point, is really uncalled for, and turns a reasonable (though debatable) thesis into hyperbole. Big Content looking ridiculous as usual.

  • If not making money from your music makes you a hobbyist then Mozart was a hobbyist and I am privileged to fall under the same category.

    CC falls under your marketing budget, you have to spend money either way

    By using CC you forgo a certain possible portion of your income (say from sales of scores) in order to gain access to a far larger possible revenue pool from performance rights. Getting your name out there is worth far more than possibly selling one or two copies of book or album.

  • Cdaragorn

    “The one realization that I’ve come away with from these years of watching is that artists (and, I use the word inclusively: musicians, poets, filmmakers, et al.), are undercompensated.”

    In my experience, the reason this is the case is simply because there are too many ppl trying to make a living purely from creating art, in whatever form it may be.  This is not an insult, it is simply an economic fact.  When an industry is producing more of something than the public is willing to pay for, the price drops to almost nothing.  In short, while I appreciate that someone wants to do what they love for a living, you have to look at the market and balance that with what you can make a living with.  I, for instance, would have loved to be a full time actor.  I love acting, and honestly think I have a talent at it, but when deciding what would allow me to support myself, I had to face the facts that there are simply too many out there trying to do that to reasonably expect to make any money doing it, no matter how good I might or might not be.

    As far as all the other points, I think the best response to this article is found here:

    To put it simply, the author completely misunderstands what the CC license is and what it does, and does not, do.

    As far as examples of ppl using CC to make money, Techdirt has done dozens of articles showing both examples of how to do it and artists who are doing it.  The main point is actually brought up in this article: in order to make money, an artist needs to spread their work to more ppl.  Copyright inherently hinders an artists ability to do that by telling ppl that they cannot share the work with anyone without getting special permission to do so.  CC tells ppl that they CAN share it as much as they like, as long as they don’t profit from it themselves, and still keeps the copyright solely in the hands of the author.

  • Anonymous

    It is obvious that you have little real experience with CC. Perhaps you should research Nine Inch Nails. That group is making plenty by SELLING their CC music and bonus packages. Read up on Corey Smith too.

    Saying that CC is about “reducing piracy” is like saying food is about “reducing death”. It is misleading to define it as such. CC is about enabling the spreading of the art.

    CC has nothing to do with declaring that art has no value. Sorry, but price does not equal value. I have lots of things that were free to me that I value very highly.

    CC does not give anyone the right to take art, remix it, and resell it. There are multiple CC licenses with varying rules. These blanket assumptions about CC are deceptive at best.

    George, you are all over the map with your bizarre assumptions that artists choosing CC are the ones who have “given up” and “relinquished control” or “devalued their art”. Frankly, that sounds strangely similar to those who sell off their assets to a recording studio: they relinquish control and accept stupidly small royalties (devalued their art).

    • Anonymous

      I won’t speak for george, but I will speak for my own personal experience
      I have listened to many speeches/presentations by those that associate themselves with CC. And I have to say they come across as belligerent towards those that do not agree with their viewpoint that music should be “free”.
      Of course not all cc users share this opinion, but their voice is no where near as loud as the other side.
      This to me is the point of George’s article. It’s not that providing artist tools to manage their rights or give their copyrights away is good/bad, it’s that the loudest cc voices admonish those that choose not to give their art away.
      And that loud voice is wrong.

      Thank You

      Jeff Price

      • Anonymous

        And this point I agree with! So, why does the article run wild about one’s inability to make money? Even these CC zealots don’t feel that artists “shouldn’t make money”. They are merely denouncing the practice of taking people to court for SHARING music. Charging directly for music is an archaic system that was premised on the fact that it was difficult to copy music. The CC zealots are pointing out how futile it is to continue down this path. I mean, look at video games. The days of paying up front are rapidly disappearing. The games are free to play and sell other scarcities instead.

        In short, NO ONE has a problem with artists making money, but lots of people have a problem with the practice of selling binary.

        • Anonymous

          I agree with you. george will have to answer re: his thoughts. But I have to say, I personally have gotten into heated arguments with those that associate very closely with cc and did not make the distinction you describe
          They were more of the mind they artists should not be compensated and admonished those that disagreed.
          In any event, I violently agree with you!!

