Thursday, August 24, 2006

Copyright comic books: it's a time for heroes

Duke University's Center for the Public Domain has a brilliant graphic illustration (i.e. comic book) of the arcane, confusing and often contradictory labryinth that is the U.S. Copyright Code. It's a dark tale of hoarders, evil corporations who wish to extend copyright into perpituity. Their enemies: Fair use and her guardians. The subject of this first installment the realistic unreal world of the documentary film world.

It's called "Tales of the Public Domain: Bound by Law" by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins. Digital copies are available and this creation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (as is Audio Artifacts).

Bound By Law ©2006 Keith Aoki, James Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins

A documentary is being filmed. A cell phone rings, playing the “Rocky” theme song. The filmmaker is told she must pay $10,000 to clear the rights to the song. Can this be true? “Eyes on the Prize,” the great civil rights documentary, was pulled from circulation because the filmmakers’ rights to music and footage had expired. What’s going on here? It’s the collision of documentary filmmaking and intellectual property law, and it’s the inspiration for this new comic book. Follow its heroine Akiko as she films her documentary, and navigates the twists and turns of intellectual property. Why do we have copyrights? What’s “fair use”? Bound By Law reaches beyond documentary film to provide a commentary on the most pressing issues facing law, art, property and an increasingly digital world of remixed culture.

Some older posts on the subject from the archive:
1) Eyes on the Prize: Performance and Copyright (2/1/2005)

2) Film and Copyright...Taking it into the Festivals (1/29/2005)

3) Chinese Film: Reflecting on Cultural Production (1/28/2005)

I also want to welcome of the newest members of the blogosphere, my long-time friend Jessisca [sic.] and her new virutal home, Brandy Hall, IL--yes, she's a LOTR fan. Welcome Jessica!

Current Listening: Great Big Sea, The Hard and the Easy (Zoe, 2006)

More radio reports

From FMQB: Bridge Ratings Studies MP3 Players, Satellite Radio:

According to their study, the amount of songs on a person's portable MP3 player varies by the amount of weekly radio listening done. Those who are below-average listeners to radio have more songs on their MP3 players.

Bridge Ratings was also doing listener studies of satellite radio listeners. According to Bridge, XM will end the year "with 8.1 million subscribers and Sirius with 6.5 million."

I've been thinking that these satellite music operations represent an incredibly rich area for academic study. The music librarian in me worries that their logs and playlists will be dumped after a certain amount of time (6 months to a year), but I just don't know. I don't even know if you can call them and find out what was playing. Because they show the song/artist/album on the radios, they must have metadata somewhere.

Unlike classical stations (or even many Web radio stations), they don't post their playlists online. And what sort of cultural treasures in the form of live concert recordings and studio sessions are going on in XM and Sirius studios that aren't being released for sale?! The only way I'll know is to buy one and try it out for myself. Oh well, it's for science. ;-)

Friday, August 18, 2006

In so many words...musicians aren't just talented, they're committed

This article from Business Week explains better than I ever could why classical musicians are the way they are.

Expect the lemmings to follow

The Current editors Mike Janssen and Steve Behrens recently interviewed public radio researchers George Bailey and David Giovannoni "who are wrapping up their Audience 2010 inquiry commissioned by pubradio’s Radio Research Consortium." The study was done to probe for a recent decline in public radio listening (more specifically AQH share) during the last two years.

There's a lot to digest here, so I'll respond later. I just wanted to leave these quotes for all to ponder:

"Nearly half of listening to pubradio stations last year was to stations that lost loyalty over the previous year."

"Being so highly invested [in it], many broadcasters resist the fact that listeners tend to value local programming less than they value national programming."

Bailey: "The fact that some of the NPR news stations are doing well and some are not, and the same with the other formats, indicates that public radio really can support a variety of formats and maybe even serve a variety of audiences with those different formats, but that within any one of those formats there’s a variety of right and wrong ways to do it. So I think it’s positive that there’s a lot of opportunity for a range of formats in public radio."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Little heard American opera

I am really enjoying the tapes I have been working with in the last couple of days from the VOA collection. These include close to two dozen 30-minute programs called "American Opera", which featured excerpts and extended scenes from operas by American composers. There are some dogs in the lot, but overall I was quite impressed by the lyricism, integrity, and genuine beauty of some the operas I was able to hear.

Portrait of Virgil Thomson (1896-1989)
"I've never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down"--Virgil Thomson

Frankly I was surprised to hear such inspiration from opera by American composers, even knowing what I do. (I did a junior independent study thesis on Virgil Thomson and American opera before 1947). It was nice to be reminded of that. The themes (on which these operas are based) can be touching and relevant with a solid librettist and the lyrics unstilted.

