In celebration of Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary, we asked various friends of CC to write about their favorite CC-licensed works. Today, Jason Sigal tells the story of how Chris Zabriskie started licensing his music under CC BY and, in the process, opened new professional doors in his music career.
Happy 10th, CC! From the Free Music Archive
By Jason Sigal
The Free Music Archive is a curated library of music that wants to be shared, and Creative Commons makes it all possible. Our project was born out of a simple idea from the freeform noncommercial radio station WFMU: radio has always offered free access to quality music, and we all stand to benefit when others are encouraged to spread the word. We joined forces with a coalition of likeminded curators who specialize in everything from contemporary Indonesian netaudio to early cylinder recordings to Western classical, and we provide a platform for artists who utilize the full range of Creative Commons licenses.
Each element of the CC licensing suite is a powerful tool for musicians to leverage copyright in ways they find beneficial. For some, like Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Creative Commons ensures that his re-recordings of public domain folk songs can be shared in a manner befitting the folk tradition. For the mythical 80s cassette underground duo Smersh, CC BY-NC-ND serves an archival purpose, as every digital copy ensures the preservation of sounds once confined to small batches of decaying analog tape. For the Russian duo Monokle & Galun and the Japanese netlabel Bunkai-Kei, CC BY-NC-SA encourages remixes like Creative Commons Compilation Data, where artists were challenged to make new songs by remixing other netlabel releases.
Creative Commons helps creators find each other, and we’re always inspired to hear about collaborations sparked by CC. Creative Commons also makes it possible to bypass what Lessig has termed the “permission culture,” and this is where things get really interesting. For example, we’re seeing a lot of innovative models from artists under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Attribution is not part of traditional copyright, but since hyperlinks function as a form of online currency, it is a wonderful added protection afforded by the Creative Commons licensing suite.
Last year, Chris Zabriskie — an FMA artist who specializes in cinematic soundscapes, ambient piano compositions and minimal synth music — found the Attribution requirement so powerful that he decided to drop the NonCommercial clause from his work. In a post entitled Why I Went CC BY, he explained his reasoning: “There are 48 hours of new video being uploaded just to YouTube every minute. Somebody, somewhere, always needs music for their project. Let people do what they want with your music, and they’ll promote you.” His inbox was flooded with requests from fellow creators: “People with Etsy stores making videos to advertise their new, handmade products. Filmmakers who, while the goal of making their short film isn’t monetary, one day might press up some DVDs. And if that dude’s free Flash game gets really popular, he’ll want to sell it in the App Store.” He included some examples of work by “people I’m not going to sue,” and he keeps a list that now includes big names like the Cartoon Network, New York Public Library, Gizmodo, and Mashable alongside independent feature films and shorts. “Malleable Objects,” a short documentary on the artist Margaret Craig, is embedded below.
Zabriskie emailed the FMA earlier this year to describe how his decision paid off in ways he never expected: “I’ve scored several feature films, a number of shorts, and am doing a bunch of other contract work for people and projects all around the world.” Along with the new commissions, “a shocking number of folks from filmmakers to ad agencies to churches have been paying to license some of my existing stuff” either as a means to bypass the Creative Commons Attribution requirement, or simply because they have the means to support the music that helped make their work possible. Though he says he has no plans to leave his dream job, (which happens to include both music composition and video editing), Chris Zabriskie has allowed his music to spread freely to the point where he could afford to focus on music full time.
These are just a few of the many models made possible by Creative Commons licensing. Thanks to Creative Commons, creators have choices beyond traditional copyright. Over the course of the past decade, these choices have facilitated collaborations and spawned the creation of countless new works. Happy birthday, CC. We look forward to what the next ten years will bring!No Comments »
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Creative Commons, our good friends at Dublab created an awesome #cc10 music mix. The continuous blend includes 22 tracks by esteemed artists like Bradford Cox, Lucky Dragons, Nite Jewel, Dntel, and Matthewdavid. The mix is available for free download and is available to the world under CC’s BY-NC license.
Creative Commons and Dublab have a long history of working together, and Dublab is behind a wide variety of amazing and inspiring CC-licensed music and visual art. Learn more by visiting Dublab’s website and reading about some of the projects Dublab and CC have collaborated on.
Below are the track listing and a SoundCloud widget for Dublab’s #cc10 mix. Download and share it!
 Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood Ferguson – “8 Moons Blue”
 Nobukazu Takemura – (Unknown Title)
 Lucky Dragons – “13″
 Nite Jewel & Julia Holter – “What We See”
 Yoko K – “Into Infinity ‘Ear’ Loop #1″
 Golden Hits – “Pillowillow”
 Tujiko Go – “Into Infinity ‘Ear’ Loop #1″
 Yuk. & Teebs – “Estara”
 asonic garcia – “Endless Realm (Bun/Fumitake Tamura remix)”
 Dntel – “Guardian”
 Wake – “Duckbag”
 Javelin – “dublab decade jamz”
 DJ Lengua – “Waterbeat”
 Derrick Winston – “Jawhar”
 James Pants – “Tonight, By The Moonlight”
 Matthewdavid – “Jingle 3″
 Kentaro Iwaki – “Into Infinity ‘Ear’ Loop #5″
 Lucky Dragons – “Real Fire”
 High Places – (Unknown Title)
 Bradford Cox aka Atlas Sound – (Unknown Title)
 Feathers – “Eldritch”
 The Long Lost – “You Own Backyard”
On Friday, Michael Geist broke the story that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had apparently banned use of CC-licensed music in its podcasts. This seemed odd, given that the CBC’s Spark podcast has long used, promoted, and done interesting projects with CC-licensed music.
CBC Radio’s program director responded with a comment on several of those stories, excerpted here:
The issue with our use of Creative Commons music is that a lot of our content is readily available on a multitude of platforms, some of which are deemed to be “commercial” in nature (e.g. streaming with pre-roll ads, or pay for download on iTunes) and currently the vast majority of the music available under a Creative Commons license prohibits commercial use.
In order to ensure that we continue to be in line with current Canadian copyright laws, and given the lack of a wide range of music that has a Creative Commons license allowing for commercial use, we made a decision to use music from our production library in our podcasts as this music has the proper usage rights attached.
Everyone can rest easy– there are no “groups” setting out to stop the use of Creative Commons music at the CBC, and we will continue to use Creative Commons licensed music, pictures etc. across a number of our non-commercial platforms.
It is good to know that the CBC will continue to use CC-licensed works in some cases, and their explanation of why not in others. And it is true that only a minority of CC-licensed music is released under a license that permits commercial use — for example, about 26% of the nearly 40,000 CC-licensed albums on Jamendo.
A better approach – one that respects the choices of both artist and producer – would be to require that programs only use music with the appropriate rights, which could include some CC licenced music.
Bigger picture: finding, sharing, and supporting music under CC licenses permitting commercial use
Hopefully the CBC will listen to the feedback of Geist, Doctorow (both Canadians, as it happens), and others. However, the incident is a good reminder of the opportunity for music under CC licenses permitting commercial use, sites and curators that facilitate finding and sharing such music — including letting people know about the many that do exist.
(Note that many musicians have chosen to release music with CC licenses containing the NonCommercial term with good reason; this post is meant to point out the opportunity for others, not a critique of those who have chosen to limit commercial use.)
Jamendo may host the largest current collection of CC-licensed music permitting commercial use. See (and contribute to) our wiki article with tips on finding commercially usable CC-licensed music for much more at sites ranging SoundCloud to Wikimedia Commons to Libre.fm.
If you’re an artist with experience sharing music, including for commercial purposes permitted under an appropriate CC license, or the developer of a site or other service for discovering, distributing, supporting such music, or otherwise add to this ecosystem, please let us know — and thank you!6 Comments »
We’ve been following Magnatune since it launched in 2003 as a record label that embraced the net, including giving fans the legal right to do what comes naturally given the net — share an remix music noncommercially — by offering all label music under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. At the time a fairly radical position. Fast forward nearly 7 years to Magnatune founder John Buckman’s update on the label’s business:
So really, it’s not so much that we’re changing business models, but rather that we introduced “unlimited memberships” two years ago, and they’ve been so successful we’re deciding to focus on that.
Some things that are not changing:
- We’re still not evil: we have always paid 50% of membership fees to our musicians, been DRM free, and used Creative Commons licensing. All that stays the same.
- We will continue selling commercial use licenses of our music, though in a few months we will be moving that business to a new music-licensing web site we’re building (iLicenseMusic.com).
I’m personally really excited with the change, because 4 years ago I noticed that our download sales were declining, and it wasn’t until 2 years ago that I finally figured out what people wanted. Magnatune has been going since 2003, and the future looks rosy.
Also see John’s immediately previous post with an update on the label’s work with and support of free software media players, which we first noted here in 2008.
We applaud Magnatune’s long-term commitment to CC licenses and their willingness to constantly innovate based on fan and customer feedback rather than the unfortunate standard practice — treat fans poorly and hope they continue as customers anyway. Recall Mike Masnick’s Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) = The Business Model ($$$$) formula for a general treatment.No Comments »
Continuing our guest curation series at the Free Music Archive is Machtdose, a German podcaster with an incredible ear for CC-licensed music. A feature in Phlow Magazine gives some welcome background on the Machtdose team, framing the influences – musically and otherwise – at work in their mix. Check it out at our Free Music Archive portal:
No Comments »
We discovered the wonderful world of netaudio and netlabels some years ago. From the start we were fond of the idea of freely distributed music and how Creative Commons gave license models for it. Since 2005 we have done a monthly podcast, presenting our favorite tracks from netlabels all over the world. The netlabel scene is so rich in terms of sounds, styles and personalities that we’re always coming back for more.
