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A fair Music Streaming Model is Possible (Hint: It’s required)

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It’s time we started applying the same language we use with tobacco companies to corporate music streaming services. We’re officially in the era of “Big Music.” And it’s fundamentally toxic, and possibly lethal, for musicians and indie labels alike.

Spotify, Apple Music, Google/YouTube, Rhapsody, and the rest of the streaming services have officially taken control of the music industry. My last Medium article, “The Finger’s on the Self-Destruct Button: The Ugly Truth about Apple, Google, Spotify, and the Rest of the Music Streaming Universe” illustrated the issues musicians and indie labels are facing as they struggle to monetize their art in the brutally unfair, unwanted streaming construct that parasitic Big Music has established.


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Big Music Remains Indifferent to Musician and Label Concerns
Hundreds of musicians got behind the article. It was read by 74,000+ people and shared with millions across social media. Yet, there hasn’t been a word of response from the streaming companies. Clearly, they collectively have so little regard for artists and indie labels that even hundreds of musicians expressing concern means nothing to them. Hear that? You’re all unworthy of even basic acknowledgement. These companies are morally bankrupt. Your art is nothing but software in the cloud for them. It’s content as a service. It’s merely fodder to sell advertising and devices, fund IPOs and acquisitions, and prop up Ponzi-inspired investment schemes. That’s it. Nothing else. These services have no investment in your future. They don’t care if you live or die.

The other interesting thing that came out of the article is that despite unanimous support from the global musician community, there was bitter, scathing feedback from many entitled music consumers. They feel they deserve free or low-cost streaming. They believe it’s up to musicians and labels to adapt to the Big Music streaming paradigm because it’s just the way music distribution will be going forward, like it or not. Wrong.

“A major problem is the warped image the public has of musicians as celebrities,” explains Markus Reuter, the composer who co-runs the Iapetuslabel, dedicated to avant-rock and new music. “The public is unaware of the facts. When artists actually speak out, they’re being seen as whiny or greedy. The image of the happy-go-lucky musician who leads an enviable life is a lie that has been told by the mass media for many decades. It’s the breeding ground for the absurd corporate streaming business models Big Music is now selling to people.”

The Solution: An Entirely New, Fair Streaming Service
So, how can this be fixed? By artists and labels completely emancipating themselves from Big Music and creating total separation. It’s clear there are two types of music consumers today: those who want a free ride and the enlightened ones who love music as an art form, and understand that musicians and indie labels must be supported and deserve fair compensation for their work. The former type of consumer is irrelevant to musicians today. These people are lost forever in a generational drift. They’re never coming back to put a dime in the pocket of artists and labels. So, let them go. Forever.

It’s time to create an alternate streaming environment focused on music of meaning for listeners of value. It’s time for artists and indie labels to work within an entirely new construct designed to benefit them, run by someone that has their best interests at heart. Some may call this elitist. I call it realistic. It’s a perspective motivated entirely by survival and creating a sustainable ecosystem for the long-term. Let Big Music stream McMusic to the McMasses. Listeners that care about the good stuff will go elsewhere — if it’s the only place to get it. Yes, there’s the rub. Hear me out on this.

The bottom line with a fair streaming service, is yes, the bottom line for artists and labels. Quite simply, it has to pay more. A lot more. Corporate streaming services are largely an extension of the old publishing construct, in which publishers make money by accumulating content from thousands and thousands of artists. The low-cost mass model may make it viable for those who run the services, but not for artists and labels, who are paid out in micro-fractions of pennies.

The New Model: Realistic, Sustainable Pricing
To establish a fair streaming service, it will have to charge higher prices. It’s the only way for tangible revenue to reach artists and label participants. For that to happen, the service cannot be rigged to pay back investors who eventually cash out through an IPO or acquisition. It needs to have a rock solid ethical and financial core. And it doesn’t have to put rampant profitability ahead of sustainability for artists and indie labels.

