This week I found time to upload a pair of distinct musical recordings and videos, and therein lies a story.
It’s a story about quality, virality, timestamps, and the inability of the Internet to signify much beyond noise and feed. What may seem a minor gripe to those who have yet to paint their masterpiece, becomes a major issue for artists who have created worthy art and choose not to promote themselves in a viral way––
Yea, art is its own reward. In many ways the very creation of the pieces I present on Utube is an honor. To have a drummer, a bassist, a violinist, a trumpeter, a singer I respect learning what is in my head, without my giving them anything but the equivalent of sign language and ESP.... We get it done.
How is it that something that connects, when it comes to actual musicians, is lost in translation when it comes to the current medium of conveyance, Internet? (Hint: algorithms and fleet fingers.)
Over the last year I have put up more than a dozen videos, many with an hour’s worth of music, all of it meeting pretty high standards of originality and quality. This has netted:
º nine subscribers
º 2,885 views
º no money or monetization possibilities*
So why am I putting the stuff up?
What is a timestamp?
It is proof that I created and uploaded some original composition at a certain date, in case… and don’t laugh, it happens much more often than you think––someone takes the idea, song, etc., and monetizes it. It is my insurance policy in a world gone at least half mad.
Why is this important? Well, take this song that I recorded as a sketch in Manila, about a year before the hook was incorporated into a song by a boy band that is kind of the antithesis of what I am about. I actually spit out my coffee at the coffee shop when I heard it. The notes, the measures before the stutter refrain "where do we, where do we go" are virtually the same as Why Don't We & Macklemore's I Don't Belong In This Club.
I may have been an unconscious zeitgeist conjurer with my tune, but it seems unlikely. I came up with the song not thinking of pop at all, but of the style of 1960s Czech folk singer Karyl Kryl. Created at a time and place when the message in music mattered. It was definitely not about getting into a club populated by Ferrari-driving ballers before hair has sprouted on one's chin.
When an idea you have come up with on your own appears completely out of context, it's a pretty big wallop to the brain. (this far from the first time, but word ideas do not hit me as strongly as music)
How could the song idea have been poached? Easy. Overheard at the hostel where I worked it out for a couple days? Very possible, devices are everywhere, shared in instants. Somehow leaked from the studio sessions where I adlibbed it as part of the usual jam? Also possible. Psychic spies from China try to steal your heart's elation? Bingo.
Sadly, incorporated into a highly infectious pop track, the solemn idea of where we as collective humanity go has become an earworm and unpalatable to its creator.
Back to that timestamp thing... the voice memo audio recording I made has an iPhone timestamp of 5/16/18. Perhaps that alone is admissible in an IP court of law. However, a public streaming timestamp seems more powerful. I imagine any claim of authorship would have been bolstered by having a WIP version up publicly on platforms well before the pop song came out.
So that's wind in my sails, in putting original music up faster than my usual snail’s pace. Mona Lisa, Jamming Along is a prime example. Not finished, but finished enough to claim authorship. And original enough. My intuition: bluesy songs that are not simply a variation of what has been done before do not come along every day. Ditto intelligent lyrics.
Note to myself and to any original artist, especially those who don't work in beats: get that shit timestamped (I have quite a queue, more than 100 song ideas in various stages of completion) and…. find someone with legal knowhow to help nail down song authorship and all the rest. A consultant. Pay them if you have to, a whole lot of free get you ... where we are today.
Back to that timestamp thing... the voice memo audio recording I made has an iPhone timestamp of 5/16/18. Perhaps that alone is admissible in a court of law, it would depend on precedent and whether the technology forensic witness made a compelling case. Any way you slice it, a public streaming video timestamp seems more powerful. I imagine any claim of authorship woul have been bolstered by having even a WIP version up on public platforms well before the pop song came out.
As an artist who makes nil from his art I shouldn’t have to mention this, but it’s not about greed. I want to share whatever money comes from the creative process with the musicians who helped me get there, whether they were participating in a paid studio session or not. That is part of the fabric concept. Banish thy ego. Oh yeah, and fund that fabric platform that will (sustainably) rip a hole in Internull reality as we know it.
*Youtube does not allow an official channel to be created and monetized (through more or less intrusive ads) until 1,000 subscribers and some unholy number of looped streaming hours occur. I am never going to vie for that particular race-to-the-bottom.
**Here’s the little blurb I incorporate in the video: “This is a little fabric video that came about when I was at the Civet Cafe in Cebu and heard Why Don't We & Macklemore's "I Don't Belong in This Club." Well the rhythm and melody of the chorus is pretty much the same as a fabric song I came up with at a hostel in Makati a year before, as timestamped on iPhone voice memos at the time. Probably played a couple days, may have also recorded off-the-cuff as I am wont at Strawberry Jams studio session. So I got into a little debate with erstwhile fabric drummer Nils about whether it is possible that they took my song idea. He said he couldn’t identify anything in the song he hadn’t "heard a thousand times before walking past radios. "Well, that said, it was original enough to be marketed as a new song on YouTube and all the rest, which apparently got 16 million views without being identified as a Radiohead, Hollies, Lana Del Rey, Marvin Gaye, Robin Thicke, Led Zeppelin, or Randy California ripoff.
So lets say it is original and I came up with the hook a year earlier... just saying.... where do we, where do we go? (fabric is a thing, it's powerful. :)”