Late last year we began reaching out to those working to expose and support CC-licensed music for help with our curator portal at the Free Music Archive. Our first guest curator was ccMixter admin Victor Stone, whose mix highlighted the talent of the ccMixter community. Now, we are happy to present the second mix in the series, featuring some incredible tracks selected by CC/netlabel music blog Catching The Waves:
I am deeply honoured to join in the fun at the FMA. My mix consists of some of the best tracks from some of the best albums that have been lassooed (SP) at CTW. It features lots of different genres, tempi and moods (rock, IDM, trip-hop, minimal, folk, ambient, etc.,) from as far afield as Germany, Japan, Colombia, the United States, France, Canada, Italy and the U.K. It was murderously difficult to whittle the mix down to a still unwieldy twenty tracks. It would be wonderful if people who were new to netlabels, and CC music in general, stumbled upon these songs and realised, as I did, that there’s a whole world of wonderful music just waiting to be discovered – and that it’s all free, legal and made by artists who want their music to be downloaded, copied and shared. Catching the waves can be fun…
You can listen to the whole mix at our FMA Curator Portal. Big thanks to Catching The Waves for the excellent selection!1 Comment »
On October 30th, Brooklyn Museum will open Who Shot Rock & Roll, an exhibition commemorating photographers and their creative role in rock & roll history. To celebrate, the museum has teamed up with Chris Stein – co-founder of the legendary new wave band Blondie (and one of the photographers featured in the exhibit) – for a companion musical project called Who Shot Drums and Bass.
Drums and Bass is made up of eight original songs composed by Stein in DrumCore and released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. Brooklyn Museum is asking remixers to download the tracks from its Soundcloud page and remix them for the Who Shot Rock & Roll: Remix! contest. Remixes are due December 1st, and will be judged by Stein and Matthew Yokobosky – Brooklyn Museum’s Chief Designer. The creator of the winning remix will receive a copy of the Who Shot Rock & Roll companion book signed by author Gail Buckland and have their remix featured during the Target First Saturday party in January.
More info, including contest rules and registration, is available Brooklyn Museum’s website.No Comments »
Digium, the parent company that hosts and maintains the open source telephony & PBX project called Asterisk, recently replaced the on-hold music featured in their distributions to CC BY-SA licensed works from OpSound. Using freely licensed CC music in open source projects has always made sense to us, but Digium’s John Todd discusses why they finally made the switch on the company’s blog:
In some nations (Australia and France, to pick two that have been brought to our attention) there are some who are claiming that we do not have the rights outlined above, and that our users therefore are in a similar situation where they may be in violation of license terms.
John goes on to explain that since CC licenses are easy to use, well defined, and accepted internationally, the choice was clear to them:
This is very far outside of Digium’s ability or interest to manage, nor do we wish to become involved in the protracted series of legal proceedings required to sort out this licensing issue. So we have chosen another path that is more clear to us: we will eliminate the files of questionable license from Asterisk, and replace them with music that has clearly defined and more acceptable licensing terms which are compatible with both the Asterisk license, and with any reasonable redistribution methods that might be used by others who re-package Asterisk.
Just think, the next time you get placed on hold, there’s a good chance you’ll be listening to some copyleft music!8 Comments »
NIN’s Creative Commons licensed Ghosts I-IV has been making lots of headlines these days.
First, there’s the critical acclaim and two Grammy nominations, which testify to the work’s strength as a musical piece. But what has got us really excited is how well the album has done with music fans. Aside from generating over $1.6 million in revenue for NIN in its first week, and hitting #1 on Billboard’s Electronic charts, Last.fm has the album ranked as the 4th-most-listened to album of the year, with over 5,222,525 scrobbles.
Take a moment and think about that.
NIN fans could have gone to any file sharing network to download the entire CC-BY-NC-SA album legally. Many did, and thousands will continue to do so. So why would fans bother buying files that were identical to the ones on the file sharing networks? One explanation is the convenience and ease of use of NIN and Amazon’s MP3 stores. But another is that fans understood that purchasing MP3s would directly support the music and career of a musician they liked.
The next time someone tries to convince you that releasing music under CC will cannibalize digital sales, remember that Ghosts I-IV broke that rule, and point them here.33 Comments »