It’s not about the tools

rusty spanner (or wrench if you're American)
It still works

There is an easy tendency in most disciplines to fetishise the state of the art tools, endowing them with the magical power to make your work (whatever it is) wonderful. Tools are important. If you create things with them and spend a lot of time using them the minutiae of their good and bad points magnify in your mind, but the quality of your work has little to do with the quality of the tools you use.

There is an obvious caveat that the technical quality is defined by the limits of the tool. You can’t shoot HD video on a 1.2 megapixel kids camera, but you can make a good video with one.

There’s a video of Dave Grohl playing on a child’s drum kit after signing it for some promo shindig and the drum kit is a toy but he makes music with it. Sure if he was playing a Drum Workshop custom shiny wonderkit it would sound better, but you can make music on a child’s toy.

Of course it helps if you’re great at your discipline and there is a threshold of quality that helps in learning a skill. It is a lot easier to learn to play guitar on an instrument that stays in tune and you’re not going to play Mendelssohn’s Spinning Song at much of a tempo on a piano with sticking keys but you can make music on poor instruments.

Moaning about the tools seems to get louder the better the tools get. Well, perhaps until you have the absolute state of the art and there really is nowhere to go, but that might be an imaginary land as there’s always something to improve even if it’s your chair or the paint on the walls. Yearning for, faster computers, bigger monitors, more plugins, better lenses, or whatever it is that sticks in your craw that you don’t have is just getting in the way of doing whatever it is you do. Continue reading It’s not about the tools

Towards sensible music licensing for film: Beyond Creative Commons

seven men pushing a train freight car
Working together we can achieve impressive results

What is the value of and best use of Creative Commons in terms of music for film and video? Steve Lawson (AKA @solobasssteve, warning he is one of the most logorrheic Twitter users I follow) tweeted a wish for easier and more explicit marking of Creative Commons licensed music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud particularly for use in video projects. This opened up an interesting vista of musing for me about the role and potential of Creative Commons (CC) and the culture of sharing within creative communities.

Problems with licensing music for film

Perhaps because I am more mired in old-world thinking than Steve, who is something of a social media age renaissance man, I initially saw problems with the premise of a directory of CC music for film/video use,

  • Would this cover both synchronisation and master use?
  • What territories would be covered?
  • What kinds of exhibition?
  • How long would the license last?

I worked, many moons ago, in the field of film sound and music and music licensing was often a fraught issue particularly with licensing existing music for films. There are lots of cumbersome procedures to get through in order to do it in the old-world way.

The synchronisation right allows the film maker to include the music in the film soundtrack, the master license allows them to make copies of the film including the music (like a mechanical license for a CD) and then there’s an exhibition right to screen the film. This mental oxbow is probably not relevant to what Steve was thinking of but the difference is important as it points to the liminal state creative arts licensing is currently in. Continue reading Towards sensible music licensing for film: Beyond Creative Commons