Moby Not Just Giving Away His New Album For Free On BitTorrent, He's Okay With You Profiting From It

from the an-enlightened-view dept

The musician Moby has long been an outspoken critic of the old recording industry. He’s been a big fan of giving away works for free (and noting that he’s made quite a bit of money from music he’s made available for free) and has argued strongly against the old gatekeepers. He’s criticized their anti-innovation views, suggested the RIAA should disband for suing music fans, and said he can’t wait for the major label gatekeepers to die.

So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Moby happily teamed up with BitTorrent to release his latest album as a BitTorrent bundle for free (you just have to provide an email address). But here’s the more surprising part. Not only is he happily making it available for free, but he’s actually fine with people profiting from potential remixes or other uses of the music. As he explained in a recent interview with Mashable:

Are people really free to do whatever they want? Can they sell their recordings?

I met with the BitTorrent people and they were asking, “What if someone comes up with their own remix and they sell it?” They were wondering what I would want them to do with the money. And my response was that they could take their friends out to dinner or give money to their favorite charity. Even if I make the stems, if they made the effort to make the remix, they should be the ones to profit from it.

This is a really enlightened view. Even among people who are accepting of how to use free in a business model, we still see artists get uptight about “commercial use” — even though it’s often not entirely clear what qualifies as commercial use. We’ve long advocated that more people should be open to the idea of allowing commercial use of their works, as the potential benefits for everyone — including the artist and fans — could be great. I recognize this still makes some artists (who otherwise support remix and open culture) nervous, but I think as we get more examples of artists who allow for commercial use, and see how well it works, that we’ll see more artists get comfortable with allowing others to profit as well.

The rest of the Moby interview is worth reading as well. He points out that artists who adapt aren’t worried about infringement:

Artists who are adaptable are doing fine. A musician who makes records, tours, DJs, remixes, does music for video games and films is doing fine. If you can learn how to adapt — it’s really weird and unhealthy when people talk about restricting progress to accommodate the inability of people to adapt. Every industry has been impacted by [changes in technology] in both negative and positive ways, but I feel like to complain is pointless. I love Thom Yorke, but when I heard him complaining about Spotify, I’m like, “You’re just like an old guy yelling at fast trains.” I love anything that enables people to have more music in their lives.

He also talks about how great other services like Spotify, SoundCloud and Pandora are — and notes that he’s actively lobbied Congress not to restrict such services. He also talks about how ridiculous it was when his old label, EMI, tried to control everything to prevent infringement:

It was about 7 or 8 years ago when I was on EMI, and someone at EMI business affairs contacted my manager and told him that I wasn’t allowed to play my own music when I DJ’ed because they didn’t want people in the audience pirating it. This was back in the days of the Nokia flip phone. If someone recorded a song in a nightclub it would be the worst sounding recording you could possibly imagine. You probably wouldn’t even be able to identify the song. That seemed like nonsense to me.

Instead, he notes, that wonderful things happen when you stop focusing so much on control, and let creativity and innovation flow:

My approach is to not try and control it at all. I really like the idea of not just giving people finished content. It’s giving them something that if they choose to they can manipulate and play with however they want. There’s absolutely no restrictions on it and that makes me happy. When people try to control content in the digital world, there’s something about that that seems kind of depressing to me. The most interesting results happen when there is no control. I love the democratic anarchy of the online world.

This kind of stuff is very refreshing after the latest round of artists on the wrong side of history trying to hold back creativity, culture, innovation and progress.

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Comments on “Moby Not Just Giving Away His New Album For Free On BitTorrent, He's Okay With You Profiting From It”

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out_of_the_blue says:

No, Itunes isn't "giving away works for free"...

Mike keeps trotting out selected but already popular artists as examples for his “give away and pray” notions*. This guy, like perhaps most, got known and popular by being promoted in the old fashioned way, and now that he’s comfortably well off, just doesn’t watch every penny. That’s RARE and commendable virtue, but it’s not the way that the music industry does or even can work.

A real test would be for Mike to bankroll complete unknowns**, spend big money promoting them, while giving ALL the tunes away: NO paid outlets! That’s FREE. This is just same old “loss leader” PAID model with varied proportion of “free as on radio” and “PAID as in money changed hands”.

[ * That’s what Mike claims, so I’ll continue to use the phrase: but in fact as I point out, Moby is actually in the usual selling channels.

** As has been done. Several totally inorganic groups, brought together out of the blue by promoter who advertised in trade mags, have been QUITE successful. Off top of head: Monkees, and Expose. — The latter was even GOOD! ]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No, Itunes isn't "giving away works for free"...

Mike keeps trotting out selected but already popular artists as examples for his “give away and pray” notions*.

His “give it away and pray” notions are that he says it’s not a business model one should rely on, contrary to your claims here. Do you EVER get anything right?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: No, Itunes isn't "giving away works for free"...

“got known and popular by being promoted in the old fashioned way”

DJ promotion of a b-side which blew up in clubs, leading to an unexpected chart hit (Go – Woodtick mix) despite some legal concerns over its initially uncleared sampling of the theme to Twin Peaks and another that remains uncredited to this day (from jocelyn brown’s Love Is Gonna Get You). Said club promotion typically happening via free promos and bootlegs rather than any corporate marketing. Said successful single leading to

Not what your tiny uninformed mind expected, huh? Oh let’s be fair, maybe you’re talking about Play, his breakthrough international success, but let’s check out some Wikipedia quoes about how the major labels were behind this work:

“According to Moby, he shopped the record to every major label (from Warner Bros. to Sony to RCA) and was rejected every time. After V2 finally picked it up, his publicist sent the record to journalists, and many of them made a huge production of saying they weren’t even going to listen to it.”

