How Neil Gaiman Went From Fearing 'Piracy' To Believing It's 'An Incredibly Good Thing'

from the epiphanies dept

Public Knowledge points us to a wonderful short clip of Neil Gaiman, being interviewed by the Open Rights Group, explaining how he has completely changed his mind about "piracy" and copyright:
He admits that early on, when he saw his works "pirated" on the web, it made him quite upset. At first, he (totally incorrectly) believed that if he didn't fight online copies, it might mean he'd lose his copyright (a myth based on a weak understanding of trademark law that sometimes people confuse with copyright law). Thankfully, he learned that wasn't true. However, where it gets interesting is when he realized that whenever his works got "pirated," it actually seemed to help his sales:
"Then I started to notice that two things that seemed much more significant. One of which was that places where I was being pirated -- particularly Russia (where people were translating my stuff into Russian and spreading it out into the world) I was selling more and more books. People were discovering me through being pirated. And then they were going out and buying the real books, and when a new book would come out in Russia it would sell more and more copies."
He then mentions that after a lot of persuading, he got his publisher to release a free digital copy of American Gods, and sales went up by 300%, even though it had already been selling quite well before that. And that was his epiphany moment that you're "not losing sales" by having stuff out there. And he explains how "piracy" is just a giant way of lending books, and points out that, when asked this question at talks, he asks how many people in the audience found their favorite author because someone lent them a book vs. going into a book store and buying it. And only 5 to 10% of people found their favorite authors first by buying the books.
"That's really all this is. It's people lending books. And you can't look on that as a lost sale.... What you're actually doing is advertising. You're reaching more people. You're raising awareness. And understanding that gave me a whole new idea of the shape of copyright and what the web was doing. Because the biggest thing the web was doing is allowing people to hear things, allowing people to read things, allowing people to see things they might never have otherwise seen. And I think, basically, that's an incredibly good thing."


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    fiestachickens (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 11:58am

    What you're actually doing is advertising

    I find this article particularly well timed. Recently, a friend of mine recommended Neil Gaiman to me and lent me a book. I enjoyed the book so much that I went and purchased several more books by Neil.

    If I had never been lent that book, the odds of me ever discovering Neil's works would have been incredibly slim. In truth, while I did not spend any money on the first book (I "pirated" it by borrowing it from a friend), I so enjoyed his works that I went and purchased several more of his books (and I've lent them out to others / recommended him to others).

    All of this to say, I am pleased to see that Neil discovered that "pirating" (people utilizing your artistic works without paying for them) is actually a platform for advertising yourself. In fact, not only is a method of advertising, but it is a method of crowd sourcing the advertising for you. Essentially, what Neil discovered was that by giving away his work for free, he was able to leverage an incredible platform for advertising that no other method of advertising could provide to him!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:04pm

    Marketing is a wonderful thing: If you martket a product, you might actually sell some of it.

    Books are an interesting place, because people still value the dead tree editions enough that an electronic version won't hurt sales so much. I suspect some people read a sample, decided they like his work, and purchase the book to actually read it.

    That of course will change as the dead tree editions stop being produced in the next few years. Then, just like moving from cassette tapes to perfect copies, the writing world will get to face the true effects of piracy.

    I am looking forward to him changing his mind again.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re:

    Like all those musical acts that went from hating piracy, Lars Ulrich, to embracing it, Lars Ulrich, to hating it again, like, wait, what?

     

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  4.  
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    maniac in a Speedo, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:14pm

    Totally

    Is "totally incorrect" more incorrect than just being regularly incorrect?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

    Re:

    Free marketing is even better.

     

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  6.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

    Re:

    I don't see dead tree editions ceasing production within my lifetime. Dead tree editions offer value that ebooks never will, so they will continue to be produced and bought. It's as simple as that.

     

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  7.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Totally

    Yes, totally incorrect is 32.576% more incorrect than just incorrect.

     

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  8.  
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    Chuck Turnitsa, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Agreed

    Poignant thoughts on a touchy subject. I know that when I have encountered creative works (either through a borrowed copy, from the library, on pandora, through youtube, etc etc etc) that I never would have bought, I sometimes find myself impressed enough to then go out and purchase further works by the same artist.

    Books and music are certainly part of that phenomena, at least for me.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Totally

    Partially incorrect is more correct than totally incorrect

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re:

    Ahh yes, Metallica... last album in late 2007, or early 2008? 2 years of touring, and instead of off to work another album, they are off to play shows in a wild 4 some of metal acts, including and right though to the end of 2011. If they get the urge, you might see some new music from Metallica in 2012 or 2013.

    5 years between albums. Seems piracy may have removed some of their motivation to "innovate".

