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Archive for 2008
There’s been an interesting discussion going on in the comments section of the Iron Sky teaser.
It all started with a guy going by the name of jamesbrownintown accusing us of being CIA disinformation agents. Now, if you spend time on any conspiracy site you’ll notice that there must be awful lot of disinfo agents on CIA’s payroll – well, at least according to conspiracy theorists. Certain groups of conspiracy theorists seem to label anyone who disagrees with them as disinfo agents. Then those accused of being disinfo agents accuse the accusers of being disinfo agents themselves.
Anyways, it does make me feel kind of important being considered an agent for The Man. Actually I just watched the X-Files episode “Dreamland” where Mulder switches bodies with the MIB. That was cool even my Mulder’s stardards, getting to run around Area 51. That would be a huge ego trip being on the inside, being the one keeping the secrets and knowing if aliens exist and if Hitler is still alive. Then you could go on snickering at all the Lone Gunmen types who belive all the stories of Elvis being a bigfoot you make up to hide the real truth.
One thing that’s also obious browsing the conspiracy sites is that it goes both ways. It’s a huge ego trip to think you know the Real Truth and then going on the Internet to tell everyone – and if somebody disagrees that must mean it’s really true since they’re clearly trying to bury the truth.
Anyway, there’s proof why we must be working for the man:
There’s no doubt that the producers of this film are recieving extensive funding from some organization to muddy the waters on the Nazi moon conspiracy. Unless these guys are rich beyond measure which I doubt. The special effects are the kind of high budget you would see in star wars episode 1
Why, thank you. Compliments are always most sincere when they come in the form of accusations for being part of the greatest deception even perpetrated on mankind.
Of course after this it turned into a flame war:
god you’re an idiot. the producers are receiving extensive funding because this is a holly wood movie and because it’s a fucking awesome story.
Now, of course WE know the real truth. It’s not a Hollywood movie, but Finnish and the extensive funding wouldn’t have been enough to pay for the rental of portapotties used on set of Spider-Man 3 . Indeed, sometimes the truth is actually weirder than the conspiracy theories.
On a related note, here’s the answer to jamesbrownintowns question:
1. How much are they paying you and is it worth the greatest deception ever imposed on the world in the 20-21st century? – The apollo moon landing broadcast was faked as we all know now!
Unless CIA is channeling funds trough the Finnish film foundation we haven’t been paid anything. Honestly. If – and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case – they were and the support we’ve received was due to diplomatic pressure and the threat of hitmen, then we’ve been paid enough to buy a couple of used cars. And if there are any shady goverment organisations listening, no that’s not enough for being a part of the greatest deception ever, please, give us more money.
But let’s be serious about conspiracy theories and the entertainment business for a second.
Making a movie you tend to talk to a lot of people and hear all kinds of stuff. They say that Ronald Reagan asked Steven Spielberg to arrange a private screening of ET and when the credits were rolling leaned over and said “You have no idea how true that was”. But to our experience men in suits just don’t knock on the door with briefcases full of non-sequential bills. Somehow I doubt the shadowy goverment types would want to trust any state secrets to people who make their living by telling stories to as many people as possible.
But, as I said, you talk to people and people seem to like talking to you – and it’s great. We’ve been contacted by people who’ve wanted to tell us things the world doesn’t know. I can’t say I would believe much of the wild theories, but they are interesting. However, there are couple of special ones.
One is the only thing I’d openly make fun of – because it’s just so screwed up I don’t know what else to do. A man wanted us to make a movie about his love affair with a 10 year old boy he believes to be the re-incarnation of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately it is a true story. And yes, the man was convicted. And then there’s one other thing that while it’s propably just someone yanking our chain I don’t really want to talk to because a) if it’s not true then I don’t want to be quoted as a source and b) if it’s true I definitely don’t want to be quoted as a source.
Making an Internet service that just works is both hard and rare. Think FaceBook: what an enormous amount of totally useless crap around the fact that it’s a communication channel with people I know. It’s even harder and rarer when working on a media format that’s known for complicated copyright issues – that’s books, audio and video – and very old-fashioned ways of handling these issues. Most usually, an Internet music service is a radio that plays random music based on your preferences, and finding exactly the song, or – God forbid – an album you’d like to listen to, is impossible. In addition to that, there’s more often than not some territorial restrictions, which is even more stupid, with the Internet being, by nature, non-territorial…
I’ve been following the music services pretty closely ever since they closed down Napster, which I’m really missing now. I’ve also seen my preferences on how I want to consume music change dramatically. No more am I interested in buying a CD album, which I was still strongly promoting only few years ago. But after iTunes came and did not suck quite as hard as every other online music store, I’ve begun to believe that buying online is the way. And after that, of course, what soon follows is the natural dealbumization of music consumption – no more do I feel it necessary to buy the whole album, when I’m just looking for the one song. The question is, why would I want to buy an album full of “songs I maybe don’t want to listen to”, when I can just buy the one I want?
