Small Colin Interview


Colin Sweeney (aka Small Colin) has been writing / performing / recording music in various forms for around 20 years.  Originally from Glasgow, Scotland he moved to Sweden quite some time ago.  He has some interesting thoughts on his music, and Creative Commons which he reveals in this interview.

I first encountered Small Colin’s work with the release of Tape Productions¬†on Rec72. ¬†He began releasing his music through Rec72 in 2011. Since Tape Productions, he’s also released Mono Box on Rec72. ¬†Previously, he released Retro Masters, and Mutations EP on Rec72.

Before starting to work with Rec72 he had an EP called “We Have Denied” on the now defunct Deeplydeep label, and “…Is An Athlete” on Electroreptil. ¬†“…Is An Athlete” (which includes two tracks from “We Have Denied”) is available on Small Colin’s BandCamp site.

The Interview

Part One: General Questions

Please introduce yourself.

Hi, my name is Colin Sweeney and I’m originally from Glasgow,¬†Scotland. Now, however I live in west coast of Sweden on a¬†small island called, H√∂n√∂ (Hen Island). I’ve been writing /¬†performing / recording music in various forms for around 20 years¬†(e.g. bands, solo work, sound engineer, producer, etc.).

What aliases do you release music under?

I release music under the artist name, Small Colin. I also have a collaboration project with a fellow Scot (who now lives in the USA) and we go under the name, Small Radio.

Another title I go under is, Dounreay Social Club. This is used mainly for when I provide music for promo films, adverts, soundtracks, etc.

What are you currently work on?

I’m currently working on a remix album for the Small Radio collaboration¬†project. 11 different artists from around the globe have remixed a¬†song of their choice from our latest EP¬†(Le Migre #3) and that will¬†be released very soon on Rec72. All of them are superb, fresh versions of¬†the tracks so we’re really excited to get them out there for people to¬†listen to.

Who or what are your Inspirations?

I get inspired by anything creative. It can be in the form of a nice song or a photograph or even a well designed label on a packet of biscuits. Generally if something catches my eye/ear then I tend to at least think over why It does so. Sometimes nothing comes of it but often I will get inspired to pick up a guitar, my camera or a pen & paper to create something of my own.

How important is community to you?

In the world of Creative Commons music I firmly believe in the¬†importance of having people around you who are like-minded and¬†completely give in to the concept of it. I honestly don’t think it¬†would work otherwise. Also, I have met soooo many great musicians,¬†artist, etc through the community that I definitely would never had¬†come into contact with so for that I can only have positive feelings¬†on the subject.

Part Two: Creative Commons

How did you get started releasing music under Creative Commons licenses?

I was first introduced to Creative Commons licensing by a friend who¬†had some music released on a netlabel around 2007 maybe?!. He thought¬†it might be something I should look into as I had complained to him¬†that I was finding it hard to get people to listen to my music, and¬†almost exclusively up that point you had to have some sort of record¬†contract to get music out there (and to be noticed). It seemed like a¬†wonderful idea, although initially I wasn’t too keen on the idea of¬†giving everything away for free, I realized that doing it this way was¬†better than nothing. Now I love the concept of it. Although getting¬†some cash would be nice sometimes! ūüôā

Another positive side to Creative Commons music is the fact that in¬†nearly all cases, you have 100% control of your output. I can’t see¬†that ever happening with a record label. Not even an Indie one.

All the music I release now (apart from the Dounreay Social Club material) is released under Creative Commons license. Bizarrely, it almost seems like an alien concept to charge for my music now. Crazy
in fact!

Any nice stories about releasing under a Creative Commons license?

My album from 2013 (Tape Productions) became extremely popular on Free¬†Music Archive (aka FMA) and as of August 2014 it has been downloaded¬†42272 times. Considering my previous releases up to that point had¬†maybe 1000 downloads each max, I still can’t believe so many people¬†have taken the trouble to download and listen to my music. I have¬†also found out since that a lot of people have used my track,¬†‘Mutations’ to accompany their videos on YouTube so that certainly¬†contributes to why the download figures are so high.

