Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is not the literary world's most active Web aficionado, but he's certainly its most prominent. The Brazilian author has sold more than 100 million books, which include 14 short story collections and the novel "The Alchemist." He has been a fan of the Internet since the early 1990s. He spends at least three hours a day online, writing e-mails back and forth with his readers and posting photos on Flickr, MySpace and a blog.

Coelho's online activities also include a somewhat nefarious one: he likes to promote pirated copies of his own books. At the recent Digital, Life, Design Conference in Munich, Coelho told a gathering of tech company CEOs, artists and designers that since 2005 he's been directing his readers to an online site where they can download his books, in languages from German to Japanese, for free. "I always thought that when, at the beginning of your career, you strive to be read, you can't change your mind later and become greedy about it," he said.

Tell that to his publisher, HarperCollins. When reached by NEWSWEEK, a HarperCollins spokeswoman, Patricia Rose, said the publisher knew nothing about Coelho's online activities.

With his announcement Coelho is turning up the heat on an issue that's been simmering in the book publishing industry for years. In supplementing traditional promotional strategies, such as book signings and reviews, with free downloads, Coelho is championing a model that's gaining momentum among his fellow, albeit lesser-known, authors. Writers of technical manuals, academic books and fiction authors, like science fiction writer Cory Doctorow, have been putting their entire books online for free, with the consent of their publishers. Some authors claim that online publishing increases book sales by stimulating word of mouth. Publishers, for the most part, have been reluctant to endorse the practice for fear that it will undermine their sales and contracts for foreign rights and distribution. The trouble is, nobody really knows what effect free online publishing has on book sales, because there's almost no data to go on. "I think the Internet, for [publishers], is a very strange world, still," says Coelho's agent, Monica Antunes, from her office in Barcelona. "They can't make up their minds whether it's good or not good."

Whereas most authors who have embraced online publishing have done so openly, Coelho had been deftly hiding behind the anonymity provided in the digital world. His site, Piratecoelho, culls pirated versions of his books on sites like BitTorrent and eMule. He pays 10 fans scattered across France, Spain, Brazil, Russia and Turkey to find new pipelines for him to gather versions of his books onto the site. Visitors to his blog can click on an image of Coelho, resplendent in a neatly trimmed white beard, scarf and eye patch (he resembles an affable buccaneer in real life as well), and continue on to the site.

Coelho believes his online activities have only increased his already healthy sales. When he first came across a pirated edition of one of his books, in Russian, on the Internet in 1999, he put the link on his site, and the impact was immediate. Bookstore sales in Russia, a market in which Coelho was having distribution problems and where he had sold only 1,000 books, rocketed to 10,000 in 2001. He has since sold 10 million copies of his books, his agent says. His fans have downloaded complete editions of his books, in languages ranging from Spanish to Swedish, more than 20 million times in the past seven years. By publishing online, he says, "you give the reader the possibility of reading books and choosing whether to buy it or not."


From Thomas Paine's "Common Sense"...

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. WHEREFORE, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows, that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out of the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which, would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen, that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the branches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of REGULATIONS, and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by natural right, will have a seat.

But as the colony increases, the public concerns will increase likewise, and the distance at which the members may be separated, will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitations near, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act, were they present. If the colony continues increasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of the representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part sending its proper number; and that the ELECTED might never form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often; because as the ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED.

Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.

on stage

Copying is not stealing, mmmkay?

I just left this on my friend Richard's blog when he discussed the "copying CDs is stealing" issue. I've been struggling with this for many years (one reason why I haven't made a CD in a while, I'm morally unsure of what it means anymore), but I'm slowly getting to a place where I think I am starting to understand this fully...

"Illegal downloading" is not the same as "stealing" either legally, practically, or morally. If you have a car, and I steal it, then I have a car and you do not. That's the definition of stealing: to take your property and thus deprive you of using it. It is predicated on the law of "scarcity of resource" - that stealing your food means you go hungry, since there's not enough food for both of us. or stealing your money means you can't afford to buy new food.

