It was ten years ago today…

Monday, September 15th, 2014

…that a small number of you received this email:

hip hopera email invite

(Click image for larger)

Download links here if you need them, now available in Flac too if you want an upgrade!

Well, apart from that email, and a post on the old “Get Your Bootleg On” forum (RIP), which gathered like-minded audio-slicing miscreants, that was it, as far as publicity goes.

In the next 12 months it gathered nigh-on a million downloads and a crapton of on- and off-line recommendations, collapsing my own website in a couple of days (I remember sitting there with my flatmates (hey Dillon & Kev!) watching the bandwidth charges accelerate by the minute before fiscal reality got the better of my ego and I pulled the plug), then being mirrored and promoted by such fine folks as Andy “Waxy” Baio and Jason “Boogah” Cosper (vintage interview on that link from two weeks after release).

And then a whole bunch more folks. And more. And so on until I found myself sat at a front table at the 2005 Webby Awards receiving the award for “Artist Of The Year”. Great fun, (hey, I got to shout “motherfucker” in front of Al Gore *teenage giggle*) but boy, did I feel out of place. With the benefit of hindsight, maybe the Webbys organisers expected the old-school media to be shocked that someone like myself was being publicly honoured for illegally slicing, dicing and re-purposing existing culture?… might generate a bit of shock publicity? but nah… nobody seemed that bothered, thank zod. We’d already moved on. As we do.

Eric Kleptone at The Webby Awards 2005

(Gorgeous, huh? Click for larger. Text of shirt: “Your failed business model is not my problem” – Truer today than ever.)

So… 10 years ago. Seems like centuries. How fast we move… Back then? No Facebook. No Twitter. No YouTube. Some blogs. Some forums. That was about it. Life moves pretty fast, huh?

Downloading a whole album for free? How quaint? Was still quite a novelty then. With the deepest of ironies, as this anniversary rolls around, a free album by one of the biggest bands of all-time has been distributed to allegedly five billion people. A lot of whom don’t seem too happy about it.

But… plus ça change. Free music is everywhere now, and you can’t move for it. Everywhere you go people are desperately trying to ram it down your throat. So much so that even the hugest bands have to do it to get heard. You can’t move for the stuff. Awful.

Well, Boo hoo you.

Because today, here, right now, as far as music goes, things are awesome.

Yes, despite the daily hoo-hah of the “new” music industry, of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora, of mega-corps taking advantage of their huge content distribution systems (that you have all signed up for) and automatically generated playlists (that may well favour heavy advertisers, haha), today there is a humongous global musical underground at your fingertips that ten years ago had no chance whatsoever of reaching you. And you probably will really love some of it. It may well even change your life.

The power of a simple tune is greater than ever. But now, more than ever it needs to be discovered. In the same way as folks spent infinite amounts of time digging through piles of dusty records to rescue and repurpose the drum breaks and riffs that now underpin some of your favourite tunes, you, as a listener, have to dig the crates!

This is (still) a really good thing.

Same as it ever was.

So, please, please, dull down the adverts pummelling you from all sides, the clickbait loud-hailers bombarding you from above, push all that stuff into the bin where it belongs, fire up your inquisitive natures, and keep them well stoked. Dig deep, deeper, deepest and often, and you WILL be rewarded. Not just with fine sounds, but with new friends, amazing performances, wonderful communities and an unshakeable knowledge that just by your very participation (and occasional purchase or show attendance, hemhem), you are sustaining and developing a cultural eco-system. One of millions.

(And if you’re think “ahh, I can’t be bothered to do that, clicking through links (ugh), following blogs (zzz), Hey oldster, I don’t have to look for stuff any more, that’s so 20th century”, then fine – enjoy the nutritionless crap you get served up.)

Because it’s true.

And it grows.

“Increment by Increment”.

That’s what we’re rather good at, as a species, on the whole.

We create.

And share.

And grow.

