Derrick N Ashong and Soulfège

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Love Rain Down - A Short Film "Love Rain Down" is a 2012 Official Entry in the Palm Beach International Film Festival

An animated film based on the song "Love Rain Down" from the album "AFropolitan" by Derrick N. Ashong (aka DNA) & Soulfège. The movie follows the tale of a little boy named "Johnny" who makes a trip to the legendary "Crossroads" of Robert Johnson fame, and stands down the Devil armed only with a song...


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Million Download Campaign - Get Your Hands Out My Pocket

The Million DOWNLOAD Campaign

Last night I took a train back to NYC so I missed the first half of the Grammys. I got back in time to see some great performances, some wonderful tributes and a few compulsory "huh?" moments. All in all it was a great night for the music biz, though dampened by the recent loss of the great Whitney Houston, and slightly diminished by the under-appreciation for the impact of Don Cornelius (Chris Brown playing a tribute?? I hope I missed the "real tribute" early in the show, as I missed the Etta James one).

For me the success of Adele was a testament to why we all love music so much - ultimately behind all the flash, whiz-bang & poofs, genuine artistry will always have a place in this world.

It's for that reason that I'd like to take a moment to bomb on the Industry. In my two "Free As in Freedom" posts (Part I & Part II) I talk about how musicians are not typically well compensated for record sales. Mike Masnick over at TechDirt has got years of great reporting on some of these issues, including a reference to this article where beloved country artist Lyle Lovett explains how after 20 years and 4.6 million records sold, he's never made a dime from his record sales. I've shared a fair number of pieces on why this is so, so today I don't want to talk economics. I want to talk implications.
Ask yourself how a successful, globally renowned artist can work for the same label for two decades and never get paid a royalty on his records sold. Is it that no money was made from the music? Or is it that the artist was not able to participate in those returns? And why not? After all, the artist is the progenitor of this work, without their contribution it simply would not exist. They are the Alpha & Omega of their own little world of creation, which generates spiritual, creative and material value for those around them. The artist should be the first to get paid from the success of their creation, no?
NO, according to the Recording Industry. And that big "NO" comes with good reason. Artists don't just wake up, create & get famous. Someone has to put a LOT of money, knowledge, leverage and connections on the line in order to "break" an artist - to take them from unknown, to a household name in the time it takes you to say Katy Perry. Since the label is taking on so much risk, and typically an investment of millions in breaking a Top 40 Act, they should be entitled to earn their money back before anyone starts doling out profits.
Sounds like sound business & a fair deal - I put up the cash & infrastructure to make you famous, you pay me back before you start buying Bentleys. The only problem is, it doesn't work out to be a "fair deal." If you haven't already done so, it's worth taking a few minutes to read Courtney Love's decade old rant on the ills of the major label system. First, remember labels do not recoup their expenses based on revenue, but based on the 10% artist's royalty (eg. If I invest $1million, u don't get paid after I sell $1million worth of product, but after I sell $10million worth, at which point you will have a $0 balance. If I only sell $9million worth, u still owe me a $100K, because 10% of $9million is only $900K - $100K short of my initial $1million investment). In addition to this labels don't pay on all revenues, but rather on 85% of revenues, after reductions for arcane concepts like "free goods" & "breakage" (how exactly do these costs apply to digital files?).
Some of you who are partially in the know, may argue that artists can still make money off of their publishing, if they actually write their own music. True, except the labels dip into that as well with what is known as the controlled composition clause. In the end, many artists (like Lyle Lovett) wind up doing the yeoman's work of writing, recording, touring, repeat, while only sharing in a fraction of the benefit from their work. How long should an artist tour for? Last night Grammy chief Neil Portnow closed the evening with an acknowledgment of the excellent Music Cares program, which helps musicians in need. But why should so many musicians grow old & broke?
People think artists don't wind up with money, because they squander it with fast living. In some cases there may be truth to this. In all cases of artists signed to major labels, however, there is another truth. Someone is methodically screwing that artist out of the bulk of the wealth they generate. Why? Because they can. Musicians are not businessmen, we are artists. Take the average label executive and put him on stage next to his worst artist, and he or she will be blown out of the water. Likewise, put the average lead guitarist at a table with a label accountant or lawyer, and imagine what happens.
But can't artists hire their own lawyers & accountants? Yes. But lawyers & accountants make their money not from one artist, but from working with many. If you are 1 of 100 artists a lawyer works with, while there are only 4 major labels that he needs to negotiate with on behalf of all those artists, who do you think has the ultimate leverage in a negotiation - the artist...or the label?
This post is a long one, but I wanted to make sure you really get the gist of what we are doing here. The Million Download Campaign is not only about sharing music, it is about fundamentally altering the paradigm for how creators are treated & compensated. Yes, I'm giving my music away for free, just like 95% of the major label artists in the world. The difference is I am in control of my own destiny, I can partner with anyone I like, I can license my music to whomever I choose, and I own my brand, my name & likeness and most importantly, my music.
When someone tells you that the idea of "Open Source Music" doesn't make sense, you tell them to go look at a recording artist's ledger w/ their label, and then tell them to go to hell.  Trouble is, they probably won't go and someone else will make the same argument...again, and yet again, until someone fundamentally proves that it is possible to platform a band, based on "open" principles, and by leveraging the available technologies, make that band a household name and a profitable enterprise without stealing all the value in that band.
So if you want, you can say the Million Download Campaign is dedicated to the Lyle Lovett's of the world. The artists we grew up loving & admiring, but only a few of us realized how badly they were being screwed. With your help, we intend to illuminate another path, and prove that it's one worth taking. If you want to be on the side of artistry, creativity, freedom & fairness there is only one side to take in this debate.
This is a Revolution.  Saddle up.



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