27 Commissions to go

eBay finally replied to my email and demanded a whole pile of documentation from me, proving my identity. Which I can get of course, but some of it is on a different continent than I and I can’t get it before Monday anyway. So I wrote back and asked if offering music commissions violated the TOS. Why not save both of us the trouble of dealing with my paperwork.

They wrote back within in minutes . . . to say that they hadn’t sent me any messages. This seems to be something of a pattern with them. It’s like a Monty Python skit. “No I didn’t. No, I didn’t say that. Wanker.” “Did you call me a wanker?” “No, no, no, off course not. Git.” “did you just call me a git?” “What? No, don’t be silly! Turd-bottom.” etc. It’s funny if you imagine John Cleese.
Anyway, 27 to go. There’s a cultural products market at 21 Grand tonight. If I was going, I would take a sign-up sheet with me and hopefully get the last 27 that way.
Nicole comes back on Sunday. I’ll have to resume showering. (Just kidding.)

damn it

Dear celestehutchins,

We regret to inform you that your eBay account has been suspended due to concerns we have for the safety and integrity of the eBay community.

“Abusing eBay” of the eBay User Agreement states, in part:

“…we may limit, suspend, or terminate our service and user accounts, prohibit access to our website, remove hosted content, and take technical and legal steps to keep users off the Site if we think that they are creating problems, possible legal liabilities, or acting inconsistently with the letter or spirit of our policies.”

Due to the suspension of this account, please be advised you are prohibited from using eBay in any way. This includes the registering of a new account.

Please note that any seller fees due to eBay will immediately become due and payable. eBay will charge any amounts you have not previously disputed to the billing method currently on file.


Safeharbor Department
eBay, Inc.

Bloody wankers.
Can I dispute this? Maybe I should move to another service?

And another one

Auction 3 got a bid, so I put up auction 5. Auction 4 is still bidless.

The bidder for #3 wanted to know if s/he could remix the track when done. What a fabulous idea! I told hir yes. It feels so collaborative. I love it.
The whole eBay process, though is kind of nerve wracking. What if nobody bids in the next 4 days and 22 hours? ack!. Note to self: eBay bids are not a good measure of self-worth.
I contacted an arts blog today about buying advertising space. I’m running out of ideas for free publicity, since I’ve gotten mention on most of the New Music blogs that I know of, I’ve posted on most of my email lists and I listed on Tribe. The publicity part of this project is kind of weird, but I see it as part of the project in a sort of conceptual-everythng-is-art kind of way.


In other news, I’ve been investigating interfaces between computers and analog information. I’ve ordered a nifty joystick brain and I’ve just been informed of a cool-looking open source device which can create control voltages to send to a synthesizer. DIY electronics are really big right now. And this is good for lazy people like me, because it means that people are designing and selling little boutique devices. So I don’t have to do my own designing. The Arduino is cheap, open source(!), and made by workers getting a living wage. It’s perfect and somebody has already written a SuperCollider interface. W00t. Now all I need is to decide whether to go with USB or bluetooth. Wireless synthesizer control with a modular might be a little silly, but is still tempting.


The Gift Economy and Sustainable Music

Daniel Wolf of Renewable Music reported that I was the first person trying to market commissions as e-commerce. There may be some disagreement on that, but I’m pretty sure that I’m the first person who has tried to market a commission on ebay. (Auction 1, Auction 2)

There are a few reasons you should care about this. One is that you might be the first person (or in the first group of 30, since that’s how many I’m putting up in this project) to commission a piece of music via ebay. The other is that this is a proof of concept for the viability of music in the internet age.
What is music but data? Data wants to be free. People love to share. On the one hand, we have the RIAA fighting the future (and the present) by suing all their customers. That business model is not sustainable and has numerous other problems. On the other hand, we have the sharers – people who love music and post their favorite pieces on the internet, via a website or p2p or whatever. And in the middle we have artists – me and others like me. The RIAA hasn’t done much for me lately, but neither has p2p, really. When musicians ask me how they’re supposed to cover the costs of recording if their music gets traded for free online, all I can say is what the blogosphere has been saying. Fans will buy merch. Fans will paypal you donations, like a tip jar. The fans will come through, somehow. But how, really? Merch is a logo on a piece of material. A logo is data. The logos, like the tunes they stand for, want to be free. So all we really have is the virtual tip jar.
Some of us do give virtual tips, but most don’t. Freeing mp3s to your fans isn’t like busking. There’s no eye contact. There’s no presence. This model is not sustainable, either. How many of us actually go and paypal every artist who we’ve downloaded and like? And what do the fans get in return? A moral satisfaction, sure, but not enough to make the model work. In practice, the fans get very little for their efforts.
Artists are left with the problem of how to distribute their music such that it makes it to their fans and they cover their costs and can live. Moreover, the manner of distribution and monetary compensation should capture the zeitgeist of sharing and direct involvement. The fans must get something tangible in return, in a time when tangibility itself is becoming slippery.
I think commissioning is the answer to this dilemma. The commission amount covers costs. The fans get something real in return – their name attached to the work – a credit as an integral part of the creation. Because as the RIAA knows and fears, the fans have been integral all along. This is one answer to the question of how smaller artists can thrive in a direct-to-consumer, sharing sort of environment. The gift economy! The commissioner gives money to the artist who gives music to hir fans. Like other gift economies, the value of the gifts grow as it spreads to more and more people. Instead of fighting the internet economies of data, this model requires it.
I think Ebay is a natural fit for this project. The auction aspect means that minimal costs are covered and the value of the fan’s gift is in proportion to the value in which other fans hold it. In any case, some sort of discrete transaction method is required. A popular artist could get more commissions than s/he could hope to fill otherwise.
If somebody gets this concept to work in practice, then we have the new model. So here’s my trial seeking a proof of concept. Music can be free and artists and fans can cooperate and thrive without leech-like corporations persecuting both.


See http://www.berkeleynoise.com/celesteh/podcast/?page_id=60 for more information