Kraus Interview in Crop Magazine Issue 2 June/July 2011
Creative Commons - An Artist's Perspective
Crop - How did you come to release your music under Creative Commons?
Kraus - Firstly I want to say that my ideas about copyright and Creative Commons are still a bit vague - I don't know anything about the history of copyright, for example. I haven't discussed Creative Commons with anyone - if anyone wants to talk about it I'd be happy to hear from you. You can contact me via my website: www.kraus.co.nz.
In 2004 I started distributing music as free CDRs that I would post out to anyone who asked for them. At the time I wasn't consciously motivated by politics. I just had a vague feeling that I didn't like to take money off people for music. It seemed inappropriate. It was also partly a pragmatic decision - sending out free albums is quite a good way to get music heard by more people. It beats sitting around waiting for a sale. CDRs are really cheap, so it doesn't cost you much. Even professionally duplicated tapes only cost a couple of dollars.
Then in about 2007 or 2008 I started to think about making albums available for download. I actually thought about releasing stuff into the public domain - waiving any kind of license altogether. But then people would be free to use my music commercially, which I didn't want. I realised that using a Creative Commons license with a non-commercial clause would enable me to release material for free and still retain control over how my work was used.
Crop - What have you found to be the benefits and disadvantages of Creative Commons?
Kraus - If other musicians are anything like me, they want to have an audience for their work, and to feel that their efforts are appreciated. I think Creative Commons has helped me in both respects. Releasing free CDRs and downloads has allowed me to reach a wider audience than I would have otherwise. In this respect it's not an inferior option to selling - quite the opposite. And I've noticed that people are genuinely pleased to learn that I'm making music for free, and want to support me and help me. This includes record labels, and radio stations such as WFMU.
Applying a CC license is not something to be taken lightly, as the licenses are not revocable. I did a lot of reading and thinking before I decided to go ahead. The main disadvantage I can see is that if you release an album under a CC license, it might discourage a record label from wanting to re-release it in the future. If the music's already available for free, they might be worried that their sales will be affected. That's a legitimate concern. All I can say is that it hasn't been a problem for me - I have had one CC licensed album re-released commercially, and another is due to be re-released this year.
Crop - Do you think it's wrong for people to make money off music?
Kraus - Yes and no. Obviously I don't think people should get rich off it. But on a small, underground scale, well, I'm not a dogmatic idiot, so I think that's fine. I don't care if people sell music - I sell stuff when I have to. What I disagree with is people embracing business, and uncritically adopting that way of thinking. I mean, fuck business! Fuck competition. Basically, fuck capitalism. We have to live with it, and participate in it, there's no getting around that at this point. But that doesn't mean that we have to embrace it and promote it. We should resist it, and think of better ways to organise things when we can. I think it's better to share and cooperate rather than compete. That's the basic idea of socialism, and if you think of things in those terms, it's easy to see what you can do on a small scale in everyday life. Just try to share as much as you can. And organise to cooperate.
As I said, I'd like to know what people think about all this, so please, get in touch.