• Medium: Dissonant Intervals & Bittersweet Symphonies: Music’s Past, Present & Future

    by Neil Turkewitz

    And legendary guitarist, Marc Ribot, sent me something so on point and articulate that I include it in full, notwithstanding the fact that it could stand as an article by itself:

    “No one owes me or any other musician a living. But we and the businesses that pay us should have the same right as any other American: to earn our livings through a fair market, one based on the consent of the seller and the willingness of the buyer. As anyone Googling our work can see: that is not the case now. I’m not “anti-technology”: I’ve been running pro-tools and EmagicLogic since the early 90’s, and remember when my CompuServe address was a number. My latest release streams on Spotify, and I do roughly the same online marketing and distribution as other contemporary artists.

    But the oft repeated myth that bands can now produce recordings on “no budget” (and therefore somehow don’t need to get paid) is… bullshit.

    The computer itself, software, mics, mic-pre’s, compressors, A to D coverters, etc cost money. Composing, rehearsing, recording, overdubbing, mixing, editing, sequencing, mastering, designing, marketing, and promoting all take time. Farmers deduct what it costs to feed and house their animals during the time it takes to bring them to market. Surely, even those who don’t believe we deserve minimum wage should grant us the same economic consideration as a cow.

    I’ve personally witnessed the worst of both indie and major label behavior. In fact, I’ve participated in indie musicians’ collective action to fight record company rip-offs. But even the worst of them understood that not paying us for our work WAS a rip-off. Google et al are attempting to normalize the worst practices of the past: on a scale that Leonard Chess couldn’t even imagine.

    While record companies have certainly robbed many artists — and Artists of Color in particular — celebrating their collapse makes as much sense as celebrating a mass eviction because the building had cockroaches.

    If Silicon Valley apologists now claim we should pay for our record budgets through touring income: well exactly which new artists, who by definition must make a recording BEFORE touring, are likely to have $5–15 grand sitting around to self finance years of self recording and poorly paid promotional touring?

    Are we really SO besotted with our new streaming toys that we can’t recognize the institutionally racist consequences of what amounts to a new exclusionary entrance fee… (not to mention the less visible but equally destructive damage to music’s working class base)? Telling young musicians that they must fund their own recordings is the redlining of the new millennium. To the great extent that race and class are intertwined, it is racist. It’s unfair to talented working class kids of all races, and will create a homogenous culture of the privileged as surely as post-war red-lining created the lily white suburbs of the past.

    If all this was really “technological unemployment” due to “creative destruction,” then we could — and would have to — accept it. But these terms refer to improvements in the technologies of production replacing less efficient technologies. This is not what is going on.

    Musicians still make the music people listen to today, using technology roughly similar to what we used 20 years ago. Our music is producing more profit than ever: just not for us. This isn’t “disruptive innovation”, it is exploitation pure and simple, and it needs to stop.

    The simple fact is this: our budgets collapsed post Napster, and although the effects of streaming are uneven, they will not and cannot repair the damage done as long as major online corporations enjoy a special privilege exemption from the normal obligation of businesses to obey the law. Until the “Safe Harbors” are limited for corporations which fail to use the available technology to stop mass infringement on their premises, there will be no economic justice for working musicians.

    All the rest is hype.”

    Read full article here: MEDIUM

  • The following is a letter from a group of concerned NYC based musicians to our French friends who have considered abstaining this Sunday:

    Dear Friends,

    The election of Donald Trump has been, for us, a nightmare. We are writing because, seeing Le Pen’s growing numbers, and, listening to French debates around abstention, we are experiencing a nightmarish déjà vu. We hope you can benefit from our experience.

    Like many of you, many of us opposed Hillary Clinton’s neo-liberalism, and now oppose Macron’s. But the cure for neo-liberal oppression — in France, Britain, Hungary, or the US —is NOT the election of our respective National Fronts.

    We’ll let the academics debate the extent to which the racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism of the TRUMP/FARAGE/LE PEN axis conforms to the tropes of historical fascism.

    We say: NO PASSARAN! And ask everybody to support A POPULAR FRONT to stop them. 

    There will be many opportunities – on the streets, at the point of   production, and at the ballot box --to prove to Macron that a vote against Le Pen was NOT a vote for his neo-liberal agenda.




