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How Provides Quality Music for Indie Creators

Read all the way to the bottom to find a discount on both Artlist’s music and Artgrid’s film footage!

Launched in 2016, Artlist has grown into a powerful tool for many independent creatives today, providing royalty-free music tracks for use in various projects.

Today, we talk with Artlist manager Dikla Josef about the problem filmmaker and co-founder Ira Belsky and his three friends were initially attempting to solve, and how that has expanded in the years since.

The Basics

SbP: Hi Dikla! Thanks for chatting today. 

Can you tell me a bit about how Artlist was founded? What was the problem Ira and the other founders were trying to solve at that time?

DY: Artlist’s co-founders were filmmakers and musicians. And they saw a gap in the industry between the low-quality stock music that was just made for making money and the high-quality music that came at a price. They wanted to find a way to bring inspiring music made with heart and soul by real musicians to every creator out there. After all, music is an essential part of the creative process, and you shouldn’t compromise on its quality. And it shouldn’t just act as a filler. Music has the power to take film and video to a whole new level. The Artlist community continues to grow as more musicians and filmmakers join us. And our aim is to keep it as relevant and inspiring as possible for all creators.

SbP: And you’re based in Israel, yes? Do you have offices anywhere else?

DY: Yes, we’re based in Israel. Our headquarters is situated in the north of the country, and we have offices in Tel Aviv and in the Central District. We are constantly growing.

SbP: Why did you choose to offer a yearly subscription plan for services, rather than monthly or pay-per-use?

DY: That’s a great question, and the pricing model is something we thought about long and hard before launching our product. For one… it’s simple, and Artlist is all about simplifying music licensing for creators. This allows them to focus on the creative part of filmmaking. Second, we want our users to get the highest quality music as well as service. This model helps us ensure our musicians get paid well for their inspiring work.

SbP: This is probably a question tentative subscribers have. If a user cancels their subscription, what happens to the licensing rights of content they’ve downloaded previously?

DY: Once you download a song with an active subscription, it’s yours to use forever. It’s the same even if you don’t renew your subscription.

Stock Footage Thanks to Artgrid

SbP: I’ve seen the platform grow over time; not only in terms of content. What is Artgrid and what are some of other plans for your platform being made in response to your users’ needs?

DY: Artgrid is the footage licensing platform we launched this year, and it’s reinventing the way creators around the world think about stock footage. Our aim was providing the same simplified license as Artlist’s, as well as high-quality footage from today’s top cinematographers around the world. Filmmaking is our passion, so we understand what today’s creative filmmakers need to produce amazing films.

We want our users to use Artgrid as a starting point in their filmmaking process. That means that rather than serve as a stop-gap for missing shots, our users can create entire stories from our footage and fill in the gaps with their own shots. This can save so much time and money for creators as well as inspire them creatively.

That’s why each shot in the Artgrid catalog is part of a story, which is a collection of shots from the same sequence. You’ll see different angles and points of view, which gives you a lot more flexibility and freedom.

As for Artgrid’s future, we aim to grow our footage catalog exponentially this year. And we’ll do it without compromising the quality we offer.

Regarding future plans in general, we know that technology has a major effect on the licensing industry. And we plan on being at the forefront when it comes to improvements and innovations. We’re working tirelessly to make Artlist more of a complete solution for creators. We started with music, then added stock footage, so you can expect big features this year. Stay tuned…

Signing Musicians

SbP: Cool. How did you go about finding music artists to contribute work before launch? And how are you going about getting more these days? 

DY: Before we launched, we worked in two areas.

The first was signing a contract with a label from England that provided us with music from about 50 musicians. The second was making our own music. Two of our founders are musicians, and they worked their butts off so that we’d have about 1,000 original songs for our launch. Then, we put up a webpage on our website where musicians could contact us to become collaborators. We started recruiting in-house musicians that would contribute more music as part of our Artlist Original program. That gave us control over the quality and type of music we offer.

We still operate in these two avenues, and we also have music scouts that scour the web looking for promising musicians whose music could fit our catalog.

SbP: In that case, let me give a shout out to one promising your musician and producer with alot of heart and talent: Chris Punsalan.

DY: We always welcome new musicians. Aspiring artists are welcome to fill out an application and if we think it’s a good fit then our Music Department will contact them for further details. 

SbP: Do your music artists contribute regularly, sort of like putting out new albums or tracks? Or do they contribute in one-off amounts?

