The Big Music Usage FAQ

A couple years ago, I made a cheat sheet showing what I allow, encourage, and disallow in terms of using or licensing my music. Needless to say, things have gotten a bit more complicated. We receive an average of 3 usage requests per day, and I’m going to try and cover the most common questions with a brief explanation. If you don’t care about music usage, here’s a documentary about deer that will probably be a more entertaining way to spend your time.

The 4 Commandments Of Music Usage*
*For Benn Jordan/The Flashbulb

1. Thou shalt not use my music for a commercial and/or to promote a product or service that is for sale without permission. This includes all possible variations of this, including footage of a Budweiser sponsored dance party where the DJ is playing my music. If you want my music to be connected to marketing, you need to get a license.

2. Thou shalt not use my music for anything that is for sale without permission. This includes but is not limited to compilation CDs, compilation iTunes mixes, remixes, DVDs, digital rentals, subscription services (Netflix, Spotify, etc) and movie tickets.

3. Thou shalt not use my music for anything broadcasting on television or radio without my permission. Simple enough, right?

4. Thou shalt not use my music on a major project without my permission. In other words, if you have 300,000 Youtube subscribers, run it by us first.

I realize this might seem stingy to a person who has never sought to obtain permission for music usage before and is just trying to get to the finish line of a project, but I promise you, my “commandments” are very liberal in comparison to most musicians/labels/publishers and are basically allowing free use as long as you’re not making money off of it.

I remixed your song, why can’t I release it?

I’m honored when people release or cover my music, and on many occasion I’ve sought out artists to do it. The problem isn’t my personal feelings, it is the clusterfuck your remix will cause when the audioprint matches my music on digital stores and streaming services. For example, one particular asshole put some extra sound effects over Undiscovered Colors and released it as his own. The audioprint systems somehow removed my track from the rankings, and some services even threatened to remove my entire catalog for copyright infringement. Other services refused to honor the DMCA take downs since they simply didn’t have the time to actually look into the issue. Needless to say, this cost me thousands in legal fees just to be able to continue selling my own album. Down the line it caught up to him, and both him and his digital distributor ended up having to foot those legal fees, as well as their own.

Now, I’m dealing with the same issue with someone releasing a track of mine that they sang over.

But moral of the story, thank you for remixing my music, but please do not release it without working something out with me or Alphabasic.

Your cheat sheet said I could use your music on Youtube, and now I can’t monetize my video!

My cheat sheet does say that, but it also said that you can’t make a profit from my music without a license. I didn’t make up that rule because I’m greedy. It’s because the agreement reached between the publishing company that keeps track of my Youtube royalties and Google decided to suspend monetization on videos using unlicensed music. There’s a lot of red tape, and I have very little control over the process after my music goes into the system. Some people have asked me to “whitelist” their channel. I’ve searched and asked if this is possible, and it currently is not. However,  you can get a license from us, show it to Youtube, and they’ll clear it all up.

Can I get a free license for Youtube monetization then?

No. You can get a cheap license. I’m usually making nothing off of it, it’s just that preparing a legal document costs money. In all humble honesty, even if I had a law degree to oversee all types of license agreements, if I were to prepare licenses for everyone who asked for a free one, it would literally be a full time job. I’d rather be a musician, not an IP attorney who works for free to ensure that he doesn’t get paid for his previous work. =)

I want to monetize a Youtube video of your music with the video being a still image of your album art or a photograph. Is that okay?

While I won’t go out of my way to have the video flagged or removed, there are very few cases where I’m okay with this, such as the content provider being the press or a well-known music blog. I wholeheartedly appreciate people sharing my music, but there is a growing culture of people who upload songs they like, monetize the videos, and collect the royalties. While it’s not on my list of priorities to interfere with that business, please understand the audacity of asking me to provide you with a free license so Youtube is prevented from giving me royalties on my own music. It would be more noble to just ask me to give you $100.

Why are you asking for so much money for using your song in my commercial? Library music I looked at was $100. It’s free money!

It’s not free money, it’s the value of my work which is determined by hundreds of thousands of dollars and work hours I’ve put into my career and studio. If you found something that works in a royalty-free music library, you should absolutely use that instead of obtaining a license from released material. My music isn’t library music the same way that a painter’s work isn’t made for a clip art CD-ROM. I have no disrespect for musicians who write for libraries, I actually collect and listen to old library records, but it’s just 2 different industries for music distribution.

I’m making a film on an indy budget. There’s a chance it may be picked up and sold, but I can’t afford a license.

This isn’t  a big deal. We can cross the bridge when we come to it. If your film ends up being distributed yourself or through Kickstarter/etc to a limited amount of people, we can negotiate an affordable license. There are lots of options like length of use, region, etc. If your film gets picked up by Miramax, I’d rather negotiate a license with them than someone just out of film school anyway. So hopefully that structure makes my music friendly to a shoe-string film budget.

