On Being Disingenuous and Not Actually Solving Piracy

A musician that I have previously enjoyed wanted to fund a new album, and decided to do so through Kickstarter.com. I happily contributed my $25, and was among the earliest contributors on October 30th. The $20,000 funding goal for the album completed on December 12th. (It just barely completed funding on the day of the deadline.)

For those who don't know, "Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine" is a cover band who plays popular music in a swing / lounge style.

Later that day, a survey was posted on the Kickstarter page asking for mailing addresses (a common practice in Kickstarter for the shipping of completed physical goods). I am not certain about the exact wording or details (as it has all been removed from the site by the poster), but we also had to click a checkbox swearing to the effect that we would not Pirate or Rip the CD that we'd helped fund. There were some objections to this, as many (including myself) found it to be rude and inconsiderate. The next day, he posted an update to the Kickstarter project page that reads:

To all Backers who purchased a CD:

If you are NOT willing to "agree" to the required "copyright" terms, please contact us via email with your reasons. We will do our best to help.

Thank you.

Lounge Mart
Richard Cheese & Lounge Against The Machine

I'd expressed my dissatisfaction on the comment page and on his Facebook page. Some time later, all of the users' comments had been deleted (leaving his own), and he had blocked my account from making comments on his Facebook posts and Wall. I don't care to look for his indirect replies on Facebook (none were addressed directly to me), but my impression of them had been "This is my stuff, I can do what I want, and if you don't like, you can suck it. Real fans don't disagree with me."

Let me say that he is entirely within his rights to do these things. These are his pages to do with as he pleases.

But I think he did the wrong things.

At some time in July (on or before the 20th), long after funding had been completed and the album was due to ship (the original post reads: "LET IT BRIE" CD PRE-ORDERS WILL SHIP IN JULY 2011.), I received a notification from PayPal that he was cancelling my order and refunding my payment. Emails to his support email address went unanswered, as did a comment on his Kickstarter page (except for another user who'd wanted to know the same thing.) Further emails got not response.

Two days ago, on August 1st, he sent another update offering an additional album for $3, and you could save on shipping because they'd package them together. Paying into this finally got a response after this, too, was refunded.

On Aug 3, 2011, at 0:52, Lounge Mart Customer Service wrote:
> We have cancelled and refunded your LoungeMart orders and KickStarter pledges because of the comments (below) you posted on the KickStarter Project. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, and while we respect your right to your opinion, we do not wish to continue doing business with you.
> Thank you.
> MS
> "Dick, I love the music, which is why I was one of the first backers. I hate the spam, and your insulting copyright messages. Further, your comments on Facebook that amount to "Real Fans Don't Disagree" is a real dick move, not to mention blocking me from liking or commenting on your posts. I agree with Christopher Masto, entirely. The extreme copyright stance is overblown. Even if you're not targeting your fans with these messages, they're the majority of the people who see them. (Preaching to the choir, anyone?) If you would like to discuss, feel free to contact me. You have my info.)"
> At 08:45 AM 7/25/2011, you wrote:
>> I'm still looking for an explanation for this refund.
>> -Me

(Note that he often goes by "Dick" in the albums and on stage, and was originally going to go by "Dick" instead of "Richard" as his stage name, but some objected to "Dick Cheese")

To which I replied:

Ah, I see. You can't bear for anyone to disagree with you; Not even a fan and willing investor. It's a bit disingenuous that you wait until the album is due to be released (and well after the funding was completed) before you found your High Horse and decided that you could be picky. It's pretty ironic that a Lounge Singer who does nothing but cover other artists' songs is especially touchy about Copyright.

Does that mean that you secure the rights for every song before you perform it, or do you claim that your rendition is legitimate under "Fair Use" under the Parody or Transformative interpretations?

So, a couple of interesting points from my perspective:

1) He's a lounge singer. Jazz is noted as being a musical genre rife with copy and imitation, but instead of litigation, it's part of the culture. "Hey, that thing you did was cool; let me try that." Lounge style is even more so.

2) He's a comedian. Comedy is also known for a lot of borrowing. ("Take my wife, please.")

3) He does no original work. His schtick is 'Lounge Covers of Popular Music'. Lyrics and melody remain largely unchanged, but the style is "swankified".

4) He is doing this to people who have INVESTED in a forthcoming, incomplete work.

5) He somehow thinks that clicking a checkbox is going to prevent piracy.

6) Preemptively accusing his fans / backers of piracy.

7) He thinks that by denying to sell a product that people actually wanted ("sight unseen", or rather "sound unheard", as it were) is going to keep them from wanting the thing.

8) He waited until the project was completed before deciding that he could afford to refund 'unsavory contributions.'

9) His actions demonstrate that he thinks that this is a good way to handle your fanbase.

I'm not entirely sure what he's trying to accomplish, besides pissing off fans. (Or at least former fans.) His prior antics had previously only annoyed me - there's a track in one of his albums where he takes a video camera away from a member of the audience and whines about 'infringing his copyright' - but I may stop listening altogether, now.

In short, it's obnoctious, and just about the least effective way to fight "piracy." This strikes me as disinginuity at it's best.

Maybe he's right; Perhaps "Real fans don't disagree", and I'm just not one...

In any case, who am I to tell him how to run his business...? (Besides a former customer, that is...)


1 comment:

  1. I humbly recommend checking out Jamendo.com - they feature Creative Commons artists, who freely distribute their music in exchange for donations.

    I would imagine there may be a similar artist on there that isn't so rude to the folks that enjoy them.