About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

05 October 2007

German Red Tape

Most people hate bureaucracy; and it is probably the worst problem about democratic systems. As much as oversight and process is good, it is at times mind numbingly idiotic. And Germans, it seems, are particularly fastidious about their red tape.

It all started back in Cape Town, even before I left. I am scheduled to be in Germany for 4 and a half months, but they could not issue me with a visa for that long (or for that two visas). Instead, I had to get a 90 day visa, and then upgrade it in Germany.

And that is where the fun started. I could not update in Berlin, partly because I was lazy and did not look up the details in time (and the offices only open 3 days a week for 4 hours at a time), and partly because I did not have the relevant documentation. You see, to get the visa update I needed, I needed to be a registered resident of Berlin ... which is rather convoluted since you have to have a lease agreement to be get such a registration. So, I left things for Erlangen.

At Erlangen, I discovered that the Cape Town Embassy had actually processed the wrong type of visa for me, and I could not update my visa easily. I had two options: either get a work permit (which I don't need as a short term scientific assistant at a research institute) from the wonderfully named Aliens Office, or get the visa issued, fly outside to a non Schengen country and then re-enter.

The personnel department decided to first try the Aliens Office, who did process the request very fast (took 2 weeks instead of the usual 8) and I finally managed to get the visa sorted this morning. After having my photo retaken because the ones I had (taken in Berlin) did not meet the specifications ... strange as the photo is actually shrunk in the final visa.

But here is the really fun part ... since my flight leaves the day after I finish my internship, I have to go get another extension (for the two days) closer to the time. I do not need extra documentation, but that is how it must be done. Since I might be in Barcelona at the time, I am wondering if I should just change my flights instead.

01 October 2007

Radiohead's New Distribution Strategy

After the conclusion of their previous contract, Radiohead has decided to go independent, and record and distribute their new album, In Rainbows, themselves. In fact, they are releasing the album on the 10th of October. (See http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/news/46015-new-radiohead-album-aaaaaaahhh)

It is their distribution strategy that is most interesting. There have been many bands that have done the independent recording route off course. They have a "box set" with the double CD, vynils, artwork photographs etc. for 40 pounds. Expensive, but you do get a lot I suppose. But it is their digital strategy that is impressive: download on MP3 (no DRM protection), with downloaders paying what they wish.

It is, as correctly pointed out by Questionable Content, not a new strategy. Webcomic authors are not the only ones to make out a living of mass patronage; but certainly one of the most noticeable. The idea is off course that people who really appreciate your work will pay something, presumably reflecting how much it meant to them. It is also a risky strategy, as there are also a number of stingy freeloaders out there, who don't like sharing bandwidth on bit torrent, let alone volunteer to pay for music!

Is this going to be a new successful direction for recording artists? I don't think so. Yes, big name bands like Radiohead can afford to do this. But can a start up band make a living out of donations from fans? The problem with this approach is, that the artist needs a reputation first - to draw the crowd. Only then, can they consider giving it away. The function of the reviled record label is really to take a gamble on a new band, finance their new album, promote and distribute their album; and hope that they become big.

Radiohead (and the Creative Commons mix push by the Beastie Boys a few years ago) are great efforts at "freeing music" but these guys have relatively little to loose.