Interview with Amy Ray

One of my favorite Murfie podcasts is the Amy Ray podcast. Not only did I have a great chat with her in the basement of The Frequency, surrounded by walls that are covered in thousands of band stickers, paintings, and initials, but I stuck around for her show—and it was rockin’! We even got her song “Glow” on video!

Here’s a transcript of that podcast from May 2012. Read on!

INTRO: This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast. I’m pleased to say that I got to meet Amy Ray when she came to town. You probably know her as part of the Indigo Girls, the award-winning folk-rock duo from Georgia. Now, she has a solo career to go alongside that, and a rockin’ new album called Lung of Love. Here’s a clip from the chat that we had before her show at The Frequency.

[MUSIC: “Glow” by Amy Ray]

Kayla: So I’m talking to Amy Ray right now, at The Frequency in downtown Madison. Welcome to Madison, first of all.

Amy: Thanks, I always love bein’ in Madison—always, always.

Kayla: Awesome. So you’re here debuting your new CD—you’re on tour for that. And for the past ten years, about, you’ve been going solo; so what’s that like after two decades with the Indigo Girls?

Amy: Well actually, I still do both, so it’s like, I started going solo around 2000 and just interspersing it with Indigo Girls stuff. And so, I mean, at first, it was kind of crazy because we Indigos were playing kind of big places and then when I started doing solo, I started just doing small clubs like The Frequency—which I’m still doing. So, it was kind of at first like I adjusted, and just learned how to— We drive ourselves, you know, fix my own amp, fix my guitars, you know, whatever needs to be done. And so, for me it’s like kind of, extremely DIY [laughs], is what it is, and Indigo Girls are extremely the other way. So, it’s like this great sort of thing that I just go back and forth between, and it gives me perspective on both things.

Kayla: Awesome. So, is it different putting out music nowadays, compared to the earlier days when you got started?

Amy: Yeah, ‘cause when we started, it was still, like, ’85. I mean, we started in ’80, but we were putting out music starting in ’85, and we were just out of high school. And we were doing cassettes—like how you made your friend mix tapes, we would make our little cassettes of our songs, and we did like a little vinyl single, and a little vinyl EP, and LP. Yeah, and college radio was a really big deal then, so that’s what you wanted: you wanted to get on college radio—and you still do, but now it’s harder. And um, you just had like a network—like in each city, you sort of had this network: you had the record store, the indie art paper, the college radio station, and the venue, and you tried to get all those things to kind of stick together. And that’s still what you should do, but like the difference now is that we have so many great tools—Facebook and Twitter and all these things—and ways to record music, and ways to get music out there, and everything’s cheaper. It’s either like, a really great thing, or it can be a really bad thing, but I think personally I like to look at it as a really great thing, cause I think it’s like tools that we can use to sort of get music out there, and cross-pollinate more, and share with our friends, and have music take its place as more of a community thing.

Continue reading Interview with Amy Ray

Phonorecords: A Matter Where Matter Still Matters

 

Judge Sullivan’s decision in the recent Capitol Records versus ReDigi ruling allows for what we all know is perfectly legal; exchange and personal uses of original physical media, like the original commercial CDs that Murfie stores for an owner, providing access only to the owner.

Beyond that, the ruling was a bit of a letdown. In this modern era of digital audio delivered across high speed networks, we all wanted a profound decision about the future of ownership of our media.  We wanted a ruling that clearly let us know whether our iTunes downloads were albums we really owned versus data we’ve merely licensed. Instead, the case came down to the copying of… phonorecords. Phonorecords?

As defined by copyright law, phonorecords are the “material objects” in which the music is fixed. When the law was created in 1976, this meant vinyl records, eight-track tapes, and cassettes. The various music formats which followed over the years were also very clearly material objects. In the ReDigi case, the judge takes the definition of phonorecord to an entirely new level that now includes the physical section of magnetic bits stored on our harddrives in the case of iTunes downloads. By contrast, an album that is sold or accessed on Murfie’s platform simply is a CD phonorecord, stored for its owner’s convenience in Murfie’s disc vault.

And, this is where ReDigi ran into trouble. The instant that original, licensed download of Thriller was saved on our harddrive, that tiny section of bits on our physical drive became the material object associated with that phonorecord. Short of teleportation, it didn’t matter how fancy ReDigi’s system of transferring data was because, in the end, ownership of the concrete physical thing wasn’t conveyed to the buyer. The judge ruled that the laws of physics made it impossible to transfer a phonorecord (i.e. a material object) across a network in a manner that didn’t involve making a copy.

Extending the definition of a phonorecord to account for bits on a drive leaves open some interesting questions. The judge ruled that the first sale doctrine “still protects a lawful owner’s sale of her ‘particular’ phonorecord, be it a computer hard disk, iPod, or other memory device onto which the file was originally downloaded.” This seems to imply that we’re able to sell a harddrive containing a bundle of original mp3 downloads. But what about those mp3s that were transferred over to this harddrive when we upgraded it to a larger size? Or, even those files that were copied over to a new directory (file system specifics aside)?

In tying the case back to elements of copyright in place long before the rise of digital audio, the judge took a conservative approach and declined an opportunity to chart a path for first sale in the digital realm. He cited as much in his decision: “Congress has the constitutional authority and the institutional ability to accommodate fully the varied permutations of competing interests that are inevitably implicated by such new technology.”

In other words, congress needs to update our laws if the original copy of your iTunes download on your harddrive is going to be considered something more than a phonorecord that’s stuck with you (or whomever has your computer). So, for those of us waiting around for a digital first sale doctrine, it could be a while.

In the meantime, Murfie already provides a path forward for music ownership in a digital world. We’ll continue to maximize the value of your music within time-tested laws, but we also applaud any work entrepreneurs, legislators, and courts do to modernize those laws to reflect how our systems for transacting, storing, and accessing music, books, and movies that we own actually work. These advances are good for all parties and can hardly fail to lead to many new opportunities for creators, the various supporting media businesses, and fans alike.

Please drop in and check us out.

Last updated: 04/02/2013 at 4:22pm; a draft was posted by mistake