CBC radio call for remixes of Kutiman interview with Nora Young

Talk about timing. Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about this amazing video remix by Kutiman and now CBC Radio’s Spark is calling for 1 minute long remixes of an Nora Young interviewing Kutiman. The deadline is April 6th, 2009 and the 2 source files can be found here.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your DAWs!

(p.s. there’s supposed to be a little prize for the winning entry)

RIAA moneygrab helpful for Creative Commons Music ?

According to this interesting article at ars technica, the RIAA seems to be going after what some would consider to be their best marketing arm. From the article:

The “Performance Rights Act” has been introduced in both the House and Senate with the goal of forcing US radio stations to start paying artists whose music is played on the air. Labels are pushing hard for the idea, but radio stations could hardly be more upset.

I sincerely hope that the fee for playing RIAA music will be very high, and the paperwork exceedingly onerous. Because that just might make radio stations take a longer and harder look at alternative suppliers for recorded music. Front and center for non profit radio might very well be Creative Commons (CC) licensed music, even more so than it already is. And for profit radio stations with low profit margins might start taking a hard look at such music next.

If this takes place, low cost and easy to administer music licensing hubs might become even more attractive than they already are for many other commercial users of music. And the CC Attribution license might become more attractive for artists to get their music onto commercial over-the-air radio.

While I have deep admiration for Prof. Lessig and his justified drive for meaningful copyright reform, I also often wonder, what would happen if we all just let the dinosaurs legislate themselves into oblivion.

Maybe a hint of things to come: CBC, the Canadian public broadcaster is frequently (increasingly?) using CC licensed music in their programs (and announce that fact clearly) not only in their web offerings and the progressive CBC 3 channel, but also on their primary CBC 1 radio channel, which has excellent reach across the country (and beyond).

CBC Hockey Anthem Contest Disappoints

While this post may be most interesting to fellow Canadians, it contains some of my sentiments about what I find an unattractive contest and/or deal.

I will not be participating in the CBC contest to find the next theme song for it’s hugely popular “Hockey Night In Canada” television program. (In North America we just call it “Hockey”, while in many other countries it’s called “Ice Hockey”.) The CBC is the major publicly funded radio and TV broadcaster in Canada. This program is probably the most venerable and popular program in Canada and the rights to it’s previous theme song were lost to a competitor over the summer. That previous song is so well known in Canada, that one might almost think of it as Canada’s second (unofficial) national anthem.

So CBC is holding a contest to find a new “Hockey Anthem”. This is a great idea in principle and like many Canadian music makers, I was flirting with the idea of participating. But then I read the contest rules as I tend to do before I consider participating in any musical contest.

The deal for the winning entry seems reasonably straightforward: There seems to be 100k Canadian Dollars for the winner plus whatever standard royalties for forthcoming radio and TV play of the song with the important caveat that CBC essentially becomes the publisher who gets ALL rights to the song, although they make a lot of fanfare about giving their “publisher’s” royalties to amateur hockey causes. And the royalty split is 50/50 between CBC (as the publisher) and the writer(s) of the song. So, it gets close to being a “work for hire”, but there’s nothing wrong with that and for spending x hours of creating such a song the economic reward would be arguably worthwhile for many creators.

For professional creators, there’s always a problem for working hard for just a chance to get the gig, but that is the case pretty much for any business. You have to create, advertise and try to sell without any guarantees that your product will be accepted by the market place.

The nasty part is, that the CBC demands a high degree of exclusivity for “semi-finalist” contest entries without any guaranteed compensation. So if you’re a semi-finalist you end up losing considerable rights to your own song for 3 years without any guaranteed compensation. There are some vague references to potential prizes for semi-finalists, but nothing seems very firm. They reserve the right to make commercial CDs and downloads from semi-finalist entries within the first 3 years and reserve the right to determine unilaterally how much to pay the semi-finalists for that. That could end up being close to nothing.

I have no problem with allowing others to use my work, sometimes I give even commercial rights for free. For example, the other day a remixer emailed me and my musical collaborator and I decided to license a small run commercial release for free. But in that deal I don’t lose any of my own rights to the song I co-created.

However the CBC prevents even semi-finalists from publishing their own songs for 3 years. Without any compensation! So while some parts of the CBC are very enlightened, this particular effort of interacting with artists seems rather artist hostile to me.

I’m very curious, if any well known Canadian composers will bother to participate under those terms, or if in the end some of them will get a special, more reasonable deal, which the public never finds out about.

There’s a chance that the contest may end up working out economically or otherwise lucrative, for semi-finalists, if the CBC unilaterally decides to make it so.

But I don’t like entering a deal where I’m hostage to a large corporation being magnanimous. If I write a song, I most certainly don’t want to give away my own rights to that song for free.

And that’s why I won’t be participating in that contest.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV. So this post is not intended to be legal advice.