Of rights and wrongs. Thoughts on Suzanne Vega's recent post on Measure for Measure in the New York Times.
Back in the '80s, I remember Suzanne Vega's tune Tom's Diner rising from the din of music at the time to remind us all that even in an age of drum machines, synthesizers and other new-fangled noise generators, the human voice and melody remained king. Tom's Diner was so pure, refreshing, an acapella cannon shot of singular vision into the layered complexity that was pop music at the time. So when I noticed that Suzanne Vega had written about this tune on Measure for Measure, I soaked up the article. Much to my surprise, it not only told the story of Tom's Diner, but also how Tom's Diner became the reference track for the engineers who developed the algorithm for MP3 compression. But there was a third theme in the article: that of copyrights.
According the article, Tom's Diner was one of the very first songs to be remixed (some British dudes added a rhythm track to the song) and, as such, kicked off the re-mix revolution. And, of course, the copyright conundrum that followed, which has become the debate of our time (along with whether to bail out a bunch of Wall Street morons).
Personally, I've struggled with copyrights (intellectually, only, since I ain't got much to sell): is it better to aggressively protect your music an bar others from messing with it full stop without permission, or is it better to only worry about those who seek commercial gain? After much mulling, I've finally netted out on the latter being the answer. My feeling is that worrying about everybody is impossible these days, so only worry about the people who have a specific plan for making a buck with your stuff. Otherwise, let it run wild, let people fiddle with it, get involved, promote you. In the end, the more people who are aware of your music, the more will buy it. Which is why I'm opting for Creative Commons, which you can read about here.
Hope I'm not being stoopid.