Archive for March, 2010

Monologue For Morse Code Track

Posted in Project Proposal Ideas on March 16, 2010 by crystallinesphere

The track ‘Hidden Messages’ was based on the premise of a form of an entity trying to communicate through primitive means.

The monologue of this entity before it was turned into morse code was:

Transmission starting…..

Personality uploading…..

Is there anyone out there?

My name is XJZ3000 but you may call me the Ghost In The Machine.

I take many forms and this is but one of them.

I am always here waiting for someone to find me.

I am always communicating with you, if you have the senses to perceive me.

Know this, “The Truth is within you.”

Transmission ended.


Morse Code Track First Draft

Posted in Project Proposal Ideas on March 16, 2010 by crystallinesphere

Here is a rough draft of a track that uses morse code to determine the tune. The drums and synthesizer were kept repetitive to complement the morse code.

Hidden Messages by crystallinesphere

The track will have evolved a bit in the future through the use of programming music.

Some Useful Tutorials On Creating Websites

Posted in Website Development on March 16, 2010 by crystallinesphere

These are some of the tutorials that have been used in developing a website:

Music Business: Filesharing

Posted in Music Business on March 16, 2010 by crystallinesphere

A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing

Related Deeplinks: Monetizing File-Sharing

“Let the Music Play” Whitepaper

The legal battles surrounding peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing are a losing proposition for everyone. The record labels continue to face sliding sales, while the tens of millions of American file sharers—American music fans—are made to feel like criminals. Every day the collateral damage mounts—privacy at risk, innovation stymied, economic growth suppressed, and random unlucky individuals singled out for lawsuits by the recording industry. In the meantime, the lawsuits against music fans have not put a penny into the pockets of artists.

We need a better way forward.

The Premises

Also available as a PDF

First, artists and copyright holders deserve to be fairly compensated.

Second, file sharing is here to stay. Despite all the lawsuits, P2P file sharing is more popular than ever. And new digital technologies are just going to make copying digital music easier and cheaper every year.

Third, the fans will always do a better job making music available than the music industry. The majority of the world’s recorded music is “out-of-print.” Yet the fans are making it available, every day, on P2P file sharing networks and the World Wide Web. In other words, if we want to build a Library of Alexandria for our global musical heritage, it’s the file sharing fans that will build it for us.

Fourth, any solution should minimize government intervention in favor of market forces. Markets-driven solutions are likely to work faster, and more efficiently, than top-down government regimes.

The Proposal: Voluntary Collective Licensing

Since 2003, EFF has championed an alternative approach that gets artists paid while making file sharing legal: voluntary collective licensing.

The concept is simple: the music industry forms several “collecting societies,” which then offer file-sharing music fans the opportunity to “get legit” in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say a total of $5-10 per month (after all, services like Rhapsody sell all-you-can-eat music for around $10 per month, so we know the rate should be below that). So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway—share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer—without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rights-holders based on the popularity of their music.

In exchange, file-sharing music fans will be free to download and share whatever they like, using whatever software works best for them. The more people share, the more money goes to rights-holders. The more competition in applications, the more rapid the innovation and improvement. The more freedom to fans to publish what they care about, the deeper the catalog.

The Precedent: Broadcast Radio

It has been done before.

By voluntarily creating collecting societies like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, songwriters brought broadcast radio in from the copyright cold in the first half of the 20th century.

Songwriters originally viewed radio exactly the way the music industry today views KaZaA users—as pirates. After trying to sue radio out of existence, the songwriters ultimately got together to form ASCAP (and later BMI and SESAC). Radio stations interested in broadcasting music stepped up, paid a fee, and in return got to play whatever music they liked, using whatever equipment worked best. Today, the performing-rights societies ASCAP and BMI collect money and pay out millions annually to their artists. Even though these collecting societies get a fair bit of criticism, there’s no question that the system that has evolved for radio is preferable to one based on trying to sue radio out of existence one broadcaster at a time.

Copyright lawyers call this voluntary collective licensing. It’s voluntary for artists—the government doesn’t force them to join a collecting society, and even after they join a collecting society, they remain free to license their songs directly (that’s why it’s not a compulsory license). It’s also voluntary for the broadcasters—the government doesn’t force radio stations to take licenses from any PRO (that’s why its not a tax).

The same thing could happen today for file-sharing: Copyright holders could get together to offer their music in a “blanket license”—an easy-to-pay, all-you-can-eat, music buffet. We could get there without the need for changes to copyright law and with minimal government intervention.

The Money: Collecting It

Starting with just the 60 million Americans who have been using file-sharing software, a few dollars a month would net over $3 billion in new revenue annually to the music industry (the total revenues of the music industry today are estimated at $9 billion). And this should be a highly profitable revenue source—no CDs to ship, no online retailers to cut in on the deal, no payola to radio conglomerates, no percentage to Apple or anyone else. Best of all, it’s an evergreen revenue stream—money that just keeps coming, during good times and bad, so long as fans want digital music online. The pie grows with the growth of music sharing on the Internet, instead of shrinking.

How do we get file-sharers to pay up? That’s where the market comes in—those who today are under legal threat will have ample incentive to opt for a simple fee of a few dollars per month fee. There should be as many mechanisms for payment as the market will support. Some fans could buy it directly through a website (after all, this was what the RIAA had in mind with its 2004 “amnesty” program for file-sharers). ISPs could bundle the fee into the price of their broadband services for customers who are interested in music downloading. (And this would allow ISPs to advertise a broadband package that includes “free downloads of all the music you want.”) Universities could make it part of the cost of providing network services to students. P2P file-sharing software vendors could bundle the fee into a subscription model for their software, which would neatly remove the cloud of legal uncertainty that has inhibited investment in the P2P software field.

The Money: Dividing It Up

The money collected would then be divided between artists and rights-holders based on the relative popularity of their music.

Figuring out what is popular can be accomplished through a mix of anonymously monitoring what people are sharing (something companies like Big Champagne and BayTSP are already doing) and recruiting volunteers to serve as the digital music equivalent of Nielsen families (something that subscribers are already doing). Billions in television advertising dollars are divided up today using systems like this. In a digital environment, a mix of these approaches should strike the right balance between preserving privacy and accurately estimating popularity.