          Thank You

          Jeff Price

          • Anonymous

            Ah yes, I see another angle that you are describing. Basically, the thought process goes that “true art should not have money as a motive, so accepting money for it is evil”. I see a very small grain of truth in that line thought: many artists today do indeed get confused about whether they are in it for the money or for the glory/art. Obviously, the idea that “profiting from art is evil” is absurd. However, what gets CC zealots riled up is when artists begin to take this stance of “my art is God’s gift to this world, so you WILL consume it, and you WILL pay money for it”.

            I am a software engineer myself. I make it a point to sell my talent, not my output. In other words, I make sure I am being paid for my skills (my time, custom analysis, insight, etc.) and not the actual code that streams from my fingers. Code is abundant. Engineers are not. 🙂
            And yes, pleasure talking with you, Jeff!

  • Hi,

    It’s George. First, let me say how genuinely happy I am for the discourse. All I’ve ever aspired to in 20 or so years of working in the industry is to raise the level of discourse.  Similarly, as someone who has been (at least in part) responsible for many thousands of pieces of artistic content entering the world, I’ve never wanted anything more than to see artists succeed on their own terms.

    Clearly, we’re in a time of great flux in the music (and other) businesses; clearly old models and paradigms either aren’t working at all, or are not working effectively.

    However, there is, and has been, an undercurrent of pressure from various proponents of – call it what you will – copyleft, CC, et al. that artists should relinquish some (or all) of their rights granted when they create a (c).

    This (and only this) is my issue.

    I am *not* against artists collaborating, and I am *very much* in favor of instruments that enable collaboration; a CC license clearly facilitates this.  

    What I am against, and what I will always be against is the destruction of value (either perceived or real) of artistic output.

    Clearly, our systems with respect to tracking and payment of artists’ work is in dire need of reconfiguration (for more, see my recent article on the TuneCore blog entitled: “A Goal: Performance Royalty Accountability in 2012” – )

    I *firmly* believe that technology will enable better tracking and payment of artists’ work, and – relatedly – a new level of success for artists, and, thus, an increase (rather than decrease) of artistic output.

    My fear is that while we away tech to enable this needed improvement in tracking/accounting, many tilt towards an understandable direction: we can’t collect, ipso facto, music should be free.

    It truly pains me to be painted as some sort of stick in the mud with respect to technology, innovation, etc. I believe my record stands for itself, but let me be clear: I’m *for* technological innovation; I’m for artists having a right to choose; I’m for artists utilizing efficient methods (including, but not limited to CC) to better spread their music.

    However, I’m against – and will be forever – artistic output being devalued. I’m against – and will be forever- artists being pressured into abandoning the ONE asset they have: their (c)s.

    While I’m certain there are examples out there, I would very much like to open up this conversation to some tangible examples of how CC has actually helped artists create and develop sustainable careers.

    While I don’t feel Justin Bieber is a good example, I do feel an artist like Jonathan Coulton might be. I’d love to hear more.

    Thanks again for the discussion/conversation.

    We need more.



    ps: I’m also posting this on the Techdirt blog.

    • Show me who is putting pressure on artists.  CC is a choice.  No one in a position of promoting CC has anything to gain by “putting pressure” on artists.  We are simply preaching a new way to do things, and it is partially a response to egregious copyright enforcement like the PROTECT IP Act/E-PARASITES, 3 strikes in Europe, suing of individual file sharers.  Artists don’t want to be a part of that.

  • “So called Copyleft?”  No one I know of who supports an artists choice to pick their business strategy has ever reffed to it as this.  That would be like calling people like George Howard a member of the “charge-for-everything right.”

    Creative Commons would allow an artist to licence something under CC-BY-NC-SA licence for one use, and licence it under copyright under another use, such as commercial use.  The NC stands for non-commercial, and thus commercial use would require a new licence to the licencee.

    What is actually causing people to respect copyright less is overly aggressive moves to create harsher punishment, approaching levels that infringe on civil liberties, for infringement when there is no evidence this reduces infringement.

    There are many artists successively using Creative Commons and it does not seem to be hindering them in the least.  And I don’t see how anyone is “forced” to choose CC.

    So according to your logic, we should not have any free promotional downloads or free-to-consumer radio because this devalues the music, never mind the promotional value.

