The Other Other Other Side of My Writing Life

You know, when I’m not writing here, or on By the Way, or working on a novel, or a non-fiction book, or banging out a corporate brochure, or mugging little old ladies for their gerunds, I’m often writing magazine articles. Here’s one of them, on a company called MediaDefender, which is a company that tries really hard to make sure your attempt to illegally download that popular song or movie is a truly unpleasant experience. It was the cover story a couple months back for Jungle magazine, a magazine aimed at MBA students and new graduates. I’ve done work for them before, and, indeed, at the moment I’m writing another article for them, too, this one on the UFC. Interesting stuff.

11 Comments on “The Other Other Other Side of My Writing Life”

  1. I think they are failing. I would, of course, never download music from the net without paying for it, but from what I’ve heard its a fine experience. Of course, that may change.

  2. Interesting article! I’ve known that this kind of thing has been going on for a while, but it’s the first time I’ve read anything about the actual mechanics of it.

    I do find it pathetic, however, that the content companies employ people to “mess up” illegal downloads as you describe, all the while employing DRM that makes the legal option almost as painful. It’s something of a case study in cluelessness.

  3. Odd to me there is no discussion about the ethics of downloading free music or film. One day, I was looking at a royalty check of $13.52. I went to Napster and saw hundreds of hits on a song I had written recorded by a popular bluegrass artist.

    So many songwriters and musicians who aren’t in the top 100 depend on every little scrap we get to keep the beans on the table. Many of us have our own small record companies, often selling our work at shows and though small outlets like CDBaby. Selling 5000 CD’s is a big deal to the little guy. File-sharing kills us and we don’t have the protection the A-list artist have. Just a thought.

  4. Nick,
    I’m not saying this to be mean, but other than a chance download online, where else would I hear your music? And I enjoy bluegrass when I hear it, but I rarely hear it anymore. Downloading may be the best advertising you have.


  5. You may be right, Phil. As I’m not on the road these days and pretty much out of the music biz other than doing soundtrack work, I certainly am not generating a high profile. I’m a blues musician, though oddly I’ve had more success writing bluegrass and country music. I’ve always thought of musicians like myself as more a specialty product than mainstream artists. Every now and then a blues or bluegrass song or whatever hits the mainstream market, but a most of us depend on point of purchase CD sales. That’s changing and I figure things with sort themselves out. But if books were easy to reproduce, then writers would be facing this same dilemma.

    Our audience is a little older and less inclined to download music digitally. They still want CD’s. I own an Ipod, but I’m still not in the habit of downloading music, other than samples and loops I buy for my soundtrack work, but I always pay for those loops or download loops by people willing to give some away to get you to look at their other stuff.

    Mostly, I’m just railing against the wind. I realize it’s a complicated issue. My daughter works for a dance music company in Chicago, and they’re really stuck between two worlds. They produce vinyl and down-loadable music. She has the same take you do, and you’re both probably right.

    At the same time, I still have a gut reaction to the belief some have that intellectual property has no value. Most songwriters see their catalogue as a retirement plan. My songs will not provide a very good retirement anyway, so I like I said, I’m just railing at the wind. Thank God I have writing as a backup :)

  6. I don’t know about novels or straightforward prose nonfiction, but there’s certainly a lot of PDFs of roleplaying game sourcebooks floating around in the filesharing world.

  7. 1) That Media Defender guy comes across as a weeny. A lying one at that.

    “That’s something called error checking, and it’s done to thwart us,”

    Uh, no. Error checking is something done for reasons ranging from disk corruption or filesystem corruption to network errors to problems writing the files on the client end. The fact that it’s useful against his little scam is bonus.

    “No one wants to admit it outright,” adds Lee, “but one big reason the newest file-sharing networks are decentralized is that there is no one person or company to sic the lawyers on, like there was when the original Napster went down….”

    No one? What a weeny. EVERYONE that isn’t running or writing some sort of distributed file sharing system admits it, and even some who ARE running it admit it. Tim May, probably the first one to describe a *truly* decentralized file sharing system called he called “blacknet” talked specifically about it being resilient against lawyers and LEOs.

    And the proof that either he’s an idiot, or he thinks “we” are (if he’s mostly been dealing with hollywood and music execs then he can be forgiven for thinking so):

    “Malicious hackers who know who we are will plant a virus to bring us down,”

    If his company is running servers exposed to the internet that can be *phased* by a virus, much less brought down by one then the Music Industry and Hollywood ought to sue his butt for incompetence.

    “First things first, however. “If you don’t stop the piracy, you can’t do other things—you can’t make an offer more compelling than piracy,” says Saaf.”

    Yes, you can.

    You price songs appropriately and you provide clear transparency as to who gets how much of that. And get the *artist* the “lions share” of the change.

    There is no reason why most songs can’t go for around 20 cents a piece, with at least half of that going straigt to the artist–with modern digital technology the costs of recording and distributing are MUCH lower than a decade ago, and for most of the back catalog there is *NO* marketing or advertising to soak up the expenses.

    2) If you download music and don’t pay for it after the first four or five listens you’re a dirtbag. If that statement makes you want to get up in arms, you’re probably a dirtbag too.

    3) I firmly believe that artists should get compensated according to their talent. Unfortunately people like Justin Sullivan can’t afford good dental work and poor Brittany Spears can’t afford panties.

    4) For my headaches.

    War, out.