Hopefully this covers everything a bit more thoroughly. Again, I’ve always greatly appreciated people sharing my music. It’s been a vital part of me being able to make a living and continue releasing it. I hope this post doesn’t sound brute or discourage sharing or artistic use. If I won the lottery I’d make all my music public domain anyway.

If you need a license or have a unique situation that isn’t covered here, please email:
Thanks for reading.

July Tour

I bought a giant, tour-friendly SUV.
I’ve updated my live rig.
I have a lot of people asking me to play their city.

I don’t have a booking agent anymore, and am often treated like a band playing their first show when cold-calling venues (on the rare chance anyone responds).

Regardless, this is what I’d like to make happen this July.  Wish me luck. I need it.

My music and Youtube and monetization.

I’m writing this almost as a bookmark to send to people dealing with this situation either with my music or someone else’s.

Here’s the setup.

1, Someone emails me or my handler (yeah, I’m a black bear) asking if they can use my music in their Youtube video, or reads an infographic on explaining what usage is allowed.

2. They put my music in their totally awesome or totally stupid non-commercial video.

3. Google sends them a warning saying they’ve violated the copyright of some company and disables monetization.

4. They email me angry that I would give them permission and then go after them.

So here’s the thing. I AM totally 100% okay with you using my music in anything that isn’t an advertisement, broadcast on television, played in theaters, or sold for financial gain. In the vast majority of these cases, I’m not even aware of the video. The problem lies in the massive organizational clusterfuck between Tunecore, Audiam, and Google, who all work together with the efficiency of a union plumber, union electrician, and alcoholic union foreman (Chicago joke, maybe).

I have no option of “whitelisting” anything other than my channel, and for years I’ve been receiving copyright violations on my own music anyway.

I’m typing on my laptop while eating seafood and looking at the ocean, so I’m not going to ruin this experience by going on a rant about how shitty the IP organization  is between these giant publishing firms and giant content providers are. But I can promise you, no matter how frustrated you are with it, I’m perpetually about 4 times more frustrated with it.

So what can you do?

Well, a couple big channels have had success with simply sending me a waiver detailing the use and including the Youtube video link, getting it back from me with a signature, and then sending it to Google.  That seems to do the trick.

The problem with that, is that roughly 20 new videos show up on Youtube per day with my music in them, so my life would be printing, signing, scanning, and providing technical support for this wacky copyright permission system, which I have no desire to do.

I haven’t figured out the details yet. But for monetized videos, I’m going to set a flat rate for signed permission sheet, and a slightly larger flat rate to have the permission agreement made and signed for you. Then, 100% of the profit from that fee will go to charity.

That way at least a kid gets a bag free bag of rice and some shoe laces out of the whole thing.

So anyway, it’s super annoying, and there’s little I can do about it. I despise it because Youtube is a huge promotion tool and this IP fingerprint library crap discourages that from happening.


Facebook has me in a weird place. I really dislike using it. I find myself scrolling through people’s posts and laughing at their self-praise for mundane accomplishments. I seem to only have a desire to contribute when I have some wisdom to share on a topic I’m well brushed-up in, or to call out a fake article or pseudoscience.

So, in other words, I behave like the type of person I hate.

But I’m stuck. I’m planning on quitting very soon, but I have anxiety that when I do, I’ll lose tabs on contacts regarding touring for myself and other Alphabasic artists. I’m worried that my official Flashbulb page will go to hell without me personally moderating it. I’m scared that I will lose touch with friends who won’t be reminded of my presence after I vanish from their news feed.

And that’s why Facebook is worth a shit. In droves, so many of us have blindly stepped away from our open-air internet, where we used AIM, ICQ, IRC, forums, and email to communicate, and traded it for a modern day America Online. Roughly a quarter of my private messages on Facebook are business related, and that’s terrifying.

But I saw the pool, and I dove in. I don’t “hate Facebook”, I just kind of hate myself for allowing myself to rely on it so much. And I’m going to have to be penalized for my mistake when I finally nuke my account.

Below this sentence, things are going to be a little more controversial.

Perhaps this is more of a problem of a semi-popular musician, but every day, when I log in to Facebook, I have a friend request or two. Roughly half of these are from someone who’s name is the likes of “Illuminaughty Obama” and has a dozen photos of nonsense as their profile pictures.

This kind of crap pisses me off.

So, you’re asking to see a timeline of my life, the schools I attended, my personal photos, conversations that I’m having in comments, my relationship status, etc., but you can’t even share your real name or a photograph of yourself? What’s in it for me?

That leads us into this controversy, where Facebook is being pinned for attacking the LGBT community by requiring users to use their legal names.