DY: It depends. Some musicians come to us with a back catalog of albums that they want to put out there.  But we have long relationships with our musicians, so they send us music regularly. Our artists are not only contributors, but they are also our partners. Our business model offers them a very nice percentage of our revenue, so when they succeed, we succeed.

SbP: What are your thoughts about ASCAP or other media licensing agencies?

DY: ASCAP and the other agencies are doing their own thing, which is looking out for musicians’ interests. Artlist was founded to fill the void created by the boom of filmmakers in recent years and the lack of affordable original music. As such, the sync license that we offer benefits both sides. On the one hand, it provides a new platform where musicians can get exposure and make a decent income from their art. And on the other hand, it gives filmmakers a source of quality music that can elevate their video.

Taking on the Competition

SbP: I’m going to pick out three other competitors within your space and I’d like you to tell me how you differentiate yourself from them. These are other platforms also providing quality music for the type of users you serve: Epidemic, Premium Beat, and Soundstripe.

DY: It’s funny because when we started, the music licensing industry was working on a pay-per-song model, and all the emerging creators out there couldn’t afford it. We disrupted the scene by going with the subscription-based model. Little by little, all the other companies followed suit.

Today, our main differentiating feature is probably our license. Our competitors set numerous restrictions on their licenses. They may limit you to post your video only on certain platforms. Or they may set a limit on how many followers you have. Or they may allow you to use a song for only one project.

We eliminated all these restrictions. With our sync license, you can use our music for any type of video project, even commercial. You don’t need to worry about your video getting flagged if it’s posted on the “wrong” platform or that you might face extra charges in the future. You can also reuse a song you like in as many videos as you want. And as I mentioned before, once you download a song with an active subscription, it’s yours to use forever and in any project even if you don’t extend your subscription. This is something that our competitors don’t offer.

Another advantage we have is value for money. If you take into account our one-time yearly flat fee of $199 (which comes out as $16.60 per month), that gives you access to our entire catalog, unlimited downloads and a license that covers everything. I think that you can’t beat that in terms of value for money.

Our third and final advantage is quality. I don’t want to slam our competitors… you can find good music there, but from what I’ve seen, we have higher musical standards. We manually check every artist, album, and song that is sent to us to see if it meets our quality demands. In order to see the big picture, we accept about 4% of the music that we receive. That doesn’t prevent us from updating our library every day. Just this year, we added more than 5,000 songs to our catalog. That allows us to always offer music that sounds fresh. We always look to ride the current musical trends and offer music that will sound attractive to our creators’ ears.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you! To snag two extra months of either Artlist’s quality royalty-free music or Artgrid’s stunning stock footage, just click the links.

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Best Stocking Stuffers 2019

If you’re looking for unique items to stuff your oversized red socks with this year, we’ve got your back.

Forget those shattered candy canes snatched from CVS at the last minute! Here’s our list of ten dope gifts produced by makers we know personally, as well as brands we dig at a distance.

1. Toy Boarders Figures. Make lines, not war! Replacing the classic green army solder, AJ’s Toy Boarders come in packs of 24 performing legit skate tricks. Series 1, 2 and Pro available as well as packs of snowboarders and surfers. $5.95-$7.95

2. Doughnut Socks. Sukeno makes quality products intended to make you smile, and these colorful socks do exactly that. Sukeno’s tasty toe-covers come in stunning “flavors” such as strawberry milk, PB & chocolate, and blueberry cheesecake. Other styles such as beer, pizza, and sushi are also available. $12.99

3. Boys Don’t Stink Soap. Boys and stink go together like Rudolf and red-noses… but Boys Don’t Stink giant bars of extra savage exfoliating Shea Butter and Oatmeal soap from Walton Wood Farm will keep them smelling more like a human and less like a reindeer. A bit of habitual reminding comes into play with the words “Don’t Be a Pig” inscribed into each bar. Three XXL soap bars for $29.95.

4. Chocolate and Cinnamon Coffee. Café Femenino Coffee is a Fair Trade, organic, and women-owned specialty coffee brand that provides direct compensation, leadership opportunities, and ownership rights to women coffee farmers. One of the brand’s six coffees, Café Femenino Guatemala Sololá delights the tongue with sweet notes of dark chocolate and cinnamon and is produced by a local Mayan co-op. This high quality whole bean coffee retails for $14.

