by David Bollier: I just returned from the biannual “Wizards of OS” conference in Berlin, Germany, a fantastic gathering of software programmers, activists, artists and policy wonks concerned about free culture and democracy. You can check out many of the panels and speeches here, but I also plan to blog this week about some of the provocative people and things that I encountered in Berlin. One of the most intriguing stories I heard involves the power of the commons in revitalizing music in Brazil. In this large developing nation, the mainstream recording industry is troubled.
Sony BMG, the largest multinational label in Brazil, recently announced plans to cut about 15 artists from its roster of 52. Another major record label has actually offered to produce and market bands if the bands pay the label the equivalent of $15,000! Perhaps you can sense the industry’s economic desperation and artistic cluelessness. While conventional market players struggle, a number of grassroots genres of music are flourishing despite an absolute lack of copyright protection. A case in point is tecno-brega (spelled without the “h” in “techno”), “a romantic, cheesy sound with a techno-beat and electronica sound,” according to Ronaldo Lemos, the head of the Creative Commons in Brazil. The music is hugely popular in outlying regions of Brazil, such as Belem, a city in the northeast state of Pará.