How do we get there? One of the most expansive thinkers I’ve encountered on the topic is multi-instrumentalist Joe Mendelson of the experimental hip-hop act Rise Robots Rise and alternative rock band Quodia. With input from touch guitarist and composer Trey Gunn, who helms the avant-rock label 7d Media, Mendelson has come up with the following model for a fair streaming service, involving 90% of all revenue going to either the artist or indie label:

The first listen to all tracks is always free of charge. The second listen, and any listen thereafter, is paid for in one of the following ways, with the listener choosing to:

  • Rent the track for one play for 10 cents, much like putting a dime in a jukebox.
  • Buy the track for $1, which then makes it possible to both download it, as well as stream it forever at no additional cost.
  • Stream the entire service’s catalog for a subscription fee, but at a much higher price point than Big Music — potentially $40–60 a month. Remember, the goal is to ensure the artists and labels get adequately paid. The $10 per-month charged by Apple Music and Spotify will never, ever lead to meaningful compensation for musicians.

Further, Mendelson’s streaming company vision involves it being set up as a B-corporation, which in the United States means a for-profit company intended to positively impact society. There would be no conventional stockholders or high-position owners involved who can sell the operation. The team supporting it would be small and agile. They would be paid decently, but there wouldn’t be a way for anyone to get rich. In other words, it would be run by true music lovers.

Musician and Indie Label Commitment Required for Success
The other requirement of this fair streaming model is that it needs to be the single go-to place for music of meaning. A definition includes the avant sides of rock, pop and folk, punk, underground hip-hop, alternative country, jazz, world, prog, noise, and new music — essentially, the worlds Big Music cares nothing about. It also needs the exclusive commitment of respected labels willing to voluntarily abandon Big Music for this service. I can think of a few that might be receptive to the concept, including: Ayler Records, Brainfeeder, Cantaloupe, Cuneiform, Discipline Global Mobile, ECM, 4AD, InsideOut, Kill Rock Stars, Kscope, Lazy Bones, MOD Technologies, MoonJune, New West, Ninja Tune, Pi, RareNoise, Real World, Rune Grammofon, Stones Throw, Sub Pop, Tzadik, Warp, and World Village.

That’s a big ask, but it will be impossible for this new service to work unless a critical mass of important indie labels withdraw from Big Music streaming and commit to the new fair streaming service. Frankly, why wouldn’t they? They literally earn next-to-nothing from the mainstream services anyway. What does ubiquitous availability mean on a corporate streaming service when you will never, ever be able to monetize it in an even remotely beneficial way? One can think about this new service as the streaming equivalent of independent record stores — those amazing places you would go to find music no chain store would ever carry.

Big Music will call this proposal naive, idealistic and impossible. I assure you it is anything but. The seeds have been sown. The outrage is palpable amongst the musician and indie label community. Many listeners are starting to get it, too. These enlightened consumers understand musicians and labels are being backed into a corner. They know both will soon be unable to continue working within the Big Music system as it continues down its treacherous path.

Now, It’s Up To You
Tell us what you think about this new model. We need your feedback. As a musician or label, would you commit to this service if it existed? As a consumer, are you willing to support artists and labels in a more substantive way?

By Anil Prasad

 

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Business

Right to Repair Bill Introduced in Congress

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Hot on the heels of last week’s victory in the New York state senate, the fight for Right to Repair comes to the US Congress. Today, Congressman Joe Morelle (D-NY) introduced the first broad federal Right to Repair bill: the Fair Repair Act.

“As electronics become integrated into more and more products in our lives, Right to Repair is increasingly important to all Americans,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO. Lawmakers everywhere are realizing the need to protect our Right to Repair—along with progress in the EU and Australia, 27 US states introduced Right to Repair legislation this year, a record number.

“Every year I’ve worked on Right to Repair, it’s gotten bigger, as more and more people want to see independent repair protected,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of Repair.org. Rep. Joe Morelle has been a champion for much of that journey, sponsoring legislation while in the Statehouse in Albany starting in 2015. Everywhere you go, people just want to be able to choose for themselves how to fix their stuff. You’d think manufacturers would wise up.”

Congressman Joe Morelle’s federal bill would require manufacturers to provide device owners and independent repair businesses with access to the parts, tools, and information they need to fix electronic devices.