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re:

    My feeling is that newspaper and dead tree books are going to become the next targets for the green people. As soon as it is both viable and common for people to have decent ebook reader, the pressure will come. Save the trees, save the environment, stop generating all that pollution to make the paper and wasting all that oil to ship the books around.

    It's hard to see from here, but it's coming.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    And where did they change their minds about piracy, which is what they should be doing, according to you.

     

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  13.  
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    Prashanth (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

    I've heard of Neil Gaiman before, so that means he must be a pretty popular figure in the world of books. That means that maybe once and for all the boogeyman of "alternative business models only working in very special cases/for small-time producers" can be put to rest. Maybe...?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think they aren't "embracing it", rather they are wandering away from it. Making a new record is quite a job, it's not a 10 minute thing. If all of your work goes to nothing, if you are going to attract the same size audiences, sell the same merch, and do the same number of shows, why make more new music unless you truly feel like it?

    Their actions speak louder than words. Only 2 albums since the Napster deal, 11 years ago. Lars may say nice things about piracy, but it certainly appears to have contributed to their lack of productivity.

     

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  15.  
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    Justin Olbrantz (Quantam), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re:

    It's been at rest for a while. A ways back it was replaced by "alternative business models only working for small-time and very popular producers", then "alternative business models only working in very special cases". It's currently at "alternative business models not scaling beyond the novelty appeal, and relying on generosity being demeaning for creators".

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Agreed

    Then you get over it and just pirate some more. ;)

     

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  17.  
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    Grimby, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Unfortunately, those green people won't realize just how much more damage e-waste does to the environment. Most of it is unceremoniously dumped in third world countries where mercury and other toxins that are used to build our gadgets leak into their groundwater.

     

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  18.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Re:

    That means that maybe once and for all the boogeyman of "alternative business models only working in very special cases/for small-time producers" can be put to rest.
    Don't be daft - as has been shown every single time an example comes up, you can make the "But this one is a special case because [insert reason here] it couldn't possibly work for anyone else!" model fit anything.
    Neil Gaiman by the way fantastic author - Neverwhere, Watchmen, Sandman, American Gods, Good Omens with Terry Pratchett. All fantastic.

     

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  19.  
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    Joe Obvious, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:57pm

    Just because the activity is from some file on a computer, doesn't mean the method has changed. In general, people really do want to consume culture in a way that supports their favorites, it's just that their pennies are precious, why spend them until they know it's a sure thing? People need to stick their toe in the pool before jumping in. It's just that now, the pool is worldwide and filled with the Free bits and bytes of human culture. It's a new time where people have an opportunity to find new passions, and support them.

    Welcome to the 21st Century, Mr. Gaiman.

     

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  20.  
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    Chosen Reject, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Or maybe being old and past their prime.

    Or maybe being rich causes people to stop "innovating".

    Or maybe they're just plum out of creative ideas.

    Or maybe they like piracy so much they'll just release all new music while touring and let the bootleggers do it.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Or maybe he's just lazy.

     

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  22.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think a crapload of money and old age are the only things removing their motivation to do anything... and I don't really understand how being on tour for 2 years and then going into a foursome to play more shows for at least another year, as you say, isn't an understandable excuse that could be otherwise put as "they were too busy to worry about writing songs...there just wasn't a pressing need for them to."

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Watchmen was written by Alan Moore. If you meant Miracle Man, well that was written by Neil Gaiman as well as Alan Moore too.

     

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  24.  
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    Anon, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    Wait a minute...

    So you're saying file sharing is good? Like in real life when I share a book?

     

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  25.  
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    Chosen Reject, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Making a new record is quite a job, it's not a 10 minute thing.


    If it's such a difficult thing to do, then why are you wondering why they aren't making a new album? Apparently they are busy touring. They can busy themselves with touring for years and you wonder why they aren't making an album? People are willing to pay to see them years after their last album was released and you're wondering why they aren't making a new album?

    It seems like becoming popular and rich stops creativity more than piracy. I say we outlaw wealth and becoming popular.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Ahh yes, Metallica... last album in late 2007, or early 2008? 2 years of touring, and instead of off to work another album, they are off to play shows in a wild 4 some of metal acts, including and right though to the end of 2011."

    Seems to me, this is exactly what any musician wants to be making a living doing. They get to play music and make tons of money for doing it. Who needs to release a new album when you're booked solid on performances?

     

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  27.  
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    Stuart, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So right you are.
    There is less and less choice in new music every year.
    This is all due to piracy.

    Wait... What?
    There is more and more music available to the public??

    Hang on a minute. I will figure this out somehow.

     

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  28.  
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    sehlat (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 2:02pm

    Availability isn't the only factor in buy vs. pirate, though.

