an experiment with ccmixter

Creative Commons licences allow musicians, artists, and other creative people to create new and unique works based on the works of others. While you can often do interesting things based on finished pieces, having access to the individual components gives you a lot more flexibility, and it’s that access to components that ccMixter aims to provide.

ccMixter lets users do two core things: upload samples of their own creation, and upload remixes made using samples from other users. The samples that people upload range from individual sounds and solo recordings through to the stems (that is, the individual tracks) from full, mixed songs, so there’s a wealth of stuff to work with.

The most impressive thing feature of ccMixter is its attribution tracking on remixes. When you upload a remix, you tell ccMixter which samples you used, so it’s very easy to see what samples are used in a remix, or what remixes make use of your samples. It all gets complicated once you start using remixes within other remixes, but ccMixter displays the attributions as a tree, giving you a simple, and very cool, overview of a remix’s entire history.

I’ve always had a “do-it-yourself” attitude with my music, creating a lot of my own sounds and recording all of my own tracks, and I don’t see that changing just yet. As an experiment, though, I uploaded the stems for “move along”: complete and separate main and backing vocal, bass, and piano tracks, and a mixed stereo drum track.

I wasn’t sure if anyone would do much with it, but to my surprise, there are three remixes on the site using those samples — you can check them out from the link above. There’s a constant influx of new material, so you don’t have long to catch people’s attention, but it’s definitely exciting to know that people are listening to your work and using it in new ways. I’m sure I’ll be uploading more tracks in future to see what other users can do with them.

ascap vs creative commons? seriously?

It seems like that last post of mine detailing my selfish reasons for making my music available for free couldn’t have been better timed. ASCAP has launched an attack on Creative Commons, the EFF, and Public Knowledge, asking its members to donate to a fund that will be used to campaign against copyleft licencing in the US Congress. The letter it sent to its members reads like the kind of FUD you’d expect from 90s Microsoft:

“They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth is these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.”

This could not be further from the truth — Creative Commons gives artists tools to control what they wish to allow other people to do with their own work. It’s not aimed at tearing down traditional copyright, and it’s certainly not aimed at providing free access to existing copyrighted works. I’ve talked about the fact that I use CC because it’s in my best interest, but I wouldn’t claim that it’s the best option for all artists.

I can only think that ASCAP is targeting Creative Commons because it’s becoming a credible alternative to the old performance royalty model. If a cafe owner wants some background music for their customers, they can play any appropriately-licenced CC music; that is, any work not using the “Non-Commercial” clause. As more music becomes available under these licences, and awareness of its existence grows, it will be increasingly practical to work with CC music rather than pay ASCAP fees.