“For too long, large corporations have hindered the progress of small business owners and everyday Americans by preventing them from the right to repair their own equipment,” said Congressman Morelle. “It’s long past time to level the playing field, which is why I’m so proud to introduce the Fair Repair Act and put the power back in the hands of consumers. This common-sense legislation will help make technology repairs more accessible and affordable for items from cell phones to laptops to farm equipment, finally giving individuals the autonomy they deserve.”

“Right to Repair just makes sense,” said Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director. “It saves money and it keeps electronics in use and off the scrap heap. It helps farmers keep equipment in the field and out of the dealership. No matter how many lobbyists Apple, Microsoft or John Deere and the rest of the manufacturers throw at us, Right to Repair keeps pushing ahead, thanks to champions like Rep. Joe Morelle.”

“At iFixit, we believe that big tech companies shouldn’t get to dictate how we use the things we own or keep us from fixing our stuff.” said iFixit’s US Policy Lead, Kerry Maeve Sheehan. “We applaud Congressman Morelle for taking the fight for Right to Repair to Congress and standing up for farmers, independent repair shops, and consumers nationwide.”

We’re pleased to see Congress taking these problems seriously. In addition to supporting Congressman Morelle’s Fair Repair Act, we urge Congress to pass much-needed reforms to Section 1201 of the Copyright Act, to clarify that circumventing software locks to repair devices is always legal, and to expressly support the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to tackle unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive repair restrictions.

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Arts

Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

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Our future is in OUR Hands

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.

 

 

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Agriculture

For a healthier planet, management must change

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Our environment sustains all life. Both human and wildlife. When habitat degrades, the lives of all that depend on it also deteriorate: poor land = poor people and social breakdown.By Sarah Savory, Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe (like many other countries in arid areas with seasonal rainfall) we are facing the many symptoms and signs of our country’s advancing desertification: ever-increasing droughts, floods, wildfires, poverty, poaching, social breakdown, violence, mass emigration to cities, biodiversity loss and climate change. No economy can survive if we destroy our soil – the only economy that can ultimately sustain any community, or nation, is based on the photosynthetic process — green plants growing on regenerating soil.


So, if we wanted to find out the optimum way to manage our wildlife, people and economy, logically, shouldn’t we be looking at our National Parks for the best examples of what we can do for our environment? Because in national parks, we not only have the best management the world knows, we don’t have any of the issues that are normally blamed for causing desertification: ignorance, greed, corruption, corporations, livestock, coal, oil, etc. Let’s do that now…the following are all photos taken in our national parks (the first 3 were taken in May right after the rainy season when they should still be looking their best!)

As you can see from those photos, some of the worst biodiversity loss and land degradation we have in Zimbabwe is occurring IN our National Parks. But, as I pointed out, those have been run using the best management known to us and have been protected and conserved for decades. We’ve clearly been missing something…

The above 8 pictures are a mixture of National Parks and Communal Land…can you tell which is which?

We are seeing this land degradation both inside and out of our Parks because there is an over-arching and common cause of desertification that nobody has understood, or been able to successfully address, until recently.

We spend our lives blaming resources for causing the damage (coal, oil, livestock, elephants, etc) but resources are natural, so how could they possibly be to blame? Only our management of them can be causing the problem.

ALL tool using animals (including humans) automatically use a genetically embedded management framework…and every single management decision made is in order to meet an objective, a need, or to address a problem. And those decisions are made with exactly the same framework, or thought process and for exactly the same reasons, whether it is an animal or a human.

For example, a hungry otter has an objective: he wants to break open a clamshell because he needs to eat. He uses a simple tool (technology, in the form of a stone) to do so. He does this based on past experience or what he learned from his mother.

Or, the president of the United States has an objective: to put a man on the moon within a decade. He and his team use the same tool (technology, but various and more sophisticated forms of it) and base their choices on past experience, research, expert advice, and so on. It’s the same process, or framework, in both cases, only the degree of sophistication has varied.

A screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.
All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.
But different management.

To this day, this decision making process works just fine for the otter. But imagine that one day, the otter invents a machine that can crack open 1,000 clam shells a day and that all the other otters suddenly stop doing what otters are designed to do and just come to him to get their clams. They still use the decision making process but everything else has changed…that tiny advance in technology would have inadvertently set off a complex chain reaction through the whole ecosystem and there would soon be catastrophic environmental knock-on effects because the balance of the ecosystem has been upset. The ecosystem will keep trying to adjust to this change but eventually it will start to collapse. Imagine the otter started charging for the clams. Now, with every decision the otters make, in order to make sure their ecosystem didn’t collapse, they would need to be simultaneously addressing the social, environmental and economic aspects of their actions. Their management would have to evolve with the change.

This is exactly what happened to humans…As soon as our technology advanced, our management should have evolved to accommodate for it. But it didn’t.

Our natural world is rapidly collapsing all around us and we have ended up constantly chasing our tails and dealing with the symptoms and complications we’ve created. While there have been thousands of books written over the years on different types of management, if you dig a little deeper and ‘peel the onion’ the same genetically embedded framework is still inadvertently being used.

In the last 400 years, our technology has advanced faster than in all of the two hundred thousand or so years of modern human existence. Over those same few centuries, you can now see why the health of our planet has entered a breathtaking decline.  We now have the knowledge to change that…

No matter what we are managing, we cannot ever escape an inevitable web of social, economic and environmental complexity, so, in order to truly address any issue, the people and the finances have to be addressed simultaneously, not just the land itself. Isolating one particular part of the problem, or singling out a species and trying to manage it successfully, is no different from trying to isolate and manage the hydrogen in water.

With this knowledge, the Holistic Management Framework was developed. And, incredibly, it all started here in Zimbabwe, by my father, Allan Savory, an independent Zimbabwean scientist. This new decision making process ensures that no matter what we are managing, we focus on the root cause of any problem. It also makes sure that all our decisions are socially or culturally sound, economically viable and ecologically regenerative by using 7 simple filtering checks. And, it introduces us to a new, biological tool: animal impact and movement, that can be used to help us reverse desertification and regenerate our land and rivers.

This framework has received world-wide acclaim and is now being mirrored in forty three Holistic Management hubs on six continents, including the first university-led hub in the USA.

Now we can begin to understand that most of the problems we are facing in Zimbabwe today are simply symptoms of reductionist management.

Imagine that one day, someone starts to beat you really hard over the head, once a day, every day, with a cricket bat. It really hurts, and instead of trying to take the bat away from them, you just take a dispirin to deal with the headache it’s caused and carry on.

After a week, the pain will be getting much worse and the dispirin will no longer be strong enough, so you’d need a new painkiller. The stopain comes out. After a while, stopain won’t be enough, so you turn to Brufen. And so it goes on. Yet the blows continue.

Eventually, your organs will be struggling from all the medication and you’ll end up in hospital with very serious complications. The best doctors and specialists in the world are called in at great expense and they rush around treating all your worsening, and now life-threatening, symptoms. None of them can understand why you aren’t getting better – they’ve used the best medicines and procedures known. It’s because everyone is so focused on your symptoms, that nobody has looked up and seen the person standing behind you with the cricket bat.

It sounds silly when I put it like that, doesn’t it? But that is exactly what we are doing.

Our planet is in that hospital with life threatening complications, with Governments, Organisations and individuals doing their best, spending millions of dollars, often using expert advice, to find out how to treat the patient, but nobody has realised that they are only treating symptoms. Nobody has noticed the guy standing there with the bat.

The holistic management framework stops the blows to the head. As soon as we do that and the cause is being treated, all the symptoms will automatically begin to heal and fall away.

I am going to show you a screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.

All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.

But different management.

These pictures were taken on the same day on land only 30km apart in February 2018, The 2 photos on the left are Zambezi National Park and the photo on the right is Africa Centre for Holistic Management (Dibangombe)

The great news is that we can turn it all around and we don’t have the thousands of different problems we all think we do. We only have to adjust one thing. Our management.

It’s time for us to evolve from using our outdated, reductionist management framework. We need to adapt to a new way of thinking and  apply this paradigm-shifting decision  making framework so that we can all work together towards regenerating our Zimbabwe.

Culturally. Socially. Economically. Environmentally. For for our people and for our wildlife.

Let’s start by stopping the blows to the head!

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