back to article Beck's open-source challenge to freetards: play it yourself!

Fans of the artist Beck must wait until December for his new album - and if they want to hear it, they can play it themselves. As you may have heard, Beck has said he'll issue his next album Song Reader as sheet music, rather than as a performed and produced sound recording. "The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d …


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  1. K


    My arse.. He's just finally realised his vocal talent is non existant..

    1. fuego

      Re: Piracy??

      Musical fascist alert.

      Just because an artist isn't to your taste, that doesn't necessarily mean they're talentless. Now get back to listening to Coldplay.

      1. Winters

        Re: Piracy??

        Except that he is talentless though..

    2. John Brookes

      Re: Piracy??

      Possibly, but at least that puts him one up on Bob Dylan in the self-awareness stakes..... ;-D

      1. asdf

        Re: Piracy??

        As Dylan said I will leave the music awards to Donovan. Some artists do care about more than money and fame and for the most part any musician you have ever heard not from your home town has more money than you do including Beck.

        1. asdf

          Re: Piracy??

          And I am not saying piracy is good in any way. I am just saying most of the artists I love didn't do it for the money and in many ways loathe the corrupt western money whore aspect of our culture in general. I like the Grateful Dead biz model (lol not that they considered it that way) of letting people freely share your music including recording concerts and making your money on the tours. Of course not everyone can do that.

  2. g e
    Thumb Up

    It's sort of ingenious in a way

    You'll doubtless get some pretty talented folks knocking up some excellent versions (err interpretations) of the stuff and some unlikely remixes, etc.

    1. Law

      Re: It's sort of ingenious in a way

      Then instantly get take down notices by his label and/or riaa*. It'd also be fun getting sued for infringing some copyright somewhere. It's genius!!

      Having said that, this could be the push I needed to dust off the old guitar and finish learning it... again. :)

      * I am sort of joking, guessing it's actually free to perform the song yourself on youtube, but not to redistribute the sheet music or lyrics right?

  3. Anomalous Cowturd

    Won't be selling many of these...

    Piracy by photocopier?

    1. jai

      Re: Won't be selling many of these...

      photocopier? that so 80s dude! someone will scan these in and then they'll be up on the interwebs and you'll be able to download it via torrent just like it was a normal audio release. 'cept the filesize of the rar's will be smaller so it'll download much faster.

      All that's needed is some kind of OCR that can convert scanned sheet music into a midi file...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Won't be selling many of these...

        Here you go

      2. Xpositor

        Re: Won't be selling many of these...

        "All that's needed is some kind of OCR that can convert scanned sheet music into a midi file..." - what, like SharpEye?

      3. Dahak

        Re: Won't be selling many of these...

        Vocaloid turns sheet music into music doesn't it?

        So Hatsune Miku interpretations.

      4. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

        Re: Won't be selling many of these...

        Oh, like Photoscore then?

      5. Eeep !
        Thumb Up

        Re: Won't be selling many of these...

        Just as anyone can download the OCR'd version, a programming artist will write the OCR program for themselves to interpret it in their own unique way - not just accept the interpretation of others - Beck may have thought it through further than you.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    When ever I see the name Beck...

    ...I always get a little excited but these days it's never Jeff, the guitar god, it's always that Scientrollogist instead. Bummer.

  5. Code Monkey


    He's shite anyway.

    1. groovyf

      Re: Meh

      Each to their own, of course.

      Personally, I found his highlight was Sea Change, (as opposed to the hit and miss of his first two albums - and didn't latch onto anything else other than Sea Change).

  6. Ralph B

    Will Nobody Think of the Musicians?

    Home scanning/printing is killing sheet music!

    1. lawndart

      Re: Will Nobody Think of the Musicians?

      I'm going to have to feed this into the 3D printer and see what comes out.


        Re: Will Nobody Think of the Musicians?

        Xenu pulling a goatse?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Will Nobody Think of the Musicians?

        Home 3D printing is killing vinyl?

