Internet Radio Given Two Month Reprieve — What You Can Do to Help

The Copyright Royalty Board, an arm of the Library of Congress, recently reinterpreted the original date of its massive royalty hike for Internet radio from May 15th to July 15th. Such news comes as a huge relief to all small and independent stations, who would have been decimated by the new rates. This is especially true because it gives Congress time to pass House bill H.R. 2060, the Internet Radio Equality Act. This bill would nullify the Copyright Royalty Board’s newly proposed rate structure and make it on par with other commercial radio structures, such as satellite radio.

What does this mean for teen services? Such a bill would save great listener’s advisory resources such as Pandora and Last.fm from ruin, as well as maintain our ability to promote our own music collections through streaming audio.

Please contact your representative and show your support for copyright sanity.

Wiimotes: They’re Not Just for Gaming Anymore

With every new toy comes hacks and modifications. It’s no wonder that Nintendo’s Wiimote, the Bluetooth-enabled control device for the Nintendo Wii, quickly found itself on the operating block. After enthusiasts figured out how to get the Wiimote to transmit information to any Bluetooth-enabled computer, many possibilities opened up. One really great application has been in controlling sound and music applications. It started with simply getting the Wiimote to trigger digital deejay software and developed into full-fledged sound design, such as in this video of people playing a Wiimote to make real-time lightsaber noises (warning: impossible without thousands of dollars of computer processing and highly advanced sound design techniques).

What does this mean for teens? Well, the possibility to get them engaged in at least three forms of literacy at once! Imagine them, if you will, using a Wiimote to mash up a chapter of their favorite audiobook with the new Timbaland single.

For more information on the tools needed, http://www.wiili.org should get you started. For some of the more deejay-specific tips, take a look at http://www.djwiij.com. As always, feel free to discuss the potential applications of these exciting new technologies in the comments or at the ya-music list.

Teens Find Lesbian Sex Book, Father Sues Library for $20,000

In a new twist on a book challenge, a parent in Arkansas is suing the city of Bentonville for $20,000 after discovering that the parent’s two teenage children (14 and 16) found The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us at the Bentonville Public Library. The suit seeks the maximum damages ($10,000) for each of the two teens.

I can’t decide what I find more disappointing: another library board ceding to a book challenge on the basis of a book’s sexuality, or how this parent is broadcasting what the teens are looking at and trying to capitalize on the situation. The family’s story has some inconsistencies, some of which should be fairly easy for librarians familiar with the Dewey Decimal System to spot.

As these specific challenges continue to mount, please make sure your library’s overall collection development policy has a strong intellectual freedom statement that allows quality literature for all sexualities (and genders, for that matter) to remain in your libraries. And while we may make age-appropriateness decisions for teen collections, that should not limit a teen’s access to material for any age. Please make sure your policies enforce that idea! We can also see the importance for providing private spaces for teens to engage information that–for any reason–they want to keep away from prying eyes. Kudos to the Bentonville Public Library for having this book on the shelves and easily accessible to everyone in the first place.

Circuit bend new life into old toys

Looking for a program to capitalize on geekiness, 80s nostalgia, and DIY trends all at once? Or maybe your teens don’t care what program you do as long as they can break stuff? Try circuit bending. Circuit bending is the process of creating wild new electronic connections in all sorts of things that make sound–from keyboards to Speak & Spells.

All you need are a bunch of old electronic toys from your local thrift store, batteries, a soldering iron, and various electronic circuit components. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Here are some links to get you started:

Online video tutorial (courtesy of MAKE)
Circuit bending pathfinder (again courtesy of MAKE)
Inspiration (you’ll see)

It’s a great program to get teens to open things up, experiment with their guts, and leave them brand new and quite interesting. And isn’t that how you want your teens to be thinking about the library?

Call a Congressperson–to thank them!

While it might not seem as obvious or as egregious as legislation to curb social networking in libraries, digital copyright has drastic and long-term consequences for our ability to serve teens in the future with dynamic collections of digital media formats. If the Copyright Royalty Board’s recent royalty rate hike is any further prediction of where government is headed, we might have a long hard battle ahead to remain relevant as a lending institution (as far as music is concerned, anyway).