    As an example, a friend of mine recently discovered a large selection of pirated books. She told me over a dozen Harlequin romances, and a Rachael Caine book, all of which she was interested in.

    I asked her what she'd done. The reply was interesting. The Caine book was by a publisher which had stripped all of Rachael's work from fictionwise during the great Amazon-Publisher War. So she kept the pirate edition.

    I asked her about the Harlequins. Her reply was "They've never f***ed me over for either price or availability. I bought those, of course.

    How publishers and other "content providers" are perceived is clearly also important.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The only thing I do not look forward to, is digital toilet paper.

     

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  30.  
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    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oops! Got me! Still an excellent writer though....

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If you're using your digits, you're not using toilet paper.

     

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  32.  
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    Atkray (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re: Totally

    citation needed

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    More noise.

    More garage bands playing stuff nobody wants to hear.

    More remixes.

    More DJ's claiming to be "musicians".

    Less signal, more noise.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    CULTURE HARD!!!

     

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  35.  
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    batch, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 3:37pm

    It's because someone lent me the first Sandman book that I ended up buying the entire series. Then Gaiman's other books, and eventually realizing that he is one of my favorite authors. All because someone lent me his book. I in turn introduced people to his work with American Gods, which is a particularly good book.

     

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  36.  
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    RadialSkid (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And I'll wager you've never heard any of it. You just go "DERP NO LABEL = BAD AND NOIZES" and go about on your merry way, listening to Lady Gaga or Lady Antebellum or whatever other ACTUAL NOISE is being peddled to the unimaginative, insular masses.

     

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  37.  
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    Bruce Ediger (profile), Feb 11th, 2011 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Or they're feuding with their label. It happens, previous case in point, Prince. He changed his name to a non-typographical symbol to irritate his label.

    Maybe Metallica is trying to irritate their label, or protest some horrible contract or something by touring (where they keep the money) rather than doing a studio record (where the label keeps much of the money.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 6:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Umm, sorry, no. Actually, my taste in music tends to run to alt rock, old style grunge, metal, and the like. Oh yeah, jazz :)

    Lady Gaga makes me puke, because she clearly has no talent. But she has a great ONLINE marketing team that has promoted her endlessly through all the great places that get pushed around here, and now she is top of the charts all over, with absolutely no talent required. She is actually the completely proof that the internet age stars suck worse than what was there before.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, it must be old age, because their concert rate for the last couple of years was only averaging 1 out of 3 nights or so. They haven't exactly been wearing themselves out. Even Ulrich is quoted (on Wikipedia of all places) in saying that they haven't written a thing since 2006.

    When a band can't be bothered to write new material, you have to wonder. It is clear that since the Napster thing, they have only turned out 2 albums... in 11 years. Someone suggested they "embraced piracy", but the results seem to suggest they are just not bothering to record anymore, because there is little motivation and little desire.

    Side note: Comparatively "washed up" classic metal band The Scorpions have toured more extensively than Metallica in the last 11 years, and have released 3 albums in the same time period. Hmm!

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 6:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Why is everything so clear to you?

     

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  41.  
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    Rinald J Roley, Feb 11th, 2011 @ 10:02pm

    This Is Why Artists Should Leave Accountancy To The Experts

    So this guy thinks just because his sales have gone up, he must be making more money? What a naÔve fool. Thatís not how piracy works. If that was all there was to piracy, nobody would worry about it. So clearly there isnít.

    The problem is, heís counting his sales as though they were actual property. But theyíre notótheyíre intellectual property. So youíve got to account for them in an intellectual way. And once he includes all that intellectual property theft due to piracy, he will realize he is making an intellectual loss on his business. And once he realizes that, he will no longer be so sanguine about piracy.

    What Mr Gaiman should do is consult a proper qualified Intellectual Property expert, like myself, rather than just listening to the uninformed ramblings of those who donít even grasp basic economics. Intellectual property isnít something special, itís no different from real property, and should be treated exactly the same as real property. Therefore, intellectual stealing is still stealing. QED.

     

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  42.  
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    Karl (profile), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 12:59am

    Re: This Is Why Artists Should Leave Accountancy To The Experts

    It's a sad day for IP maximalists when I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not.

     

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  43.  
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    The eejit (profile), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 4:09am

    Re: Re: This Is Why Artists Should Leave Accountancy To The Experts

    He's clearly satirising something. I suspect it is all of us.

     

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  44.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 5:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Umm, sorry, no. Actually, my taste in music tends to run to alt rock, old style grunge, metal, and the like. Oh yeah, jazz :)"

    If you like jazz then I would recommend Elizabeth Shepherd, Sola Rosa, Marie Fleurand Jill Tracy. Bonus, metal jazz: Diablo Swing Orchestra.

