I'm not feeling too great at the moment, but I want to make a quick post with an important message. First, I'm writing this open letter to Universal Music Group (UMG), because this music corporation actually attempted to have my Satie and Schumann records removed from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc. by illegally claiming ownership of my sound recordings and falsely attributing them to various artists on their label.
Even with my Registration IDs in the Library of Congress, my UPC codes and the ISRC codes for each track, UMG insisted that they owned my material and didn't back off until I threatened litigation against them and gave them my attorney's information to prove I wasn't joking. Apparently, many music corporations have been doing this, falsely claiming ownership of public domain classical music that isn't theirs, or even fully original tracks, and they have been doing it since December of 2018.
Fuck you, Universal Music Group. I think I speak for all artists when I say you can take a molten fire poker and forcibly insert it into your anus.
During the past decade of running this website, I feel as though too many of my posts can come off as impersonal or stuffy in the least (especially those regarding music and art education). I’d like to change that and offer my fans, followers and colleagues a more personal side to myself so that you can get to know the real, goofy, nerdy me without coming off as some sort of digital holier-than-though asshat. So, I’ve decided to share 50 facts about myself that only a few friends and relatives might know, or that might be a complete surprise to everyone! Let the soul bearing commence!
Well, I hope this makes me more relatable and I hope that I didn’t come off like a dork or anything. I should have added that almost everything makes me a nervous wreck nowadays…
I'm just going to start by saying that I hate myself. I'll explain this in more detail as this piece goes on, but it is a critical part of my personality that keeps me writing anecdotes, articles and more over utilizing video.
Currently, the denizens of the internet are happier with a video first experience over reading. With the massive growth and popularity of YouTube it is not surprising to see websites originally created in the late 1990s and early 2000s gradually shifting to such methods for the distribution of content. There's nothing wrong with this; it is honestly more engaging and provides people with a way to experience content while multitasking (how often do you play a video just for the sound while you are browsing a different website?), but it's just not for me.
I might be old fashioned, but I simply prefer reading an article or book to watching or listening to one, and it has nothing to do with a certain American leader who may be illiterate or some misguided, narcissistic sense of pseudo-intellectualism on my part. As a result, I also prefer to express myself in writing over producing vlogs or podcasts but there are other issues that I have with myself that are responsible for this approach to communication.
I have a lot of body image issues that prevent me from making video content. When I was a kid in middle school, my weight fluctuated a lot due to the asthma treatments that I was undertaking. In one grade I'd be the tallest and thinnest kid in my class, the next I'd be a pudgy butterball that still managed to tower over my peers. Yes, even the girls. This was due to the overprescribing of prednisone by my pediatrician which is notorious for adding pounds when used frequently. And I was taking a daily regiment for over a year at a time. Yes, this is horrible for your health but they didn't really know any better in the late '80s and early '90s and my pediatrician was awful (she nearly killed me twice with a misdiagnosis of pneumonia and again with the wrong dose of allergy vaccines that sent me into anaphylaxis).
I was given every foul name in the book starting in the first grade and up until high school. By then, I had developed anorexia and was over 18 kg underweight. I was 190 cm and weighed only 65 kg. By my junior year in college, I had gained over 20 kgs after my medication and diet changed. I was just over 95 kg, and this was at the same time I started to make myself more visible online. My YouTube videos were filled with comments where I earned such flattering nicknames as "Tits Boy," "The Rack," and "Shitty Titty."
Today, I am 79 kg and still 190 cm, but I still feel like a bloated, ugly puss bag. The idea of showing myself on camera brings back all those YouTube comments (this was 2008, I was in my 20s and didn't know any better) and the heckling of children on the playground. I get so anxious at the idea of being seen in motion pictures that the only times I allowed it as of late was in Deliverance Chips where part of my face is visible for only a few frames, and for a brief instance when I appear in a Slender Man costume as a gag. Irony.