The Advantages

The advantages of this approach are clear:

Artists and rights holders get paid. What’s more, the more broadband grows, the more people will want “all-you-can-eat” music, and the more artists and copyright owners get paid, which means that the entertainment industry’s powerful lobby will be working for a big, open, and innovative Internet, instead of against it.

Government involvement is kept to a minimum. Copyright law need not be amended, and the collecting society sets its own prices. The market will keep the price reasonable—collecting societies make more money with a palatable price and a larger base of subscribers, than with a higher price and expensive enforcement efforts.

Broadband deployment gets a real boost. Music file sharing—already one of the de facto “killer apps” for residential broadband—will finally be made legitimate.

New investment in digital music technologies and services. So long as the fans are paying, technology companies can stop worrying about the impossible maze of licensing and instead focus on providing fans with the most attractive products and services in a competitive marketplace. Rather than being limited to a handful of “authorized services” like Apple’s iTunes or Rhapsody, fans will see a marketplace filled with competing file-sharing applications and ancillary services.

A Library of Alexandria for music. Music fans will finally have completely legal access to the virtually unlimited selection of music that the file-sharing networks have provided since the days of the original Napster. With the cloud of litigation and “spoofing” eliminated, these networks will rapidly improve.

Artists have options. The distribution bottleneck that has limited the opportunities of independent artists will be eliminated. Artists can choose any road to online popularity—including, but no longer limited to, a major label contract. So long as their songs are being shared among fans, they will be paid.

It’s not a tax. Payment will come only from those who are interested in downloading music, only so long as they are interested in downloading.

How does this help artists?

Artists benefit in at least three ways. First, artists will now be paid for the file sharing that has become a fact of digital life.

Second, independent artists no longer need a record deal with a major label to reach large numbers of potential fans—so long as you have any fans who are sharing your music online, others will be able to access your music on equal footing with major label content. In other words, digital distribution will be equally available to all artists.

Third, when it comes to promotion, artists will be able to use any mechanism they like, rather than having to rely on major labels to push radio play. Anything that makes your works popular among file sharers gets you paid. There would still be a role for the record industry – many artists will still want help with promotion, talent development, and other supportive services. With more options for artists to choose from, the contracts will be more balanced than the one-sided deals offered to most artists today.

What about antitrust?

Because a collective licensing solution will depend on a small number of collecting societies issuing blanket licenses covering all (or nearly all) music copyrights, there may need to be some antitrust regulation to ensure that they do not collude in abusive ways. Both ASCAP and BMI, for example, have been subject to a court-administered antitrust consent decree for many decades (SESAC, the smallest PRO, is not subject to the decree). In the alternative, Congress could grant these collecting societies an antitrust exception, if other mechanisms can be counted on to hold anticompetitive activity in check.

How do we ensure accurate division of the money?

Transparency will be critical—the collecting societies must hold their books open for artists, copyright holders, and the public to examine. There are examples of similar collecting societies in the music industry, such as ASCAP and SoundExchange. We should learn from, and improve upon, their example. Giving artists a bigger voice should help ensure that their concerns with the current collecting societies are addressed.

When it comes to actually figuring out relative popularity, we need to balance the desire for perfect “census-like” accuracy with the need to preserve privacy. A system based on sampling strikes a good balance between these goals. On the one hand, in a public P2P network, it is relatively easy to find out what people are sharing. Big Champagne already does this, compiling a “Top 10” for the P2P networks. This kind of monitoring does not compromise user privacy, since this monitoring does not tie songs shared to individually identifiable information. At the same time, this general network monitoring can be complemented by closer monitoring of volunteers who serve as the “Nielsen families” of P2P (Last.FM is an example of a large group of volunteers whose listening habits are recorded with their permission).

By combining these two methods, it should be possible to attain a high degree of accuracy, protect privacy, and prevent “cheating.”

What if the music industry won’t do it?

The music industry has never been enthusiastic about a system that entails losing control over the distribution of music. But after a decade of fighting the future, the music industry is running out of other options. CD sales are in serious decline, and digital downloads are not offsetting the losses. Ringtone revenues are leveling off. And despite the industry’s lawyers having targeting more than 30,000 college students, parents, and music fans for lawsuits, file sharing is more popular than ever.

There are signs that even record label executives realize that they need a “Plan B” if they want to prosper in the future. Warner Music, for example, has indicated a willingness to consider blanket collective licensing options through ISPs. Universal Music has expressed some interest in blanket licensing in order to create music players that offer “all you can eat” music to their owners. They are finally beginning to come around.

What about artists who won’t join? How do we gather all the rights?

Artists and rights holders would have the choice to join a collecting society, and thereby collect their portion of the fees collected, or to remain outside the system. Those who choose not to join, however, may have no practical way to receive compensation for the file sharing that will inevitably continue. Assuming a critical mass of major music copyright owners joins a collecting society, the vast majority of smaller copyright owners will have a strong incentive to join, just as virtually all professional songwriters opt to join ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.

The complexity of music industry contracts and history make it very difficult for record labels and music publishers to be sure what rights they control. Accordingly, by joining the collecting society, copyright owners will not be asked to itemize rights, but will instead simply covenant not to sue those who pay the blanket license fee. In this way, music fans and innovators are not held back by the internal contractual squabbles that plague the music industry.

What about file sharers who won’t pay?

The vast majority of file sharers would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for the freedom and peace of mind to download whatever they like, using whatever software suits them. In addition to those who would opt to take a license if given the opportunity, many more will likely have their license fees paid by intermediaries, like ISPs, universities, and software vendors.

So long as the fee is reasonable, effectively invisible to fans, and does not restrict their freedom, the vast majority of file sharers will opt to pay rather than engage in complex evasion efforts. So long as “free-riding” can be limited to a relatively small percentage of file sharers, it should not pose a serious risk to a collective licensing system. After all, today artists and copyright owners are paid nothing for file sharing—it should be easy to do much better than that with a collective licensing system.

Copyright holders (and perhaps the collecting society itself) would continue to be entitled to enforce their rights against “free-loaders.” Instead of threatening them with ruinous damages, however, the collecting society can offer stragglers the opportunity to pay a fine and get legal. This is exactly what collecting societies like ASCAP do today.

What about other countries?

Non-U.S. rights holders would, of course, be welcome to join the collecting society for their fair share of the fees collected from American file sharers. As for file sharers in other countries, there is every reason to believe that if a collective licensing approach is successful in the U.S., it will receive a warm welcome and enthusiastic imitation abroad.

A relatively small number of countries today account for almost all of the revenues of the music industry. So establishing a collective licensing system in just a few countries could turn around the downward spiral in music industry revenues. The music industry already has an international “clearing” system for apportioning payments between countries.

What about the authorized music services?

The “authorized music services” like Apple’s iTunes and Napster 2.0 would be free to compete against the P2P services, just as they do today. In addition, they could themselves adopt elements of P2P architectures, thereby dramatically expanding the music inventories they could offer music fans.

What’s to stop the music industry from charging sky-high fees?

The enforcement costs faced by a collecting society for file sharing will keep prices in line. After all, if the society attempts to charge too much, intermediaries won’t be able to bundle the fees into the cost of their products ($5/mo. license on a $50/mo. broadband account makes sense; trying to tack $100/mo. license, in contrast, won’t work) and file sharers will likely rebel in droves.

History teaches this lesson: when movie studios charged $90 for a VHS movie, they faced widespread piracy. They learned that, by lowering prices, they made more money and eliminated much of the piracy problem. In other words, reasonable pricing makes the system work for everyone.

What about movies, software, video games, and other digital content?

The music industry is the only industry that appears to be unable to adjust their business models to take file sharing into account. And it is the music industry that has been leading the way in suing ISPs, software companies, and individual music fans.

The movie industry, in contrast, is having some of its most profitable years in history. The software and video game industries also continue to show strong growth and profitability. Each one of these industries has taken steps to adapt their business models to the realities of file sharing. Of course, if other industries want to form voluntary collecting societies and offer blanket licenses to file sharers, there is nothing to stop them from doing so. Individuals would then be free to purchase the license if they were interested in downloading these materials from the file-sharing networks.

Click for website.

Online Music Business Models

Posted in Music Business on March 16, 2010 by crystallinesphere

Now, About Those New Online Music Business Models…

 Whenever someone criticizes the music industry for their stubborn refusal to accept new business models (and the subsequent pressure on governments and ISPs to police the end users because the industry is not making as much money as it used to), the question that inevitably pops up is: what are these new business models?

In fact, we’ve been highlighting them for years. Well-known artists like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have paved the way for a new era of music business by trying out innovative new ways to engage the consumer. Letting the consumers choose the price for an album is one model that worked; offering goods that can be infinitely duplicated (music) for free and tying it to scarce goods (vinyl records, t-shirts, collector’s items etc.) is another.

What about lesser known musicians?

But this works only for very well known artists, critics say. Not true. Josh Freese – a well known musician who worked with big names such as the Nine Inch Nails, but less known as an author – has tried out a fun and innovative way to sell and promote his new album, and while we still don’t have any final numbers, there are some signs that the experiment worked.

Now, there’s another very interesting story that backs up the theory that the music industry, in its current form, is largely unnecessary, as the artists can make money and promote their music without the middleman. Amanda Palmer (of The Dresden Dolls fame) is an indie musician who managed to earn sums as big as $11,000 and $6,000 in a couple of hours with some cool ideas and a Twitter-based promotion. The blog post describing her efforts is long but it’s a fascinating read, and I encourage everyone to read it.

It’s not about Twitter, it’s about the fans

Here are some points I’d like to highlight. Amanda is not producing money out of thin air, or by swindling some people into buying something they do not want. She’s engaging her fans who are glad to be able to buy some merchandise directly from the artist. Secondly, she’s not a professional PR or a marketing professional; she did it by engaging her audience through the simple tools at her disposal.

Which brings me to my most important point: Twitter is just a tool in this case. Her 30,000 Twitter followers aren’t just people who she followed and then they followed her back; they’re not some random mass of people who just happen to be following Amanda Palmer. They’re her fans, which means that any artist who has fans can do the exact same thing. It’s not a one-time thing or a passing fad: true fans will always be interested in buying a t-shirt, attending a secret gig, or getting their record signed.

We’re still at a very early stage in the online music revolution. Soon, artists will have a multitude of tools to help them communicate with their audience, offer them extra value and, last but not least, make money.

The question of scale

Ultimately, we’re not talking only about replacing current business models; we’re talking about upgrading them; finding new, better business models. You think that the music business is fine as it is? It’s not. It scales awfully. It’s great if you’re hugely popular, but if you’re an indie artist, the big record companies don’t care much about you. As Amanda bluntly puts it:


These new tools, such as Twitter, will help the entire music business scale much, much better. Very popular musicians such as Radiohead will still make a lot of money. But relatively unknown artists, by promoting their work and selling stuff directly to the fans, using free or inexpensive online tools, will be able to make a better living than they do right now. The future might not be very bright for the big record companies, but it is indeed bright for the artists.

Source Website here.

Guess What? Some More Info On Music Business

Posted in Music Business on March 16, 2010 by crystallinesphere

The Future Of Music Business Models (And Those Who Are Already There)

from the a-thorough-look dept

I’m at the Midem conference this week, and in preparing for it, Steven Masur asked me to write up a chapter for a book he was putting together of thoughts from various thinkers for a gathering of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers (IAEL) here at Midem. Below is what I submitted. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, there’s little that will surprise you, but even so, it may be a good read, as it’s got a whole bunch of different things I’ve discussed about — things like “CwF+RtB” all summarized in one single place. Later, I’ll do another post on what I discussed this year at Midem, since it builds on what’s written below, and digs in much deeper on how to create compelling reasons to buy.

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of concern these days about what the music industry will look like going forward — especially from those who work on the label side of the business and have been around for a bit. A variety of things have caused rapid change in the market. Competition from other forms of entertainment, such as the internet, movies and video games, have put more pressure on the industry, as consumers have been presented with significantly more options for their entertainment attention and dollars. And, of course, there’s the ever-present specter of unauthorized file sharing — or, as the industry prefers to call it (accurately or not), “piracy.”

While the industry spent many years fighting the rise of the internet as a distribution and promotion method for music, it was eventually forced to recognize it. The labels eventually licensed music to Apple and iTunes (as well as some other stores). It took them way too long to recognize that people wanted DRM-free music, but they’ve finally come around to recognize that as well.

But the big new questions are all about licensing. New services are starting to show up on the scene, such as the industry’s new darling, Spotify. Then there are attempts, such as those by Choruss and Warner Music, to set up something that is somewhat akin to a blanket license. For the most part, the industry hasn’t shown much willingness to do these sorts of deals in manners that allow the underlying companies to survive, let alone profit. Numerous innovative startups have suffocated under burdensome licensing terms — and as each one fails, it just gives consumers fewer and fewer reasons to actually use these services, wondering how long each will last until it goes out of business.

However, there is another solution: stop worrying and learn to embrace the business models that are already helping musicians make plenty of money and use file sharing to their advantage, even in the absence of licensing or copyright enforcement.

In simplest terms, the model can be defined as:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

Sound simple? It is, if you understand the basics — and it can be incredibly lucrative. The problem, of course, is that very few seem to fully understand how this model works. However, let’s go through some examples.

Trent Reznor, the man behind the band Nine Inch Nails, has done so many experiments that show how this model works that it’s difficult to describe them all. He’s become a true leader in showing how this model works in a way that has earned him millions while making fans happy, rather than turning them into the enemy.

Reznor has always reached out to his fans, and has an amazingly comprehensive website, with forums, chat rooms and many other ways of interacting. He encourages fans to better connect with each other as well. While companies like Warner Music forced all the music videos of their artists off YouTube for many months, Reznor actually aggregates all the videos his fans take at concerts (he encourages them to bring cameras) on one page on his own website. He does the same for photos. He released a (free) iPhone app that allowed fans to locate each other, and communicate with each other, while sharing photos and videos as well. It’s all about connecting with those fans, and helping them better connect with each other, so they feel like a part of a club.

From there, he gives fans real reasons to buy. Lately, he’s taken to releasing everything he records for free online, knowing that the music will show up on file sharing sites anyway, so he sees no reason to fight it. Yet, he adds many other options that people might want to buy. With his release of the album Ghosts I-IV, he released all the tracks under a Creative Commons license that allowed anyone to share them online for free. Yet, he also set up some cool “reasons to buy.” You could get the two disc CD, if you wanted, for just $10. Above that, though, was a Deluxe Edition Package, for $75. It was, effectively, a box set, but around a single album. Beyond the two CDs, it also included a DVD and a Blu-ray and a photobook of images.

Where the experiment got even more interesting was that he offered up the $300 Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package — of which there was a limit of just 2,500 available. This was an even more impressive “box” that also included the songs on high quality vinyl, and some beautiful giclée print images. But, most interesting of all was that that limited set of 2,500 were all signed by Reznor himself.

It took just 30 hours for all 2,500 to sell out, bringing in $750,000 in just over a day.

For music he was giving away for free.

But, by connecting with fans, and giving them a reason to buy, they did. In the first week alone, combining all the other offerings for Ghosts I-IV, Reznor brought in $1.6 million. Again, this is for music he was giving away for free.

The idea that you “can’t compete with free” or that free means there’s no business model is a myth. As Reznor and others have recognized, when the music goes free, it opens up new opportunities for better, stronger, more efficient business models.

Reznor’s next album, The Slip, was released just a few months later, and again, was given away entirely free, but it was released the very same day as he announced his next Nine Inch Nails tour. All he asked, if you wanted to download the music, was that you provide an email address. He then gave fans the option of what quality to download the songs — all the way up to lossless FLAC files. All for free. But, if you downloaded the files, you also learned about the tour, and the tickets were quickly snapped up.

The free music didn’t hurt Reznor’s ability to earn money. It enhanced it.

By connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy, he’s been able to thrive.

Some have complained that Reznor is not a representative example. After all, that huge fanbase came about in large part because of his success under the “old” model, where he was signed to a major record label who helped promote his album and turn him into an international rock star. While some may quibble with how much the label actually helped Reznor, it’s worth exploring how this model has also worked for many other artists — from the superstars to new up-and-coming acts.

Josh Freese is a session drummer based in Los Angeles, who appears on well over 100 albums and performs with many different bands. He’s played with (among others), Nine Inch Nails, Guns ‘N Roses, Sting, Devo, The Vandals, the Offspring. Yet, outside of certain musical circles, he doesn’t have a huge individual reputation with fans. So, when he released his first solo album, called Since 1972, in March of 2009, he decided to set up a system similar to Reznor’s Ghosts I-IV experiment, but made it more fitting to his own personality — which meant making the options extreme and hilarious.

There were cheap options to get the music and CDs, but at $50, you would also get a personal 5 minute “thank you” phone call, where he said you could ask anything you wanted (his suggestion: “Which one of Sting’s mansions has the comfiest beds.”) There was a limited $250 option to get lunch with Freese at a PF Changs or a $500 chance to get dinner with him at Sizzler. The lunches sold out in about a week.

Then Freese took the model to a different level altogether. At $2,500 (limit of 5 available), he would provide a drum lesson, where you’d get to keep one of Freese’s snare drums. You’d also visit the Hollywood Wax Museum with Josh and one of a rotating list of his rockstar friends (depending on who was available). Finally, you’d get to take and keep any three items from Josh’s closet.

At $10,000, you’d get dinner with Josh and a rockstar friend, before hanging out at Disneyland (where Josh’s father worked for many years, and where Josh got his start as a professional drummer) with Josh. And at the end of the day, you would get to keep Josh’s Volvo station wagon — after dropping him off at home. Obviously, there was only one of those available.

There were also $20,000 and $75,000 options available, including many more offers, like having Josh join your band or be your personal assistant for a few weeks. You’d also get to go on tour with Josh. He would also write and record a five-song EP about you. A teenager in Florida actually purchased the $20,000 option, and spent a week with Josh, including a night on the Queen Mary cruise ship, a pizza party at Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo)’s house and a game of mini-golf with the singer from Tool.

Once again, by connecting with his fans, and giving them something of scarce value, Freese was able to create a business model that worked.

Connecting with Fans (CwF) plus a Reason to Buy (RtB) worked again.

However, some still complain that he’s a product of the “old” industry, even if he was little known outside of it.

The next example is Jill Sobule, who had a hit song in 1995 with “I Kissed A Girl” (not the Katy Perry song). Since then, however, she’s been dropped from two record labels and had two independent labels she was signed to go out of business. When it came time to record her latest album, she decided to get her fans to help fund it. She’d already done an excellent job connecting with her fans, regularly interacting with them on Facebook, where she would hold fun contests each day and actually chat with them and respond to questions.