    Yes, we need to fight corporate capitalism’s attack on our rights and livelihoods.
    But the idea that this fight will be made easier by the election of Le Pen is terribly wrong.

    This Sunday, you can stop them.


    No abstentions. 
No Le Pen.

    Your Friends From NYC:
    Marc Ribot
    Jack Dejohnette
    Mary Halvorson
    Roy Nathanson
    Marco Cappelli
    Ches Smith

    Une lettre à nos amis Français des États Unis qui ont envisagé de s’abstenir ce dimanche : 

    Chers amis, l’élection de Donald Trump a été, pour nous, un cauchemar. Nous vous écrivons parce que, vu le nombre croissant de supporters  Le Pen et en écoutant l’interview télévisé  de Mélenchon refusant  de supporter Macron, nous vivons un déjà-vu cauchemardesque. Nous espérons que vous pouvez bénéficier de notre expérience. 

    Comme beaucoup d'entre vous, nous avons opposé le néolibéralisme d’Hillary et maintenant nous nous opposons à celui de Macron. Mais le remède contre l’oppression néolibéral — en France, en Grande-Bretagne, en Hongrie ou aux États-Unis — n’est pas l’élection de nos Fronts national respectifs 

    Nous laisserons les universitaires débattrent de la mesure à laquelle le racisme, la xénophobie et l’autoritarisme de l’axe TRUMP/FARAGE/LE PEN est conforme aux figures du fascisme historique.

    Nous disons : NO PASSARAN ! Et demandons à tout le monde de soutenir le Front Populaire pour les arrêter.

    Vous aurez de nombreuses occasions – dans les rues, au point de production et dans les urnes--pour prouver à Macron qu’un vote contre Le Pen n’était pas un vote pour son agenda néo-libéral.

    Mais ce dimanche, les électeurs FRANÇAIS  vous avez  la possibilité d’arrêter que la main du Front National ne s’abatte sur les leviers du  pouvoir de l’état FRANÇAIS 




    Oui, nous devons lutter contre l'attaque du capitalisme d'entreprise sur nos droits et nos moyens de subsistance.

    Mais l'idée que l'élection de Le Pen rendra cette lutte plus facile est terriblement faux.

    Ce dimanche, vous pouvez les arrêter.



    Vos amis de New York :

  • “Stand Up Against Intolerance and Hatred in Our Community”

                                                                                                                news release

     “Stand Up Against Intolerance and Hatred in Our Community”

    Solidarity Celebration at BSP in Kingston

    – April 23 event features music, speakers and networking for positive action –

    KINGSTON, NY (April 10, 2017) – Soon after the 2017 U.S. Presidential inauguration, a Woodstock area family suffered several anti-Semitic bias incidents. This family’s story is by no means an isolated incident here in Ulster County, and it is increasingly typical of life for Black, Latino, LGBT, Jewish and Muslim communities who are vulnerable to abuse and attack in our new political reality. Recognizing that this local incident is part of a virulent trend of racist, misogynist and xenophobic behavior in the United States, several regional musicians and other New York State artists decided to take a stand.

    On Sunday, April 23 from 2-4 p.m. at BSP, 323 Wall Street, in Uptown Kingston, a newly formed local coalition of artists and community members will hold an event to express solidarity with all communities at risk.

    “We want to show that we are going to stand up against intolerance and hatred,” said guitarist and composer, Marc Ribot, a friend of local residents and one of several artists slated to perform at the event. “We intend this to be a celebration of strength and diversity and to show our unified resistance to bias and the conditions that cause and allow it.”

    Local organizers will use the creative and positive power of the arts to open up conversations among community members. The group plans to build a locally based, visible and ongoing network of faith-based, cultural and community groups, and individuals who are willing to stand up against hate. Ribot will speak briefly about Artists Unite Against Hate, a downstate NY group endorsing the event.

    Musicians scheduled to perform on April 23 at BSP include Ceramic Dog (Marc Ribot, Ches Smith and Shahzad Ismailly); Nfamara Badjie; The Paul Green Rock Academy; Bill Brovold and Friends; and the Jamie Saft Trio with Brad Jones & Ben Perowsky plus special guests. Additional speakers and endorsing organizations will be announced at a later date.

    The event is free to the public. Contributions will be accepted and any proceeds will be donated to local organizations working on these issues here in the Hudson Valley.

