Finnish label Blood Music made waves with the news of their controversial mystery releases, whereby folks could pre-order two separate releases based only on the color of each LP and Blood Music’s reputation — no artist, album, or genre information available. As it turns out, the label had a very good reason to keep these releases a mystery; Blood Music were planning the first ever open-sourced commercial music release in history, releasing Cloudkicker‘s early EPs and debut album The Discovery on vinyl without permission from band mastermind Ben Sharp, and in order to curb any controversy and leaks of information, they went on sale without They were able to do this 100% legally, as Sharp released all of his music through a Creative Commons 3.0 license, which states the end-user can do whatever they please with Sharp’s work — commercial or otherwise — as long as appropriate credit is given to the artist.
As legally sound as it is, many out there have expressed concern over the ethics of this practice. However, these releases are taking full advantage of the spirit of Creative Commons, which emphasizes open information and collaboration for the greater good — much of the artwork for these releases had to be re-drawn or expanded upon. Blood Music aren’t in the business of skeevy profiteering on the works of others, either. Without being legally obligated to, they donated upwards of $600 in royalties from the LP sales directly to Cloudkicker via Bandcamp. They’ve even sent Sharp 120 CDs and 20 LPs for his own use to keep or sell. Quite generous!
With the word quickly spreading like wildfire from us to Metal-Injection, Metalsucks, and others, Ben Sharp was finally prompted to publicly respond, and fortunately, it’s quite favorable.
“Doesn’t bug me at all. I wasn’t going to release any of the old stuff on vinyl anyway. If they make a bunch of money from it then it’s my fault for being lazy. As far as I’m concerned everyone wins: I get to not worry about it, and people get to buy old albums on vinyl that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Blood Music didn’t have to give me a dime, but they gave me much more than that which is very cool of them. They’re even sending me some copies which I will be able to sell myself.”
It’s good to see Blood Music’s experiment work out, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see commercial labels taking notes and lifting Creative Commons-licensed music. Of course, one could argue that this is a slippery slope to abuse, where artists can be taken advantage of without proper financial restitution. Hopefully in moving forward, other labels will also follow Blood Music’s example in being as courteous to the artist and in respect to the spirit of Creative Commons and ethics. Just be cool about it!
Unfortunately, Blood Music’s copies of these records are quite scant at this point. They’re sold out in the US store, but few remain in the EU store. I’d keep an eye on eBay, Discogs, or Cloudkicker’s own store and blog in the coming weeks to see if he decides to sell the Blood Music LPs. Good luck!
UPDATE: Metal Injection got in touch with Ben Sharp for further detail, and he wrote back with :
“I think it’s a great outcome for the Creative Commons experiment. These were albums that I had no intention of pressing myself, so a third party took the initiative and did it for me. To be totally clear on this: Blood Music did not owe me a cent and I would not be bothered if they hadn’t payed me. They deserve the profits because they took the financial risk in seeing a hole in the market and trying to fill it. If I have a problem with that then it would be my fault for being neglectful or ignorant of fans’ needs.
Someone asked me, ‘What if people start making bootleg copies of all your other material?’ and I would be cool with that also. I already sell my merch at what I believe to be slightly lower than market value so that more people have the ability to buy it. If some other entity wants to try to fill a niche that I’m not, they are either going to have to duplicate what I’m doing but undercut me on either material or price, which means they will make lower quality products or not make very much profit. Or they will innovate in a way I can’t imagine and end up on top, which means I will have to match them or fall behind. In any of these scenarios, the fans win by having more access to Cloudkicker merch, and I win by getting more exposure.”
Is Ben not the coolest dude in the world or what?