Harvey Danger as viral infection

WSJ: What if we give it away? The Journal’s free article today covers Harvey Danger’s experiment in giving away content, and in the process provides a concise description of the business model for bands today, as well as why it doesn’t usually work:

CD sales aren’t a great money-maker for most bands: Absent a huge hit album, a band’s best chance to make money is through a combination of publishing royalties, concert-ticket sales and merchandising — all driven by the hard work of creating and keeping a dedicated fan base that will buy not just a current CD, but back-catalog albums and future releases as well. The problem is that takes time and patience labels increasingly don’t have.

“The time frame for success is a lot longer than what a label will give you,” [Harvey Danger guitarist Jeff] Lin says.

The band’s solution—to use the music itself as the free promo for the CD—is insightful, taking advantage as it does of the classic “viral infection” model for marketing experience goods. If you get the barriers to experiencing the music as low as possible, you “infect” as many possible listeners as possible. And it appears to be working, within the limits of the band’s terms of success.

Of course, the question is, what’s the incentive for users to buy the CD once they have the music for free? Here the band is smart, offering a custom bundle with a shirt and other hard goods for listeners who buy from the band’s site.

The model works for Harvey Danger even though they don’t plan to tour. I can only imagine how well the model would work for a band with Harvey Danger’s name recognition—or even a fraction of it—that does embrace touring.

Nice stuff on Jeff Lin’s blog about this, too.

Autumnal journey through New England, by Amtrak

crossing light by train

Pictures from the train ride last Sunday. Every time I take the train down to see my in-laws, I think, “I should have brought my camera.” This time I did, and took mostly very blurry photos of things passing by outside. But I got a few good ones, I think.

The leaves haven’t quite turned on our street, or much of anywhere; the weather has been too weird for autumn to do its magic. But fortunately there was a bit of good foliage along the way.

I did think that the regional train left something to be desired compared to the Acela in terms of comfort, but it got me there on time.


I decided to keep the Boycott Sony thread alive and well by moving it to its own blog. My intention is to use BoycottSony.us to aggregate information about the Sony DRM brouhaha, other boycott efforts, and maybe a little bit about DRM in general.

I should emphasize one thing: I started this thread from the perspective of a boycott, of totally cutting Sony off until they start treating us with respect. But what this blog will really be about is conversation: people talking to people about what Sony is doing to them and their rights. If Sony wants to join the conversation and talk in earnest to us about what they think they’re doing with their DRM, and more importantly listen to our concerns and take action on them, then I will count that as a victory for this effort.

Incidentally, it’s boycottsony.us because boycottsony.com and boycottsony.net are owned—by Sony.

Showering in the dark.

Our new shower in our first floor bathroom is finished, and not a moment too soon as the second floor bathroom is almost completely gutted now. I took the first shower in the new space this morning, and while I was looking forward to the experience it turned out not to be everything I had hoped, because it was in darkness. Yes, a transformer blew down the hill from us at about 6:10 this morning…

The good news is that our new hot water system’s big ol’ storage tank had more than enough for two showers; our old tankless hot water from our late unlamented oil furnace would not have allowed me to take a hot shower with the power off. But I wasn’t able to evaluate the lights or the efficacy of the new exhaust fan. Oh well.

Before and after photos of the new shower and of the demolition in the upstairs bathroom when I get power back at home.

Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva… oh never mind.

CNN: “Can I quit now?” FEMA chief wrote as Katrina raged. I knew I wouldn’t be the first to jump on the Congressional report of the analysis of the emails sent by Michael “Brownie” Brown during the Katrina crisis, but I couldn’t resist. But the coverage on CNN—“Humor is a stress relief, so we understand”—is pretty damned reprehensible too.

How can one look at the following exchange and not weep in rage:

Marty Bahamonde, FEMA employee on ground in New Orleans: Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical. Here are some things you might not know. Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water. Hundreds still being rescued from homes.

The dying patients at the DMAT tent being medivac. Estimates are many will die within hours. Evacuation in process. Plans developing for dome evacuation but hotel situation
adding to problem. We are out of food and running out of water at the dome, plans in works to address the critical need.