    If you want to see which musicians are successfully taking advantage of CC read

    @SteveFitch: organizations like major labels and book publishers commit copyfraud just as easily as in the scenario you describe.  They publish works that is under copyright where they no longer have the rights or the rights have expired into the public domain.  This is theft just as easily.  And not just organizations, but people as well.  I can put up a work and say “(c) me” when it is not mine.  So I don’t this this is a fair argument that you are making.  Regarding your inability to sell $5 tapes, you are not giving some people a compelling enough reason to buy.  What could you sell to these people?  What might be more compelling?  These are the question a good business strategist might ask and then develop a new offering.  You need to do this.

    • Anonymous

      you are totally confusing issues

      the issue is not about if an artist should be allowed to do what they like with their rights, the issue is the extremely loud and dogmatic voices of those that say they are the voice of CC and admonish and put down those artists that choose to sell their works.
      Those with the most radical opinions usually tend to be the loudest which then gets them on panels and interviewed for media outlets due to their controversial opinions.
      Artists then hear the words of their “peers”, those anointed as “professionals”, standing up and telling them they should not be allowed to sell their music, that they should give it away for free under any and all circumstances.
      And that makes me sick

      Artists should be given information to allow them to make their own choices. CC should speak out against those that admonish artists for choosing to make whatever decision they deem best and not allow these extremists to be the mainstream voice of the organization
      that fact that you have chosen to post on this blog is FANTASTIC

      Get the word out. Extremists on both sides harm artistic creativity, not help.
      Artists should be armed with knowledge to allow them to make the best decisions for their goals.

      • People are telling artists not to sell their work?  Who is doing this?  I would be really interested to know.

        • Anonymous

          Easy enough to find. And thus the reason for article.

          The issue is with those admonishing artists for their choices.

          Thank You

          Jeff Price

          • Jeff says “Easy enough to find.” You won’t name names or post quotes.  I am to assume you mean Lessig or Doctorow.  Show me where they say music should be free and people that use copyrights are stupid.  You can’t because they don’t exist.

          • Anonymous

            Oh for gods sake

            Stop making things up.

            You want to know what larry has to say, read it and make your own decisions
            I’ve been listening to extremist since 1999 talk on panels about how all music should be free and claim to be speaking on behalf on cc.
            You have passion, that’s good! Now focus it on the jerks that pollute and attempt to wrest rights away from artists
            Shut those people down.

            Thank You

            Jeff Price

          • Jeff, you are a middle man who gets a cut of sales for helping people sell music.  This is a valuable service to musicians.  But for you to take an extremist argument clearly shows that your profits are more important than a musicians’ choice to market music they way they want, and a lack of respect for that choice.  Reading between the lines of the arguments made on this post: “Don’t give away your music for free!” said the middleman.  Or “poor dumb musicians, they listen to these copyleft guys and are losing money that we could be pocketing!”  This may not be the case, but this is how you appear.  You might make opposite case against thoese that preach new business models, but you are wrong.  Again, I ask you to find me a quote where Lessig, Doctorow, Masnick, etc says something like “musicians who don’t give away their music are dumb.”  This is not the rhetoric.  Why would musicians follow the advice of someone that thinks you are stupid or from someone who is demanding they do something?  It’s just advice.  All they say is that the internet allows them more options than ever before to promote their music, and one of these options is to give away music.  This is an OPTION, not a demand.  The goal: to make money with music after there is an audience.  Sorry, traditional methods are not available to everyone and the terms are terrible (record labels, payola, etc).  Of course, you should know this, you help people sell music online.  And no one likes piracy, but you are a victim by choice.  Do you let it bring you down or do you take advantage of it?

            By the way, was George compensated for writing this post or did he see value in giving it away on the Tunecore blog?

          • Anonymous

            You read postings like this and it really make you wonder…do people actually read these postings or do they just want to argue for the sake of arguing
            @ nsputnik

            You do realize that the entire purpose of this article was to be critical of those that demand artists MUST give away their music for free.
            I believe reverently that artists should have the choice to decide to do with their music what THEY want, not what you dictate.
            They should be given the knowledge necessary to make choices that work for them, not you, or some fanatic that associates themselves with CC.
            Not sure why you just made up things about what Larry etc did or did not say, it’s not the issue.
            No musician should be made to feel bad for wanting to sell their art, its their choice, not yours.
            the issue is extremist associating themselves with CC getting media attention and sitting on panels stating music should be free and berating and/or putting down musicians who disagree.
            How in the world can you be in favor of that?

            as far as names of people who have stated this, my deep apologies, but since 1997, when I first go involved with eMusic, I have been listening to extremists spout this crap from their pedestal of BS and Im tired of it. I remember the summit in 1998 or so when John Perry Barlow gave a keynote about how music should be free, just like the Grateful Dead believed. He put down musicians that wanted to sell it and admonished musicians in the audience for having the nerve to want to sell their music.
            I’ll never forget it.

            So I argued with him post panel.

            You think that may not have an effect on a young musician?

            No one else has the right to tell any musician what they can/cannot do with their art. That is up to them


          • Hi Jeff.
            I do realize that you are arguing against people who demand artists MUST give away their music for free.  My question is: did someone say something recently?  I don’t understand why your best example is a 14-year-old argument that is pre Napster/Kazza, pre iTunes Music Store.  It was during a time when the recoding industry was enjoying the profits of selling the same albums to customers every couple of years when new formats arrived.  Giving away music for free was too radical for most people to accept.  These ideas were being preached by Grateful Dead, a band that had been using this strategy successfully for 30 years by allowing people to record their concerts and trade tapes as a way for people to find out about them and come to their shows where GD made their real money.  John Perry Barlow knew if they could do it, others could too and now we are seeing many more examples of this.  Yes, shame on him for his approach.

            I wish I had been more convinced of this strategy in 1997.  I had my music on in 1998 and had disabled the download feature.  I heard people compelling that users were finding a way to download and then cutting dubplaes or burning CDs and playing these songs at clubs, and this was considered a problem to fight against.  Imagine if I had made it easier for people to download.  My music would reach more ears and that would have put me in a better position to do something grater.  I did sell one CD, a friend bought it.  But I would trade that sale for thousands of free downloads if I could go back in time.  That is the effect it would have had on this young musician.

            I do agree that not giving a reason for people to buy is a counter intuitive idea.  People need to offer something that is better than free that fans will pay for: Immediacy, Personalization, Interpretation, Authenticity, Accessibility, Embodiment, Patronage, Findability.  Notice “moral obligation” is missing because it does not work.  I would not go as far as to put down people that don’t want to follow this advice.  That is counter intuitive to the cause.  The cause is to live in a world without piracy and for artists to make money by making great musical experiences.

          • Anonymous


            Artists should have a choice to do what they like with their copyrights
            Those that say they should not are wrong

            Sadly, in many cases loudest voices stating music should be free tend to associate themselves with CC.
            this does not mean all, or even the majority of people that use or subscribe to CC, believe all music should be free, it means the loudest voice is is fringe and hurting artists.
            Thus the point of the article


          • Anonymous

            You read postings like this and it really make you wonder…do people actually read these postings or do they just want to argue for the sake of arguing
            @ nsputnik

            You do realize that the entire purpose of this article was to be critical of those that demand artists MUST give away their music for free.
            I believe reverently that artists should have the choice to decide to do with their music what THEY want, not what you dictate.
            They should be given the knowledge necessary to make choices that work for them, not you, or some fanatic that associates themselves with CC.
            Not sure why you just made up things about what Larry etc did or did not say, it’s not the issue.
            No musician should be made to feel bad for wanting to sell their art, its their choice, not yours.
            the issue is extremist associating themselves with CC getting media attention and sitting on panels stating music should be free and berating and/or putting down musicians who disagree.
            How in the world can you be in favor of that?

            as far as names of people who have stated this, my deep apologies, but since 1997, when I first go involved with eMusic, I have been listening to extremists spout this crap from their pedestal of BS and Im tired of it. I remember the summit in 1998 or so when John Perry Barlow gave a keynote about how music should be free, just like the Grateful Dead believed. He put down musicians that wanted to sell it and admonished musicians in the audience for having the nerve to want to sell their music.
            I’ll never forget it.

            So I argued with him post panel.

            You think that may not have an effect on a young musician?

            No one else has the right to tell any musician what they can/cannot do with their art. That is up to them


  • *double post, please delete*

  • George Fonts

    Music is for people, thats what record labels forget, copyleft movement is just a part of the huge scenario of the music industry, its like a tool, you need to be smart and clever to use it, and its not a bad or good thing, its simply an option for distribution.
    As art gives freedom, now the distribution and sharing of music should be an art.