However, it seems that in a recent legislative session, Congressperson Mike Doyle (PA) spoke up in defense of fair use with the following address to Congress:

Mr. Chairman, I want to tell you a story of a local guy done good. His name is Greg Gillis and by day he is a biomedical engineer in Pittsburgh. At night, he DJs under the name Girl Talk. His latest mash-up record made the top 2006 albums list from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Spin Magazine amongst others. His shtick as the Chicago Tribune wrote about him is “based on the notion that some sampling of copyrighted material, especially when manipulated and recontextualized into a new art form is legit and deserves to be heard.”

In one example, Mr. Chairman, he blended Elton John, Notorious B-I-G, and Destiny’s Child all in the span of 30 seconds. And, while the legal indie-music download site eMusic.com took his stuff down due to possible copyright violation, he’s now flying all over the world to open concerts and remix for artists like Beck.

The same cannot be said for Atlanta-based, hop-hop, mix-tape king DJ Drama. Mix-tapes, actually made on CDs, are sold at Best Buys and local record shops across the country and they are seen as crucial in making or breaking new acts in hip-hop. But even though artists on major labels are paying DJ Drama to get their next mixed-tape, the major record labels are leading raids and sending people like him to jail.

I hope that everyone involved will take a step back and ask themselves if mash-ups and mixtapes are really different or if it’s the same as Paul McCartney admitting that he nicked the Chuck Berry bass-riff and used it on the Beatle’s hit “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Maybe it is. And, maybe Drama violated some clear bright lines. Or, maybe mixtapes are a powerful tool. And, maybe mash-ups are transformative new art that expands the consumers experience and doesn’t compete with what an artist has made available on iTunes or at the CD store. And, I don’t think Sir Paul asked for permission to borrow that bass line, but every time I listen to that song, I’m a little better off for him having done so.

Until our questions about the future of music get answered, we first have to look at the future of radio…

These sorts of discussions will inevitably impact libraries’ abilities in terms of digital music programming and collections. Please send Congressperson Doyle an e-mail in support. You can also e-mail your congressperson in support of bringing these conversations to light as legislation that will extend fair use for digital music media.

Take your teens on a live concert tour (without leaving the library)

I’ll admit it. I have enough trouble maintaining my “first life,” let alone a second one. That’s why I’ve never really given Second Life more than a cursory glance–that is, until I stumbled on their music community page.

The digital music options in Second Life provide a wealth of opportunities for programming and service. You can visit live concerts, check out online DJs, and even participate in meet ‘n greets with nationally-known artists. You’ll find quite the variety of artists available. Even Chamillionaire got into the act last summer. You also have a lot of options for participation. Having a battle of the bands? Stream it. Want to show off your CD collection? You can stream that, too.

So, for anyone who’s at least as far behind the curve as I am, I suggest checking out Second Life for what it can offer you and your teens in that regard.

(And for those of you interested in media diversity, check out this news if you haven’t, and breathe a sigh of relief. Hopefully, more radio exposure to a broader range of artists will help increase the circulation on some of our lesser-known offerings.)

Splice: Collaborative Music for the Remix Set

Looking for a quick ‘n easy Teen Tech Week program that can reach your local audioheads, from the pop superstar to the most jaded scenester? Perhaps you’re wondering how to get your teens thinking about copyright in light of the recent mixtape drama? Check out Splice Music, where your teens can mix, mashup, and make all-new jams without worry of running afoul of the RIAA.

Splice Music works by providing users with a web-based sequencer, with which they can record, arrange, and edit sounds. Every time somebody makes a song, all of the sounds and arrangements are available to all other users (via Creative Commons licensing). So even if your teens couldn’t sing or play an instrument to save their lives, they still have access to countless other user-created sounds to bend and shape at their will. And if that’s not enough, Splice Music taps into huge Creative Commons-licensed sound databases such as CCMixter.org and The Freesound Project to make sure that your teens can never run out of ideas.

To see it in action, check out this short demo video.