        1. hplasm

          Re: Home 3D printing is killing vinyl?

          It's true!

  7. dr2chase

    See also: Gillian Welch, Everything is Free

  8. Craig McGill 1

    Brilliant stunt but fighting piracy?

    Surely, all it will take is a bunch of scanned PDFS to be put up of the sheet music?

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Cant we just have a musicxml file?

    Or can someone scan the booklet in through audiveris and play it that way?

  10. Mr Temporary Handle

    It's certainly a rather more creative publicity stunt than the sort of crap the PR/Advertising pond life usually come up with.

    However this is really going to bite him on the arse if he waits too long to release his own recording. People will be comparing the work of some really talented amateurs with his usual mediocre efforts.

  11. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Someone will convert it to a GM MIDI file, job done.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone explain to why Beck releasing a sheet music album has anything whatsoever to do with piracy?

    It almost looks to like the article is trying to conflate an artistic experiment (a logical extension of the whole lo-fi ethos) with a totally unrelated piracy arguament in order to support an unpopular opinion.

    I could be wrong, and Beck has sucked for a long time anyway.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Anon

      "Beck doesn't explicitly say that the sheet music release is a response to piracy ... However his UK publisher is happy if you were to draw that inference."


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anon, indeed, is Orlowski.

        1. Steven Roper
          Thumb Up

          Re:, indeed, is Orlowski.

          Hey, don't complain! Andrew used the word "freetard" in an article about copyright and enabled the comments!

          You see, Andrew? Now that didn't hurt so much, did it? ;)

  13. Geoff Campbell

    Who the hell is Beck?

    Can't say I've ever heard of him/her/it, I confess.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who the hell is Beck?

      beck's pretty cool IMO. check it out.

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: Who the hell is Beck?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who the hell is Beck?

      Whaaaa?? Don't you watch Futurama?

      1. Geoff Campbell

        Re: Who the hell is Beck?

        Oh, fair point - I do now recall the Futurama reference. I thought exactly the same when I watched that episode, too.

        I suppose some research is in order...


  14. Swarthy Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    That is actually a cool idea.

    Or at least a new, interesting thought.

    With the current state of modern music, I encourage new thought anywhere it crops up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That is actually a cool idea.

      I too like the idea. Pay the performers or perform it yourself.

      And the bonus is that if he can't sing you can end up with his songs well sung in a way that doesn't hide the songwriter, which is one of the fundamental problems with the music business that leads to a mix of ephemeral singers and singer-songwriters who can't sing well.

    2. stucs201

      Re: Or at least a new, interesting thought.


      I think Beethoven, etc. may disgree...

  15. Lord Voldemortgage

    Just a load of sheet

    The music charts used to be based on the sales of the sheet music for the songs.

    How every retro.

    I like the idea.

  16. mrweekender
    Thumb Down


    No further comment required.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh. Beck's the US equivalent of Radiohead - dull wallpaper music for middle class uni students.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nothing new to see here, Bach and Vivaldi were doing this more than two centuries ago and their music is still well alive and kicking. I always wondered how did they manage to achieve fame without an industry association.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      Extremely rich patrons.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Meh

      "I always wondered how did they manage to achieve fame without an industry association."

      Fans, basically.

      J.S. Bach (I assume you mean) wrote his stuff before cheap music printing became available, so most of it was unknown until Mendelssohn revived some of it in the middle of the 19th century. We don't know how many pages of manuscript have been used to light fires or wrap sausages over the years...

      Clementi's licencing payments to one L. van Beethoven helped the impoverished Viennese composer continue to write music, in the face of intense piracy at home! Clementi was a founder of the Philharmonic Society of London, which went on to commission a little ditty by L. van (sometimes referred to as L's 9th).

      PS: Has anyone else noticed that independent CD shops are in sharp decline, but that musical instrument shops seem to be doing fine,

  19. heyrick Silver badge

    Genius, in a way.

