During the rescue of The CerebralRift from the abyss of bad decisions, bad code, and neglect, I came across a few things that irritated the bejeezus out of me. While I normally write about these topics (instead I talk to others about them privately), I felt these topics need memorializing, they need framing In a way that puts a bit more context around them.
Let me be clear about this: I am not innocent when it comes to making bad decisions. I know I have done some things that I shouldn’t have. For example, I shouldn’t have taken down the CerebralMix episodes before I had a plan to land them some place. But, while it wasn’t a good idea to take them offline, it was a bit of a balancing act since keeping them online at the time was putting the CerebralRift as a whole at risk.
(A quick warning: the next section of this rant gets into technical details about running a website. More technical than the previous articles in this series. If technical mumbo-jumbo-speak bores you, skip ahead to the Abandoning The Commons section.)
Of Dead and Migrated Domains
The sources of my biggest headaches while working my way through all the articles on the CerebralRift: release pages that went missing, and domains that had gone dead. I know some labels and artists have just given up (in fact, similar thoughts have crossed my mind a time or two). Fair enough. This little rant isn’t about them. This rant is about the ones that handled things sloppily.
What do I mean by that? Simple: not knowing, or not getting the information to use the technologies we have available to make their website reorganization, or moving their domains, or migrating to a new location seamless for their audience.
The fact is pretty simple, there are ways to handle moving a page to a new location. These are called redirects. I used them when I migrated CerebralAudio to a new domain. And yes, it was something of a pain… I had to create a map for every CerebralAudio release, all of the supporting documents (like the submission guidelines, home page, feedback form, etc) and then set up the redirects. For migrating CerebralAudio, I used a WordPress plug-in, but this isn’t necessary… It can be done without using a plug-in though, all you need is the htaccess file on an Appache server, if you are on nginx, you can use rewrite rules.
I know, sometimes you are just getting rid of the domain altogether… DON’T! Keep the domain and move it to a free hosting service that gives you access to the htaccess or nginx rewrite rules.
Don’t want to bother with all the work it takes to create a bunch or redirects or rewrite rules? Okay… I would say that you aren’t doing the right thing for your audience, and question why you want to keep going. But, let’s say you don’t have a lot of time to make a decision and you are stuck with moving to a new location quickly, like in a few days.
Still keep the old domain. If you have to move it, move it to a DNS host that is cheap and point it to a free webhost. Then use a redirecting web page to push the old domain traffic to your new domain (you can set up a single rule under Apache or Nginx to send all traffic to your redirect page). People will still have to search your site for the releases that are no longer at the same location, but at least your audience will have a good chance of finding your new site.
That’s the technical side of things… But there is also a human side to all of this… I know that several of the sites I found had moved hadn’t communicated to their customers that they had changed their website and address. I looked on Facebook, Twitter, and other locations for any communications from the date of the last release in my collection to this year, and there was nothing. Not one word.
Communication is a big thing these days, and it’s easier than ever. I can’t imagine that many sites don’t have a mailing list, Facebook page or Twitter account. They don’t have some way of telling their audience that something is going on and that the main location for the site is changing, or that the location for their older releases is now on Free Music Archive, Internet Archive, Jamendo or some place else.
When I migrated CerebralAudio to its new location, I didn’t just install redirects and forget about it. I put out an article about the new site, talking about all the new features that were available. Talking about how much better the new location was. I mentioned several times that the new domain is just an awesomely easy one to remember compared to the old address.
I know that the Netlabel community has always flown under-the-radar, and label operators don’t like to think in terms of promotion or public relations. But this is definitely a situation where you should think like that. Not that it has to be big and splashy like some multi-billion dollar corporation, but the Internet is the level playing field. We should all try to use it in ways that make us equal to an industry that is hundreds of times larger.
Enough of that rant, on to another…
Abandoning The Commons
Another thing I found that really annoyed the hell out of me was finding that a number of artists who had received favorable reviews on this site had pulled the Creative Commons licenses off their releases. And, in some cases, had even pulled their releases off sites where they were under Creative Commons licenses so there would be no copies of the release available under a CC license.
I understand that as an artist there are times where a work that you have created cannot be published under a Creative Commons license. I even understand that you may feel that Creative Commons licensing isn’t serving your ambitions in the manner which you want it to. (I don’t generally believe this last one is true, but I understand that some artists feel this way.)
However, it’s a different matter altogether to have a release that has been available for over a year, and then suddenly decide that you don’t want it licensed under Creative Commons any more… To go out and pull down all copies that are Creative Commons licensed, and then go remove the license from your main website and stick up an ugly copyright notice.
Shame on you.
First off, the works that you released under a Creative Commons license are still licensed under Creative Commons. Just because you pulled down all the copies you released with a Cretaive Commons license doesn’t mean you have pulled it back. Removing the license from the web isn’t retracting the license. The license, as applied, stays connected with the work for the remainder of the term of Copyright. While legally there isn’t a known case establishing this, there is case law building around Creative Commons licenses.
I was so ashamed that some of these works were still included on The CerebralRift. I considered taking these reviews down completely, but I thought that wouldn’t be a good idea. While The CerebralRift will no longer recommend these works as we don’t support works that aren’t actively under a Creative Commons license, I didn’t want it overlooked that the artist or label had removed or changed the license on their works after the initial review was posted. (In a few cases, I suspect that the license was changed a week or two after the review was published. This made me feel used and deceived by the artist.)
Instead: I came up with a better plan. I left the reviews on the site. But I crossed out all the text, added a note saying that the review had been retracted, and set the excerpt to indicate the review had been retracted. Why is this a better plan? Because, it serves as a hall of shame, without me going out of the way to create a hall of shame. It’s an indication that I push back on artists doing things like this.
I have considered taking this a step further and creating a Hall of Shame page that indexes all of the reviews that I have retracted. But when I think about it, I think that actually goes in the wrong direction. It actually is almost an honor to find that there is a web page that singles out some people for some special reason. And, in fact, that page could be indexed highly by Google and other search engines making those artist’s works easier to find. Instead, by handling these reviews as I have stated, I am making them less prevalent.
(I mentioned in a previous article how to the traffic is rebounding on the site since I have finished the updates: none of the retracted articles are benefiting from the traffic jump, and several of those articles were some of the most frequently read reviews.)
Okay, I feel a bit better getting those rants off my chest. Honestly, I almost didn’t finish this article. I felt better after writing about seventy percent of my thoughts down on these two topics. In fact, there were actually a couple of other topics I wanted to rant on, but I will save them for future articles.
As I stated at the beginning: I have made mistakes too. No one is perfect. But I feel these are topics that need to be considered. Netlabel operators should really think about some of the technical issues that can arise while running a website before they get into it. Artists need to have a better understanding of how Creative Commons licensing works. And both artists and netlabel operators need to consider how their actions (or lack of actions) can impact their audience, followers and reputation.
Hopefully you have enjoyed reading this series of articles. If you have any thoughts, questions or ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.