    "Lady Gaga makes me puke, because she clearly has no talent."

    While I'm not a great fan of her style of music, to claim that she has no talent is funny. She started playing piano at four and was performing at open mike nights at fourteen. 'Oh, well that doesn't mean she was any good' I imagine you will say, but then she was admitted to the Tisch School of the Arts when she was seventeen. If you're still not convinced then here's an early clip, which I like a lot more than her famous stuff.

    "But she has a great ONLINE marketing team that has promoted her endlessly through all the great places that get pushed around here, and now she is top of the charts all over, with absolutely no talent required. She is actually the completely proof that the internet age stars suck worse than what was there before."

    Great, pop music gets an actual musician and you use her to 'prove' that the internet is bad.

     

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  45.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re: This Is Why Artists Should Leave Accountancy To The Experts

    "It's a sad day for IP maximalists when I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not."

    You didn't read the name?

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Lady Gaga may have had some musical talent in the past, but right now she is all about marketing talent, not musical. Her music is pretty much disposable and forgettable. It isn't the stuff of classic playlists in the future. She is Madonna without the actual content, or Elton John without a piano or skill. Style over substance, look over material.

    Jazz? I am all over the road. Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones, as example, and then Frank Zappa or Vernon Reid. I don't tend to look at Jazz as just a style of music, as much as a musical attitude. On the other end of the non jazz scale, I am as likely to enjoy Rancid as I am to enjoy Suicidal Tendancies, Bad Brains, motorhead, or the Long Beach Dub All Stars / Sublime. Attitude is a wonderful thing, no matter what.

    Some of your suggestions are interesting, I will have a look :)

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2011 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: This Is Why Artists Should Leave Accountancy To The Experts

    Considering the name is made up to mock someone, I would say it's sarcastic.

     

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  48.  
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    monkyyy, Feb 12th, 2011 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Totally

    try google

     

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  49.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Lady Gaga may have had some musical talent in the past, but right now she is all about marketing talent, not musical. Her music is pretty much disposable and forgettable. It isn't the stuff of classic playlists in the future. She is Madonna without the actual content, or Elton John without a piano or skill. Style over substance, look over material."

    You mention Madonna, whose natural talent seems to be regarded as all round mediocre, yet seem to rate her above Lady Gaga on substance. I still like both of them better than Elton John (despite him having a whole lot more talent than Madonna), because I just don't like his style. Lady Gaga obviously concentrates more on fashion than music, as did Madonna, but I don't have a problem with that because there are plenty of dedicated musicians out there.

    "Jazz? I am all over the road."

    Elizabeth Shepherd is probably the most traditionally jazzy in my collection, but in terms of genre jazz is probably as broad a label as rock.

    "Attitude is a wonderful thing, no matter what."

    If you're interested in attitude then Mindless Self Indulgence are a gem.

     

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  50.  
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    Shava Nerad, Feb 12th, 2011 @ 2:46pm

    I am terrified by these places called libraries. They give people free access to the stuff I write for free and it's obviously anti-author. ;)

    Note that publishers didn't freak about libraries because they believed in the multiplier effect of one (sometimes discounted) copy in a community.

    My experience is that piracy goodness maps best to book sales, less to music, and even less to video, esp TV - just from observing the bad habits of friends.

    And this worries me, because a book can bewritten by one person, but a movie or opera, say, needs broader funding, to support hundreds of artists.

     

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  51.  
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    Justin Olbrantz (Quantam), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 3:01pm

    Re:

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall that publishers and authors did freak out over libraries, in the distant past. And about a century ago publishers and authors (Mark Twain, for one) freaked out about used book stores and media lending, which lead to the Doctrine of First Sale that officially legalized those two actions.

    History is currently repeating itself, and publishers and authors are again freaking out about second-hand sales and lending, especially in the realm of computer software and digital book/music/movie downloads. But at the moment said publishers and authors are having better luck (in suppression) than last time.

     

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  52.  
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    Karl (profile), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: This Is Why Artists Should Leave Accountancy To The Experts

    Ha, yeah, I was pretty sure it was sarcastic. My point was that IP maximalists have become such caricatures of themselves, it's impossible to tell sarcasm from their actual beliefs. Kind of the opposite of "it's funny 'cause it's true" - it's so true, that it's not even funny anymore.

    (Through no fault of "Rinald J Roley," of course.)

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2011 @ 6:43am

    Re: This Is Why Artists Should Leave Accountancy To The Experts

    Sorry but I just can't take you seriously. Perhaps you could add more weight to your points with a massive sig?

     

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