Adding to my body image issues, my hairline has thinned quite a bit over the past several years. This has been mostly due to exceptional anxiety (see the previous posts about my experience as a stalking victim to understand why) and, again, misuse of my asthma medicine. For most of my life I only took albuterol, and was taking my rescue inhaler and a nebulizer several times a day (14 to 25 for the inhaler, twice a day for the nebulizer). My blood pressure was high, my heart racing and my stress became worse as they fed into one another. As a consequence, I have a thinner spot of hair in the back, and down the middle.
This makes me unbearable uncomfortable. I know it's stupid and vain, but I feel like I'm opening myself up to further attacks based on these sorts of petty things. My hair has been growing back since changing my asthma medication and relaxing more, but it's a slow process. For an example of this, my headshot on this site is from late 2012, and in any recent shoot I've done I always wear my Irish knit hat or a Red Sox cap. There, I've admitted it.
You might think "Well, there's a lot of people out there who don't use actual videos and just speak over images or stream a podcast, try that if you're too picky about your body image!" I hate to break it to you, but of all the things I hate about myself, I hate my voice the most.
I have this odd vocal range. I can sing baritone without any difficulty, but my speaking voice is noticeably that of a tenor. And not just any tenor, but the sort of tenor that has some shrill articulations that make many telemarketers think I'm a woman when I clumsily answer the phone to their hijacked numbers. (And I am all woman and all man. Two spirits!) Every time I hear my voice in a recording, I intentionally use effects in Ableton Live or with the iZotope Nectar plugin to lower its pitch. It's that embarrassing to me!
In addition, I have a speech impediment. I stutter like Bill in Stephen King's It when I get nervous, and when I'm recording video or audio of myself, oh boy am I at the mercy of Pennywise! I often hold over vowels or consonants like "s" while repeating any sounds with a "p," "t," or "b" in them.
However, I don't have to worry about any of this when I'm writing. I have no obligations to try to capture my disgusting figure before the camcorder, and there is no possibility of me stammering. This reduces the need for excessive jump cuts, transitions and other forms of video editing just to share a short anecdote or tutorial. Never mind that it's much easier to just sit down and write over setting up camera equipment, plugging the microphones into the camcorder, adjusting the lighting, iris, and sound to be presentable for the shoot, and then all the editing. This includes colour correction, audio mixing and mastering and much more beyond jump cuts and any wacky filters to emulate whatever gaming channel is popular on YouTube at the moment.
In writing, I am in control. I am confident and I am free to express myself without excessive work in postproduction, or my personal hatred of my horrible body. I have honestly considered a podcast, but am currently missing additional people to collaborate with. That would make recording my voice so much easier if working with friends or colleagues and provide more entertainment while discussing various topics. While there are solo podcasts out there, it's just not something I can mentally or physically do right now. I mean, look at this, I just wrote an entire essay on why I hate myself!
I shouldn't do that. I should end this on a high note like, "I feel awesome no matter what random people say!" But, we all know that's not going to happen. Let it end like this.
Oh boy, here we are again. After last year’s insanity of posting my music to YouTube where I was hit by copyright strikes (not claims, but full-fledged strikes) for having the nerve to post my own copyrighted audio recordings of public domain music, the roles have now been reversed.
For the past few years, my published albums have been available on YouTube Music courtesy of CD Baby’s digital distribution partnership. However, upon finding my “Topic” page that was created by YouTube automatically when the audio was submitted, I was dismayed to see that the page was showcasing a stoned, fake blonde dude with a slacked jaw staring into space as the profile image, desperately trying to become the next sensation on the site.
The music was fine and that’s what mattered, but this bozo’s mug created a lot of confusion amongst my fans who assumed either that this dude was a plagiarist profiting off of my work, or that I was and that he was the original creator. And while I don’t admit I’m good looking and hate everything about my body and appearance, I at least know I’m better looking than that!
Last year, in order to stop this image confusion, I contacted CD Baby and they told me I needed to file an artist separation request because the image was chosen by YouTube from their algorithms merging the wrong channel information to create the topic page for my music. I did just that and about two months later, the profile image was the same as the cover art for my debut album. Then came a few weeks ago.
I linked to the page to help spread the streaming services I’m listed on such as Spotify and Google Music, and noticed that the YouTube Music page was now displaying a cement mixer as the profile picture. I filed for another artist separation, and it was changed back to the fake blonde bozo. Frustrating, but still not the end of the world. I filed again and linked once more to my actual YouTube account to correct it, but this time YouTube fought back.
My album of Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood had been completely destroyed just for writing to report that YouTube was once again using the wrong profile image. What was once my album and artwork, with my name in the credits, was now generic artwork listing the tracks as “hip-hop and rap,” “techno” and “country” all while giving credit to artists such as “Piano – Topic” and “Café Lounge – Topic” on the same page specifically made for me. Upon listening, these were in fact my recordings of Schumann, but they were now being credited to generic relaxation topic pages, who were in turn collecting the revenue instead of me.
I promptly filed DMCA take-downs on all 13 offending tracks and am awaiting a resolution from YouTube. But because I have battled this for years, and because YouTube continues to create issues for me by linking my music to unrelated pages with different head-shots, adding video folders to the topic page that include content such as violent bar fights, illegal gun modification tutorials, and racist rants, and has defamed my name and put my reputation at risk as a result of this dissociation, I have asked that CD Baby end my relationship with YouTube Music as soon as possible.
My tracks will remain for sale and for streaming on all major storefronts and services, with the exception of YouTube. It will take about 30 days for the topic page to be deleted and I have no plans on picking it up on my own through my channel as I can’t stand using that site and only use it to watch. I prefer to use Vimeo to upload and share my films due to a more creative friendly environment over "video games and privileged white boys doing dumb things" as found in abundance on the 'Tube. The reason for this is explained the last time I wrote about YouTube and copyright issues and I have no interest in going down that route again.
Oh, and screw YouTube Music once more for good measure.
Last month, the music and podcasting community began to contemplate the future of distributing our works after rumours circulated that SoundCloud was going bankrupt. The financial stability of the company is still rather ambiguous as information comes out on deep financial cuts and layoffs within, alongside news of a bright future for the site (the latter coming mostly from the powers that be suspiciously close to investor meetings). Given that even major plug-in companies like Waves and iZotope were giving instructions on Facebook on how to secure your uploads so that they could be safely moved to another platform (why don’t you have the original files? Curses!), the future of SoundCloud looked (and continues to look) grim. The constant barrage of likes, follows and reposts from the spam and porn accounts that infest the site isn’t helping their image either.
In an effort to keep my recordings streaming on my own website for fans, potential students, venues and collaborators to hear, I decided to put my entire focus on my existing Bandcamp page which, up until this time, had only been another resource to host my three albums alongside CD Baby. This was a task that took a single afternoon to accomplish, mostly in creating album images for each of the portfolio playlists as I already had the audio files in .wav format at 48kHz so that I could also add them as "art tracks" on YouTube.
A few weeks ago, you may have read a post on my blog about subscribing to my YouTube channel and how all my music would be there for primary (free) distribution. You may have even seen how YouTube playlists had replaced the Bandcamp ones around that time within my portfolio. Well, as you can see now, it’s all back on good ol’ Bandcamp and I plan on keeping it that way. Why? Well sit down, because it’s story time with Uncle Mike.
After creating video files with all of my pre-prepared audio in Premiere, and the exhaustive task of exporting them on an aging iMac that can barely run properly for the basics, let alone video rendering, I began the long task of uploading them to YouTube, arranging them in playlists, adding tags and descriptions, you know, the same thing that every gamer on there has someone else do for them so they can focus on creating content and not metadata. This took a good week due to the constant input of information for each track, adjusting the settings on a track-by-track basis, dealing with the occasional glitched export, etc. When everything was finished, I added the YouTube playlists to my site and looked over at all my hard work, and noticed numerous copyright claims.
The Content ID system on YouTube is notoriously flawed and with classical music, it often falsely flags your own version of a piece as that of a major label’s upload. I also had claims on selected tracks from my EP, Earwig Rising, though that was due to my own copyright and only meant that any ads that played on them would be revenue for me regardless. No big deal. I filed disputes on the three classical videos that had been claimed, explaining that the Mozart recording is mine and the music itself is in the Public Domain, and then on the two Satie tracks that were hit, I explained in detail that I owned the sound recordings, performances and audio productions on them, and that they were copyrighted by the US Copyright Office under the Registration Number: SRu 1-194-109.
The claim on the Mozart track was dropped within a week. The first Satie track, claimed by UMG for Universal Music, had the dispute ignored and would likely have expired after 30 days. However, SME, on behalf of Sony Classical, actually rejected my dispute one day shy of the claim terminating due to a lack of response by the claimant and then counterclaimed, saying that my Registration Number was not proof of copyright and that they owned that particular track and had the rights to monetize it. This is when it went insane.
To reject a dispute, a physical, living person has to read the response and manually dismiss it. Someone read my protest, the included Registration Number, the link to the Library of Congress file that holds the information in regards to my copyright online, and the ISRC code that I gave for the track and still decided “No, that’s ours.” and sent me on my way despite the overwhelming proof to the contrary.
I filed an appeal, and Sony Classical threatened litigation against me for copyright infringement if I didn’t comply with their orders. That’s total BS. I gave them everything I had to legally prove my ownership of the track, and they were vehemently rejecting it, hoping to get a few more pennies in their coffers rather than admit that a Public Domain piece of music can be recorded and copyrighted by artists that are not on their label. Sony Classical was, at this point, committing copyright infringement against me as well as committing a crime known as “monetize without consent.” It’s just what it sounds like.
I had to ask for help from CD Baby as they published the record, the AFM since I’m a union member, as well as issuing notarized legal complaints to YouTube by mail and fax (you try looking up information like that), and to Sony Classical via email. None of them responded.
I had a lawyer contact the companies with the threat of filing litigation against them for infringing on my copyright, but YouTube merely sent an email back with a special dispute email to reach SME by (and it’s some crappy Gmail address, you’d think a major label would have the money to have a domain based email, even I have one!) and said they do not mitigate copyright issues before signing off for good on the matter.
We filed a notice to SME through the email address we were provided with. We gave them 10 business days to comply with our order to remove their claim and illegal monetization of my copyrighted work alongside a scanned image of my Certificate of Registration:
Personal information redacted.
They didn’t respond until the last possible day, and rather than a professional reply and apology for these criminal actions, they spouted off about how our legal notices were a form of harassment and that I was stealing work that one of their artists had made (they never gave a name because it's my property and not theirs) and that this would be the last they would hear of it. The next day, my track was deleted and I had a copyright strike issued against my YouTube account.
This was the most unprofessional experience I have ever had with a major company, both with YouTube and Sony Classical. Everyone in the AFM and with CD Baby, as well as my lawyer of course, said it was blatantly clear that Sony Classical was in the wrong and that I had more than sufficient evidence to support my ownership of that track. But because money talks, SME was able to profit off of my work for over 30 days without my permission, and then shoved a hickory stick up my bottom when they realized I wasn’t going to back down.
This is why so many new artists don’t want affiliation with major labels. They can steal from indie musicians under false pretense and have the power to win, even with plenty of evidence to prove them wrong. You want to take them to court? Good, they have the cash to sit on a case like that, delaying it and holding you back until you are bankrupt and are forced to withdraw the suit entirely. If you want to try, make sure you come from old money first.
I will keep my YouTube account as a user, but I’ll be damned before I ever upload any content there again. Oh, and because I was hit with a copyright strike, I had to sit through a patronizing Happy Tree Friends video on copyright infringement and pass a test on it. When I was the proven copyright holder from the beginning. (And you can’t tell me that Mondo Media made that YouTube Copyright School video willingly, they’re better than that.)
As I wrote on Twitter in the aftermath of all this, to hell with YouTube. They hold average users to insane requirements for advertiser friendly content, claim fair use content (such as film critiques) are infringement on a regular basis, and sometimes just delete your channel for no reason. But if you’re a major corporation you can infringe on someone else’s copyright and they’ll take the side with the bigger dollars every time. Just look where I am.
You can follow me on Bandcamp: mikesmale.bandcamp.com.