Case Studies/Watching Cars

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watching-cars music cc folk pop indie


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Watching Cars is an independent band who licenses all of their music under Creative Commons.


The brainchild of brothers David and Collin, Watching Cars is a unique blend of homespun roots and understated pop that will have its listener unknowingly whistling melodies the next day. Both boys, Texas born and bred, grew up on a steady diet of Beach Boys, Beatles, Chicago, and James Taylor, paving the way for their love of indie pop artists such as Death Cab for Cutie, Iron & Wine, and Pedro the Lion. Out of influences like these and a rigorous background of classical and jazz training came the duo’s characteristic sound.

Watching Cars is not the first musical endeavor on which the Gouldin brothers have embarked. For years the two enjoyed playing together in the rock band Ben Zephyr. As David puts it, “there’s nothing quite like being in a band with a member of your family. We have this unspoken musica l connection between us that I haven’t been able to find with anybody else.” So it just made sense that after Ben Zephyr, the two would come back together to work on their own project. While David revisited ideas constructed in styles less suited for a full rock band, Collin began to add his own personal creative touch to the material. The result is a well crafted set of tunes which highlight both the brothers’ unspoken musical bond and the quirks of their individual personalities.

The music, however, is not the only thing on their minds. Faced with a rapidly changing music business and a corporate environment where fans are just as easily pegged as the sole cause of the industry’s demise, Watching Cars has decided to go an altogether different route. Every song, photo, and video produced by the band has been licensed under Creative Commons. Fans are encouraged to freely make and distribute copies of the works and even use the material to make derivative works of their own. “We’re more concerned about building an active, enthusiastic community around what we’re doing as artists. We want people to be involved, participate, feel as though they have some ownership in our music. The restrictive modern interpretation of copyright was limiting our ability to connect with the people around us. Creative Commons gives us a way to enjoy the control and protection of our work we desire while at the same time fostering the kind of creative environment we feel is so vital to the artistic fabric of our society.”

As David and Collin continue to develop new material and hone their live performance, Watching Cars’ reputation as captivating songwriters and performers has already begun to spread. Soon their infectious brand of honest, melodic music will have reached the ears of fans across the world who just can’t help but sing along.

License Usage

All of Watching Cars' music is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States license. They also encourage (but do not require) all those who create content for us to license their materials the same way.


The following except was taken from a blog post explaining Watching Cars' choice to use Creative Commons for their music:

Big business i.e. the RIAA i.e. "The Big 4" have ruined the community and creativity of our musical culture. And we, the docile apathetic consumerist American, have allowed it to happen. Copyright was originally created to foster creativity and progress in the arts and sciences. But as it is now being exploited to herd consumers like scared cattle, copyright is doing the exact opposite of what it was intended for. It is stifling expression and stamping out creativity with a steel toed legal boot. It's clear that the interests of consumers and those of the music industry are becoming more and more misaligned. It's clear that our judiciary system's modern interpretation of copyright is failing.

Wikipedia has been accused of killing traditional repositories of information such as encyclopedias. Openly available consumer tools like craigslist have been accused of killing traditional real estate agencies and print media classified ads. Priceline, Hotwire, and the like have been accused of killing travel agencies. Yet all of these things are a win for society because they get better information and tools in the hands of people who need them. This is clearly progress, and anybody who would speak out against it is simply unable or unwilling to adapt. Don't believe me? Take a look at the perspective of Doug Morris, CEO of Universal Music Group. So the MP3 and broadband connections may very well kill the CD. So what? That, too, is progress.

Of course all of these conflicts are short-lived. The dinosaurs will eventually die and we'll continue to move closer to a free information culture. But your actions as a consumer have and will continue to be the primary force in shaping that trend. It's up to you to demand that freedom of information. As artists, it's really what most of us want too. We don't want gold plated pools and fancy cars. We just want to be able to support our families doing what we love. Some of us are just too afraid our fans won't provide the financial backing that will allow us to keep creating music. In fact, it's a basic tenet of traditional economics that consumers will only pay the lowest price possible for a good or service.

So it's also up to you to prove that a system of patronage not only works but is the only real solution for the sustainability of a culture of creativity. Personally, I'm not worried about it. We're not ultimately after you buying into us with your wallets. That's a one time transaction and a fickle river that could dry up at any moment. We want you to buy into us with your minds, your interest and enthusiasm. Those things are infinitely more valuable.

In that spirit, feel free to distribute, copy, and burn our music as much as you'd like. Chop it up and make your own mixes. Use it in your youtube videos. Plaster a life sized print of our photo on the ceiling above your bed. (Ok, that's kind of creepy, but also completely within your rights to do.) Inspire us with your creativity and let us inspire you with ours. And, most importantly, spend your time enjoying what we've created for you instead of worrying about what you can or can't do with it.


Promo Disc 1

Promo Disc 2