Team Open

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Anil Prasad

Why the internet’s first music magazine opened the door to sharing.

Anil Prasad is the creator of Innerviews, the first and longest-running online music magazine. In 2013, Anil placed 20 years of in-depth musician interviews under a Creative Commons license. One year later, he has seen downloads multiply of his eBook, increased discovery of his website, and collaborations with major labels like Blue Note and Atlantic Records. “Interesting big commercial enterprises are looking to CC for content. I’m busier than I’ve ever been.”

Enabled by CC licenses, more people are reading Anil’s work around the world in different media. Readers are “…Benefiting because the content is propagating in a way that it wasn’t previously. There’s a large free flow of information.”

Few people can take a project and sustain it 20 years later. Even fewer can do it while maintaining the project’s original intent and successfully adapting to the changing times. Anil Prasad, creator of Innerviews — the first and longest-running online music magazine — is one of those people. He began Innerviews in 1994, and since then, the site has stayed devoted to in-depth interviews of musicians, including artists like Kronos Quartet, Talking Heads, Björk, and William Shatner, among numerous others. The site has seen great success over the years, spreading around the world in different media, including as part of the UCLA School of Music’s curriculum.

Last October, Anil made the major decision to release his 20 years’ worth of music journalism under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives (“BY-ND”) license. The decision was prompted by observing many musicians and artists adopting CC, including artists like David Byrne discussing it in a significant way.

“I always wondered if you can put something out there without traditional copyright and still have some element of control over it, and with Creative Commons, a happy construct is created,” says Anil.

The BY-ND license allows for his work to be used freely by others, as long as the content isn’t altered (“ND”) and Anil is credited (“BY”).

“Others have prescribed rules that they have to follow with the CC licenses, and it’s great. I haven’t seen any abuse of it whatsoever,” says Anil.

Within a few months of placing his interviews under CC, Anil has seen downloads multiply of the eBook edition of his #1 iTunes bestselling book, Innerviews: Music Without Borders. There’s increased discovery of his website, increased website traffic and social media signups, and increased writing opportunities springing up. Myriad websites have taken pieces of the interviews, translated his work, or used the interviews in their entirety with attribution, freeing Anil of the burdensome back-and-forth of granting permission. Anil has also had the chance to collaborate with major record labels, including a project with the significant avant-garde jazz label Cuneiform Records, label liner notes for Blue Note Records, and a box set project for Atlantic Records.

“Interesting big commercial enterprises are looking to CC for content,” explains Anil. “There has been a general lift in awareness of Innerviews since the decision has been made. I’m busier than I’ve ever been.”

In addition to Anil, the musicians featured on Innerviews have seen successes themselves. Premier Guitar Magazine ran Anil’s story on Michael Manring under the CC license. In Russia, InRock Magazine — one of the country’s biggest rock publications — ran Anil’s interview with Peter Hammill on the cover.

“The In Rock cover story came entirely out of CC. Peter Hammill is very well known in Europe, and I don’t think even he could have foreseen that he would be on the cover of a major Russian magazine,” says Anil.

Enabled by CC licenses, a greater number of people are reading Anil’s pieces on more and more websites, with coverage in various countries in multiple forums, benefiting everyone.

“The musicians might not make the connection to CC, but they’re happy they’re out there as a result. The great thing about CC,” continues Anil, “is that for some it’s invisible, and readers are probably not paying a whole lot of attention to it, but they’re benefiting because the content is propagating in a way that it wasn’t previously. There’s a large free flow of information.”

One year into using CC licenses, Anil views opening up his work as integral to Innerviews and the changing context in which people digest, share, and use online content.

“I have no regrets about the decision. A lot of people – like those from conventional music magazines – paid attention when I adopted CC and raised their eyebrows. I got a lot of emails in capital letters and exclamation points, saying that I was forgoing future revenue opportunities, and that I was watering it down for the rest of them. I think it reflects a generational shift in the digital world.”

As the internet’s first music magazine in 1994, Innerviews continues to endure as a major body of work. 20 years later, Anil has not only adapted to the evolving digital landscape, but embraced it. This outlook has paid dividends for Innerviews, securing his site as a classic fixture of music journalism.

“I’m proud that I’m still able to do Innerviews on a non-commercial basis, have it last this long, and turn into a life’s work. It started essentially when I was a kid - and now I’m in my mid 40s and still doing it. The opportunities have become pretty significant, and it’s a very well known site at this point. The world comes to it instead of me going to the world, and the CC element comes into that,” says Anil.

For Innerviews’ 20th anniversary in 2014, Anil underwent a major website redesign that radically revisioned the site. The design is “future-proof,” seamlessly adapting to mobile and tablet formats so everyone can have the same experience, no matter how small their screen is. CC is integrated into every element.

“For the 20th anniversary, it’s a statement that the site belongs to everyone else as much as it does to me. That’s the biggest accomplishment with Innerviews. It’s more than a website. It’s a community of people, and CC feeds into all of that. If CC isn’t about community, then what is it about? It’s the ultimate manifestation of it.”

Anil is right. CC is about community — a world in which people can share freely, build off the work of others, and advance themselves, each other, and society as a whole — the same way Anil Prasad has done with Innerviews.

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Creative Commons License

Anil Prasad (Team Open) was written by Meryl Mohan for Creative Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The illustration of Anil Prasad was created by Luke Surl. To the extent possible under the law, Luke Surl has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration.