Who is this Jonathan Coulton fellow?
I live in Brooklyn, NY and I’m a musician and songwriter. So far I am unsigned – I’m currently engaged in an experiment to see whether or not it’s possible to make a living as an independent musician. I write and record everything myself here in my apartment. I’m the musical director for John Hodgman’s Little Gray Book Lectures, and the Contributing Troubadour for Popular Science magazine. In addition to the music thing, I have been known to do a little podcasting and writing here and there.
What’s the deal with “Thing a Week?”
Thing a Week is my forced-march approach to writing and recording. Starting September 2005 I posted a new song every Friday for a year in an effort to keep the creative juices flowing and to prove to myself that I could actually create on a schedule. It was a real learning experience – I was not always happy with the outcome, and I’m still learning to let some of the details go, and figuring out how to keep from censoring myself all the time.
New Thing a Week songs were and still are published as a podcast. You can subscribe in iTunes (or any other podcast subscription software) and get them all for free. Or you can buy mp3s and digital “albums” here on my Songs page. And of course they are all out on CD now in their original order and state of completion.
Why is there so much free music on this site? What is he, crazy?
Yes…as a fox maybe! Things have really changed in the music industry over the last few years. I think the internet is going to be really big one day, and when that happens, millions of people will be able to connect and share information “online.” This busts open the old music business model and makes way for something that we’ve never seen before, something that’s still taking shape. I give away music because I want to make music, and I can’t make music unless I make money, and I won’t make any money unless I get heard, and I won’t get heard unless I give away music. This is all part of the experiment. I believe it can work, but we all need to adjust our thinking about the relationship between artists and fans – the RIAA thinks that music listeners are criminals and that music should be locked up and protected. I disagree. I think there are times when free music and file sharing can greatly benefit an artist. Believe me, I spent many years making music and not sharing it with anyone, and that didn’t get me anywhere.
Awesome! So I can just get all this music for free?
Yes you can, in a number of ways. Though to be honest I’ve knowingly made it easier to buy the music than to get it for free (unless you have this Firefox plugin in which case it’s a snap). And you should keep in mind that you are part of this experiment too. It’s already a success – I get lots of traffic and podcast airplay and even some pretty good internet buzz every now and then. But I depend on your donations and purchases to make the whole thing work. Even a small amount helps. If everyone who came to my site tipped me a dollar, we’d really have something amazing (and I would have all your dollars). Not to make you feel all guilty and everything. Just be relaxed about it, and do what you think is fair. And if you can’t compensate me with actual money, you can help by spreading the word to someone else.
Can I use a song in my student film/podcast/awesome dance remix?
Yes please. And I would love to see/hear it. All my music is released under an Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons license that allows any kind of non-commercial re-use provided you: 1) credit me and link to this site, and 2) don’t use it to make money (this does not apply to songs with material that I don’t own, like covers and mashups and remixes). Really, no need to ask permission, just go make that thing. If you want to know more about how Creative Commons works, check out the site.
Can I send a copy of a song to my friend?
Yes. Whah? Sounds strange doesn’t it? The same Creative Commons license gives you that right too.
Gah! Creative Commons, DRM, blah blah blah. I will give Jonathan Coulton $100 if he will keep his mouth shut for five minutes.
I know, I know. All I can say is that Creative Commons is the most powerful idea I’ve heard since they told me there was going to be a sequel to Star Wars. Everyone in the world should read Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture. I saw him speak about CC at PopTech 2003 and I was so excited by it that I nearly wet my pants. The things he says make so much sense, and yet they’re so counter to the current thinking about intellectual property – it makes you want to, well, wet your pants.
What’s in Jonathan Coulton’s studio?
Most recording is done on a Digi 002 with Pro Tools LE on a Mac G4 desktop. I also use Ableton Live, Apple Soundtrack and Garageband for loopy things and other digital manipulation. Drums are frequently from either the Reel Drums collection or Discrete Drums. The studio room itself has these items in it:
Martin 000C-16RGTE cutaway acoustic guitar
Gibson Les Paul Studio electric guitar
Fender American Stratocaster (bought new in 2006)
Deering Good Time banjo
Mid-Missouri M-11 Mandolin
Mele Tenor Ukulele
The cheapest Fender electric bass they had in the store
Ditto for the acoustic bass (some kind of Dean cheapie)
Wechter Scheerhorn resonator guitar
Moog Etherwave theremin
Ensoniq MR-Rack sound module
dbx 376 tube channel strip
Line6 Pod Pro guitar amp modeler
Behringer Bass V-Amp Pro bass amp modeler
Shure BG 4.0
Shure SM 58 (but of course)
Where do I find lyrics?
From the Songs page, click on the info button to get the lyrics. You’ll also find guitar tabs when they exist, and also user-submitted content that relates to the song.
Can I book Jonathan Coulton for my wedding, conference or all-night dance party?
Erm, well, weddings. Let me guess, you want me to play Skullcrusher Mountain during the ceremony? The thing about weddings is that most people came there to see a wedding – your grandma is very hip I’m sure, but she doesn’t want to hear songs about robots and monkeys. Private parties are always a little iffy too, you never know what you’re gonna get. Nothing’s impossible, but many things are unlikely. If you’re really really sure, just drop me a line and we’ll talk.
How else can I help Jonathan Coulton accomplish his goal of complete world domination?
Besides buying the music or donating, you can help by spreading the word. This means putting me on mix CDs that you send to your friends, playing me on your podcast, linking to me in your blog, etc. Or if there’s a high-powered media executive you think should know about me, by all means mention my name. I should also say: I make my music for me, but I’d be happy to license it for commercial purposes or write something, perhaps a theme song for a TV show about giant squids. I am not too proud to work for a living – if you have an opportunity please let me know.
I bought songs from Jonathan Coulton’s online store, and I can’t figure out how to get the freakin’ downloads to work. What the huh?
Sorry about that. Just let me know and I will fix it for you.
I like the songs, but I hate the cussing. Are there PG versions available?
For a couple of songs, yes – there’s one for Mandelbrot Set, and one for Code Monkey. You can buy them on the store page.
Can I record your concert on a video and/or audio device?
As long as you’re not selling it, that’s OK with me. Lots of bootlegs are already floating around YouTube and the like (if you have a particularly good audio or video version of a show, let me know because I may want a copy myself). But you should check with the venue first – sometimes they have rules about this sort of thing, and even if the artists says it’s OK, they still say no. Also please don’t do anything that’s going to mess with other people’s enjoyment of the show: a 24-foot jib camera would be a problem, likewise an array of microphones suspended by wires from the ceiling. And finally, be aware that when there are cover songs, I can’t give you permission to do anything with them, so you’re on your own.
My kids love your music and want to come see your show. Will it be child-friendly?
This is always a tough question, as what is appropriate for children is so subjective. I can tell you that I try to avoid First of May and tone down the swearing when I see little kids in the audience, but it’s still a bit of an R-rated show. I’d suggest asking in the forums to get a fuller picture, and keep in mind that Paul and Storm have some off-color material that you might not want to have to explain to the kids on the car ride home.