By Matt McGregor
Jon Lemmon is a songwriter and musician based in Wellington, New Zealand. His latest album, Demos/Sketches, was released in 2011 under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commerical 3.0 licence.
As Jon puts it, he uses Creative Commons for “everything, really. I’m a bedroom producer, and do all of it on my computer—recording, writing songs, singing, all of that—and to me, it didn’t really ever seem like a question whether or not I’d use Creative Commons.”
Jon was encouraged to use Creative Commons licensing by VBC radio host Kim Wheatley, host of Compulsory Ecstasy, who was living with Jon at the time. Kim was reading Cory Doctorow and saw open licensing as an interesting wayfor Jon to release his music.
Jon points out that most bedroom artists don’t spend much time thinking about copyright. “If you’re young enough, you just assume everything’s fair game, especially if you grew up with bands like GirlTalk. In the underground scene, the blogosphere and stuff like that, if it’s not mainstream, it seems like people don’t really care about copyright.”
“As an artist, I find copyright really obnoxious. I’m really interested in the idea of people sharing their music, so that people m can do whatever they want with it, and what you end up producing is a great mix of a whole bunch of work.”
“There was no question there, I wanted to open the album up for remix.”
Opening up the album, however, required more than just a Creative Commons licence. “You still only have a full song, and you don’t have the individual tracks and parts to sample. One of the most recent songs—Exodus—I released of the individual tracks for it as well, just in case anyone wanted to do anything with any of it.”
“No one ever commented on it, and I didn’t even know if anyone even saw it or used it at all, but then randomly I was at a show, and some person came up to me and said, ‘hey, I really like your music. It was so awesome that you released all the tracks for that one song. I’ve been playing around with it.’”
Jon, however, is quick to point out that the purpose of Creative Commons is to provide a legal framework for a culture of sharing, remix and reuse that already exists. As Jon puts it, “cultural protection always works better than legal protection.”
Other examples of reuse include Jon and New Zealand duo Wet Wings remixing each other’s openly licensed work.
In 2011, Jon found out that “someone had done an edit of my song and put it on Youtube, which was cool.”
This turned out to be Coco Bryce, an international remix artist. As Jon relates, “He then did another edit, released that, and then got in touch and said, ‘Hey, I’m talking to this record label about releasing this as a single. Would you be interested?’
“I agreed, so he said, ‘we’ll put your original on, my remix on and then we’ll do a version together and put that on, too.’ So that’s what we did.”
The record was released by Car Crash Set in 2011. “That’s the only one of my tracks that’s available from a record label.”
Jon found Creative Commons particularly useful in specifying exactly what kinds of permissions he wanted to allow. “I want to be able to make sure everyone can edit this. But if someone tries to profit from my music, I want to be able set the terms. That was actually really nice—it meant that I was safe, legally.”
I asked Jon whether the culture of remix among bedroom producers included providing attribution. As Jon replied, “you’d be stupid not to. It’s about building relationships. Creative Commons—that concept—is just sensible… It’s the sensible way to do things.”
‘Exodus I (demo),’ ‘harmonics (sketch)‘ and ‘steppenwolf, pg. 247 (Wet Wings remix)‘ by Jon Lemmon are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Licence.