So from me, thank you for downloading, listening, coming to our shows, dancing like a loon, saying hi!, buying me a beer, putting up with me on verbal overdrive, but most of all for being my friends. Even if you’ve never met me, you now know what I’m like, which is an amazing thing.

You’ve blown my mind sky high, restored and energised my faith in music as a culturally-changing force, and I love you for it.

So here’s to the next ten years. I hope this, too, feels like ancient history when I read it back then.

(PS And before you comment, Yes there will be more Kleptones. We’re taking a breather, but it’s evolving. We’re not done yet. Life is a long song, yes?)

xoxoxo

Eric K

On strike.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Happy new year to you lot. Yes, we have been quiet. Yes, the album is coming soon. More about all that in a bit, though…

On to more important things, it goes without saying that kleptones.com will be on SOPA / PIPA strike tomorrow. It’s unlikely any of you would have heard *note one* from us if such laws had existed six or seven years ago. Regardless of where you are in the world, your freedom of speech and right to a fair trial are worth fighting for and protecting, both online *and* offline :) x

We are the future…

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Well, not quite, despite Music Thing‘s inventive paraphrasing, but as the Gowers Review slowly seeps into reality (and I mean slowly… still no sign of the full report, but it can’t be long now), the word is good, not only for anti-copyright-extension activists, but also for the remix and mash-up communities.

The Times summarises:

“The report suggests that exemptions to copyright law should be allowed for “transformative works”. This would permit the use of copyright material in new and creative ways, so long as it did not detract from the value of that material or offend artistic integrity. It calls on the EU to amend the law to allow for that exception. It would allow “rappers” and other creators to rework old material.”

Gotta love those “rappers”, eh?

However, as one would expect, there is already a whiff of caution in the air. Laurence Lessig pops up in the Financial Times to warn on the copyright term recommendations:

“There is not much doubt about what it will say on this proposal. There is much more doubt about whether the government will follow the report’s sensible advice.”

Coming into an election year, this is a serious likelihood. And, especially if there is a change in power, it is also entirely possible that the more radical recommendations of the report, such as the above “transformative works” exemptions, could quietly slip off the agenda completely.

Still, as openDemocracy points out:

“…until this point, there has been no effective, accessible forum for debating IP in the UK – or indeed anywhere. “The sense that democratic dialogue is failing on this topic is a serious one”, write Kay Withers and William Davies of the Institute for Public Policy Research in their recent paper Public Innovation, concluding a nine-month research project into the UK’s current intellectual-property framework. Gowers, it seems, opened the doors to such a dialogue. How his review is interpreted by government later this week will be crucial.”

And equally crucial will be the continuing strength of the effort to keep these doors open, and the debate alive and kicking until these recommendations become law.

Yet even if you’re not interested in participating in the intellectual debate, all you have to do is lead by example, and keep mixing

Living in another world?

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Well, at least people seem to be talk-talking… Following on from EMI Vice-Chairman David Munns comments during our debate at the Web 2.0 Summit (in which he suggested that availability of remixable content, alongside a simpler sample-clearence system could be possibilities), now Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr, during an interview within Second Life suggests the same thing:

“It’s our hope we can find a way to generally license much or all of our content for users to adapt in any way they see fit.”

Yet again, the emphasis is, as with David’s comments, always on “hope” – as bootlegger Andy Churchill commented today on the Get Your Bootleg On Forum, “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

This exactly mirrored my thoughts stepping down from the stage following my Web 2.0 Summit debate. The labels, naturally, are always looking for new ways to monetize their content – However, their admittance that this is something they are now investigating (or at least considering investigating) pushes things one step further towards reality. The issue now lies with the next major hurdle, one touched on by David Munns during our discussion, which is the wishes of the rights owners and actual artists.

Okay, sure there are going to be artists that will not allow any manipulation of their work, regardless of the financial benefits, but this is no reason to shoot the idea down in flames – I’m wagering that there are plenty who do, too – particularly ones that are looking to revitalise their (maybe long deleted) catalogue. Recent major-label compilation series, such as Universal’s “The Trip” have shown again that there is considerable interest in unearthing hidden catalogue jewels, so why not develop this further?

