The EM Poll
Archive for October, 2007
Saturday night, the Ohio-based band Over the Rhine came to Charlotte‘s Visulite Theatre. It was their third performance in Charlotte and their first as headliners. The room was packed, and the moment that vocalist extraordinaire Karin Bergquist began singing, “I don‘t want to waste your time with music you don‘t need,” it was instantly apparent that the audience knew and loved OTR‘s 2007 tour-de-force, The Trumpet Child. The song is one of several from an album that marks just how far the band has come since its humble beginnings as a rock quartet in 1989.
After that opening number, the crowd was putty in OTR‘s collective hands. Along with almost every song from The Trumpet Child, the band skillfully delivered several older numbers and a few unfamiliar tunes, including an impressive instrumental (“Goodbye Charles”) from their just-released Christmas album, Snow Angels. Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Linford Detweiler led the band and played some dynamite piano, and Bergquist continued blowing away listeners with songs written by either or both of them. One particular standout was a song she penned called “I‘m on a Roll.” She really was on a roll, and you could feel it in her incredible voice.
At one point, Detweiler told a story of the time they landed in New Zealand and one of their songs was playing on the radio through the airport‘s sound system. Although OTR may be well known in other parts of the world, they have only a cult following in the U.S. The Trumpet Child could be the album that changes that, but only time will tell.
Two good reasons for Over the Rhine‘s recent artistic ascent are the newest members of the band, the amazing Mickey Grimm on drums and percussion and the very talented Brad Jones (who also produced and arranged both new albums, and has played with Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, and many others) on guitar and electric and upright bass. Both are consummate musicians and perfectly complement the talents of Bergquist and Detweiler. I certainly hope this band sticks together.
The show closed with a two-song encore. The first, “If a Song Could Be President,” is a country-tinged ode to present-day politics that was guaranteed to garner cheers from the crowd. The final song was “Don‘t Wait for Tom,” a surefire winner that takes advantage of Detweiler‘s unusual vocal stylings and shows off Grimm‘s percussive dexterity. All in all, the show was completely satisfying and not to be missed. If you do get a chance to see Over the Rhine, I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity.
As a preface, let me explain that the following is my personal opinion and in no way reflects the viewpoint of Electronic Musician or its publisher. I‘m simply illuminating an issue I perceive to be justice denied, and this blog gives me an opportunity to speak out. Whether you agree or disagree with my opinion, I‘d love to hear your point of view.
Nobody likes music piracy, but is the Recording Industry Association of America‘s cure worse than the disease? Representing the interests of big record companies under the guise of protecting artists’ rights, the RIAA recently scored a major victory in its pursuit of those who share music online using peer-to-peer software. The organization‘s usual tactic is to employ legally questionable investigative techniques to identify individual file sharers and demand exorbitant extortion fees (typically from $2,000 to $5,000 a pop) under threat of lawsuit. Annually, the RIAA goes after college students, sending thousands of “pre-litigation settlement letters” to universities across America, “on behalf of record companies.” Most accused file sharers (or their parents) simply pay up, but every year a handful decides to fight back. In the past four years, the RIAA has brought more than 20,000 lawsuits against those who are unable or unwilling to meet their demands.
After years of intimidation and legal arm-twisting, last week the RIAA finally brought a court case to completion. It won a lawsuit against Jammie Thomas, a single Minnesota mother accused of sharing 24 copyrighted songs. She was never accused of downloading any music herself, but of making those songs available on her computer for others to download. The only evidence against her was circumstantial, and the RIAA never tried to establish whether anyone had actually downloaded any songs from Ms. Thomas‘ computer.
After two days of testimony and five hours‘ deliberation, a Federal jury awarded the RIAA and the record companies it represents nearly a quarter of a million dollars–$220,000, to be exact, or $9,250 for each song. If the RIAA were to collect every penny that Ms. Thomas earns, it would take more than 60 years to collect its winnings.
No doubt, the association is emboldened by its victory and will use the jury‘s decision as justification for pursuing more and more lawbreakers until… until when? Until people finally wise up and stop peer-to-peer file sharing? Until a federal court finally decides the RIAA‘s methods are despicable and illegal or that having P2P software and MP3 files on your computer doesn‘t violate copyright laws? Or until technology finally presents a resolution to the problem, most likely when record companies embrace some kind of file-sharing revenue model?
This week, the immensely popular rock band Radiohead will release its long-awaited new album, In Rainbows, its first without the backing of a major company. Beginning Wednesday, you can go to www.inrainbows.com and download the 10-track album for whatever you think it‘s worth. If you‘re willing to pay $1, you‘ll get it for $1. You‘ll also need a pay a small fee for charging your purchase to a credit card, but the point is that Radiohead would rather trust the integrity of its fans than trust an international conglomerate and the RIAA to collect proceeds from the album.
Rather than try to find a technological solution that would mutually benefit record companies, artists, and consumers, the RIAA’s legal team has seemingly chosen to attempt to destroy the lives of anyone who dares to defy them. Their apparent arrogance is made possible by the combination of unrestrained power, a culture of greed, and out-of-date statutes governing copyright. Fortunately, Ms. Thomas is appealing the court‘s decision, and Congress is considering sorely needed revisions to the U.S. copyright law. Until record companies are willing to consider a solution that fuses good technology with good business, however, the problem of illegal file sharing will continue no matter how many lawsuits are filed or how the law adapts.
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