Now don’t take me wrong, I don’t think that this is the way. Although limiting the idea of a “musical body” to 70 minutes and X number of songs is not the way, but a technical restriction, I still think that the album-thinking is one of the basic principles I’d like to preserve in music for the future generations. I know many wiser men than me say that album is disappearing, but I still have faith. A little.
Back to the issue, which is online music. After Napster, there hasn’t been one single good Internet music service. Emule had it’s moments (and a cute donkey), but it was way too complicated. iTunes is OK, but the problem is that it’s iTunes – a DRM-infested bloatware that tries to think for you. And while it often does quite a good job at it, when fails, there’s nothing – absolutely *nothing* – you can do about it, and there’s nobody you can contact to help you out with it. It’s the Mac way – if it fails, you’ll just have to eat it up. BitTorrent is, I think, way too heavy on music – it’s great for movies & software, that are naturally much bigger chunks, but downloading a single song via BitTorrent feels a bit stupid, and I still have a bit of a bad feeling on downloading the whole discography of say, uh, Miles Davis in just a few hours. It’s his whole life’s work, to listen to just one song, or an album, and tossing the rest to rot on my hard drive just doesn’t feel right
And this brings us also to the question of paying. Most of the services I mentioned above made their success by offering the music for free. That means two things: it’s free for you, but the musician doesn’t get paid either. Now how is that different from you buying an album from the store? You have to pay for it, but the musician doesn’t get paid. So, where’s the competition? In me owning more plastic cases and colourful papers?
In order for “The Music” to get me to pay for listening to it, there needs to be a compelling reason for me to do it, so that I don’t just take the easier and cheaper way. We know the reason can’t be both making it easier and cheaper, since that would mean somebody would rebuild Napster (okay, they did, but it sucks). But it can be easier. Other attributes it could have are diversity, quickness, multi-functionality, knowing my money goes to the artist as directly as possible, trustability, etc. And the answer on “who’ll win the Internet” -competition is: the one who comes up with a way to combine these – at least most of these – elements together. The one, who makes music consumption again fun for the consumer and profitable for the artist.
One service has emerged just recently – well, it has been around ever since 2006, but now it’s really starting to be good one: Spotify. I haven’t had so much fun discovering and listening to music in ages. It’s a clever streaming service based on a downloadable client, like Last.FM, but much more versatile. Basically, you can find full albums of whatever music you can come up with, and listen to it whatever way you want. For free, you have to suffer audio ads every 20-30 minutes, but for 9,99e/month there’s simply no restrictions. It’s your music tax, something you pay and then are free to use it as much as you want. Could it be a winner?
Propably not, but it’s getting closer. Spotify gives me a good reason to pay for: nobody bugging me about listening to music. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s fun, it’s about me getting what I want, and it’s about discovery. Now, it’s not a heaven on Earth, although for now I might feel like it is – Spotify requires you to be on the Internet, and since it’s streaming high quality, it’s not actually a small amount of bandwith it’s eating up. Also, you can’t download the music and push it to your iPod, or listen to it on the plane or anything. Another feature missing is the ability to actually buy the music I like (although the FAQ is claiming it’s there, it doesn’t seem to work), because having it locally on my computer still has some advantages.
And then there’s this one cool feature, which is playlists. Now, creating a playlist isn’t actually a big issue with most of the music services out there, although they never work, (it does with iTunes, though, but you need to own that stuff). With Spotify, I can right-click on a song, put it to a playlist I’m working on, and then right-click on the playlist and make it a “collaborative playlist”, and share the HTTP-link of my playlist between all the users of Spotify, my friends and strangers. There’s even a quite active FaceBook group called Spotify Playlists, where you can discover heaps of music you’d propably never come up with any other way.
So Spotify is good. But how about the money? One thing the service doesn’t clearly state is how much of the money I pay for my monthly use of the service goes to the artist, and how it’s distributed. Is it a collecting agency model, where only the ones that get heavy “rotation” get paid? Or is it the Record Industry model where nobody but the label gets paid? One thing is sure: Spotify does earn music from me listening to it. And it’s quite good, as long as I would also know where the rest of the money goes.
But how is that good for us, a small Finnish band called Älymystö that’s not on any of the big labels and that’s distributing it’s music under Creative Commons licensing for free? Spotify claims that they are building an upload platform, and has a following blurb about it:
Promoting your music on Spotify is free. Your own artist area allows you to build a direct relationship with fans, old and new, across the world. Develop revenue streams through the sale of downloads, merchandising, concert tickets and more, as well as earning a share of the revenues we create through our advertising and premium businesses. Powerful, granular, in-depth reporting is available to participating labels and artists.