Furthermore, many artists (such as Prince) have already made their content available in a similar format; that of Sample CDs – raw limited-license-on-purchase material for studio musicians. Although Sample CD content is expensive, there’s usually a considerable amount of material on each disc, so the cost per sample isn’t that huge. Translate that to a digital distribution medium, and maybe there’s something to start with, no?

Still, if the heads of the majors are realising this, one hopes that there is internal research going on to see how feasible this is, and, I think, for once, rather than allowing a third-party company to take the reigns, I’ll bet that they’ll be wanting to administer this online themselves.

Another rumour posted suggests that Universal Music are doing exactly this at the moment, costing up the internal work involved in making such a service available. What form this will take is unclear at this time, of course, but it’s an interesting rumour.

It’s been a long held opinion of mine that the majors are wasting an opportunity in not developing their content in this way (“no shit, Eric?”). The only time they dip into this area is when looking for ways to promote new artists, usually in the form of remix competitions, and always seemingly very half-heartedly.

EMI’s remix competition for Lily Allen’s “LDN” is a good example of this. The competition stated that mixes would be put on Lily’s website for fans to hear, but so far, over a month after the closing date for the competition, nothing has appeared. Maybe the sole prize incentive of a single pair of Lily-designed Nike sneakers failed to galvanize the remixing public…

…Which is more than half the problem. Seeing the only benefit of making this content available as a lure to get names on a mailing list is not only narrow-minded, but is also interpreted as patronising by the very people who would like to remix the music – the label’s intentions are rather transparent, and the competition results will suffer accordingly. Guys, you’re pitching at the wrong audience!

Allowing song parts to be made available for a limited time, and a community to develop around these mixes has already been successfully achieved by sites such as Acid Planet, which had already been established by Sonic Foundry as a remix community for their “Acid” software prior to the company’s purchase by Sony. Unfortunately, the content is, again, always made available as part of a competition.

However, it could be argued that some Acid Planet content (which has always been DRM free, and always in uncompressed wav format, so as best to utilise the “acidizing” ability of the software) has benefited certain artists greatly once the content has been utilised outside the Acid Planet site.

Remix parts (including acapella vocals) for, amongst others, Madonna’s “Ray Of Light”, New Order’s “Crystal” and The Chemical Brothers’ “Galvanise” all first appeared on the site, and have since gone on to form part of the essential toolkit of any wannabe mash-up artist and thus have been utilised many, many times, resulting in some classic mixes, such as Go Home Production’s “Ray Of Gob”, which was even blessed with a semi-legitimate (i.e. “blind-eye”) vinyl release.

None of this material’s release and subsequent online trading seems to have hurt the artists in question at all. If anything, the range of adaptions of Madonna’s vocals (in a similar way to previous use of Missy Elliott and Eminem) has given her a considerable cache of underground cool that would be impossible to generate in any other way. And it cost virtually nothing.

So the artists (and therefore, labels) are already benefiting from free distribution of their remixable content, even if it isn’t within the intended parameters. Therefore it’s no surprise to the remix community to see that the heads of labels are finally acknowledging that there is a market for such content, even if, again not surprisingly, they’re unsure as yet how it can be best utilised (i.e. monetized). But it will be a very interesting situation to see develop.

Is this the point where Mash-Ups go public? Who knows, but let’s not hold our breaths, eh?

 

Style it takes…

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Not a regular gig reviewer, me, but sometimes a concert moves you to want to jump up and down and shout from the rooftops “This was fucking great!”

Such was the performance I saw last night by John Cale and his band, in the relatively small Concorde 2 in Brighton. An intimate setting for one with such a history, and Cale didn’t waste any time in filling the room with his mischievous brooding personality and songs. Cale’s current trajectory is loud and hard (check his latest album “Black Acetate”), and he delivered that in spades, scowling at the crowd as he chopped at his piano and guitar. No room in this set for the more cerebral end of his work, instead he went straight for the gut, rocking as hard as anyone I’ve seen. Absolutely excellent back up from his band too, three immaculate players that were equally at home with their electronics and atmospherics as with slabs of riff and rhythm. (I immediately wanted to kidnap them and force them to do my musical bidding.)

Highlights? a killer “Helen Of Troy”, the histrionic falsetto of “Outtathebag” (from “Black Acetate”), a trance inducing “Pablo Picasso” and an insane re-rendering of “Femme Fatale” incorporating the words of “Rose Garden Funeral Of Sores” that succeeded in turning one of the prettiest Velvets tunes into a deep howl of juxtaposed affliction. A man unafraid to merge his many pasts into a new form. I’m naturally deeply impressed.

No encore, which was a hell of a shame, but still the best concert I’ve seen all year, if not longer. If I can rock half as hard as this when I’m 64, I’ll be delighted. Mr.Cale? You’re an inspiration.

It’s a drag.

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

It sure is.

We’re compelled to respond to the postings in the comments of the previous posts and also the emails we’ve received from people offering payment for the albums that they have downloaded.

As all downloaders are aware, this stuff does not belong to us. We have virtually no right under current copyright law to redistribute the sources we use in the manner we do. It’s a debatable situation, and one we’d rather not be arguing in a law court, thanks. We’ve been very lucky so far that no-one has seen fit to make a determined effort to stop us. (Waxy’s C&D, we think, was an unfortunate shot across the bows. So it goes.)

However, the time that we have to do this is limited, as we have to convert a large chunk of that time into cash, so we can pay the rent, eat, and get the beers in from time to time, just like most other people. We’d like more time to do more stuff, but hey, wouldn’t everyone?

So, the conclusions we’ve come to are these:

If you want to donate some money in payment for any of the albums you’ve downloaded, we’re sorry, we can’t accept it. We don’t own the rights to the sounds we use, and therefore are risking infringing on people’s copyright in a far more personally damaging way if we accepted payment for it. We believe that people should have the right to make not-for-profit derivitive works, remixes, parodies, social commentaries, whatever, of music that they own, therefore accepting money in that way is virtually impossible, sorry. One day, things will improve (we’re optimistic), but till then…

However, what we are considering is, if you enjoy what we’ve done, and would like to financially assist us in the future to create more, bigger, better works of any description, both online and (soon) live on a stage, please email us and we’ll supply the details. We’re not asking for any set amount, but we want people to be aware of exactly what they’re donating towards, before they do.

We think this is reasonable, but we’d like to open it up to the floor. What do you think?

I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

Been quietish for the last couple, for which I must apologise – there’s been an influx of new tech chez Klep, and as most of you will know, new tech means soldering, scowling, googling, scowling some more, regediting, rebooting, rtfm-ing and so on. Still, about 75% of things are working as intended, and other things are in process, which is a pretty good strike rate for now.

So after a couple of weeks of the above, it made me smile to see that we’ve been getting a raft of hits from this article on the Modgods site.

Podshanking? Well, we’re honoured to be the trigger to inspire a new hack even if it looks more like good old tape-to-tape to me. Still, quotes like this:

“I’m sick to death of our devices fighting us. I bought this iPod to carry music, not enforce an Apple-branded morality to replace my own internal compass. We all know how our devices should work, but in this tumultuous age we do not yet have casual, home manufacturing and so Sony and Apple and TiVo will continue to break our hearts while we must lick their boots.”

…always warm my heart, are the reason why I won’t buy, say, an iPod. I adore the concept of the Airport Express, but I don’t want to be restricted to iTunes – hell, forget other mp3 players, I might even want to use it to stream music that I’m actually working on, from Ableton or Acid or whatever to another room, but no can do. (And yes, before you mail in, There are other options… I know about things like the Squeezebox – I’m waiting on the reviews of the v2 of that before I decide).

The technology is there, it’s in the little box you’ve bought, which is more than capable of delivering, but you can’t use it – they broke it’s legs on the journey between the design board and the factory.

Like I said above, new tech always means new issues, and invariably it means finding out how to make what you’ve bought do the bulk of the things you really bought them to try to do – i.e. Getting online and finding the hacks. Just looking around here… Router? hacked firmware for better quality wireless. Soundcard? discontinued driver so running a hacked one. DVD player? Hacked to play VCDs and SVCDs etc… etc…

It’s one thing hacking to get something to work in a way it was never supposed to do in the first place, but with a whole generation of people being forced to hack to remove ridiculously restricting shackles or, in most cases, to get something to do what it was supposed to do in the first place, but can’t because of a format or location issue, it really makes you wonder where things are heading…

So where’s the communication? Ed Costello, once he’s given us a namecheck (grazi!), points to a well-timed article in the Economist discussing “The rise of the creative consumer”.

It’s as typical an article as you would expect, half futuristic optimism, half “Hey, guys, look, you can get your users to do the R&D and all the re-coding for nothing”, but nowhere does it actually come clean and say the obvious – that a fair and growing proportion of this hack and mod work is being done out of bare necessity. I doubt the future of such innovation will be as harmonious as the Economist imagines it, given the growing millions of examples that are staring us in the face…

Whose ass is it anyway?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

(aka “Get your hands offa my ass”)

This cracks me up. I expect a mass riot any day now Stateside as East and West coasts start battling over the phrase “All the ladies in the house go…”

PS Thanks to all for feedback on the XFM Show. We’ve been slack on getting the new hosting sorted, but as people seem to be wanting it, I might just stick the whole thing up as a torrent for now anyway – watch this space.

(addendum)

Now, bizarrely, (maybe, maybe not) I have a Google DeskBar, which I love (much more than the clunky toolbar), but having that handy little slot in your system tray means that I’ve developed a major tendency to cut and paste phrases into it just to see what pops up.

(Yeah, I know, you’re thinking, “So he hasn’t sorted out their hosting, but he’ll sit there all night sticking random phrases into Google? Priorities, my man, priorities…”)

Anyway, was impressed to find that sticking “Whose ass is it anyway?” into my googleslot brings up this delightfully wordy article from four years back, wherein a rather deluded advertising guy bemoans the downhill spiral of quality in his industry, in a world where:

“popular culture has become a vague miasma of insincerity constructed from a sarcastic vibe”

Are you going to tell him, or shall I?

Say it loud…

Tuesday, November 16th, 2004

As usual, Popjustice speaks for us all…

…and then I saw their site…now I’m a consumer…

Friday, November 12th, 2004

Another day, another report…those crazy statto guys, they just don’t stop polling, do they?

Today, it’s a report on the drop in high street record sales which almost exclusively seems to focus on the rise of downloading shops, while unfairly sidelining the continuing rise and rise of online mail order. Which is weird considering it’s the cheapness and breadth of stock available that is really pulling people from the high street, in contrast to the current rather limited major-label-heavy range of downloadables, although there are a growing selection of indies that are trying to do something about that.

So… off to the virtual shops we go…”Sweet Smell Of Success” on DVD? – a quick google and there it is…£5.99 including p&p. Flux’s seminal “Uncarved Block” album, re-released on CD…£6.99 and a quid for p&p. Find me those as quickly, as cheaply and as easily, Mr. High Street? Didn’t think so…you’re too busy trying to lure me with your 3-for-2 bulk buys and loss-leading sale stock.

And of course if Google fails to deliver a decent vendor, there’s good ol’Ebay for out of stock and deleted stuff – although I still can’t see how some people can get away with charging £2.50 to pack and post a CD or a T-shirt – gripe, gripe…

And you don’t even have to buy from the online chain stores, you may be able go direct to the label’s site or even the artist’s site to buy, thus bypassing even more middlemen and putting sufficiently more beer in the artist’s fridges…

I know I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but it’s yet more conclusive proof that t’Internet is “Better Than The Real World”(tm). I mean, try knocking on Norman Cook’s door with a tenner in your hand at 3AM demanding a copy of “Palookaville” and see how far you get…