Pro Music Artists/Reps Force Shutdown Of Awesome Fan-Music Contest For Video Game

from the way-to-go,-guys dept

I've never hidden my perhaps strange fascination with video game music. Everything from soundtracks to fan-made remixes, it's something that I love. But, for some reason, video game music for many people isn't so much a lark as a point of major industry contention. Recently we discussed how one composer's union turned into his enemy when he was simply working on a video game. The latest example, however, details how apparently professional musicians and/or their representatives got a game developer to shut down a fan-music contest out of what seems to be pure spite.

Some background is in order. Several years ago, developer Red Thread Games produced two insanely good point-and-click adventure games, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. For the third installment, the team decided to turn to Kickstarter for funding, asking for $850k to produce the game and instead getting over one and a half million dollars in funding from fans. It's everything you want out of a Kickstarter story, with a great team organizing their rabid fan-base to both make money and produce another awesome game. And, while Red Thread Games already had a music composer on staff to create the larger soundtrack composition, the team wanted to give a nod to their dedicated fans and set up a contest by which fans could compose background/ambient music for small sections of the game, with the winners of the contest having their compositions included in the eventual release.

And that's when everything went to hell.

Supposedly professionals within the music arena felt as if the contest was designed to exploit fans and get a hold of royalty-free music for the game, a similar argument that originally caused The Fine Young Capitalists campaign to get shutdown.An update on the official Kickstarter page for Dreamfall: Chapters The Longest Journey details that the contest had been cancelled due to the conflict surrounding the event. As noted on the update, the decision is final and the contest won't be returning.

“We do understand the different points of view and the reasons behind some of the backlash, even though we also feel our intentions were perhaps misrepresented and misunderstood. This was not an attempt on our part to commission free music for the game — we already have a fantastic score, a professional composer and some diegetic music — but rather a response to the community asking for a chance to get their music into the game. We felt this competition could benefit both the game and our fans.”
And so concludes the attempt by Red Thread Games to connect with their fans in possibly the most meaningful way: inclusion within the project. A fan contest for small amounts of music was done in by industry musicians with no skin in the game. The backlash in the comments on the project, as well as on Twitter and other social media, made the developers out to be greedy robber barons looking to avoid paying a professional musician, which is an interesting theory considering the game already has a professional composer on staff. This was all about letting the fans have some fun, but the industry shouted it down until the project was shut down.
The sad reality here is that someone who could have been thoroughly talented, and just needed an opportunity to get their music out there, had a potential avenue to a career in music cut short. This isn't to say that anyone who submitted music to the contest could have become the next Jesper Kyd or Marty O'Donnell, but killing these kind of opportunities to bridge the connection between developers and gamers only hurts game culture. Could you imagine if the same thing extended to the games arena and game jam contests came under the same fire? It's like killing off the potentiality of future artists before they even have a chance to shine.
That last bit is of extreme importance, because it's the correct rebuttal to anyone involved in blasting this contest who also says they were doing so to protect the music industry. No, you weren't. You were just being dicks. As a result, a great game is a little less fun and none of you are any more hired for the project today than you were yesterday. Bang up job all around.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 6:48am

    as the saying goes...

    won the battle but lost the war.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Bubba, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:00am

    Mods

    I think the appropriate course of action is to open these small sections of the game to music mods. Fans can then build, distribute, and experience each other's scores and compete against each other free from interference by outside assholes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:00am

    Re: as the saying goes...

    Actually, lost the battle, and lost the war. They didn't get any of their artists music in the game and they created more bad press for "the music industry".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:16am

    Is there any list of the "artists" that complained? I want to add them to my list of people that need to be avoided at all cost.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Michael Becker (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:17am

    music

    As a backer of this project and a musician, I was extremely sad this contest got killed by a bunch of greedy dicks. I was looking forward to contributing, and I expected nothing in return. It would've been awesome just to get something in there. I don't really get how this was any different than the kickstarter part of the project. They already asked fans for money. They didn't need to ask for free music too.

    Man I really hate a lot of these industry musicians. They clearly hate music.

     

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  6.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:18am

    Re:

    I believe the original comments are up on the Kickstarter project, so you may find some folks there. Lots of the backlash was on Twitter, though, so you'd have to do some searching to make any kind of comprehensive list....

     

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  7.  
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    Call me Al, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    Running scared

    I think this is symptomatic of the general fear amongst professional creatives at the rise and rise of the talented amateur.

    The amateur doesn't care about getting paid. They are doing it for fun and because they want to. They aren't being taken advantage of because they are getting what they want out of it.

    The professionals naturally fear for their livelihoods. You see the same situation in every avenue, whether it is music, journalism, photography, film, tv or games.

    One problem is that the professionals are the ones with the groups and organisations that can shout loudly and often and they can use their weight to convince others that what is happening is unfair.

    It is a shame there isn't some amateur advocacy group who can step in and say "Hey these guys are just having some fun. They aren't asking to get paid. They aren't members of your organisation. What the hell business is this of yours?"

     

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  8.  
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    Carlie Coats, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:44am

    Naming names

    This is one of the cases where the offended party,
    Red Thread Games in this case, to name names:
    I think that it is entirely appropriate for the fan
    community to know just who shot down this idea.
    And if the fans want to boycott these offenders,
    then so be it.

    FWIW.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:47am

    If your job prompts you to react in an abrasive way to anyone willing to do your job for free... you really don't have much of a job, do you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:56am

    ... who also says they were doing so to protect the music industry. No, you weren't. ...

    Yes they were. They were (making a feeble attempt at) protecting the music industry. Not musicians in general, mind you, but the industry surrounding these 'musicians'.

    And that says enough about them: they're no longer musicians in the artistic sense; they've become employees of an industry. Afraid to be bested by some new talent.

    Sad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    Or you're just not very good at it ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:58am

    Re: Re: as the saying goes...

    the battle was to shut down contest, which they did. I agree, though, that the lost war was "They didn't get any of their artists music in the game and they created more bad press for 'the music industry'"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    CharlesGrossman (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:59am

    I wonder if this will impact crowdfunded movies

    I've seen that a few crowdfunded movies have offered opportunities for contributors to have their music on the soundtrack. I wonder if this will impact that kind of offer in the future.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Jeffrey Deal (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:06am

    Re: Mods

    Actually this is exactly what the fan community surrounding the game has done. There is now a competition to submit your music to an "unofficial" album of music. If the final game support music modding (which there has been suggestion that it might), the end effect will actually be about the same. Which means that this entire shitstorm really was just a waste of time.

    http://redthreadgames.com/forum/topic/412-unofficial-dreamfall-chapters-fan-music-competition-r ules-entry-requirements/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:07am

    But they WERE doing it to protect the music industry - the legacy music industry - not the musicians, but rather the gatekeepers that desparately want to maintain their ability to decide who wins and who loses in the industry. THAT is what this is about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Jeffrey Deal (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:09am

    A small correction...

    For the sake of clarity, Red Thread Games (RTG) did not create The Longest Journey or Dreamfall. The people behind RTG were involved in making these games, but the rights to The Longest Journey and Dreamfall are actually held by Funcom a company that RTG later split off from (amicably).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    beech, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:10am

    Amanda Palmer

    This sounds a lot like the outrage over Amanda Palmer getting a lot of kickstarter money and daring to ask if fans wanted to play with her onstage for naught but beers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:15am

    Ask yourself this...

    How often is "exposure" offered as the sole payment to unknown musicians for performances set up by the legacy gatekeepers of the music industry? Really? They want to make the argument that this is about protecting musicians so that they are sure to get paid? Ok, fine, what about the file-sharing payments are made everyday in the currency of exposure?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:34am

    Re: Naming names

    The problem with that is that it has potential to drum up both support and additional backlash, and there's no guarantee the support will outweigh the backlash.

    So adding fuel to the fire like that is only really worth it when you have nothing left to lose like The Fine Young Capitalists did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    MikeC (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    Maybe I am Clueless - but how can the make then shut down the contest

    Maybe I am clueless on how music works, but:

    If the company is running the contest to put music in "THEIR" game, they ask folks to contribute - fully voluntary, they make it clear that the vendor and runner of the contest will put the music of the winner(s) into the game, there will be no royalties, how can someone force them kill the contest?

    As long as they verify the contributors are not under contract that stops them from contributing to the contest, how can some entity force them not to run it. I must be missing something here, how can an industry group have standing to do anything at all?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Jeffry Houser, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 8:54am

    One point of Clarification..

    It wasn't Red Thread Games that created The Longest Journey or Dreamfall, it was Funcom. Red Thread games didn't exist when the original games were created.

    Ragnor Tornquist, the game designer on both the previous games is also the designer on the new game. I believe he worked out something with Funcon, the original publisher, either an outright purchase of rights or some type of license.