Yeah, let’s just depend on that industry to promote successful artists! It’s obviously foolproof!

If you’re going to spout crap about record labels, it’s best not to pick up on those that rely on free promotion and non-corporate play. Definitely not those that rely on flukes despite the industry, not because of it.

“Several totally inorganic groups… Off top of head: Monkees”

So, your answer to the record industry’s problems is to manufacture fake groups to cash in on the success of other more talented musicians (yes, I know the group changed over time, but they were a product to answer to The Beatles when first formed)? In other words, your idea of innovation is to continue doing what the major labels have been doing for decades. Brilliant.

bobmail says:

wow, an artist that actually doesn’t make me want to puke and punch babies with their over-inflated ego and sense of entitlement.. an artist that’s actually inviting to fans instead of looking for peasants to suck up to them and give them cash ‘look but don’t touch’

i always loved his song ‘southside’ maybe it’s time i checked out more of his music

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“i always loved his song ‘southside’ maybe it’s time i checked out more of his music”

He’s a pretty eclectic artist, having had a career ranging from early hardcore rave stuff in the early 90s to punk rock to ambient to movie soundtracks. I say check out as much as you can, Southside is on the more commercial end of what he did, although you’ve almost certainly been exposed to more of his music through it being used as the background for marketing for many years. There’s more to him than that though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yea, but don’t forget his story about the legacy industry and what it was trying to do to him:

“It was about 7 or 8 years ago when I was on EMI, and someone at EMI business affairs contacted my manager and told him that I wasn’t allowed to play my own music when I DJ’ed because they didn’t want people in the audience pirating it.”

All musicians thrive on sampling. How many artists would sell anything if no one could “sample” their work before they bought it?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

via licensing his music for advertising

You mean just like nearly every other popular musician? Including almost all of the classic ones that are considered musical geniuses?

His artistic worth is zero

I.E., “I don’t personally appreciate his work, therefore he is utterly without worth and should be ignored.”

Great argument you have there.

out_of_the_blue says:

If Itunes takes his music and sells it, is that okay?

Or would unearned profits by a giant corporation trigger his outrage and a lawsuit? If so (as I believe), then punctures Mike’s notions: this is NOT “free” music, it’s just looser concern under existing copyright.

I’ve just read the Mashit “interview” closely and that’s not addressed, nor is whether okay for persons selling the album as-is, whole and unmodified: he states only for remixes.

By the way, he mentions that many people are using the same software and making nearly the same sound, SO that’s another important point: his music is low cost for time and effort — particularly no pesky and difficult lyrics. It’s generic. So would he say same “take it for free” if spent months or years perfecting unique tunes as only he in history of the world could? — Of course not. Cheap music can be given away with little psychic loss to the artist.

Besides, point I should have made: he always has copyright available! SO if he chooses for whatever reason to not worry about thefts, that’s his privilege: a lot less wearing on one’s self-esteem than having products literally stolen.

No matter what this fellow does with HIS products, copyright is still valid for everyone else under simple common law: “I made it, therefore I own it”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: If Itunes takes his music and sells it, is that okay?

You moronic statements become particularly stupid when your only defence for your beloved major label system becomes to attack the artist. I won’t go through the other stupidity here (which is abundant), but just note that you have to personally attack the very people you pretend to care about.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: If Itunes takes his music and sells it, is that okay?

“You know you lost this whole pirate war you were waging, right?”

Why do AC morons have to lie to try and score points against fictional representations of who they are addressing? Does reality scare you that much?

Two points. First of all, I’ve won the “war” I was personally fighting. DRM has been removed from purchases, legal access to digital music is easier than ever before, the market has shown that people are willing to buy music even if piracy exists and innovative and interesting music services are available at reasonable prices to all. It’s not a perfect system and there are still problems, but most of what I was demanding a decade ago while assholes like you lied about me have come to pass. I expect it to improve, I’m now trying to get the same treatment from other media industries.

Secondly, in case you’re too stupid to notice, this story is about torrents being used to legally market music. You know, the thing you people claimed could never be used for legal purposes while you were insisting that no method of promotion outside pre-approved corporate methods would ever work? Yet again, an artist shows that it’s only the idiots in charge of the whole sorry industry that stands between them and their future, and less of them are buying the lies. While you were lying about people who opposed the major labels being pirates, honest people were working on real solutions. Sorry you missed the boat.

Did you have any other fictional realities to construct so that you can attack them? I’ll wait.

Landpaddle says:

Moby is parroting a gimmick already employed by other musicians.

To elaborate, other artists have knowingly put their discography on torrents before, claiming that the resulting publicity would result in enough donations to compensate for the loss of direct revenue.

In many cases this was a flop, but in others, such as Benn Jordan’s famous stint in 2008, the resulting appreciation of those who couldn’t otherwise afford their music ended up generating a net profit and earned respect for years to come.

Releasing music for free has become a legitimate, albiet equally risky, business tactic.

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