5. Skateboard Wood Sunglasses. These durable and lightweight sunglasses are produced by independent maker Dex. Made from upcycled 7-ply skateboard wood, each pair of frames has a unique wood grain pattern while UV400 polarized lenses protect your eyes from the sun’s ray. Nestled inside a bamboo case, these stylish shades will make a great off-season gift in any cool kid’s stocking. $79.

6. English Toffee w/ Crushed Almonds. No stocking would be complete without some sweets, so consider Sweet on Vermont’s English toffee with crushed almonds. Made with pure Vermont maple syrup and creamy Vermont butter. Snapping-crisp, buttery and not overly sweet, these all-natural confections are handmade in small batches. Prices range from $16.50 – $20.

7. Clamdy Canes. Alternately, you can bring the whiff of the wharf into your Christmas morn with these clam flavored candy canes by purveyors of the weird, Archie McPhee. And check out their other remixes of this holiday sweet such as Mac & Cheese, Pickle, and Coal. $6.50

8. Modest Mix Tea. This ironically named brand “loves f***king tea and is damn good at it.” Check out their cheeky personalized organic loose leaf tea packages such as “Chai F***ing Harder”, a deliciously spiced chai that includes a very cool stainless steel tea straw. Crafted with organic, fair-trade ingredients, made to order, and coming at you from a unique woman-owned business. Tea packages range from $15 – $32.50.

12-pack of acrylic paint markers with box.

10. Acrylic Paint Markers. And of course we can’t miss an opportunity to self-promote! Consider this brilliant 12-pack of non-toxic acrylic paint markers to go along with a DIY paper-leather DrawBag® backpack or LunchKraft® lunchbox under the Christmas tree. For budding young artists, this pairing is guaranteed to be one of the most unique and colorful gifts you can give. $14.95

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A Classic German Rucksack in Paper

In 2018, I began developing a new backpack based on the Gebirgsjäger military rucksack. This new version was re-envisioned, of course, in kraft paper.

Designed for German alpine troops, the original Gebirgsjäger is recognized as a classic bit of military gear. In recent years, it’s been replicated and manufactured in China, with original packs harder to find.

Gebirgsjäger Bundeswehr German Alpine Military Rucksack
An original Gebirgsjäger rucksack (photo courtesy of


replica german rucksack made in china
One of many replica packs manufactured in China.

I bought my first Gebirgsjäger rucksack as an undergraduate art student, and then sold it nearly two decades later to a mate in Sydney after traveling with it all over the world. It had barely aged.

About a year ago, I purchased a second from (the famous) Jim Korn of Kaufman’s Army & Navy in Hell’s Kitchen. This one became the source material for my re-envisioning process.

Why is the Bundeswehr rucksack a classic? Here are three of my favorite features:

Firstly, (thanks to some clever stitching) the side pouches allow for skis or poles to be inserted vertically behind them. Not a common feature on a civilian pack, but maybe it would be of use when returning from the Home Depot with a pair of baseboards.


Image result for gi joe snow job cartoon
G.I. Joe’s “Snow Job” snatching some style points.

Secondly, the internal sleeve at the rear of the pack accepts a folding sleeping mat which also doubles as back support when inserted. This seems a spiritual predecessor to the now hip FjällRäven Kånken, which was originally designed for students. The Kånken No.2 includes a siting pad placed in a similar position.


Related image
The quite popular Kånken No.2 backpack by FjällRäven (


Image result for german alpine rucksack mat
A solid review of the Gebirgsjäger by the Wisconsin Woodsman showing the inserted sleeping mat (click on the image above to watch on YouTube).

Thirdly, the overall style is similar to the packs my G.I. Joes used to hump around the battlefield of my bedroom floor in the eighties. And that’s pretty dope.


GIJoe General Hawk Figure Backpack
General Hawk’s ruck (photo courtesy of Michael Sheridan at

In July of 2018 I took the first prototype of a paper version with me to Bali for a bit of field testing.


It was a good first outing, and provided some useful insights. My plan is to refine the pack in the next few months, and then give it a second field test over four weeks in August while patrolling on my Santa Cruz Chameleon in SE Asia.

I also drafted four lines that explain what the pack ultimately represents in its re-envisioning:

It’s not about what you have, but what you leave behind.
It’s not about seeking comfort, but embracing the tension.
It’s not about getting somewhere else, but being where you are.
It’s not about what’s currently trending; it’s about what is ultimately timeless.

Updates to come.

santa cruz chameleon in thailand
Trail-riding above Chiang Mai, Thailand.


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A New Take on the Street Artist

(Image by Daniel X. O’Neil from USA (Man Sits for Portrait on the Seine) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)


Last weekend, the high school where I’ve been teaching IB Theatre held a community “Fun Fair” for parents, students, and visitors on campus. Teachers were responsible for coming up with at least one booth or stall to raise funds for a local Guangzhou charity.

My mentor group organized a portrait/street artist booth and invited a few local artists, including Hong Kong-based Fumui Wong and American artist Tim Gerstmar on the day to do live drawings for paying guests.

Thanks to all who participated, especially our two artists!


Here are some images from the day, courtesy of my designer-friend-partner Gigi:

Here’s Tim getting into a drawing:


And Fumui Wong captivating the young crowd:




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The Daredevil

You must leap before you have donned the chute;

For otherwise it’s merely landing.

The only way to trick the devil

Is to imagine that he doesn’t not-exist at all.


From March 13-16, 2018 I’m having a 20% off sale on my teaching resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. If you’re a primary teacher, you may find something lovely amongst my hand-designed resources.

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A New Direction for Education

Students, is the view worth the hike? Or does the hike make the view worth it? And what’s the worth of a hike without a view? Or a view without the hike?

Teachers, stop providing maps. And stop showing photos of the view!

In the future, people will have to google “student” and “teacher” to know what these words actually mean.

Let’s work together to rid the dictionary of these two distinctions, as well as retain Google in its best manifestation.

By the by, I’m having a 20% off sale applied to my teaching resources on Teachers Pay Teachers from March 13-16, 2018. Especially if you’re a primary teacher, I may have something for you amongst my hand-designed resources.

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What is Paper-Leather?

When I was a kid, my mom packed a homemade version of Fruit Roll-Ups in my paper lunch sack. It was called Fruit Leather. It seemed about five times as thick as a Fruit Roll-Up and you could probably knock someone out with it if you were to whip them in the back of the head hard enough.

Fruit Leather. Nutritious yet deadly.

The paper from which the DrawBag is made is also pretty tough. It’s tear-proof, won’t easily break under load, looks great, and with a good soak in water and a drip-dry, it’s back to its original shape and look. Technically, it’s called kraft paper, and the process by which it’s made was invented by a German named Carl F. Dahl back in 1879.

No, I don’t REALLY know what Carl Dahl looked like…

All variations of kraft paper are remarkably strong, with elasticity and tear-resistance thanks to the process by which it’s made. Due to its versatility, kraft paper has a number of applications, such as the packaging of deli meat, providing a base for sandpapers, and lining cartridges for hunting ammunition.

It should be mentioned as well that kraft paper is eco-friendly.

Not all wood can be used for traditional paper-making, although the kraft process allows for some wood that can’t be used otherwise, including bamboo and resinous pine. Almost all of the chemicals used to produce kraft paper are recovered and reused in the same process, and the two main byproducts which are not recycled (turpentine and tall oil) can be reused in other manufacturing processes. Kraft paper is not extensively bleached, which maintains its strength and decreases manufacturing costs. And, being a mono-material, kraft paper is bio-based and bio-degradable, and is easily recycled.

What a champ, right?


Most papers are made from wood, although they can be made from other fibers, too. Wood is composed of lignin and cellulose. Lignin isn’t very good for making paper, so it has to be removed during the paper-making process while the cellulose is preserved. However, during Dahl’s kraft process, the way in which these two are separated is unique and leads to the special properties of the paper.

Kraft paper begins as long-fibered softwood which is shredded into chips. These wood chips are steamed and then boiled in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide which chemically break down the bonds of the wood. Once these bonds are broken, the lignin can be separated from the cellulose. However, this particular chemical breakdown is slow enough that it maintains the strength of the wood’s connective fibers and helps to create a very strong and durable paper at the end of the process.

Sprechen zie Chinese? niu pi zhi... bull-skin paper.

Kraft means strong in German, and that’s why the paper was originally given the name. In China (where I currently live), I found that kraft paper is called niu pi zhi or “bull-skin paper” because of its natural brown color as well as its toughness. But I felt it still needed another common name that conveyed its character and qualities when used for the purposes of fashion.

Introducing… Paper-Leather.