    I do not know how much of the original team is part of the new project.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 9:01am

    Re: Maybe I am Clueless - but how can the make then shut down the contest

    Simple. You start a shit storm on twitter of people accusing Red Thread Games of attempting to rip people off and get royalty free music for their game, let the false accusations spread to the rest of the internet, and eventually the value of the contest is outweighed by the value of cancelling the contest just to end the flood of negative coverage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: Maybe I am Clueless - but how can the make then shut down the contest

    Wait??? someone stupidly believed a falsehood on the Internets? What is the world coming too?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    DogBreath, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 9:45am

    I don't like the way this was handled at all

    Lets hope the money grubbing professional paleontologists and their filthy lucre reps don't discover this kickstarter, or it may never leave the ground floor:

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/digitaldreamsent/carnivores-dinosaur-hunter-reborn

    In which you get to "Name a Mutant Herbivore Dinosaur", or "Name a Mutant Carnivore Dinosaur", or even "Bring a New Type of Dinosaur into the game along with Naming Rights", if you donate enough money.

    How dare anyone but a professional (or their reps), name a dinosaur, even a mutant one!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 9:49am

    Re: music

    It's not just industry musicians, but also ideological extremisits who believe someone like you, that is willing to voluntarily create music for a game because it's fun, is too stupid to realize your being used by evil greedy capitalists!

    It's insane. So long as a relationship is consensual, there is no issue. Unfortunately there will always be extremists that believe they know your preferences better than you - and that is just pure evil.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 10:37am

    Read through a few posts on this. Really bizarre. It's hard to tell where the source of disapproval is coming from. Whoever they are they are, they seem to exercise considerable "backroom" (ie phone calls & private emails) influence over RTG. RTA refuses to name names or details because they are afraid of retaliation in the future.

    It's mysterious cabals such as this that only further reinforce the "music industries" dubious reputation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Mods

    It is a powerplay. In reality the best question is: Why does music hold such a high degree of preferential treatment? Having seen several developers hold fan art competitions and - thankfully - a lot of developers implementing fan suggestions from their forums, you have to wonder why audio is held to so wildly different a standard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Mods

    As a music enthusiast. I find that some music circles take themselves WAY too seriously. This is probably another sign of this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    John, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 11:23am

    I wonder how many of you decrying this action support scumbag unions that do essentially the same thing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Anonymous Cowherd, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 11:30am

    Should've just told 'em "haters gonna hate" and done the contest anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 12:05pm

    All that is bad

    This represents pretty much everything that is wrong with the music industry today. It also represents everything that is wrong with many (certainly not all) professional musicians. It just makes everyone in the music industry look terrible.

    Now I need to find out which musicians and/or studios pressured for the cancellation of the contest so I can be sure to never purchase their music (although if, as I suspect, they're all signed to a RIAA member label, then I'm already not buying their music anyway.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Running scared

    " You see the same situation in every avenue, whether it is music, journalism, photography, film, tv or games."

    Not every industry. The exact opposite is the norm in the software industry: amateurs are encouraged and embraced, not scorned. In part this is because amateurs (and really tiny software houses) tend to be the ones that do the innovative stuff that benefits everybody, and in part because encouraging amateurs is a cheap and effective way of training people who will eventually join the workforce.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Naming names

    I don't care about backlash. I just need to know who shouldn't be getting any of my money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    I don't support scumbag unions. I only support good unions and the right to unionize in general. But I have a question: in what way is this similar to collective bargaining?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    David Lloyd, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 12:43pm

    There ARE two sides to the story.... but

    Hi, I run OverClocked ReMix, a website dedicated to the appreciation of video game music. We've got a really great mix of both hobbyists and professional musicians contributing time & energy to free arrangements and albums, and we often see these types of topics come up.

    I think I MIGHT know some of the artists involved, and if I'm right, I can vouch for them as actually being great, talented guys that think they're doing what's best not specifically for themselves, but for professional game composers in general.

    By the same token, I myself am a hobbyist musician, and I LOVE to see opportunities that can open doors for budding professionals and ALSO people like myself, who have no intention of becoming professional but who still enjoy & love making music and want to contribute to something awesome, where compensation isn't the focus and doesn't have to be.

    It's a funny thing about money, and Kickstarter specifically - once there's a (highly publicized) dollar figure attached to something, things can get nasty quick, with TONS of second-guessing of how the project creators should be allocating the money, especially any surplus that was collected.

    It's more a problem with smaller/indie games, where (far from getting preferential treatment) music is often seen as something secondary or tertiary that can be handled by asking eager musicians to contribute and using the promise of fame & notoriety as a hook. In this case, because there was $$$ involved AND because there was a surplus, I think the artists in question objected to the idea of an uncompensated competition because they viewed it as greedy, without realizing that they themselves might come off as being greedy for restricting/limiting an opportunity. I can certainly agree with them in principle that it IS a problem when music is perceived not as a commodity or service but as something you get your friend or community to do, because it DOES have the power to diminish the profession.