FEMA staff is OK and holding own. DMAT staff working in deplorable conditions. The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out.

Phone connectivity impossible.

Michael “Brownie” Brown, Presidential-appointed director of FEMA: Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?

Sony follow up: patching a stupid DRM mechanism

According to News.com, Sony is going to release a patch for the rootkit DRM mechanism (created by First 4 Internet) that it has been installing on customers’ computers. The patch is available on Sony BMG’s site (though as of this writing not linked from their home page) and will be available through major antivirus manufacturers.

Well, that’s dandy. But it doesn’t address the main problem. Yes, it makes the DRM software visible and eliminates the $SYS$ hidey-hole that could have provided cover for numerous other infections on compromised systems. But it doesn’t eliminate the core issue, which is that an audio recording is modifying the computer systems on which it is played, patching device drivers and otherwise modifying the operations of the machine.

As far as I’m concerned, this doesn’t change anything. They still aren’t getting a red cent from me.

Oh, and the best part? If you go to the update page, it only works with IE

Another listening list: John Peel’s favorite singles

Courtesy the Times Online, I now have a new set of obscure music to hunt after, the contents of John Peel’s record box at the time of his death. The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” has been mentioned in so many articles about him, I’m surprised that it hasn’t been reissued in download friendly form. Other surprises: Cat Power’s “Headlights” b/w “Darling said sir,” three records from Eddie & Ernie (who?); three from Nilsson; .

Less surprising than affirming: Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman,” Pavement’s “Demolition Plot,” Sam and Dave’s “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” a foreign pressing of “Come Together” b/w “Octopus’s Garden” AND “Something,” and 10 different White Stripes records (some with multiple copies).

Like I said, quite a shopping list.

On the Passion of Scooter Libby

I don’t have a lot to say about Scooter’s indictment and subsequent resignation last week, except to note two things.

Number one, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo had Scooter nailed as being involved in the leak about two years ago, as you can tell if you read my transcript from the first BloggerCon (complete with my rushed misspelling of “Libbey” as livey). That lends some credence to recent complaints, from Salon and elsewhere, that the fact that the indictments are only coming now means that the coverup worked. Maddening.

The good news is that this is only the beginning. With the investigation still open and the Sword of Damocles hanging over Turd Blossom’s head, there’s still plenty of room for this indictment to become a big party. We can only hope.

We are at war, and Sony fired first. Boycott Sony.

Read this article at Mark’s Sysinternals Blog about how a Sony copy-protected CD installed a rootkit on his system, and the lengths he had to go to to get the normal functions of his PC back. I’ll wait.

Back? Confused? Let me summarize:

  1. By inserting this Sony CD in his computer, Mark’s computer was infected with software that installed hidden processes, modified his CD drivers, and tricked the OS into hiding any directory that started with the sequence $SYS$.
  2. Using the features in this software (commonly called a rootkit), the Sony DRM could monitor how many times it was being played and limit the burning of music contained on the CD to another disc. However, it also makes the user’s computer vulnerable to other infections.
  3. When Mark tried to uninstall the software by deleting it, his CD drive completely stopped working.

Over the line? Sony obliterated the line long ago. This is egregious. As one Slashdot poster points out, this inverts the argument about P2P networks being hives of spyware, trojans, and viruses. We no longer have to go to P2P networks to infect our computers; they now get infected by music produced by the major labels.

As if that wasn’t enough: first, Sony’s artists, such as Van Zant, whose CD infected Mark’s computer, have nothing to gain and everything to lose from this DRM madness. Second, technically Mark is now a criminal for undoing the damage that Sony did to his system, thanks to the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA.

As of this moment, I’m boycotting all Sony products—music, movies, video games, electronics. And I call on others to do the same. It’s simple. If you treat me with disrespect, I stop doing business with you; if you treat me as a criminal, I call you on it; if you ship a product that disables my computer, it’s war.

Because make no mistake, this is war. More to come; watch this space.