[Ed Aside: Another reason is likely due to FMA feeding their library¬†of Creative Commons music into Vimeo’s library. A current search for¬†Small Colin on Vimeo shows over 550 videos have used Small Colin’s

Negative stories about releasing under a Creative Commons license?

A bad side to people having free access to your music is 99 times out¬†of 100, they have no idea what the Creative Commons license actually¬†means. The best example of this is time & time & again people use my¬†tracks in theirs videos for YouTube. If it’s a personal video like¬†them reviewing makeup or them playing mine craft then that’s fine but¬†some think its okay¬†to use my music to help sell their products. Under¬†the license this isn’t allowed so some sort of deal has to be made. Be¬†it monetary or otherwise. e.g. We had a wine company in France use a¬†Small Radio track promoting their product and when we pointed out¬†that they will have compensate us in some form or another they started¬†to argue, then they just dropped the track immediately. It’s crazy that¬†companies will spend all their budgets on advertising, etc but they¬†are not prepared to spend anything on music!

BTW – I get maybe 2 or 3 emails a month asking for permission to use¬†my music for something. Again 9 times out of 10 once you mention that¬†they will have to provide something in return, you never hear from¬†them again. ūüôĀ

Part Three: The Future

What is next for you?

As usual, just working away on new material. After the aforementioned¬†Small Radio remix album I plan to release another EP¬†or maybe an album¬†as Small Colin. I have maybe 7 songs ready to go but a recent¬†unexplained genre shift in my writing could mean those songs won’t¬†work with newer ones. We’ll see how it goes.

Any upcoming releases or gigs you’d like to mention?¬†

No gigs lined up at the moment so I guess my website:

In Closing

Colin is a new father recently, but is still plugging away at his music. ¬†I know I can’t wait to hear what he is moving into next. ¬†His releases all have interesting and different flavors to them, and make for great listening. ¬†Here’s many more years of Small Collin releases.

Posted by George De Bruin


  1. @SmallColin good interview

  2. Actually, I think you hit the nail on the head but missed it… Colin is talking about people who create commercials that *aren’t* under the same license. I’ve seen exactly what he is talking about on YouTube: someone will decide they like an artists music, create a commercial or something to promote their products using it, then upload it to YouTube under straight copyright and/or without the attribution. That’s not allowed under the CC BY-SA without entering into a contract with the creator for such usage.

    I made a note about Vimeo because their system is really how YouTube and other sites should work: their system allows you to use a work that is under a remixable license, and it enforces the attribution and share-alike clauses as required to satisfy such usage.

    It’s a very fine distinction, but the licenses do need to be fully understood and handled properly all around: from the artist, the media companies, and end users. The best way to handle that is through education.

    1. George,
      the example of the wine dealer: Colin was asking for compensation. Not for improper use of license but for the commercial use of his music, I assume? He nowhere stated differently. And this doesn’t match with the license.

      Until now I thought giving credits (the attribution) is nowadays basic requirement on YouTube. I once used a (none cc) tune for a soundtrack and received a warning.
      Didn’t know one still just can grab a track and then publish as ‘all rights reserved’, lol.

      1. Yes, Colin’s example didn’t spell out all the details… But I’m pretty sure that was the case. (Sometimes artists have to be careful when talking about these things because of the legal nature of the situation.)

        No, there isn’t a requirement for attribution on YouTube, nor is the license linked to the content. I know this because I use YouTube as a backend for producing my show. You won’t see the videos published there, but I’m using them to embed the covert art image into the video…. So all of my videos show up on YouTube and by default have Copyright assigned to them. I’ve accidentally hit the button to publish the video in the past without changing the license and YouTube didn’t care whatsoever.

  3. Thanks for this interview!

    I can understand his frustration regarding royalties. But he is publishing BY-SA. “some think its okay to use my music to help sell their products.”
    Well, in fact they can: remix, transform, or build upon the material, but they must distribute their contributions under the same license as the original.
    Yes, even for commercial use. The license code is quite clear about that.
    BY-NC or BY-NC might suit him better, though he’d still the trouble of enforcing…

    I’m looking forward to his next release(s). Tape Production is still my favorite.


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