She launched a website called “Jill’s Next Record” that — like Reznor and Freese — offered up many options for how her fans could support her to fund a new album. They could pay $200 and get free access to any shows for a year. They could get their name mentioned on a “thank you” song. At $5,000, she would do a home concert at your house. She even noted you could charge for that one, and maybe even make some money. She ended up doing five or six such concerts. At $10,000 (described as the “weapons grade plutonium” level) you could sing on the album. This was meant to be a joke, but a woman in the UK purchased it, and Jill had her flown out to LA where she did, in fact, appear singing backing vocals on the album.

Her goal was to raise $75,000, and she had no idea if she’d be able to reach that number at all. Yet, she broke through that number and ended up raising over $80,000 in just 53 days. With that, she was able to go into the studio and record a full scale production, including hiring famed producer Don Was to handle production.

CwF+RtB worked again.

Again, some complain that Jill is not representative, due to her hit song in 1995 — though, again, they’ll ignore her being dropped from two record labels and and having two others go out of business.

So, let’s look at Corey Smith. In the earlier part of this decade, Smith was a high school teacher, playing open mic nights on weekends. But then, he started focusing on building his music career. He started playing numerous live shows, and really worked hard to connect with fans. He gave away all of his music for free off of his website, and used that to drive more fans to his shows. On top of that, he offered special $5 pre-sale tickets to many shows, which has a useful side effect: his biggest fans would convince many others to go as well, building up his fan base, and getting more people to go to more shows. He tried pulling his free music off of his website as an experiment, and saw that his sales on iTunes actually dropped when he did that. In 2008, mostly thanks to live shows, Corey was able to gross nearly $4 million. While giving his music away for free. Connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy worked wonders.

Jonathon Coulton was a computer programmer. In September of 2006, he decided to write, record and release a new song every week for a year — with all of the songs being released under a Creative Commons license, so anyone could share them. And share them they did. Coulton became a cult sensation, and was making a good living within months of this decision. His fans were supporting him along the way, even creating music videos for every song he released. He started using services like Eventful to more strategically target concert opportunities. If enough people requested a show in a certain location, he knew it would be profitable and started “parachuting” in to do shows that he knew would make him money. Again, by connecting with fans and giving them a real reason to buy, he was able to build up a great following and make a good living.

Moto Boy is a singer/songwriter in Sweden on the wonderfully named label “Songs I Wish I Had Written.” Moto Boy and his label purposely put all of his songs on file sharing networks — including The Pirate Bay (the label’s founder, at times, has shared an office with one of The Pirate Bay’s founders). But, Moto Boy has worked quite hard to connect with fans. He has a great website, where fans can interact, and he encourages sharing his music in creative ways. When a bunch of his fans started filming his concerts and putting them on video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo, his label found the best such vidoes, and put them all together into a “YouTube concert.” Compare that to record labels like Warner Music forcing their content off of YouTube. While all of Moto Boy’s music is free, he’s continued to connect with fans in fascinating ways. Last year, he began selling wind-up music boxes, that play one of his songs. Just recently, he launched a limited edition (only 25) of those music boxes in beautiful, hand-crafted wooden boxes, signed by Moto Boy, with a CD and the music notation inside the box. Connecting with the fans and giving them a reason to buy beyond just the music has turned Moto Boy into a star in Sweden.

Amanda Palmer is a singer who made a name for herself as a member of the “punk cabaret duo” The Dresden Dolls. While she put out a solo album on Roadrunner Records (a subsidiary of Warner Music), she found that they had little interest in promoting her, and took things into her own hands. She reached out directly to fans on services like Twitter, often setting up “flash gigs” where people would show up wherever she wanted to perform. In June of 2008, one such flash gig at a beach in Los Angeles ended up with an impromptu, beautiful, music video for a song that Palmer had just learned that morning, due to a suggestion from a fan on Twitter. And she’s doing a good job making money, as well. Bored in her apartment one evening, she started twittering with fans and came up with a jokey t-shirt suggestion, and set up an immediate store, selling $11,000 worth of t-shirts in days. Another night, she started a live video stream from her apartment, and started an impromptu online auction for various items in her apartment associated with a recent tour, often with a personalized twist. In three hours, she brought in $6,000. Connecting with fans and offering them something fun and unique to buy worked wonders. To date, she hasn’t received a single royalty check from Warner Music on her album.

Matthew Ebel is a singer in Boston who started building a fanbase by playing live and actively participating in social networks and other sites. He started regularly performing in Second Life, for example. At one point, he decided to set up a “subscription” backstage pass offer, whereby fans could pay $5, $10 or $15/month to get various benefits — including access to new songs every couple of weeks, as well as having new recorded shows sent to them. Depending on the level of support, they could get access to special shows, gift bags or other opportunities for unique offers not available to others. Ebel has discovered that he’s making enough so that music is his full-time job. Subscription revenues represent nearly 40% of his income, which is about equal to live gigs and sales of CDs and digital songs combined. Connecting with fans and giving them a real reason to buy has made it so that he can have career as a musician.

Moldover is an electronic musician based in San Francisco. Being in such a high tech hub, he had an interesting idea for his next album. Along with the music itself, the CD case would be a working circuit board, with all the songs spelled out in soldered electric circuits. These connected various components to make the CD case itself an instrument. Pushing a button on the side of the case, would light up the center and make a noise, which could be modified through a pair of light sensors, creating a virtual theremin. The case even had a line out jack, so it could be plugged into a computer or an audio system. The CDs themselves were sold for $50, and Moldover discovered the demand was far stronger than he expected. Yes, even though we’re told that no one will pay for music (without strict copy protection), this less well known artist is doing brisk business selling $50 CDs.

Of course, these are just musicians, but these sorts of models impact the wider ecosystem. Companies like TopSpin, Nimbit and Kickstarter are making this work today (for artists big and small). TopSpin has helped enable musicians to better connect with fans and give them a reason to buy over and over again — and found that, when it’s done right, people absolutely buy. One of TopSpin’s artists recently had an average transaction price of over $100, and multiple artists have seen their average transaction price at over $50. The claim that fans just want stuff for free is not borne out by these examples. Across all of TopSpin’s artists, they’ve seen an average transaction price well over $20 — more than the cost of your average CD. By enabling bands to connect with fans while giving them something of unique value to buy, beyond just the music, these bands are thriving.