    Organizations that wish to display materials or participate as speakers, and anyone who wants to assist with future events or join the mailing list, should visit the Facebook page for the event for further information:

    Contact: Rennie Scott-Childress 845.616.3687 ( 

  • Don’t Mourn/ORGANIZE!

    We lost more than “the progressive agenda” in this year’s election: Donald Trump’s regime is an attack on Constitutional Democracy itself. 

    Below are contacts for people who are fighting back.

    [We thank NY City Council Member Brad Lander #GetOrganizedBK for the list].

    Fighting Trump appointments: FB page is Indivisible Nation, Twitter at indvisible_nat., email 

    Fighting corruption & conflicts-of-interest email

    Preparing for the Women’s March On Washington: or Facebook page

    Solidarity w/ immigrant neighbors (with CM Menchaca) email

    Fighting bias, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism email

    Electoral working group!forum/getorganizedbk—-electoral-working-group

    Outreach to more conservative places!forum/out-of-state-partnerships 

    Threats to safety net programs!forum/brooklyn-safety-net-defense-organizing 

    Programs for our schools/educators

    Women’s health/reproductive rights

    Arts as activism!forum/artsasactivismgetorganizedbk

    for: First Amendment rights and Holding media accountable:

    circulated by

    ***For those in the US outside of NYC, I’d recommend that you contact your own local elected officials at the city or congressional district level, and recommend that they start doing what Lander is doing in Bklyn (and if they can’t be bothered: I d suggest finding someone willing to run against them in the next democratic primary who can).  

  • "Silent Concert"


    On Tuesday, 5/3, at 12 noon, musicians held a “SILENT CONCERT/Demonstration For Artists Rights”  outside the  Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York.

    Unfortunately, couldn’t be there myself — on tour "showing my skills to pay my bills": but I don’t mind writing in airports/train stations. And so:

    The event  coincided with hearings on section 512 of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) being held by the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) inside the courthouse. 

    The DMCA is the 1998 law governing copyright in the digital domain.  Loopholes in the DMCA have left artists effectively powerless to prevent massive for-profit infringement, leading to the growth of a huge and damaging  black market (yup kids, that’s what we call corporate ad-based for-profit piracy: and that's exactly what it is) in our work.   If the devil is in the details, section 512  of the DMCA is our devil’s house. 

    The purpose of the SILENT CONCERT was to "ask Congress to fix the DMCA in order to protect artists’ rights in the digital age.”

    The actual event consisted of working artists/musicians standing with their instruments in a “silent concert” symbolizing “the music left un made… because…[section 512 of the DMCA] has permitted massive for-profit infringement that has devalued our music.”

    The “silent” musicians handed out literature calling for changes in the “Safe Harbor” clause of DMCA which “permits  online service providers to profit from infringement… without liability” claiming Safe Harbors should be denied to hosting platforms which ignore “red flag” knowledge of infringement on their site. 

    The literature urged Congress to update the DMCA takedown notice system so that each uncontested takedown notice applies permanently and automatically to all identical or nearly identical files. This way, artists won’t have to play whac-a-mole with thousands of repeating infringements in order to exercise their rights.

    The leaflet goes on:

    The technology already exists to protect creators fairly, in a way that will NOT interfere with free speech, and will NOT “shut down the internet!” 

    Have copyright protection and take-down systems been created that reasonably address civil libertarian concerns?

    Here’s Audible Magic Corporation’s response:

     “[the] technology could be implemented today." - Ikezoye, Vance, Audible Magic spokesperson April 3, 2016

    YouTube manages to run its own automated “Content ID” software without appearing to engage in ‘censorship’.

    Unfortunately access to this protective software comes at a cost.

    Independent artists must give YouTube access to their entire catalogue and use Content ID to monetize — thereby making YouTube money – in order to get access to its protection from infringement.

    Q: What kind of racket profits by selling ‘protections’ against infringements they themselves make possible?

    A: A protection racket.

    Q: Why – other than the fact that its parent corporation is worth 500 billion and this is the USA --  is this legal? Why isn’t YouTube required to protect the rights of ALL those on its premises, like any other business?

    A: Because of the Safe Harbor clause of section 512 of the DMCA.