Digital information, since it is infinitely replicable for negligible cost, therefore CANNOT be stolen BY DEFINITION. Anyone who states that copying their music (or whatever) is stealing money out of their pocket either does not understand this fully, or is deliberately obscuring the real facts in order to profit.

In order to obfuscate this fast, large media corporations have been fighting on several fronts over the past years, such as:
  • creating propaganda to persuade people that replicating an infinite resource is morally wrong (using morally loaded terms such as "stealing" and "piracy" (neither of which it is)
  • paying politicians enormous sums of money to enact laws to make the free use and trade of digital information illegal (ironically often the same people who shout loudest about the virtues of the free market economy)
All of which is the digital version of King Canute attempting to command back the waves.

Therefore the challenge for any artist in the digital age is not how to constrain the infinite replication of their work, but how to profit from it, which is a very different thing. Take Magnatune: you can download stuff for free from there or you can choose to pay IF YOU WANT. Seems to work for them and their artists.

Take Radiohead: they offer their album for WHATEVER PEOPLE WANT TO PAY. So Radiohead are stupid, right? No-one is going to pay for something they are being offered for free... right? Hey guess what: the average payment was something over 2 bucks last I looked.

OK says the traditionalist, that a lot less than the $10 cost of a CD or MP3 from iTunes... but hey, guess what? The ARTIST doesn't GET that 10 bucks YOU pay. The record company does. The ARTIST gets a tiny share of that, maybe about... ummm... wow... TWO BUCKS. So how much money does Radiohead lose by offering their album for whatever you want to pay? Answer: zero. They can give it away and MAKE EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY AS BY SELLING IT FOR TEN DOLLARS.

Welcome to the digital economy my friend: where there's a lot of money to be made by giving things away for free. See GNU/Linux for a shining example.

But wait! There's more... Radiohead haven't just made the same amount of money. They have also given the record away to LOTS of people who would not, or could not, otherwise have paid for it. So NOW they have a fanbase who are massively more numerous than before. That's called GREAT MARKETING, and how much did it cost them? That's right: nothing. So not only have they made the same money as before, they've actually added value to their product!

As Cory Doctorow once said: my problem as an artist isn't piracy, it's OBSCURITY. No-one is going to pay for my work if they don't know who I am. Therefore it's OBVIOUSLY better to GIVE THE STUFF AWAY TO PEOPLE WHO WANT IT, rather than NOT sell it to people who don't know who the fuck I am in the first place.

And of course the WORST POSSIBLE THING I could do is hassle the people who WANT to hear my music: they are my FANS, my success DEPENDS on them liking me. So only an idiot would say that their fans are WRONG FOR WANTING TO HEAR THEIR MUSIC, right? I mean, really, what could be DUMBER than my criticising people for actually WANTING my work. But hey, guess again: THAT'S WHAT RECORDING COMPANIES DO.

Any artist who has a problem with people wanting to hear their music is a fucking idiot frankly.

I could rant about this for another couple of hours, but I have initiations to do... And yeah, I know I haven't written here in a while, Facebook kinda took over for a while there, but I have not fled LJ completely yet... :-)

Mayday weekend

Where to begin to describe the fun of the last couple of days... I'll try to give you some flavour:

Saturday morning we jumped in the car and headed to Glastonbury, which oddly enough is a place I've never previously visited, despite living fairly close by, and having read about it since I was a teenager. We arrived on a lovely sunny afternoon, headed to the marketplace and immediately walked into the handsome Mr. David Rankine walking his even more handsome progeny, and surrounded by admiring young ladies. After a short chat, Kim turned up and we hooked up with the various members of the Cardiff University Pagan Society who were there en masse to soak up the Beltane vibe. We walked up Glastonbury Tor chatting away and then sat in the sun gazing over the Isle of Avalon and feeling extremely relaxed and happy.

After that it was back into town again to hit some bookstores - managed to get some great bargains at the wonderful Speaking Tree, my new favourite occult bookstore ever, including a discounted 7 CD set of Rudolf Steiner lectures on Rosicrucianism, which seemed just too damn weird to pass over.