And, of course, there’s a role for labels to play as well. Terry McBride runs Nettwerk, a Canadian-based label that has tremendous success embracing these sorts of models with a bunch of different artists. McBride has declared that copyright won’t even matter within a decade, and he’s acting accordingly. But he’s making sure that his acts really do connect with fans. With a recent album release by the hip hop artist K-OS, before the album was released, they released all the stems from the songs to let the fans do their own mixes. These weren’t “remixes” because the original mixes weren’t even out! Rather than worrying about an album leaking, K-OS and Nettwerk purposely got the core of the music out themselves and let fans do what they wanted with it. They then set up a system to submit the fan mixes and to vote on them, such that the best mixes were then put on their own album, and both the “professional” and the “fan mixed” albums were released at the same time — leading many fans to buy them both. Both albums, separately, but at the same time, ended up in the top 50 on the charts.

As you look through all of these, some patterns emerge. They’re not about getting a fee on every transaction or every listen or every stream. They’re not about licensing. They’re not about DRM or lawsuits or copyright. They’re about better connecting with the fans and then offering them a real, scarce, unique reason to buy — such that in the end, everyone is happy. Fans get what they want at a price they want, and the musicians and labels make money as well. It’s about recognizing that the music itself can enhance the value of everything else, whether it’s shows, access or merchandise, and that letting fans share music can help increase the market and create more fans willing to buy compelling offerings. It’s about recognizing that even when the music is shared freely, there are business models that work wonders, without copyright or licensing issues even coming into play.

Adding in new licensing schemes only serves to distort this kind of market. Fans and artists are connecting directly and doing so in a way that works and makes money. Putting in place middlemen only takes a cut away from the musicians and serves to make the markets less efficient. They need to deal with overhead and bureaucracy. They need to deal with collections and allocation. They make it less likely for fans to support bands directly, because the money is going elsewhere. Even when licensing fees are officially paid further up the line, those costs are passed on to the end users, and the money might not actually go to supporting the music they really like.

Instead, let’s let the magic of the market continue to work. New technologies are making it easier than ever for musicians to create, distribute and promote music — and also to make money doing so. In the past, the music business was a “lottery,” where only a very small number made any money at all. With these models, more musicians than ever before are making money today, and they’re not doing it by worrying about copyright or licensing. They’re embracing what the tools allow. A recent study from Harvard showed how much more music is being produced today than at any time in history, and the overall music ecosystem — the amount of money paid in support of music — is at an all time high, even if less and less of it is going to the purchase of plastic discs.

This is a business model that’s working now and it will work better and better in the future as more people understand the mechanisms and improve on them. Worrying about new copyright laws or new licensing schemes or new DRM or new lawsuits or new ways to shut down file sharing is counterproductive, unnecessary and dangerous. Focusing on what’s working and encouraging more of that is the way to go. It’s a model that works for musicians, works for enablers and works for fans. It is the future and we should be thrilled with what it’s producing.

The above information was obtained from:

McClick here.

David Byrne On Music Business

Posted in Music Business on March 16, 2010 by crystallinesphere

David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars

By David Byrne  12.18.07


 David Byrne and Thom Yorke on the Real Value of Music

Full disclosure: I used to own a record label. That label, Luaka Bop, still exists, though I’m no longer involved in running it. My last record came out through Nonesuch, a subsidiary of the Warner Music Group empire. I have also released music through indie labels like Thrill Jockey, and I have pressed up CDs and sold them on tour. I tour every few years, and I don’t see it as simply a loss leader for CD sales. So I have seen this business from both sides. I’ve made money, and I’ve been ripped off. I’ve had creative freedom, and I’ve been pressured to make hits. I have dealt with diva behavior from crazy musicians, and I have seen genius records by wonderful artists get completely ignored. I love music. I always will. It saved my life, and I bet I’m not the only one who can say that.

Bonus Track: “Ex Guru”

“Here’s the ‘cover’ I did of the Fiery Furnaces tune — the words in the first half are theirs and in the last two verses they are mine. Kind of a new way to collaborate.” 

David Byrne

Courtesy Thrill Jockey Records

What is called the music business today, however, is not the business of producing music. At some point it became the business of selling CDs in plastic cases, and that business will soon be over. But that’s not bad news for music, and it’s certainly not bad news for musicians. Indeed, with all the ways to reach an audience, there have never been more opportunities for artists.

Where are things going? Well, some people’s charts look like this:

Some see this picture as a dire trend. The fact that Radiohead debuted its latest album online and Madonna defected from Warner Bros. to Live Nation, a concert promoter, is held to signal the end of the music business as we know it. Actually, these are just two examples of how musicians are increasingly able to work outside of the traditional label relationship. There is no one single way of doing business these days. There are, in fact, six viable models by my count. That variety is good for artists; it gives them more ways to get paid and make a living. And it’s good for audiences, too, who will have more — and more interesting — music to listen to. Let’s step back and get some perspective.

What is music?
First, a definition of terms. What is it we’re talking about here? What exactly is being bought and sold? In the past, music was something you heard and experienced — it was as much a social event as a purely musical one. Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context. Epic songs and ballads, troubadours, courtly entertainments, church music, shamanic chants, pub sing-alongs, ceremonial music, military music, dance music — it was pretty much all tied to specific social functions. It was communal and often utilitarian. You couldn’t take it home, copy it, sell it as a commodity (except as sheet music, but that’s not music), or even hear it again. Music was an experience, intimately married to your life. You could pay to hear music, but after you did, it was over, gone — a memory.

Technology changed all that in the 20th century. Music — or its recorded artifact, at least — became a product, a thing that could be bought, sold, traded, and replayed endlessly in any context. This upended the economics of music, but our human instincts remained intact. I spend plenty of time with buds in my ears listening to recorded music, but I still get out to stand in a crowd with an audience. I sing to myself, and, yes, I play an instrument (not always well).

We’ll always want to use music as part of our social fabric: to congregate at concerts and in bars, even if the sound sucks; to pass music from hand to hand (or via the Internet) as a form of social currency; to build temples where only “our kind of people” can hear music (opera houses and symphony halls); to want to know more about our favorite bards — their love lives, their clothes, their political beliefs. This betrays an eternal urge to have a larger context beyond a piece of plastic. One might say this urge is part of our genetic makeup.

All this is what we talk about when we talk about music.

All of it.

What do record companies do?
Or, more precisely, what did they do?

  • Fund recording sessions
  • Manufacture product
  • Distribute product
  • Market product
  • Loan and advance money for expenses (tours, videos, hair and makeup)
  • Advise and guide artists on their careers and recordings
  • Handle the accounting


This was the system that evolved over the past century to market the product, which is to say the container — vinyl, tape, or disc — that carried the music. (Calling the product music is like selling a shopping cart and calling it groceries.) But many things have changed in the past decade that reduce the value of these services to artists.

For example:

Recording costs have declined to almost zero. Artists used to need the labels to bankroll their recordings. Most simply didn’t have the $15,000 (minimum) necessary to rent a professional studio and pay an engineer and a producer. For many artists — maybe even most — this is no longer the case. Now an album can be made on the same laptop you use to check email.

Manufacturing and distribution costs are approaching zero. There used to be a break-even point below which it was impractical to distribute a recording. With LPs and CDs, there were base manufacturing costs, printing costs, shipping, and so on. It paid — in fact, it was essential — to sell in volume, because that’s how many of those costs got amortized. No more: Digital distribution is pretty much free. It’s no cheaper per unit to distribute a million copies than a hundred.

Touring is not just promotion. Live performances used to be seen as essentially a way to publicize a new release — a means to an end, not an end in itself. Bands would go into debt in order to tour, anticipating that they’d recover their losses later through increased record sales. This, to be blunt, is all wrong. It’s backward. Performing is a thing in itself, a distinct skill, different from making recordings. And for those who can do it, it’s a way to make a living.

So with all these changes, what happens to the labels? Some will survive. Nonesuch, where I’ve done several albums, has thrived under Warner Music Group ownership by operating with a lean staff of 12 and staying focused on talent. “Artists like Wilco, Philip Glass, k.d. lang, and others have sold more here than when they were at so-called major labels,” Bob Hurwitz, president of Nonesuch, told me, “even during a time of decline.”

David Byrne in Conversation with Brian Eno

“How the f–k can we get out of this?” 

“Cool Tools” 

“The people who know how to do this are the ones you fired …” 

“When was the last time you had dealings with a record company?”

But some labels will disappear, as the roles they used to play get chopped up and delivered by more thrifty services. In a recent conversation I had with Brian Eno (who is producing the next Coldplay album and writing with U2), he was enthusiastic about I Think Music — an online network of indie bands, fans, and stores — and pessimistic about the future of traditional labels. “Structurally, they’re much too large,” Eno said. “And they’re entirely on the defensive now. The only idea they have is that they can give you a big advance — which is still attractive to a lot of young bands just starting out. But that’s all they represent now: capital.”

So where do artists fit into this changing landscape? We find new options, new models.

The six possibilities

Where there was one, now there are six: Six possible music distribution models, ranging from one in which the artist is pretty much hands-off to one where the artist does nearly everything. Not surprisingly, the more involved the artist is, the more he or she can often make per unit sold. The totally DIY model is certainly not for everyone — but that’s the point. Now there’s choice.

1. At one end of the scale is the 360, or equity, deal, where every aspect of the artist’s career is handled by producers, promoters, marketing people, and managers. The idea is that you can achieve wide saturation and sales, boosted by a hardworking machine that stands to benefit from everything you do. The artist becomes a brand, owned and operated by the label, and in theory this gives the company a long-term perspective and interest in nurturing that artist’s career.

Pussycat Dolls, Korn, and Robbie Williams have made arrangements like this, selling equity in everything they touch. The T-shirts, the records, the concerts, the videos, the BBQ sauce. The artist often gets a lot of money up front. But I doubt that creative decisions will be left in the artist’s hands. As a general rule, as the cash comes in, creative control goes out. The equity partner simply has too much at stake.

This is the kind of deal Madonna just made with Live Nation. For a reported $120 million, the company — which until now has mainly produced and promoted concerts — will get a piece of both her concert revenue and her music sales. I, for one, would not want to be beholden to Live Nation — a spinoff of Clear Channel, the radio conglomerate that turned the US airwaves into pabulum. But Madge is a smart cookie; she’s always been adept at controlling her own stuff, so we’ll see.

2. Next is what I’ll call the standard distribution deal. This is more or less what I lived with for many years as a member of the Talking Heads. The record company bankrolls the recording and handles the manufacturing, distribution, press, and promotion. The artist gets a royalty percentage after all those other costs are repaid. The label, in this scenario, owns the copyright to the recording. Forever.

There’s another catch with this kind of arrangement: The typical pop star often lives in debt to their record company and a host of other entities, and if they hit a dry spell they can go broke. Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, TLC — the danger of debt and overextension is an old story.

Obviously, the cost of these services, along with the record company’s overhead, accounts for a big part of CD prices. You, the buyer, are paying for all those trucks, those CD plants, those warehouses, and all that plastic. Theoretically, as many of these costs go away, they should no longer be charged to the consumer — or the artist.

Sure, many of the services traditionally provided by record labels under the standard deal are now being farmed out. Press and publicity, digital marketing, graphic design — all are often handled by smaller, independent firms. But he who pays the piper calls the tune. If the record company pays the subcontractors, then the record company ultimately decides who or what has priority. If they “don’t hear a single,” they can tell you your record isn’t coming out.

So what happens when online sales eliminate many of these expenses? Look at iTunes: $10 for a “CD” download reflects the cost savings of digital distribution, which seems fair — at first. It’s certainly better for consumers. But after Apple takes its 30 percent, the royalty percentage is applied and the artist — surprise! — is no better off.

Not coincidentally, the issues here are similar to those in the recent Hollywood writers’ strike. Will recording artists band together and go on strike?