    The ‘silent’ musicians called on Congress to further the development of  “Standard Technical Measures” (STM’s) that would enable an automated ‘takedown’ system to work, and, as an incentive,  to deny Safe Harbor to hosting platforms which, once STM’s are established, refuse to adopt them. 

    They tried to remind law makers:

     “We’re not asking for a special privilege, but a basic American right:  a fair market for our work."

    This protest was a small part of a new wave of activism by creators who are no longer afraid to speak out directly about reforming the DMCA. In March, I helped gather signatures for "A Creators’ View of the Music Ecosystem and Notice and Takedown". [a document circulated by the artists' rights group c3 (Content Creators Coalition) and presented to the US Copyright Office, (see the list of signers here: DMCA Signatures.pdf)] . The response was off the hook… everyone I asked signed.   

    The signers weren’t just “Rock Stars”, or functionaries from some 'built out’ advocacy organization, and this wasn’t just “the industry”. They were working musicians/ artists of all genres, ages, and levels of commercial success. 

    Almost none would have signed 3 years ago.

    This increase in activism is the opposite of what one would expect if the rosy tech industry claims of digital economic uplift for creators were true.  It presents a challenge to the ‘optimistic' statistical inferences drawn by  Steven Johnson [“The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t” NY Times, 8/23/2015]. 

    No working artist I know believes such claims.  If one thinks for a moment, the idea that the music market -- or ANY market — can somehow flourish while an open black market makes its products available for free -- is not only counterintuitive, its absurd.   

    As working studio drummer, composer, producer, music director extraordinaire (and Silent Concert ‘performer’) Steve Jordan put it:

    “more people are hearing [our] music than ever before.  So you would think that you would be making more money than ever before. But in actuality we’re making less money than we’re ever made, because people are allowed to use our material for next to nothing everywhere in the world now. So its actually worked against us. Only a few people in the record industry have actually made money off this deal. The rest of us are all canaries in the coal mine….” [Steve Jordan intvw by Joel Schlemowitz 5/3/16]

    The toxic economic environment created by the DMCA’s loopholes is what musicians working  in recording and recording related live performance deal with every day.

    And we don’t need Mr. Johnson’s macro economic statistical weatherman to know which way the wind blows. 

    So yeah, I’ll stay on the road longer each year to make up for lost recording income. I’m one of the lucky few able to do so. God help younger, working class, or less established artists trying to break through now (or older artists unable to take the grind, or composers, or parents of young children etc etc).  Current conditions serve as an entry  barrier to all the above.

    Is that a ‘creative apocalypse’? I guess not if you can afford to pay for your own recordings + $5-10,000 for a publicist + lose money on touring for awhile. Or if you only like music made by those who can. 

    (talented poor kids willing to sign exploitive “360” deals can play too. Life-long indebtedness may be their personal “apocalypse”. But the rest of us can enjoy their music – for free if we want. Sweet!)

    And speaking of touring vs those who believe that black markets help producers: I wonder exactly what the latter think is happening to conditions on the touring circuit now that virtually every artist has to go on the road more each year like I do? Supply and demand anyone?

     Oh, nevermind. 

    Sorry I missed the Silent Concert/demo. But you can be assured that until Congress stands up to the digital black marketeers, and restores a fair market for creators’ work in the digital domain, there will be plenty of others.  We’ll be back... we have nowhere else to go.


    M Ribot is a guitarist, recording musician, and artists rights activist with the Musicians Action group.  

    Note: the 5/3 event was intended to deliver a message to Congress and the public, and was in no way meant as a criticism of the U.S. Copyright Office, whose work in gathering stakeholder testimony deserves the respect of all parties. 

    Note: the Silent Concert was sponsored by the Musicians Action group However, the views expressed in this article are solely those of the author. 


    Further reading:

    Composer Maria Schneider has finally come out and said what every artist I know who’s informed on the issues thinks: 

    "… for the vast majority of the artistic community, including me, and every musician I know (and I know thousands), YouTube is a resounding disaster.
    There’s no use in beating around the bush, so I’m going to cut to the chase – I’m of the firm opinion that YouTube should immediately lose its DMCA “safe harbor” status."

    What does that mean? It means that like every other US businesses, YouTube and other hosting platforms should be held responsible for the damage caused by infringements they knowingly permit, or actively to encourage,  on their premises. 

    I have only one thing to add to Maria’s statement: