RIAA File-Sharing Lawsuit Victim Exhibits No Signs of Stockholm Syndrome, Turns to Free Culture Activism

When I first read this story about Brown University student Zack McCune, I was surprised to find that college and university students are still being randomly selected by the RIAA to receive hefty lawsuits. Nonetheless, McCune was one of those unlucky students, but rather than delving back into obscurity after the RIAA contacted him, he went on to do the unthinkable: he made good of the situation!

Instead of throwing a tantrum or quietly paying the fine, McCune questioned the relevance of today's copyright laws in part of a This American Life-esque series of podcasts documenting his ordeal, which can be found here. The short films were produced during his internship at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, part of the Harvard Law School that encourages debate on copyright reform and the ways in which laws can be changed to accommodate the digital age. McCune is now the leader of a Free Culture chapter at Brown.

Indeed, McCune came up against an obstacle that threatened the way he lives his day-to-day life, but rather than rejecting the RIAA as an institution, he began to work towards a creative, yet practical solution to the problem. He did not, in fact, continue to throw himself against a brick wall and refuse to change, getting arrested and fined even more in the process. Does this sound familiar? Adapting to a changing or adverse environment with new strategies? Record industry, meet the internet (again), and all of the fine people behind it. If you can't beat 'em...

Murs Makes a Run at Obama, Plans 36-City Fall Tour

West Coast-based rapper Murs has announced a 36-city tour in support of the upcoming release of his latest LP, Murs For President, set to drop September 30 on Warner Bros. Clearly, the politically conscience artist and presidential hopeful has been busy on the campaign trail and in the studio, as the new album will be Murs’ second release of 2008. The first was the artist’s collaboration project with acclaimed producer 9th Wonder, Sweet Lord, which was released in mid-July. And if the new album is anything like Sweet Lord, Murs may have a shot against Barack Obama and John McCain in November. You heard it here first.

Murs For President Fall tourdates:

Score! Merge to Release Subscription-Only Box Set

One score and minus one year ago, Merge Records formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance. A lot has changed since then. The label has since relocated to Durham, North Carolina, actually charts on Billboard now, has a new beautiful logo (pictured), and word has it that the label was really founded by Win's butler and retailer Montgomery Ward.

Despite the fuzzy history, Merge is in the celebrating mood, and starting September 8, you can pre-order a special subscription-only box set, titled SCORE! Merge Records: The First 20 Years. How many the label makes depends on how many pre-orders are made from then until January 2009 (which will also mark when the first volumes get shipped out), and that will of course depend on how much money you have left from your stimulus checks, where you're at on your home foreclosure, the price of gas at the pump, and how much the cost of rice will be at the time.

But if you're privileged like me, just pre-order, sit back, and wait for exclusive goodies to plop down on your four-season porch throughout 2009. This includes 14 custom-curated Merge compilations with original artwork, as well as "additional exclusive content." Curators for the first several volumes include Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Phil Morrison (dir. Junebug), and The Upright Citizens Brigade. And according to Merge, "Curators for future volumes will include Amy Poehler, David Byrne, author Jonathan Lethem, artist Marcel Dzama, Momofuku chef David Chang and many more to be announced."

The cool part? The whole shebang will benefit charities picked by the curators. Wonder what Amy Poehler will pick!

The Mountain Goats Adopts Pay-What-You-Want Model for New EP, Ignores Fans Who Don’t Own a Computer or Vinyl Doohickey, Might Be a KKK Member for All We Know

According to an announcement on the official Mountain Goats website, Mr. John Darnielle is borrowing Radiohead's pay-what-you-want model for an upcoming 4-track EP of new songs. Recorded in Scott Solter's studio in North Carolina, the EP will be available in various formats (MP3, AAC, possibly AIFF -- hopefully cassette-ripped Real Audio files) roughly a month from now. Quoth Darnielle:

The downloads will be open to everybody, with no hoops to jump through, though there will also be several options available for those who want to pay me for my work, since part of the point of the exercise is to see whether that's a viable route for smaller-potatoes-than-Radiohead dudes like me.

The EP will also be available physically as a double-7-inch limited to 666 lucky fans who catch him on tour. Yes, that's right: Darnielle is selling his double-7-incher on his upcoming tour. I'm really interested in seeing fans try to down that bad boy at the following dates:

# Kaki King

[Art: The Friz]

Rant, Rave, and Run Into the Ground – Shout Factory Releases Five-Disc Collection of Unearthed Hunter S. Thompson Recordings

During his lifetime, Hunter S. Thompson had a whole lotta things to say and a whole lotta drugs to take. He bequeathed to the world a solid stack of vital life lessons, such as how to binge like a pro, on the best manner in which to get one’s ass kicked by bikers, and on the importance of hiring top-notch legal representation that can outdo you (most) every step of the way. His 2005 suicide was nothing short of tragic, but the man’s absurd, well-documented life and published work speaks well enough on its own, far better than any deifying Rolling Stone obituary or John Cusack gushfest could ever hope to. Hunter Thompson has had his say and said it well, and now it is time to lay him to rest.

But what the fuck do I know! This is America! We just don’t let shit die around here, commie! Nope, we package and then repackage the motherfuck out of it until what was once a fond memory becomes a pestilence, a butterfly metamorphosed into a mutant bayou ’skeeter. The latest culprit in this HST shit-cyclone is Shout! Factory’s The Gonzo Tapes, a 5CD collection of Thompson’s personal recordings made between 1965 and 1975. Set for release October 28, the previously unreleased tapes include Thompson’s observations and recollections from his most famous work, such as his tenure with the Hell’s Angels and his fateful trips to Vegas and Saigon.

Observations and recollections, you say? Wow, I’ve never heard those before. Well, except for the times I read his fucking books, watched his fucking documentary, or just opened a goddamn Rolling Stone in the last 35 years. Nope, apparently I ain’t heard nothing yet until I listen to over five hours of a stoned Hunter Thompson laying out half-baked ideas that would eventually germinate into something artistically viable that I already know and enjoy. But whatever, this thing will certainly earn some green. I know exactly the type of journalism school gonzo-wannabes that’ll stash this on their iPod and queue it up every time they write a first-person account of one crackerjack city council meeting.

Kill your idols. Peace.

Mountain Dew Starts Singles-Only Record Label; Meanwhile, Mr. Pibb Is Still Selling Cassettes From The Trunk Of His Chevy Lumina

Mr. Pibb: This shit ain’t fair, man.

Faygo: You’re telling me!

Mr. Pibb: We’ve been in this parking lot for years, selling cassettes from the back of my car to all the local kids, and now here comes big, bad Mountain Dew with his new singles-only download label, Green Label Sound.

Faygo: That motherfucker thinks he’s so tough!

Mr. Pibb: He thinks he’s going to take our business, with his hip-as-shit bands like The Cool Kids and Matt & Kim.

Faygo: Fuck that! Everyone knows Kris Kross cassingles from 1992 are the real deal; not this new stuff.

Mr. Pibb: True dat, Faygo. True dat.

Shrinking Salaries for Major Label Execs; Another Win for the Internet

A report in The New York Post (via The Daily Swarm) claims that the salaries of major record label executives are quickly diminishing. Chief Executive of EMI Music Elio Leoni-Sceti is reportedly paid less than $1 million a year for his work (aw, c'mon!), while Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. has a base pay of $1 million, with the opportunity to make up to $6 million (should be way more!).

"Record companies can't keep their top people anymore," a source told The New York Post.

The article goes on to juxtapose the salaries of major music executives to that of CEOs and executives in other media industries, and the results are... anecdotal. Disney CEO Robert Iger pulled in $20.71 million in 2007, and Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts earned $38.9 million the same year. Suddenly, $1 million doesn’t seem like a whole lot, does it? Apparently being a millionaire is no longer enough. Meanwhile...

Lif-Edan ‘08! Rapper Mr. Lif Teams With All-Star Underground Producers for Politically Charged, Sporadically Released “Album”

In an election year that has seen a surprising slew of mainstream rap tracks about Barack Obama, the oddly ’90s-redolent spectacle of Rage Against the Machine playing shows in protest against both major party political conventions, and bizarre YouTube-fueled phenomenon of musical tributes like "It's Raining McCain," Boston undie rapper Mr. Lif has announced his own decidedly post-In Rainbows twist to the carnival of politicized music.

Lif, with the assistance of prominent indie hip-hop producers like J-Zone and Edan, will release a series of singles in installments every three weeks until Election Day (November 4). The pace of songs will then slow, culminating in an album, entitled I Heard It Today, to be released on Inauguration Day (January 20). The album will include not only the singles released in the preceding months, but also unreleased tracks and album artwork. The tracks will be streamed via AllHipHop.com exclusively upon their release and will then be available for download via all major downloading services the following day.

Mr. Lif has also begun issuing "Presidential Reports" on his MySpace, including "Presidential Report Vol. 1" issued last week. These tracks will be designed to respond to and confront current political situations, such as the emerging military squabble between Russia and Georgia. Presumably future "Presidential Reports" will tackle issues like the war in Iraq, the number of houses John McCain owns, and an analysis of the all-important Obama VP text message from this past weekend. Who knows, maybe Lif will even shout out a third-party candidate?

Nine Inch Nails Finally Use All Those Spikes to Build a Railroad, Tour North America On It This Fall


Your absolutely favorite group ever Nine Inch Nails have announced that they will be extending their 2008 Lights In The Sky Tour and bringing their big ol’ industrial-prog-emo-metal-pop-futurewave-tech-punktronc-whateveritis sound to a whole smattering of U.S. and Canadian dates (yes, this means you, Saskatoon!) this fall.

You are so psyched and ready for this. You’ve already heard that returning member Robin Finck and new addition Justin Meldal-Johnsen will join Trent Reznor, Alessandro Cortini, and Josh Freese as they bull-doze their way across the new world. You can practically feel the bass in your stomach, empathized angst in your throat, and newly minted XXL vintage “NIN: Now I’m Nothing” t-shirt weighing heavily on your sweat-drenched torso.

You’ve done all the research. Being a true fan, you know that Finck has served in numerous touring configurations of NIN, from tours supporting The Downward Spiral (1994-1997) to The Fragile (2000-2001). You’re vaguely aware that he recently played for Guns N' Roses, even though that’s more of a thing your step-dad is into, and you remember that Meldal-Johnsen previously performed with Beck (a.k.a., “that pussy, Beck”) for more than a decade and was a founding member of Ima Robot.

So in short, you’re totally psyched. You’re anticipating that the upcoming tour will feature the live debut of material from the recently released Ghosts I-IV (TMT Review) and The Slip alongside other songs that span the entire NIN catalog. And you’re overwhelmed with excitement because you love all of those songs. Reznor sings about what you feel, and lately, you’ve been feeling fucked up about some shit! This tour’s show in your town is going to kick some royal ass. It’s going to make up for all of that bullshit that’s been heaped upon you by your friends, your family, your partners, and “the man,” and you cannot WAIT to go...


You’re in high school, the school year just started, and you’re Religion 401 syllabus says that you’ve got a rough draft due the morning after. Fuck. You can’t go.

All Aboard the NIN Continental Express:

New Study Suggests Listening to Music Helps Develop Musical Competence; “Music is Fun” Say Some Scientists

I know that watching MythBusters every week makes science seem "cool," "interesting," and "important," but trust me when I tell you that not everyone in a white coat gets to spend their days testing whacky hypotheses via the demolition of walls and construction of shark robots. Fact is, sometimes these guys just get bored out of their minds and start testing any old arbitrary thing just to earn that paycheck for the week and keep the grants flowing! Take these cats over at the University of Amsterdam. As if the world didn't take Amsterdam non-seriously enough, these researchers have taken the time to carefully prove that, surprise, surprise, the act of listening to music makes you better at playing it yourself. Here we all were thinking that listening to something aural in order to imitate it better was a pretty logical and non-scientific principle. But apparently, it's headline-grabbing science. Thanks for logging in those hours, Amsterdam! Who says you're not a focused bunch?

But to be fair, things do take a turn for the slightly more scientific when you explain them with fancier words. For example, "more and more labs are showing that people have the sensitivity for skills that we thought were only expert skills," explained Henkjan Honing, a researcher behind the study. Sounds intriguing, right? "The UvA-study shows that listeners without formal musical training, but with sufficient exposure to a certain musical idiom... perform similarly in a musical task when compared to formally trained listeners."

The conclusion? Drum roll please... Listening to music helps one understand how it is made! In other words, all those Baby's First Mozart CDs have finally been justified. Uh, but only if you want them to play classical music, apparently, because the study also showed that subjects showed more competence creating music in genres with which they were familiar.

But $5 Walmart Mozart CD or no $5 Walmart Mozart CD, you're not going to want to stop forcing your kid to keep taking piano lessons just yet. After all, you don't need a study to tell you that learning how to do something professionally helps you to do it better... or, wait... maybe you do? Someone had better do a study on that too... if they're not too busy, that is.



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