Over the last four days, the SoundCloud blog has posted a series of interviews with Creative Commons users on the site. I think they’re all interesting, and not just because I conducted three of the four of them. I was really floored, though, by the last one we ran, interviewing the musician and sample maker Stretta. Stretta really gets it.
Creative Commons in particular, and the free culture movement in general, sometimes get criticized for being a bit academic or legal, undervaluing the experience of actual creators. I don’t think that criticism has much merit, but the fact remains that many of the most prominent advocates of the movement are legal professors or software developers. I don’t mean to devalue the countless invaluable contributions to the community that have been made by artists, but only to say that their work is not always apparent to artists who are just becoming familiar with CC. I’ve fielded too many comments from struggling artists who think that Creative Commons is misguided and not in touch with artists, or worse, maliciously trying to exploit them.
Against this background, speaking to Stretta was a refreshing experience. He shares his creative process with his fans by soliciting comments on works in progress. Many of his final works are released under Creative Commons licenses. On top of that, he’s started a sample repository just to share some of the samples he’s created along the way, and licensed the whole collection under CC BY. Most importantly, though, the music that he makes is really good. One of his recent projects, A Funneled Stone, is created on modular synths, and has a really interesting and surprisingly organic feel.
The way he speaks about music push me from interested observer into real fan territory. Here he is explaining his choice to use CC, and praphrasing Tim O’Reilly:
Most of my newer finished tracks get a Creative Commons license, as the primary issue I’m struggling with isn’t exploitation, it is obscurity. I don’t know why unknown artists are so conditioned against exploitation of their work. That’s like the best thing that can happen to you. How many times have you seen a YouTube video and the comments are all people saying “who did the music? what music is this?” It is impossible to hide who made the music these days. Your music isn’t a limited resource. You’ll make more. That’s the easy part. Finding an audience is the hard part.
I love to hear that from somebody who is actually in the trenches, making music. Later he describes how important it is to actually take action:
Same goes for consumers who are indignant about RIAA lawsuits, take down notices and the corporate recording industry. Typing “Fuck the RIAA” on digg is an empty gesture. If you truly want to make a difference, the solution is right in front of you. Support independent music. Support artists who support Creative Commons.
That argument wouldn’t be out of place for a software developer to make (and in fact seems pretty similar to a sentiment about software and hardware expressed by Danny Pickle recently) but it’s still far too rare to hear it from an artist.
It should be pretty clear by now how taken I am with Stretta’s music and his take on the issues. There’s plenty of reasons to feel that way in the interview.