A few points I’d like to make:

This has nothing to do with rights. Facebook is a company providing a service that you use for free, so you don’t even have most basic consumer rights. When you sign up, you agree to their terms. Everything you do on Facebook is a privilege, not a right. Facebook grants you the privilege to deactivate or delete your account if you no longer agree to their terms of service, and the most powerful thing you can do to protest them for having a rule that offends you is removing yourself from the site.

Another criticism is that people in witness protection programs or individuals that will risk danger if they are found on the site will lose their safe harbor of having an pseudo-anonymous identity.  I sympathize with the hardship of being in that situation, but if you have any predisposed fear of being discovered or stalked online, you should not be using Facebook. Period.

Finally, while I don’t really care for most of the things Facebook does, I have to defend the company in some regard. Their business is reliant on users being targeted for ads, and that’s how they are able to provide you with this free service. This is no mystery to anyone, and it shouldn’t be a mystery why they would want you to provide your real identity. Also, while Facebook is pretty good at dealing with it, spam is still a huge problem on the site, constantly looming around threatening to make the service unusable. Cryptic, hidden profiles with fake names and pictures of nonsense are easily confused for spam accounts.

Changing your name isn’t difficult. It’s a couple forms and a small fee, and you’re set. If a social media site doesn’t want to be a platform for you to test a bunch of fake identities, that’s their decision, and again, has nothing to do with your rights being infringed upon or violated. It just means that you can’t offer or are unwilling to offer the minimum information required to use the service.

For performers and people with secondary or complimentary personas, you have the option to open a fully operational fan page for that identity.

Finally, for as much as I hear about people’s freedoms and rights in regards to Facebook, it’s always been a bit of a pet peeve that so many people expect so many considerations for their “rights”, but then hide behind a fake identity to prevent discourse or taking a personal responsibility for the crap that comes out of their mouths.

That’s not what freedom of speech is, and that certainly isn’t what Facebook’s policies are.

Facebook, in my opinion, seems like an incredibly shitty company. So let’s quit using it then, instead of constantly complaining about their changes and terms of service policies.

I still use AIM to communicate more than anything else, by the way. Almost everyone on my buddy list is over 30 years old. There’s so many things that we just can’t quit, I guess.

On Aphex Twin

A few years ago, I was playing a gig at a festival somewhere in the US. Like usual with those types of gigs, things are terribly unorganized, and you kind of “blend in” with the audience when you’re in the process of loading gear or trying to find someone.

FYI: That’s the worst time and place to have a conversation with your favorite musician. We have to choose between being short with you or not adeptly preparing for a performance. Okay, scratch that, it’s the 2nd worst time and place. The 1st is when your favorite musician is going number 2 in the venue’s bathroom stall. To the person who put me through that, be glad that I never saw your face.

Anyways, I was darting around anxiously trying to fix something or find someone to fix something, and a small group of youngans were walking after me asking me questions. One of the questions was “Who is your inspiration?”, and, being too distracted to give a full answer, I just blurted out “Aphex Twin”. One of them said “who?” It stopped me dead in my tracks. They had blank expressions on their faces, waiting for an answer.

I stood in awe that anyone could ever “get to” my music without Aphex Twin being a bridge. I almost feel like it is criminal for anyone to listen to my music without a familiarity of Aphex Twin, because so much of my past work is just driving around on roads he paved. Heck, half of electronic music is.

Time machine: 

When I was 15 or so, I had a friend who was an industrial music enthusiast. He lent me “Select Ambient Works Volume II” because it was “creepy”. It was the first time I had heard ambient music, and those 2 CDs became an obsession of mine. I asked friends and music stores for more music like it, but everything they recommended wasn’t even comparable. SAW II just sounded so genuine, analog, and unique.

About a year later, I was hanging out at Best Buy. I had a little “business” where an employee of a used CD resale shop would tell me the most valuable releases that week, and then I would shoplift them and return an hour later. I would say that I regret being this much of an asshole when I was a teenager, but that behavior funded nothing other than my portion of rent and gear to record my own demos. Anyway, I noticed an open box of CDs that someone was stocking on the shelves, and saw “Aphex Twin – I Care Because You Do” in there. I had to choose between buying it and canceling my shoplifting plans, or waiting a few hours to come back and lift it off the shelves once it was stocked. I chose the former, and scurried home to listed to another installment of peaceful, beatless, ambient music.

I was outraged. The first track sounded like hip hop. Most of the album was loud and squelchy. What did this guy do with his music? Ugh. I gave it a couple more rotations and it grew on me. Then it completely took me over. Again, I had heard nothing like it before. It challenged everything I knew about electronic music. Hell, it challenged everything everyone knew about electronic music at the time.

In those days, the information superhighway didn’t go much farther than chatting with another random teenage dude asking if you’re a girl. So somehow, between what I heard and my own imagination, I thought Richard James was a black guy from New York. The CD store that was acting as my fence promised to beep me when the distributor listed a new album from him.

Not a week later, I got a weird number on my pager and made my way to a pay phone only to discover that a new Aphex Twin album was listed, but under a different alias. It was $30, vinyl only, and would take up to 8 weeks to arrive. I dug through my house for the money, and put in the order. The anticipation was intense. When the record finally arrived, I was holding “AFX – Hangable Auto Bulb Vol. 1”. I held my own personal listening party.

“What…the…fuck?”  This sounded like sped up Nintendo music. I was sure that someone screwed something up, and AFX was a completely different artist. I tried playing the record at different speeds. Nope. Still positive that I was listening to a different artist, I tried to get my $30 worth out of the album. It started intriguing me. Then, again, it changed my understanding of electronic music.

Let’s fast forward and get to the point. “Richard D. James album”: Wow. Boom. “Come To Daddy”: Confused, bewildered, amazed. “Windowlicker”: Initially cringing, then challenged, my brain eventually melted.

The moral of the story here, is that it might be hard to understand why Aphex Twin is so important without living through that discovery. Every…single…thing that Richard James produced, defied any expectation, and ripped apart whatever it was you thought was possible in electronic music production. His music wasn’t driven by anything other than his astounding, seemingly unlimited creativity. There was simply no way you could prepare yourself for what he was going to release next. You would be hearing a new genre, and his abstract production would almost always guarantee that it would be the first, last, and only release in that genre.

That “era”, in my mind, ended with “Drukqs”. It was the first album that was at least somewhat within the realms of what I would expect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible album from start to finish. Curiously enough, that’s also when Richard James stopped releasing music as Aphex Twin. You have the “Analord” series and whatnot, which is absolutely worth listening to, but it’s more controlled and focused. While it’s enjoyable as hell, it feels like you’re listening to the melodic results of a synth laboratory.

Until now.
Out of thin air, Aphex Twin is releasing a new album, “Syro”. And like 15 years ago, I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I’ve been invited to an apparently kinda-exclusive listening party thrown by Warp Records, but I can’t imagine listening to a new Aphex Twin album in any other setting than sitting in a chair on the opposite end of my own speakers. Hopefully going through the same ear challenges that I did when I was a teenager.

Why am I writing this?
Because if you haven’t listened to Aphex Twin’s career carefully and with attention, you’ve missed out on an incredible journey. Many of us listen to music with attention deficit disorder these days, even often lacking an actual audio system or decent headphones.

Now would be a great time to press play, close your eyes, and catch up. It will help appreciate “Syro” in a similar context and journey that so many of us enjoyed in the 1990’s.

Dude, Where’s My Car?

So here’s a story, I’ll keep it brief and factual. I want to fill it with expletives, but it’s more entertaining as a tale.
The reason I’m even telling it is to answer one of two questions.

1. “Uh, where is your car?”
2. “Why are you leaving Chicago?”

Once upon a time, I bought a car. A new 2012 Kia Soul+. I paid exorbitant amounts of taxes and registration fees, because I live in Chicago.
So a year later, in 2013, my registration expired. Normally in Illinois, you get a postcard in the mail reminding you to update it, and giving you a secret code to enter online or at a pay station to do so. I never got the post card.

No big deal, right? I can just go to a DMV. A pain in the butt, but much better than risking getting tickets for expired registration!
So I went to a DMV, they couldn’t help me without the postcard and told me to go to a different location where they could.
I went to another DMV, they didn’t know what the 1st DMV was talking about and couldn’t help me without the postcard, but recommended I mail a letter to the secretary of state.
I mailed a letter to the secretary of state, and I assume he opened it up, rolled it into a tube, and smoked it like a cigar.

More DMV visits, emails, calls, letters follow, while I am bombarded with tickets for having expired registration. The first few I contested, and then got fined for contesting them, and was told that there is no excuse for having expired registration. Contesting the tickets costs 3x more than the original fine, so I just stopped contesting them and made a point to park in garages or parking lots as much as possible, since the city is using high tech devices in vehicles that read and flag license plates. It’s like a sci-fi movie warning you of how much the future is going to suck, but it’s the present, and it’s not a movie, it’s reality.

Having expired registration is also a great excuse for the Chicago police to pull you over and search your car for heroin, which has happened a half dozen times. Meanwhile I’m just playing a very expensive game of whack-a-mole, trying to keep my car from being towed or booted before I move away in a month to new city and state that allows you to register your vehicle.

Last month I went on a 2 week trip, and I drove my car. Apparently, I somehow ripped a hole in time and space, and my car was parking all over the city getting tickets for expired registration at the same time that it was climbing dirt roads in Montana, Washington, and South Dakota. I, unfortunately, wasn’t split into 2 separate Benns, so I didn’t get any of the tickets, or even know that they existed.

Until last night.
My car was booted around 10pm. That sets a 24 hour countdown where you have to travel to a far away location, plead guilty on paper and pay whatever made up fines they quote, or else they tow your car and start charging you $175 a day after that. So, ok. In a cab I go. The location was at an airport, but it wasn’t an actual address. So I just get dropped off at the airport. I walk around like a zombie asking employees where this office is, and finally manage to find a woman who works for the airport who can see in my bloodshot eyes that I’m only about an hour away from being permanently mentally broken. She makes a dozen calls and finally locates the secret office. It’s about a mile away from the airport.

So I walk in the middle of the sidewalkless street, at 4am, holding nothing but a piece of orange paper with my boot number on it. I finally find the office, which is oddly inside a taxi/limo staging lot. The one employee is asleep behind 4 inches of bulletproof glass. I tap, knock, pound, nothing. I finally play an MP3 on my phone and slide it under the glass. She wakes up, but is really mad that she was woken up.
After insisting that she try some alternate methods to find my car in the system for 10 minutes, it is finally located. She prints out a piece of paper that has the text “$1,600” on it and slides it under the glass. No ticket numbers. Just “Pay this or your car is ours”.

So I pay it and am informed that my car will be unbooted before 10am. I walk out and ask a cab driver to drive me home, but they tell me that they get fined for picking up a fare inside the staging area. But if I walk a mile back to the airport, they can pick me up, but there’s also an airport fee. I don’t even respond and just walk to the nearest el (subway) station. I don’t have a “Ventra” card, and the system is timing out when I try to sign up for one. My old CTA cards that have $20 in prepaid fare on them no longer work. The person working in the train station has the same demeanor as the person working in the DMV.

So, with my phone out of batteries and my spirit burnt out, I just give up and walk home. The 7 or so miles actually only takes me about 3 hours. I go inside, pet my dog, and call a cab. After an hour wait, and another fare, the cab takes me back to my car. Well, correction, it takes me back to the location where my car was. It’s gone now. I call a few numbers and finally manage to talk to a few people, and nobody seems to know where it is. They also keep suggesting that I’m being dishonest, since my car “shouldn’t have” been towed.

So maybe it was stolen in the short window between the boot coming off and me coming to pick it up. I’m about to have a cab driver bring me to all of the tow yards in the city before filing a report and insurance claim.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is just one of the many, many tales behind me putting this dysfunctional, corrupt city behind me.

Making Everyone Go Away

As a bit of a hermit and someone who occasionally plays Project Zomboid with the zombies disabled just to fantasize about being the only person on Earth, I had this neat idea.

I was playing around with some astrophotography software that “stacks” similar images with the goal of making star trails or canceling out noise. I had this silly idea for a photo project/book: What if you subtract data rather than stack it to make a place like Times Square look abandoned?

The result using software like StarStax or Photoshop’s statistic scripting yields interesting, but unsuccessful results. So I upped the dork level and searched for a platform that would allow me to solve linear problems that could use image data. I gave up and finished my last album.

Then, getting obsessed with this task again, eureka: GNU Octave.
So the idea with my script is, if something appears exactly the same 2 times or more, keep it. If something changes, throw it away. Then the remaining data is re-rendered to a high resolution jpg image, and then the clusterfuck of images is stacked in Photoshop. Not too difficult, right?

Wrong. It’s actually uncomfortable to know how many combined images you have to take during the day in an urban area to be able to see every piece of sidewalk, road, or building two times without any obstruction. The first successful number is 2,100 in Chinatown on a normal Sunday afternoon with a 10mm lens. That’s 46gb of image data, and about 5 hours processing time.

However this is exponential, so if sidewalk and road traffic were twice as bad, or if I did this at rush hour in Times Square, it would take an estimated 4.4 million images, or 97tb of data. Not only would I need a giant RAID array hooked up to my camera and a military grade mainframe to process the mean data, but if I had a super camera capable of taking 3 images per second without ever needing a cool down period, it would take me 169 days to capture the aforementioned data, which certainly is far more than enough time for the sun to change position enough to make the data worthless.

So the bad news is, I’ll have to try Times Square again in 20 years.

If you’ve read this far, here it is, Chinatown an hour after the rapture: Before and after.


Comcast Might Actually Be An Evil Genius

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that my relationship with Comcast is a caustic one that gets dirty and personal. It all started in early 2008 when they suspended my account and sent me a warning for downloading a torrent of my own album. I didn’t have to fight much, the person on the phone agreed that it was absurd and promptly cleared my name and reinstated my service.

Then I moved to the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago where, for a year, I had a constant dropping connection and speeds that were closer to dial up than the national broadband average. It turned out that they had 1 node for the entire densely populated neighborhood. The norm is 1-4 nodes per residential block depending on amount of subscribers. After months of complaining, tweeting, writing, and even threatening, finally came the day when everyone in Wicker Park’s internet went down for a few hours, and came back delivering broadband speeds.

Then I moved to Bridgeport, to an old carriage house that didn’t have any broadband lines installed. The “technician” drilled through my closet door because he was too lazy to fish line through dry wall. Seriously, I have to unplug my entire network whenever I have to go into my storage.

2 days ago they installed this, apparently a fiber array that could have went anywhere in the 250ft between utility poles, but, despite my protest, blocks my desk window and bans me from my daily sunset view, which I was pretty darn attached to.

But this isn’t about me. This is actually praise for Comcast. Not the praise that you would have for something respectable, but praise for something so is incredibly avant-garde-shitty and ballsy, that you can’t even be mad.

A little while ago, Comcast started rolling out a gigantic, semi-public WIFI network. The awe-inducing part is that this network runs, without permission, from customer’s routers and internet connections. If you’re leasing a Comcast modem/router combo, you’re paying them to host a semi-public network on your connection, using your bandwidth and your electricity.

Am I the only one that thinks it is insane that Comcast would be making special back doors in all of their routers that would enable them to pump some firmware into them that would make them dual mode devices that would pass out your internet connection without your consent or knowledge? It’s a huge security risk. It’s a huge ethical shitstorm. But most impressively, it’s a huge, expensive, organized pain in the ass.

And why? Are you just trying to be dicks at this point? In case they haven’t noticed, most of us don’t use WIFI when checking our email when walking down an urban street. 4G has come a long way, and in many cases outperforms Comcast’s direct broadband speeds. So why…oh….OH. Wow.

Did you catch it? The big snip. The plan so sinister that I keep wondering if I’m turning into a paranoid train wreck.

Let’s pretend that you’re sitting in the park having a picnic with your wife. Your wife insists that Joe Montana is a pop singer, and you know that you can easily resolve this dispute by shouting “JOE MONTANA” into Google Now or Siri or whatever pathetic excuse for an AI assistant you have. But it doesn’t work because you’re connected to an open WIFI AP that requires a username and password to bypass the proxy and use the internet connection. You have to turn your WIFI off and try again using the data plan you pay for from your mobile provider.

Since Comcast rolled this out in Chicago, I can’t get away from the Xfinity Network. I have no use for it, I’ve banned access points, but every one has it’s own ID, so the new ones pop up and cock blocks my phone’s 3G/4G internet connection. If you’re not a Comcast customer, you can’t use it. See what I’m getting at?
Comcast is tricking your smart phone into thinking it’s on an open network, which makes it abandon its mobile data connection, forcing you to choose between being a Comcast customer, disabling open network use, or turning your WIFI off every time you leave the house. And it’s doing this by hijacking peoples private home internet connections and covertly turning them into public WIFI beacons.

I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.

With all the lobbying and package structuring and Mr. Burns’-esq plans, you would think that it would just be easier to roll out some fiber and lead us to the next generation. Giant, monopolistic conglomerates that hold back technology don’t do very well in the very long term. If you don’t believe me, read me the date on your last AT&T or Southern Bell phone bill, or log on to AOL and have yourself a chat. A decade from now, Google will be the lawnmower buzzing over Comcast’s old, unsightly, tall grass. Rather than using their resources to provide an affordable, globally competitive service, Comcast has shoveled their investments into lobbying and shit like this. Every year, they scoot closer to being unwanted, but needed until something better comes along.

Anyway, I just think this whole dark plan of theirs is fascinating, insane, and possibly even genius (in the utmost evil way, of course.)

If I have time this weekend, I’m going to look into making a tasker script or simple program that will tell my rooted Nexus to ignore any Comcast related WIFI AP. If I do, I’ll post the source or APK here.

So give Comcast a hand. They’ve innovated some amazing ways and overcome some truly impressive feats to ruin WIFI as a functional amenity. But more importantly, buy your own modem and router. That’s the only way you can “opt” out of your home internet connection being leased as a public WIFI service.

If you’re having a similar problem with your phone, you can turn off open networks, but you’ll have to re-enable it the next time you need to use WIFI in a hotel. office building, library, etc (anywhere with a multiple AP configuration).

Showseed And Some Early Drama

I suppose you know you have a pretty good idea when people are threatening to ruin your life over it.

A few days after uploading my video vaguely outlining my Showseed project, I got a couple of emails and messages from people kind of aggressively telling me that another company is already doing this much better than I could, and there’s no point for me to bother.

I’m sure I’m the millionth person to think of crowdfunding live events. A good fraction of Kickstarter is filled with bands trying to crowdfund tours. This is nothing new. I always felt like Kickstarter is a shitty platform for it though. The task of using the money left over after Kickstarter fees to book your first tour on your own, then figuring out who has tickets to which show, and who gets which perk, is complicated and error prone. It also stinks of charity a bit. It’s like saying “Help us so we can be a successful band!” rather than “Want to see us play? Ok, here!”.

So, as stated on the Showseed site. It’s not a startup, or a business, or foundation, or a network. It’s just a workflow that may or may not be released as an open source CMS (or perhaps a WordPress plugin if I had some development help). If it grew beyond my personal use, nobody would ever have to go to my website. Any growth, improvement, or further development would be out of my hands and control. That’s my idea, anyway. I have no desire to run a tech start-up. I’m an artist, and the more time I spend not being one, the less happy I am.

So anyways, over the weekend I got slapped with a cease and desist order claiming that I’m violating a patent. The company that sent it hasn’t even launched yet. They haven’t booked any shows, worked with any artists, and don’t even explain what their business model is on their website, which is still in pre-launch status.

I had a helpful friend look into it a bit deeper, and they DO have a pending patent, but I can’t imagine it is technically anything close to my idea. If it were, you’d have someone developing an open source platform to help artists for no compensation or profit suing someone else for doing the same thing. It doesn’t make much sense.

So the question is, if I disobey the C&D, will I be litigated into poverty? Or are they just bullying me because what I’m attempting to do for free essentially voids the purpose of their multi-million dollar startup?

I understand that it would be virtually impossible for them to actually WIN a lawsuit of this nature, but if they have a few attorneys on retainer, they can bury me in litigation for years.

I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do. I guess I need to think it over and get some further advice.

One thing is for certain though, this company, whom I won’t name because they’re already lawsuit crazed, is claiming to be the saving grace for touring musicians, while throwing money at attorneys to attack independent musicians for trying to crowdfund their own performances.

Thanks but no thanks, assholes.

Why I Fight.

This post is sort of an answer to a common question or a reply to common remarks I receive from people via email, in person, or on social media sites is in regards to my “fighting”.

I certainly don’t feel the need to explain my hobbies to anyone, but I feel the need to at least humbly attempt to take some stigma away from a very legitimate sport.

A question I often get from people, and do not have the time to adequately answer, is “Why do you fight?”.  A lot of times this question comes with hints that I’m battling personal demons, or even more ridiculous theories that perhaps I’m associating with the wrong people.
It is often more appropriate for me to answer with a question recalling the same level of closed-mindedness: “Why do you not?”.

Paragraph answer:
I have never not fought. I was a junior black belt in Taekwondo. Then I went into wrestling in high school. Immediately after high school I transitioned to American Jiu Jitsu (black), Gracie Jiu Jitsu (purple), and amateur MMA. In my late 20’s and early 30’s I concentrated on Muay Thai, Boxing, Judo, and eventually professional MMA. It’s a hobby that I enjoy, and I find that the more involved I am in it, the healthier I am, both physically and mentally.

But since the internet loves reading top # lists…

6 Great Reasons To Fight Competitively

1. Physical Health
This is the obvious one that should surprise nobody. There is no way that you can be involved in any form of competitive fighting without being in the best physical shape of your life. Of course, you’re almost always injured somewhere during training. But a stress fracture in your ankle doesn’t threaten to shorten your life. Cardiovascular stress, obesity, and poor diet does. In addition, being in great cardiovascular shape doesn’t just mean you can run to the store without running out of breath, it shows up in every facet of your life. You see noticeable improvement in your metabolism, your immune system, and even nagging life long ailments like eczema and frequent migraines often disappear. Most importantly for me, good physical health brings on #2.

2. Mental Health
Whether you’re a physician, a yoga instructor, or a neuroscientist, you simply can’t deny the insurmountable evidence that physical health and mental health are closely intertwined. In fact, cardiovascular health has shown to increase brain size and function, increasing spatial memory by up to 40%, and can even stave off or slow degenerative brain diseases. There is no placebo effect at play. Even if I’m tired and sore, the influx of dopamine and serotonin gained by training or sparring in the morning help me concentrate, stay focused, and feel accomplishment for the rest of my day in the studio. Like night and day, the more involved I am in training, the less I feel symptoms of anxiety, depersonalization, or depression. For me, it is more effective than any drug or therapy at accomplishing relief for the above symptoms.