Ok, sounds great. We’ll see how that’ll work in the end, I have a healthy doze of doubts, but I’d be lying if I wouldn’t say I’m enthusiastic.
Right now, Spotify is in private beta, meaning you need an invitation for the free version, and they are not giving them out easily, so if you come up with one, make sure you’ll use it. I hope they don’t fuck this up, because at least for now, I’ve had just great experiences with Spotify, and I’ve been listening to whole albumfulls of music much more in the last few days I’ve done in months.
A person much wiser than I am, John Buckman, gave a very interesting presentation at the Creative Commons event in Stockholm few months ago, that addressed some of the topics I brought up here, called “Money for Nothing”:
I emailed the Spotify premium user customer service, and they – I can’t believe it – actually answered. You don’t get that normally with an Internet service. Here are the questions and answers:
1) You seem to have made agreements with record companies, and you share
your revenue (from advertisements, monthly user fees and downloads) with the
companies, right? Have you revealed the % on your cut? Do you know how the
money is then distributed between the musicians?
1. Yes we have sign agreements with the major labels and the biggest indie.aggregators like Merlin and the Orchard. It´s an attractive royaly that´s based on how frequently the tracks is playing. Then how much every artist gets is up to the labels.
2) In the future you propably will accept unsigned musicians as well, that
are working under Creative Commons or such licenses and distributing their
music online for free. How do you pay for these?
2. Yes, we will sign up “unsigned” artists. everyone have the same deal!
3) Do you pay something for collecting agencies?
3. Yes, we have a deal with the collecting societies, so we take care of that!
(Via Älymystö blog)
The collaborative film production platform WreckAMovie.Com is growing steadily. We released the official beta of the platform few months ago when we got the MindTrek Grand Prix, and the most interesting feature we added then was the ability to add your own productions. Right now, WreckAMovie.Com is growing steadily, as we add features and make it more compelling for filmmakers and fans to work on with. Right now, we have 1213 registered Wreckers on the system from 38 different countries, working on 27 productions, ranging from feature films to short internet episodes, from films in very early developement stage to films already in theatrical distribution. But that’s not enough for us – we are looking forward into building WAM into a platform that hosts hundreds of thousands of active users and thousands of films, pushing out to worldwide markets of all sizes hundreds of films every year.
Our aim is to keep WAM running steadily for the next year, while we develope the platform and it’s functionalities, and drop from beta somewhere early 2010. And you can join the process as well, by joining the Wreck A Movie Platform production on WAM, where you can share your ideas and thoughts of the system in general.
I thought about doing a short sneak peek into three interesting productions right now active in WAM. There’s a lot more, but I’ll bring these up for now:
Star Wreck 2pi is a fan film of a fan film, a film set in Star Wreck‘s universe, and taking place – as the name says (2pi=6,283…) between Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning (“VI”) and the rumoured Star Wreck VII. The film is in canon with Star Wreck universe (well, as far as I know), and they are right now developing the script with a pretty fast pace, looking forward to shoot the film next year. They are right now looking ideas from the community for the script – jokes, ideas on how the world is in 2010, how Pirk’s fleet should be like etc. The people working on this – Fabienne & Thierry Gschwind – are rock-hard Wreck fans, but have also produced a massive fan parody production about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, called Verhäxt und Ufgspiesst (the monster-of-a-name means “Jinxin’ and Stabbin‘” or something like that :), that’s already finished, and also in production on WAM.
What Became Of Us is a feature-length film about class reunion, made by a group of Finnish guys who did an awesome youth film, funding it out of their own pockets, called Graffiti In Us (Graffiti meissä, 2007), which won the AFIA film festivals last year – and which I’ve seen, and know it’s pretty darn good. I’ve also had a change to look at some material for the upcoming film, What Became Of Us, and it looks *very* convincing. The film is right now in post production and should be out in 2009 . They are looking forward to get some help with their marketing and website, cuz the film is pretty much done by now.
Son Of Man is not actually a film – it’s a book. At first, when I noticed this production being set up to WAM, I was a bit worried, but then I realized that what the hell, it’s all about collaboration, and if people want to work on a book on WAM, it’s just wonderful! Then I realized who’s behind the production – Mike Pohjola, a Finnish writer, who also wrote the official Star Wreck RPG few years ago. Mike is looking for recommendations on films and asking where the future is taking the book format.
Well, that’s it for now! Stay tuned, we’ll be back with you already before the end of the year in various shapes and forms, just like Cthulhu monsters!