Giving It All Away: How Art Libre and Creative Commons Can Change the Way You Consume and Distribute Music
?And art made tongue-tied by authority.?
William Shakespeare, ?Sonnet LXVI?
?Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing.?
William Shakespeare , ?Sonnet XXXVII?
?Find a way of getting music from the musician to their audience that’s inexpensive and supports musicians. Otherwise, musical diversity will continue to greatly suffer under the current system where only mega-hits make money . . . The systematic destruction of musician’s lives is unacceptable: musicians are very close to staging a revolution (and some already have).?
I’ve always felt as though life wasn’t really moving ahead if I wasn’t finding new music to listen to. And so when I had played through my own meagre collection until I was fair sick of it, I would go through my brother’s collection, then my friends?, and then, yes, my parents? (hence my lifelong obsession with folk trios of the early ?60s). I was, and still am, that annoying person who enters a store, home, or office and immediately asks, ?Who is that?? in response to whatever music happens to be playing.
Eventually I got paid for my obsession, which meant that I had access to a lot more new stuff. But it still wasn’t enough, and I continued to find myself tossing around for something to listen to.
I was happy as a clam in high water when I discovered that there were online sources of free new recordings in every genre under the sun. No more endless trawling for new acts or searching for contact information or writing to publicists (hoping they’re not one of those companies that trains a new intern every month) or finally getting a CD in the mail, only to realize that it isn’t exactly laudable.
With these sites, you can check the music right out online. If you like it, download it. If you’ve got some change jingling in your pocket and you want to help support the musician who made the music (and not a record company), you can donate on the spot. And I have never ceased to be amazed at the quality of some of the stuff That’s available there, especially in genres like jazz, which, although they have devoted followings, carve out only a tiny slice of music consumers? spending.
If open-source music is great for listeners and critics, what about the musicians? I know, no price can be put on music, but the reality is that those who make it must eat, sleep, and make it through the winter, and how can they possibly make money when they’re giving their music away?
The answer: by coming up with ingenious new ways to draw income from what they love doing. For some possibilities, see the Voice interview with Tina Piper of Creative Commons Canada and then check out the brilliant new alternative touring model called Home Routes. The internet is chock full of ideas about how to survive as a singer, honker, plucker, or 88er.
Few tears will be shed at the realization that Big Music is, for various reasons, going the way of the diplodocus. The standard recording contract did not benefit all musicians, just the few celebrities who managed to float to the top, usually because some record executive determined that this year Tiffany or Brad would be next big cash cow.
You can make a CD nowadays the way you used to do yard work?on weekends and after work. But distribution is still an Everest, involving hiring?and trusting?alleged professionals with your precious plastic cargo, at great cost to your bank account.
Some artists just publish their own open-source, licensed material on their own websites, but they can be hard to find. However, organizations that provide cheap distribution, publicity, and sales opportunities to artists are ensuring that creativity flows freely, unhampered by pesky responsibilities like having to make a living right off the bat.
Says Matteo Sgarzi, bass player for the superlative Italian jazz band SLAM!, ?I think It’s a brilliant way to disseminate our works among the online global community. You can always find a public. It’s also useful for finding gigs and getting contacts. Thanks to it we’ll be in Rome soon presenting our music.?
But what does this kind of music sharing do for the economy? I have a hunch that in the new, open-source world, less money is being spent on average, per consumer, than in the record companies? heyday. A system that directs more money to the performer will probably generate less total revenue, but the same argument has been raised against labour unions, which slightly depressed the gross domestic product while creating income equity. When equality enters the picture, less can be more.
Musicians make their music available free online by means of ?some rights reserved? licensing, sometimes called ?copyleft? licensing, a new form of licensing which allows users to download the tracks for free and even use them for non-commercial purposes or alter them in some way, as long as they credit the creators. The promotion that they get by giving it away gets their sound out there and provides opportunities for gigs, tours, film scores, and perhaps even a recording contract (totally on their terms).
A bit of what’s available:
Jamendo: Best for ease of use, music quality, and graphics. Music is Creative Commons licensed. My favourite so far.
Dogmazic: French site; like Jamendo, but the artists use an Art Libre license.
Magnatune: Has a $15 per month user license, and artists share revenues.
Oronjo: Enables artists to sell their music on their own web site. Using a wizard, they can upload content to the Oronjo server.
?Giving the music away? We musicians love to play live or record in a studio. That’s our essence, we simply have to do it. If we get paid for that, great! If we don’t, we’ll play and record anyway. We might be remembered by an odd song or two, not by how much we earned. Do you really think of how much Louis Armstrong actually earned, while listening to his music?
Viktor Mastoridis of Valkania