In the early evening, Kim, Cathryn and I convened at the Chalice Well, where some friends were holding a private ritual. We had a lovely time there, though that Healing Pool was cold. We picnicked in the garden afterwards, and talked to old and new friends, including several from the Priestess book that Cathryn contributed to.

After that evening was drawing in, and the sun's warmth disappeared rapidly, so it was off to the pub for drinks and merriment, finishing off with fish & chips in the local Backpackers' hostel. Then we drove to Cathryns parents' house and crashed out.

Sunday afternoon we met up with explodi and axamendes at a place previously unknown to me (and most other people apparently), Stanton Drew stone circle. It's a beautiful place, the second largest stone circle in the UK, after Avebury. Upon getting close to the inner circle, we noticed a couple laying beside the head stone, celebrating Beltane in the way our true pagan ancestors used to. Clearly the land is now more fertile...

After that it was on to Bristol, and The Invisible Circus! Wow... what an extravaganza that was! Possibly the greatest night out I have ever experienced, words cannot possibly express the entire event. I dressed in a black velvet and gold brocade robe, as befitted my status as Orpheus the Magnificent, Prestidigitator to the Courts of the Crowned Heads of Europe. Highlights of the night included a perfectly recreated Victorian seance, including ectoplasm, a spirit kettle that dispensed absinthe, table turning etc. where our little party fitted in perfectly; a zoo full of furries with personality disorders, turning tricks for peanuts; ghosts walking down walls and scattering cherry blossoms from the sky (which brought tears to my eyes); and me playing ping-pong with Satan (I'm looking forward to seeing the video of that). For six hours we wandered around with our eyes the size of saucers.

So today is a day for sitting on the sofa, watching TV, and recovering methinks...
  • Current Mood
    happy happy
  • Tags
calvin genius


I was really looking forward to having a very relaxing week's holiday this week; alas it was not to be (at least so far). Problems at college led me to have to go in there for the first couple of days, and other problem have been occupying far too much of my time and mental energy last couple of days.

I thought I'd at least get a day playing some Warhammer 40k which is always fun, and it was, but I still lost twice to Simon's bloody Chaos Marines. Bah.
  • Current Mood
    tired tired
  • Tags
on stage

Frankfurt Musikmesse

Frankfurt Musikmesse is the biggest music instrument trade show in the world, by a very long way. Twelve halls of everything from tablas to grand pianos. I've been coming here nearly every year for about twenty years, first as a customer, and then as an exhibitor. This year I could definitely feel the economic woes hit - it used to take me about half an hour to walk from one end of a hall to another, this time it was taking five minutes. However we did damn well, our booth was packed to the eyeballs for the whole week. I did get a chance to get off the stage a few times to walk around. A few highlights:

Prosoniq showed an alpha version of some remarkable new software that allows you to take any fully mixed stereo file and pull out individual vocal and instrument multi-tracks from it. I saw it, I heard it, but I still find it hard to believe you can do that. "It's like unscrambling an egg!" remarked a friend of mine who saw it. If it works it'll revolutionise remixing the day it comes out. Unfortunately it'll be MacOS only, and require a minimum quad core computer to do the processing. Still, very very cool technology.

Watched an interesting demo of the Moog Guitar. Infinite, controllable sustain and a Moog filter on every string. Looked and sounded interesting, but according to a guitar playing friend of mine, sucks totally to play. I didn't get the chance to play it myself, so I leave that open till I do.

Presonus/KristalLabs Studio One. Beyond any doubt the best new music composition software in years. Beautifully designed (by some ex-Steinberg developers), loads of cool features, yet really slick and easy to use; it's the only sequencer I've seen since Cubase 1.0 that I've actually wanted to use.

I ran across Plugiator on the Musonik booth, and it definitely looked interesting. It's basically a programable DSP in a small synth shell. What that means in practice is that you can program it to emulate several different synths and have them all available at the push of a button. If this sounds like what Creamware used to do with their Scope stuff a few years back, that's not odd, because it's basically a spin-off of that technology. It comes with four different things built in:
  1. Minimoog - which didn't impress me too much, but I'm not a huge Moog fan anyway
  2. Lightwave - oh hell yes, it's a wavetable synth like the Waldorf MicroWave. Nice digital sounds, they don't sound that great on their own, but I bet they will really useful in a mix.
  3. Organ - it's another Hammond B-3 emulation. Why do people bother with this? It's a frakin' organ, big deal. On the other hand, if they had stuck some serious distortion on the back of it I could like it a lot.
  4. Vocoder - now this is what will sell it to me. There's a mic input on the back panel, though unfortunately it's a jack, not an XLR, but it is a TRS balanced input. And it's a frakin' VOCODER! We use vocoders live all the time in The Cassandra Complex, so a small cheap, easy to carry box with a good vocoder in it is always interesting. And this one seems really damn good too. Would definitely like to spend more time with it.
So out of that lot, there's two definite pluses, one could be good, and one yeah whatever. But hold on, you can buy four more synth models for it for about 99 Euros! So far there are:
  1. Prodyssey - is a ARP Odyssey emulation. I've always liked this synth, and it's definitely great for Gary Numan impersonations. Would like to play with it a bit.
  2. Pro-12 - now we're talking. I've been a huge Prophet fan ever since the early days. Most of the first Cassandra Complex songs were written on an old Pro-One; and this emulation sounds really damn fine. I really wish this one was one of the basic onboard synths, it's an absolute godsend. I love this synth.
  3. FMagia - another DX style synth. Didn't impress me much from what I heard, I'd like to play a bit with it though. Most preset FM sounds are very boring, but you can do cool things with them if you kick it a bit.
  4. Drums & Bass - loads of drums... and loads of bass. Definitely useful, it basically turns the box into a rhythm machine. So yeah, if you need a box that'll do excellent backing tracks live, this will do it. Unfortunately you can't run the other synth models while you're doing it, so it makes it slightly limited. Still pretty ok though.
You can have all of these loaded into the machine and flip between them on the fly. The Pro-12 is a must-buy, and for 99 bucks you can't really go wrong with the rest either.

I forgot the best part: Musonik do custom faceplates for it! They already told me they'd design a Casandra Complex faceplate for me if I wanted one... that's hard to say no to! So all in all, I could really go for getting a couple of these.

The other contender for great small synth is the new MicroKorg XL. I remember when Korg first showed the original MicroKorg, everyone in the industry said it was junk, but I loved it and predicted it would be a monster hit. I am glad to say that I was more than right: Korg just sold the 100,000th unit, making it the best selling synth of all time. So now they are following it up with a new one, and it's bitchingly good. It looks great, they nailed the 70s vintage look on it. Sounds great too, it's got the Radius engine in it for some killer Korg patches. The microphone is better, and is a real gooseneck with a real XLR socket on the synth itself. Vocoder is improved and it even has Kaoss Pad effects built in. You can edit the sounds with a computer patch editor, and it even reads MS2000 sounds. And it's only 100 Euros more expensive that the original one! Since The Cassandra Complex currently has 2 MS2000s and a MicroKorg that we use live, this synth is looking like a no-brainer choice for us for the future - that's unless we switch to using a couple of Plugiators instead.#

So that's about all I saw that was really interesting to me, but then again, I never even left Hall 5 where our stand was located! I couldn't face two halls full of guitars, or even two full of home organs...

All in all, it was a surprisingly good show. I've got a free day tomorrow so I'm hoping the weather will be nice here so I can explore a bit - I've been coming here for forever and I've never actually walked around here! Back to the West Country tomorrow night, which is good, because I'm missing it.


Just saw the end of BSG.

Bittersweet. In so many ways.

Goodbye. You were the best show ever on television.
  • Current Music
    All Along The Watchtower
  • Tags
on stage

most sensible thing I've heard in ages...

At last my thoughts on the digital copying issue have finally been crystallised in this statement from Cory Doctorow, in the foreword to Little Brother:'s my pitch on why giving away ebooks makes sense at this time and place:

Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. The commercial question is the one that comes up most often: how can you give away free ebooks and still make money?

For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity (thanks to Tim O'Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy.