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jason on 11/28/2011 at 12:26PM

Podcasting Pioneer Podington Bear Returns w/ 'Egress'

A mysterious bear named Podington took the Internet by storm in 2007, releasing three beautifully crafted instrumental songs each week under the CC BY-NC license. Podington's podcast rubbed shoulders with KEXP's Song of the Day and NPR's All Songs Considered atop the the iTunes charts, while his story and thoughts on music captivated Morning Edition and Wired's Listening Post. His thought-provoking ideas like selling album art space for ads inspired artists to follow his lead, while the free music unleashed by this experiment inspired countless new works of art, both under the terms of CC license and through commercial licensing opportunities from the likes of This American Life and Paul Frank Industries.

The true identity of Podington Bear remained a mystery throughout the entire project. Then, upon the release of a retrospective box set in July 2008, too much information in the CDDB tags revealed the bear to be Chad Crouch of Portland OR's HUSH Records, known for releasing the music of artists like Amy Annelle, The Decembrists, Kind of Like Spitting, Laura Gibson, Loch Lomond and many more including Chad's own projects as Podington, in the group Blanket Music, and under his own name, and possibly others (See interview below).

In 2008 Chad / Podington launched Sound of Picture, a project scoring "Single Frame Films" that doubles as a production library for multi-frame films ("Instrumental Music With Personality, For Your Project"), with 300 free CC BY-NC mp3s. Cameron of Creative Commons and Superhumanoids first introduced Podington Bear to the FMA with the track "Wavy Glass" off of Meet Podington Bear, and we're humbled that Chad has selected a new batch of songs, Egress, to debut on the FMA as a window into the world of Podington Bear --

I interviewed Chad via email --

You mentioned that some interest has resulted from "Wavy Glass" being on FMA?

Well quite a number of people have contacted me because they want to use a track but aren't sure if their use qualifies as non-commercial.  Often it is not, and so I propose a simple and reasonable fee.  This has happened at least half a dozen times translating into real income.

Full disclosure:  I couldn't live off Podington Bear income alone, but I'm continually surprised how people come out of the woodwork wanting to pay me for use of my music.  That's why I made the 300 cue Sound Of Picture Production Library, to make it easier for people to find something that might fit with whatever they're doing.

Why did you use the CC BY-NC license for this project?

It seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  It's like the Velveteen Rabbit:  For me the music becomes more real if it's nut just heard, but played with and cared for.

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." 

You specifically offer a free festival license for independent filmmakers. Are there any independent films or other projects that you're particularly psyched to have inspired?

I really liked this short film called Toast. I thought it was really charming.  It looked like they had a lot of fun making it.

Your innovative distribution strategies have been really successful in reaching new audiences as well as bringing commercial licensing opportunities. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to early Podington Bear fans, you've been running been running a record label distributing physical releases on vinyl and CD since 1998. How do these two approaches compare? 

Well, I'm thankful to have the time to engage in both pursuits.  I suppose you could say HUSH is more traditional.  Like you say, we still release CDs and vinyl.  CDs were really an afterthought for my work as P Bear, which was driven mostly by the podcast medium.  That was the original idea: 3 songs a week delivered by podcast, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  For a label, there's a monetization problem with that scheme.

I don't foresee any Podington Bear material being issued on CD in the future.  But it's a little bit apples and oranges to compare the two. My music is instrumental (falling into the electronic genre), off the cuff, and "bedroom produced", whereas the music HUSH releases is predominately vocal (in the folk and alternative genres) and labored over in studios or in the hands of capable engineers.  

But having said that, the two approaches are closer now than when I started.  With digital tools for musicians always evolving, the threshold for sharing one's music and attempting to monetize it has never been lower.  Platforms like Bandcamp and Kickstarter are stand-outs.

Why did you keep your identity secret as Podington Bear?

For the same reasons people usually choose pseudonyms:  a certain freedom from expectation or critical assumptions. 

Are you making music under a secret alias right now?

Yes.

 

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