3. The license deal is similar to the standard deal, except in this case the artist retains the copyrights and ownership of the master recording. The right to exploit that property is granted to a label for a limited period of time — usually seven years. After that, the rights to license to TV shows, commercials, and the like revert to the artist. If the members of the Talking Heads held the master rights to our catalog today, we’d earn twice as much in licensing as we do now — and that’s where artists like me derive much of our income. If a band has made a record itself and doesn’t need creative or financial help, this model is worth looking at. It allows for a little more creative freedom, since you get less interference from the guys in the big suits. The flip side is that because the label doesn’t own the master, it may invest less in making the release a success.

David Byrne in conversation with Mac McCaughan from Merge Records.

“How could an indie label handle a release the size of Arcade Fire’s second record?”

“How do emerging acts survive?”

“Major labels aren’t doing well because they put out terrible records for years and years and kept raising the price of those terrible records and finally people were like, ‘Screw you.'”

But with the right label, the license deal can be a great way to go. This is the relationship Arcade Fire has with Merge Records, an indie label that’s done great for its band by avoiding the big-spending, big-label approach. “Part of it is just being realistic and not putting yourself in the hole,” Merge cofounder Mac McCaughan says. “The bands we work with, we never recommend that they make videos. I like videos, but they don’t sell a lot of records. What really sells records is touring — and artists can actually make money on the tour itself if they keep their budgets down.”

4. Then there’s the profit-sharing deal. I did something like this with my album Lead Us Not Into Temptation in 2003. I got a minimal advance from the label, Thrill Jockey, since the recording costs were covered by a movie soundtrack budget, and we shared the profits from day one. I retained ownership of the master. Thrill Jockey does some marketing and press. I may or may not have sold as many records as I would have with a larger company, but in the end I took home a greater share of each unit sold.

5. In the manufacturing and distribution deal, the artist does everything except, well, manufacture and distribute the product. Often the companies that do these kinds of deals also offer other services, like marketing. But given the numbers, they don’t stand to make as much, so their incentive here is limited. Big record labels traditionally don’t make M&D deals.

David Byrne in conversation with Michael Hausman.

“We weren’t competing with Madonna, Beyonce or Springsteen, because they weren’t doing it.”

“There’s a way for music to have a life of its own and turn into something bigger …”

“The labels aren’t set up for enlightened, long-range thinking. That’s what a good manager should be doing.”

In this scenario, the artist gets absolute creative control, but it’s a bigger gamble. Aimee Mann does this, and it works really well for her. “A lot of artists don’t realize how much more money they could make by retaining ownership and licensing directly,” Mann’s manager, Michael Hausman, told me. “If it’s done properly, you get paid quickly, and you get paid again and again. That’s a great source of income.”

6. Finally, at the far end of the scale, is the self-distribution model, where the music is self-produced, self-written, self-played, and self-marketed. CDs are sold at gigs and through a Web site. Promotion is a MySpace page. The band buys or leases a server to handle download sales. Within the limits of what they can afford, the artists have complete creative control. In practice, especially for emerging artists, that can mean freedom without resources — a pretty abstract sort of independence. For those who plan to take their material on the road and play it live, the financial constraints cut even deeper. Backup orchestras, massive video screens and sets, and weird high tech lights don’t come cheap.

David Byrne in conversation with Radiohead’s managers, Bryce Edge and Chris Hufford (Courtyard Management).

“… how it proliferated around the world with such ridiculous speed”

“You’ve had years of experience with the press … missing the point.”

“It actually physically blew up and we had to replace it …”

“It’s just an art band from Oxford having a bit of a laugh.”

“Johnny’s doing his gay boy sort of pretty look”

Radiohead adopted this DIY model to sell In Rainbows online — and then went a step further by letting fans name their own price for the download. They weren’t the first to do this — Issa (formerly known as Jane Siberry) pioneered the pay-what-you-will model a few years ago — but Radiohead’s move was much higher profile. It may be less risky for them, but it’s a clear sign of real changes afoot. As one of Radiohead’s managers, Bryce Edge, told me, “The industry reacted like the end was nigh. They’ve devalued music, giving it away for nothing.’ Which wasn’t true: We asked people to value it, which is very different semantics to me.”

At this end of the spectrum, the artist stands to receive the largest percentage of income from sales per unit — sales of anything. A larger percentage of fewer sales, most likely, but not always. Artists doing it for themselves can actually make more money than the massive pop star, even though the sales numbers may seem minuscule by comparison. Of course, not everyone is as smart as those nerdy Radiohead boys. Pete Doherty probably should not be handed the steering wheel.

Freedom versus pragmatism
These models are not absolute. They can morph and evolve. Hausman and Mann took the total DIY route at first, getting money orders and sending out CDs in Express Mail envelopes; later on they licensed the records to distributors. And things change over time. In the future, we will see more artists take up these various models or mix and match versions of them. For existing and emerging artists — who read about the music business going down the drain — this is actually a great time, full of options and possibilities. The future of music as a career is wide open.

Many who take the cash up front will never know that long-range thinking might have been wiser. Mega pop artists will still need that mighty push and marketing effort for a new release that only traditional record companies can provide. For others, what we now call a record label could be replaced by a small company that funnels income and invoices from the various entities and keeps the accounts in order. A consortium of midlevel artists could make this model work. United Musicians, the company that Hausman founded, is one such example.

I would personally advise artists to hold on to their publishing rights (well, as much of them as they can). Publishing royalties are how you get paid if someone covers, samples, or licenses your song for a movie or commercial. This, for a songwriter, is your pension plan.

Increasingly, it’s possible for artists to hold on to the copyrights for their recordings as well. This guarantees them another lucrative piece of the licensing pie and also gives them the right to exploit their work in mediums to be invented in the future — musical brain implants and the like.

No single model will work for everyone. There’s room for all of us. Some artists are the Coke and Pepsi of music, while others are the fine wine — or the funky home-brewed moonshine. And that’s fine. I like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man.” Sometimes a corporate soft drink is what you want — just not at the expense of the other thing. In the recent past, it often seemed like all or nothing, but maybe now we won’t be forced to choose.

Ultimately, all these scenarios have to satisfy the same human urges: What do we need music to do? How do we visit the land in our head and the place in our heart that music takes us to? Can I get a round-trip ticket?

Really, isn’t that what we want to buy, sell, trade, or download?

David Byrne is currently collaborating with Fatboy Slim and Brian Eno. Separately.

Chart Sources: Jupiter Research, Recording Industry Association of America, Almighty Institute of Music Retail, Wired Research

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This information was obtained from here.