Listening to Four Saints again reminded me of the experience of hearing Italian opera. The music fits the text logically, and the syllables fall where they are supposed to. Does that mean Thomson's (and Gertrude Stein's) libretto is not a literary experiment that challenges meaning, rhetoric, and comprehension? No, but the text is not really the point me thinks. I have to step back and look at the tapestry they are trying to weave within the episodes, rather than blindly being led along on a narrative (especially in the Floyd).

The crime is that several of these have never been released on CD--some have never been commercially released. Some of the obvious favorites include Aaron Copland's The Tender Land, Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts, Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium and Carlisle Floyd's Susannah. It was nice to finally hear works by Robert Ward (The Crucible) and Deems Taylor (The King's Henchman) which are considered important, but who has heard them let alone seen them?! Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti is a witty and entertaining set piece, which cooks with all the energy and rhythmic vitality that is Lenny. All of my soprano friends love doing "What a Movie!"

My new favorite? An operatic re-telling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew by Italian-American composer Vittorio Giannini.

This is a good job.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

More radio news from Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and high above the Earth

Classical music on radio-try it, it just might work!

Four pieces on radio...two classical, two public, one private, one satellite (they overlap)

1) Changes at WQED-FM affirm its classical music commitment (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

More music, less talk--that's the premise of the changes in store for Pittsburgh's classical music station. The station's veteran hosts Jim Cunningham, Anna Singer and Ted Sohier will continue their programming. WQED will pick-up one of the overnight classical music services which many public broadcasting stations run during overnight shifts. The weekend request program will move from Saturday morning to Saturday evening, after Prairie Home Companion.

WQED has always been one of my favorite classical stations. As I'm driving home to my parents, I usually catch an interesting piece, or interview with an important person in the arts which catches my ear. The trend among many all-classical stations has been away from broadcasting concerts. As long as the quality and variety of repertoire continues on WQED, I'm all for this expansion.

2) New owner wants to take WCRB-FM national (Boston Globe).

For months there has been speculation that Nassau Broadcasting (who bought WCRB)would drop classical music. That wasn't the case. In this news item, Nasssau's president and CEO, Louis F. Mercatanti proposes syndicating WCRB's programming and taking it national. He calls classical music a "niche format with wide appeal" with listeners who are "extremely loyal" and have longer periods of TSL (Time Spent Listening) than "fans of rock or talk radio." While I'm all for more classical programming in all markets, the effect of this move could provoke more dual-format public radio stations that carry classical music to drop it altogether, so as not to compete for listeners.

3) Making waves
The people at Chicago Public Radio want to put you on the air. Their radical plan to reinvent radio could fail—or it just might revolutionize broadcast media. (Time Out Chicago)

I think this could be a great experiment as I love what this station has done with This American Life, but I worry about the reality-TV-ization of all media. It does give people an important to "play" radio though, and that could be a good thing. Chicago Public Radio will still serve as a gatekeeper to select audio that is good. Now if only someone would do that for music.

4) Marc Fischer has an article comparing programming on XM and Sirius (Washington Post).

The winners:
CLASSICAL- Sirius (Performance Today and other NPR shows, edgier selections; but XM has Martin Goldsmith, Millennium of Music, and programs from PRI)
BASEBALL- XM (every Major League Baseball game all season long)
NEWS- Sirius (but neither have their own news operations, mostly audio from TV)
PUBLIC RADIO- Sirius (but XM has Bob Edwards)
TALK- The new home of raunch radio (Sirius has Howard Stern and OutQ, the all-gay channel; but XM has Jerry Springer, Al Franken, Bill Bennett, Dr. Laura, etc.) The Post picks XM.

Friday, August 11, 2006

New Future of Music report on effects of radio consolidation

On August 9, 2006 the Future of Music Coalition published a study by Peter DiCola which finds "that the vast majority of major U.S. cities has experienced both layoffs and lower wage growth within the radio profession, associated with the unprecedented consolidation of radio station ownership over the last decade. The study also shows that the job losses in radio impede federal policy mandates to promote localism and diversity in media."

Some findings include:

* The combined market share of the top four radio companies in each local market increased by an average of 14.3 percent between 1993 and 2004 across 265 markets.

* Cities with higher degrees of radio consolidation had greater job losses among news reporters and broadcast technicians from 1996 to 2003.

* Cities with higher degrees of radio consolidation experienced smaller wage growth for DJs and news reporters from 1996 to 2003.

The full study is available for download as a PDF (30 pages).