    Think about it - whatever you may think of his performances, he is offering his compositions for you to perform yourself (and performing music offers you a much richer experience than simply plugging in ear pods) in a day and age when humming something is seen as infringing somebody's intellectual property rights.

    While musicians (and the likes of that Bieber girl, who perhaps can't be considered "musicians") make their wares as their job and for their income, our access to popular music has become instantaneous, but our ability to do stuff with it has gotten further and further away - like the thing about having a radio on at work (why should somebody pay a licence for that? didn't the radio station pay a licence for the broadcast? what's the difference between a dozen personal radios and one stood beside the photocopier?). So now we have something we can examine, interpret, perform, and hopefully enjoy.

    Well done.

    1. Hyphen

      Re: Genius, in a way.

      Upvoted, solely because I hate the PRS bollocks we have to put up with.

      We're forced to pay for a fucking PRS licence in our waiting rooms (this is a hospital; there's little leniency) just so we can put BBC News on for patients. However, because we ONLY pay for these areas, this makes it illegal for me to put my (paid for!) Spotify account on in our office of two. I'm paying royalties every fucking month, but this is somehow irrelevant?

      Beck? No opinion.

    2. Blitterbug

      Re: Genius, in a way.

      I upvoted you, sir.

      Then I tried to downvote you for showing off in italics...


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Genius, in a way.

        You are aware that things such as italics and bold are fairly easy if you use html tags properly.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You don't even need piracy...

    According to quantum mechanics there is a universe where every space is occupied by an exact copy of your product!

    PS, this commentard does not give much weight to the theory, but would find it amusing for companies to try and sue the multiverse.

  21. JDX Gold badge

    It's a neat thing to do BUT what makes a song is the author's performance... especially with modern music anyway. Not just obvious things like the tone of their voice, but how they set up the effects on electric guitars. Every artist has a distinctive sound - even from a few bars without singing you can normally tell who the artist is.

  22. twelvebore

    Dear Mr Beck

    Some guys from 1880 called, they want to chat about you nicking their ideas...

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Dear Mr Beck

      They say Lady Gaga et al are inspired by the 80s — I guess Beck just misunderstood?

  23. kissingthecarpet

    I don't

    call a code listing open source - I'd expect a machine-readable downloadable file at least.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This'll be fun!

    So what happens when the fan versions on Youtube are way better than Becks? embarrassment all round and disappointed fans..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This'll be fun!

      He'll still get songwriting royalties and if people like them they'd be looking for more songs originally written by Beck.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This'll be fun!

        songwriting royalties from youtube?

        let me know how that turns out for you...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior art....

    Oasis did this in 2008

    1. NogginTheNog

      Re: Prior art....

      Which I guess was the Play In A Day version? And you can hardly describe much of Oasis' a few open chords and lots of distortion 'masterpieces' as "art".

  26. PyLETS
    Thumb Up

    back to the future

    Way to go before they invented those new fangled wax cylinders. Interesting that musicians then thought being recorded for posterity as a compliment, rather than a source of income. The latter of course came from live performances and sales of sheet music. As to the publisher quote: ...

    makes a radical statement about the value and importance of performed and recorded music at a time when these very things are under threat

    exclusive rights by musicians to sell tickets to performances are not threatened, and trying to prevent fans who buy tickets from bootlegging live performance recordings isn't ever likely to be effective, but recording contract terms imposed in the interests of publishers obliging musicians to tour at subsidised ticket prices in order to promote studio recordings, (instead of for ticket sale revenue), are increasingly unlikely to be signed by musicians who know which side their bread is buttered.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: back to the future

      Great so we all have to listen to shitty bootlegs because you think paying a professional sound engineer to create a quality recording is wrong?

      Pay for what you listen to and stop being a bedroom revolutionary.

      1. PyLETS

        @AC 18:42 Re: back to the future

        Nah, just got back from a live gig. Get a life AC.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: back to the future

      Whilst I'm here, tours are subsidised by album sales because they're ridiculously expensive to organise, most people don't want to pay £150 per ticket for a single gig. That's why they're used as a promotional tool for album sales and merchandise (where an artist actually can make money).

  27. The last doughnut

    Its not recorded music that's in danger, its the music publishing industry.

    Like, roll over, Beethoven. Y'know. Yeah.

  28. TheOtherHobbes

    I think I'll wait

    for the binaries.

    (Or in Beck's case, not.)

  29. 1Rafayal

    Bollocks to the nonsense

    This is my mums xmas present sorted.

  30. Mike VandeVelde

    a response to piracy??

    He releases sheet music, encouraging everyone to play his songs, instead of lawsuits left right and center for humming his tunes in the shower, and you twist it around into an attack on pirates? Yer doin a heckuva job there!!

    Here is Beck's experience with the "music industry":

    All you haters take a puff on this talent cannon:

    1. PyLETS
      Thumb Up

      @Mike VandeVelde Re: a response to piracy??

      That live BBC4 Beck concert you linked is pretty awesome. Listening to it now.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Let's get more people interested in learning a skill instead of simply consuming what's in front of them.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is one of those ideas thats so good it actually makes me angry


  33. Eguro


    I'm guessing there'll be some sort of Purchase agreement stamped onto the sheet-music-cover?

    "By purchasing this, you agree that Beck Inc. will get 80% of any revenue you may generate using this sheet music in any way"

    Or will that be inside the box - meaning that loads of people will get home, copy the sheet music for themselves, then return it to the store saying "I don't accept this agreement that was covertly placed in this product. I demand that you take it back"

    If no such agreement is anywhere on the product, are we then free to assume that once bought, you are free to do with the product as you see fit - I.E make tons of money off of it, without paying anything to Beck?

    So many questions I want answers to, and I only know one Beck song.

    As for more tangible matters:

    Beck fans will be either learning to play the songs themselves (unlikely), or wait for someone else to upload to youtube.

    Non-Beck fans will be shuffling along as before.

    1. Uplink

      Re: eeeh

      "If no such agreement is anywhere on the product, are we then free to assume that once bought, you are free to do with the product as you see fit - I.E make tons of money off of it, without paying anything to Beck?"

      The way I understand copyright law, rights are withheld by default. That is if they aren't explicitly granted to you, you don't have them. Long story short: if there isn't any agreement on or in the box, you don't have any rights to what you bought (except to the physical support, which isn't under copyright, and you can use that any way you like, like, say, as a paperweight or a doorstop). It's not public domain unless the author says so.

  34. Killraven

    Challenge My Fanny

    Challenge to "****tards"? How is this not also a challenge to his cash-paying fans? In fact, it's a BIGGER challenge to them, because they're the ones who actually paid for his music in the first place. Downloaders are the people that get it because it's there, not because they care.

    "Fans of the artist Beck must wait until December for his new album" is incorrect right out the gate as well, because he's not releasing an album at all. He's merely turned into another songwriter, making his sheet music available.

    For fans of his performance, it's an utter non-event.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So... Beck is clearly encouraging people to play the music he has penned themselves.

    As the article says, there is no original, so what if someone records his music and then releases it themselves? That would then be the original?

    1. JimC

      >the original

      I haven't checked what conditions are attached, and of course he can attach what conditions he likes to his songs, but I imagine If other folks sell recordings of his songs they keep the performance royalties and pay Mr Beck the song writing royalties just like any other cover version.

      Not particularly aiming at you, but the level of ignorance on the posts here is pretty breathtaking.

  36. zip119

    Plus ca change

    A century ago, sheet music was the pop music of the day. Every middle-class home had a piano, and sheet music of hit songs sold in big numbers. What's the next innovation--starting electric cars with rotary cranks?

  37. Herby


    Compression. No more of this MP3 stuff. Just the notes please, add a voice synthesizer and you are all set. Can they carry a tune??

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