    However, there are ALWAYS going to be exceptions, and if it were truly the case that developers could get awesome free music ALL the time, for EVERY game, without paying a CENT, no amount of yelling or frustration would hold back the inevitable. Clearly that's not the case, and in this instance the project had paid composers, and they just wanted to run a competition on the side for some community entries to ADD to the paid/professional score. Without knowing more, it seems kosher to me. It doesn't seem like a way to fill in the soundtrack gaps with no-wage slave labor, it seems like a fun little side-competition thing to give someone, anyone, a chance to have their music on a game they love, alongside some bigger names.

    My take is that there ARE battles worth fighting and that game devs CAN take advantage of musicians, and it needs to be called out when it happens. But - at least with the facts I've seen - this doesn't seem like the best example of that happening. It doesn't seem like the optimal occasion to stand one's ground on this issue, and the resulting sentiment/reaction seems to reflect that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    FauxReal (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    You'd think they could set up the contest to walk the winner through that portion of the industry and get their music copyrighted, cross the Ts/dot the Is and pay them a fair amount for their work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 2:49pm

    Re: There ARE two sides to the story.... but

    "In this case, because there was $$$ involved AND because there was a surplus, I think the artists in question objected to the idea of an uncompensated competition because they viewed it as greedy"

    Even if that was the case here, I don't understand the need to make it shut down. Surely it's enough to just call RTG greedy and leave it at that. This is clearly a bunch of uninvolved people who were offended sticking their nose in where they have no business at all.

    The musicians who did this don't just come off as greedy. They come off as egotistical, meddling pricks.

    "I can certainly agree with them in principle that it IS a problem when music is perceived not as a commodity or service but as something you get your friend or community to do, because it DOES have the power to diminish the profession."

    And I certainly disagree with this. Regardless, though, what gives professional musicians the right to burn down things just because professional musicians aren't involved? That's the big problem here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 3:43pm

    Re:

    They could do that, yes. But why? It would make the contest less appealing to a lot of the people they were trying to appeal to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 5:43pm

    Mike Masnick hates artists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 5:55pm

    Re: There ARE two sides to the story.... but

    "I think I MIGHT know some of the artists involved, and if I'm right, I can vouch for them as actually being great, talented guys that think they're doing what's best not specifically for themselves, but for professional game composers in general."

    It's a pity your words and their actions seem so diametrically opposed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Re:

    It sounds like an attempt to force a closed-shop (like the SAG and Directors' Guild had), where guild actors could only work on films directed by directors who only hired guild actors or paid the guild a large fine. (I think the rule shave been relaxed somewhat because of the availability of foreign actors and productions.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 7:22pm

    Re: There ARE two sides to the story.... but

    I can certainly agree with them in principle that it IS a problem when music is perceived not as a commodity or service but as something you get your friend or community to do, because it DOES have the power to diminish the profession.

    You would PREFER music to be seen as a commodity, rather than a community building activity?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 10:27pm

    Re:

    Well at least you changed a few words in your usual personal attack.

    See, you lot can be creative, sorta, kinda, if you put your minds to it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 5th, 2014 @ 3:52am

    And what's the problem of a fan giving their music for free and getting tons of free advertising? What's the problem of giving stuff for free? All companies should stop using social media then since the users generate a ton of free advertising for them.

    Go figure, some people are just complete morons.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 5th, 2014 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I can sorta see why you perceive a resemblance, if I squint very hard. I don't think it's very close, though. There's a pretty large difference between applying political and social pressure to change an outfit's behavior and actually unionizing.

    Also, nobody was really raising an employment issue, only a compensation issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Cari, Sep 5th, 2014 @ 11:59am

    The Fine Young Capitalists

    I know it is only mentioned in the quote, but the TFYC contest wasn't successfully shutdown.

    It is still running here: http://www.thefineyoungcapitalists.com/Voting and is just $13k shy of the funding goal with 22 days to go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    Zonker, Sep 5th, 2014 @ 1:26pm

    So I can contribute my own money to fund a project for a new computer game, but I can't contribute my own music to the same project? The developer isn't being greedy or using me when I choose to help fund their project, but they are greedy and exploiting me if I want to contribute music as well?

    My music is more valuable than my money then, but I should be paid this less valuable money for my more valuable music? The developers need to spend my money I donated on me in order to use my music in their game or they are just being greedy freeloaders?

    This makes no sense to me at all!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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