With all due respect, this Copyfight is one pitch-a-bitch we did not incite!
 
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News and updates from Michelle Shocked
 
If you're experiencing panic attacks, general hysteria or free floating anxiety, read no further. This March 2020 newsletter is a polite <cough> at cancel culture. I've earned the paroxysm. As everyone shelters in place, I'm sending this - with love - for the sake of eyewitness account of a time out of mind. Protests against threats of mass starvation precipitated by climate crisis were cancelled, thus allowing cancelled protesters to socially distance themselves in lines circling the block before stockpiling provisions at their local Trader Joe's. And no, I didn't take pictures. Enjoy this one of me and Pops from 1991 instead.
 
 
And despite the Kung Flu...
My next gig is at Cafe Bohemia this Sunday, March 15 8pm with guitarist Ann Klein
 
 
 
And again with Les Chocolats, my rumba trio
We will play Cafe Bohemia on Sunday, April 5 8pm
 
 
And also a gig at Cafe Bohemia on April 12
Get Tickets here
 
 
Mountain Songwriting Retreat
Another invitation to join me, producer Ronan Chris Murphy (King Crimson, GWAR, Tony Levin, etc) and Dave Nachmanoff (Al Stewart, Alison Krauss, Steve Forbert, etc) for a songwriting retreat in May. The annual Mountain Songwriting Retreat is hosting a 5 day seminar May 11-15, and I’m looking forward to hanging out one-on-one with attendees, discussing the art of song crafting. I’ll present a seminar on my own style I call "song-cycling" (that’s my idiomatic approach to concept development for a complete suite of songs.) 

More Info Here
(program starts the night of the 11th and ends after lunch on the 15th)
 
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property Hearings
 
Here's a link to Jonathan Yunger's testimony to the Committee. Very, very powerful.
 
I was so inspired by Jonathan's, I decided to write my own testimony:
 

The Bootleg Poster Child
 
If anyone should have been a model for the promises of internet innovation offering independent creators opportunities to thrive, it should have been me.

My music career began as the Bootleg Poster Child. It’s such a quaint word, bootleg, conjuring images of hillbilly moonshine and bathtub gin-soaked speakeasies. Copyright infringement sounds downright frivolous when compared to a portentous term like "content theft." Like the billions which content theft drains from our economy and the millions of jobs lost, it’s serious big business. Most bootlegs these days are what we casually call "ripped streams." In 1988, people were enthralled to learn that I’d been catapulted overnight to fame and fortune by a bootlegger who’d released my songs recorded at campfire on a Sony Walkman with weak batteries. “Aren’t you lucky!” they exclaimed. It’s taken thirty years, but finally, when I tell people the story of the Texas Campfire Tapes, they are aghast. “How can they do that?!” they ask me now. The fact remains. They can’t. But they did. And no one stopped them from distributing a bootleg album without permission from its creator. They just circled the wagons and created a flimsy paper trail after the crime.

When the time came to negotiate a recording contract, however, I seized my opportunity. I negotiated a five album deal, and rejected the advance. “Keep the loan,” I said. “I want the masters. And the publishing.” Fast forward six years later, two Grammy nominations later, certified gold, MTV heavy rotation and Billboard-charting singles, and the truth comes out. Like casinos, label bosses don’t like it when you beat the house and get away with it. So I was blacklisted. They wouldn’t let me leave the label, but they wouldn’t let me record new work either. It was an extortion tactic intended to convince me to relinquish control of my copyrights. And for 4 years, I was buried alive. But my lawsuit, claiming violations of my 13th Amendment rights, was settled the day before my case went to court. I was free.

With my new independence, I launched my own label in 2002. The internet was new and I was thriving on the promises of the new technology for communicating and connecting with my fans. Between 2002 and 2009 I released 11 albums. Napster wasn’t even a speed bump. MySpace was a blip. Facebook was a minor distraction, but - I clearly remember - YouTube was a game changer. By 2009, my independent label had unsustainable returns on inventory and I could hear a distant murmur. “The CD is dead... "You’re a content creator now!"  "Give your music away for free and you’d better be collecting names for your mailing list...”

In 2011, when my independent publishing administrator was acquired by a major, I terminated my own admin agreement. I certainly hadn’t signed up to be part of someone else’s merger. But I soon discovered I couldn’t close a deal with any other administrator. And I had insufficient knowledge of publishing administration to do it on my own.

It was around this time I discovered my Wikipedia entry was hopelessly distorting basic facts of my own biography. When I tried correcting the entries, I was informed I lacked sufficient authority of my own life. Not too long after this, I instinctively sensed storm clouds gathering on the horizon over this little angry bird called Twitter. And I knew. If YouTube was a game changer, Twitter was game over.

That’s probably more background than you need. But here’s my point: I’ve done the impossible. Using the dull sledgehammer we call DMCA, I have enforced my intellectual property rights by deliberately withholding my work in order to demonstrate the scale of the creative destruction. Any of my work you find on the internet is a bootleg. Unlicensed. Not on iTunes. Not on YouTube. Not on Amazon. Not on Spotify. If 80 year-old consent decrees and 110 year-old compulsory licenses did not protect corporate monopolies, my work wouldn’t be on Pandora or SiriusXM either.

Thirty four years into a career with complete ownership of an amazing, critically-acclaimed, internationally-recognized catalog, and I have managed to extricate myself from the biggest bootleg operation the world has ever seen. I’ve paid a high price, certainly. I continue to search for alternatives where creative control and artistic integrity might be practiced beyond our digital dystopia. The current degree of DMCA dysfunction offers little light at the end of a very long tunnel, either for new or legacy artists. The .1% of artists who receive 90% of the streaming revenue may be the names you’ll recall. But for the 99% of us dying at a rate of extinction faster than an Amazon tree frog, the songs we wrote that you never heard will be all that remains of our story.
 
 
Before I share The Trichordist's 2019 Streaming Rate Bible, let me break the bad news about streaming's dirty little secret with an example, Despacito.

The Internet Cloud Has a Dirty Secret by Naomi Xu Elegant, Forbes

The music video for “Despacito” set an Internet record in April 2018 when it became the first video to hit five billion views on YouTube. In the process, "Despacito" reached a less celebrated milestone: it burned as much energy as 40,000 U.S. homes use in a year.
 
Computer servers, which store website data and share it with other computers and mobile devices, create the magic of the virtual world. But every search, click, or streamed video sets several servers to work — a Google search for "Despacito" activates servers in six to eight data centers around the world — consuming very real energy resources. (read the rest of the story here)
 
 Guess where some of Google's data centers are located? Senator Ron Wyden's Oregon. How's that Green New Deal looking, Ronnie?
 
 
 
Michelle Shocked
contact@michelleshocked.com
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