3. Healthy Competition
If there was one thing I can never do, it is merely going to the gym or go jogging simply to stay in shape or improve my appearance. I can’t even imagine checking into a fitness club, running on the treadmill, lifting weights, doing some pilates, and then calling it a day. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I completely lack motivation if there isn’t an end goal. But that’s why marathons and soccer leagues exist, they give you a deadline for your personal fitness achievements, and directly reward you if you’ve reached those achievements. Over the course of a few years, being on a soccer team or running marathons is no less dangerous than competing in MMA.  The point is, a lot of people aren’t in shape because it is miserably boring when they don’t have competition as a reward and climax to all their hard work.

4. Peace And Self-Discipline
For the sake of this post, this is probably the most important thing to note, since it directly attacks the misconception that combat sports are related to general violence. While I am certainly not timid, soft-spoken, or afraid of confrontation, I rarely lose my temper. The amount of people, in my entire life, who have witnessed me punching or throwing something out of frustration, or even raising my voice in anger can be counted on one hand. I attribute this, almost 100%, to training. When you focus on, let’s say striking, to the point of it being a skilled art-form refined over many years, it stops being a subconscious tool to use when you’re angry. It’s no longer as simple and instinctive as using your fist or foot as a loosely controlled bludgeon, and because of that, when I can no longer tolerate a situation or person, I’ve mostly lost any instinctive desire to physically harm them.

This is reflected vice-versa in every contact sport, and you learn it on your first day. Your muscle fibers operate and react much faster when relaxed, and even sparring feels much closer to a speed chess game than a venue to express anger. In boxing, one of the first things you have to conquer in training is the speed bag. The beauty of a speed bag is that it is completely impossible to use when frustrated, angry, or impatient. The sooner you learn how to free your mind of that stress, focus, and relax, the sooner you see improvement when hitting it. And that’s the point. You’re not learning how to strike with a speed bag, you’re learning how to relax and strip the association of negative and violent thoughts away from striking.

So when someone says “Wow, I’d better not piss you off!”, I laugh to myself. The absolute last thing I would ever want to do is solve a disagreement with violence, and I don’t even have a violent urge or temptation to struggle with in those types of rare situations.

People generally associate MMA with the yoked up guys who wear UFC or Affliction shirts and start fights at clubs. I do encounter these people from time to time, but they either show up to a class or training camp once and never return, or they quickly get transformed into humble individuals.  Which brings me to #5.

5. Socialization
There’s this whole side of my life where I deal with a lot of disrespect, poor-sportsmanship, ego, and general douche-baggery. And it’s in my career as a touring musician. When on tour, I have been threatened, spit on, shoved, and even had to defend myself. Albeit, usually by someone who is intoxicated or out of their mind. This type of emotional conflict has never happened to me in a training camp or even competition. Even if you have a scheduled fight against someone, that person is an athlete, just like you, who is just as nervous as you are. You both have something together that words cannot describe, much like people do with “war buddies” or even family members. My training camp has people from many walks of life. There’s a high school teacher, a bartender, an ex-gang member, a few full time fighters, a plumber, an investment banker, and even a famous politician who is now in prison (me being from Illinois certainly doesn’t make that an easy guess). But while I have so little in common with any of them, they are the first people to detect if something is bothering me, and they are the first who would offer whatever they could to help.
This might not sound like anything unique to some people. But I come from a very sparsely connected family, and a lot of the relationships you gain as a musician are more about networking and common interests than something deep or genuine. So to me, it’s very relevant to give to and receive from this avenue of deep, steadfast respect.

6. It’s A Creative Outlet
A long time ago I accepted the fact that I’m drawn to things that allow me to be creative, whether I’m good at them or not, or even whether they’re productive or not. I’ve logged way more time into stupid Roller Coast Tycoon games than I have Call Of Duty. The difference between MMA and most other sports is that MMA is still rapidly evolving. You have your general do’s and don’t’s, but after that, if you plan to be successful in any way, you need to pave your own path so your opponents can’t prepare for you. So what you have is an intense strategic sport that is relatively new and unexplored. You’re encouraged to be creative and use your head, and those that do that well are undoubtedly the champions and icons in the sport.  I think that aspect, more than anything, is what kept this as a big hobby of mine in one way or another since I was a child.

In the past 2 years I have been professionally commissioned, but I mostly made that jump because I’m in my 30’s and I feel like I would regret not taking it seriously later in life. While it makes touring a bit more difficult, it has no effect on the time or energy I put into writing music. And I have no plans to switch careers or even continue maintaining this level of training for more than a couple of years.

So, I have no demons that I’m fighting, or no toughness to prove.  I am in the best mental and physical health of my life and thoroughly enjoying what I’m doing.

I hope this post helps wash away the distaste and negative connotation of MMA from some of my readers. I’ve never understood the general thick border between athletes and musicians, or sports fans and music-nerds. I think we may have a lot to learn from each other.