Free Music Archive

#cc10 Featured Content: Jason Sigal on Chris Zabriskie

Elliot Harmon, December 11th, 2012

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

Jason Sigal

Jason Sigal / John Dalton / CC BY-NC-SA

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.

Chris Zabriskie

Chris Zabriskie / Chris Zabriskie / CC BY

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.

Malleable Objects from Mark & Angela Walley on Vimeo.

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!

Jason Sigal is former director of the Free Music Archive and a DJ at WFMU. He writes music for Lame Drivers under the CC BY-NC-SA license.

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FMA Guest Curator: Spark

Cameron Parkins, April 21st, 2010

The latest addition to our guest curation series at the Free Music Archive comes from Spark, “a weekly audio blog of smart and unexpected trendwatching” from CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Centre). Dan Misener, one of Spark’s producers, helmed the mix, providing context as to why Spark uses CC-licensed music on its podcast – you can listen to the mix in full at the Free Music Archive:

We knew we wanted Spark to be more than a traditional broadcast radio program. We wanted it to be a collaboration and a conversation — a platform for exploring the intersection of technology and culture. We wanted to embrace the values of online culture to talk about online culture. And as we worked on our first episode, one question we kept asking ourselves was, “What does the Internet sound like?” As it turns out, the Internet sounds an awful lot like the best CC-licensed music: collaborative, remixable, and constantly evolving.

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Collaborative² Futures

Mike Linksvayer, March 25th, 2010

FLOSS Manuals, true to its name, produces manuals for free software applications. The manuals themselves are freely licensed and often written in book sprints. This January, as part of the Transmediale festival in Berlin, FLOSS Manuals attempted its first non-manual booksprint — a considerably harder task, as no structure is implied. Only the book title, Collaborative Futures, was given — a collaborative experiment about the future of collaboration.

The initial collaborators each had considerable experience with free software or free culture collaborations — Michael Mandiberg, Marta Peirano, Alan Toner, Mushon Zer-Aviv, me, and FLOSS Manuals’ honcho Adam Hyde and programmer Aleksandar Erkalovic.

Initially we thought we’d write much about licenses and other topics much debated by those in the free software and free culture community. After a day of intense discussion of book content and structure, those debates were left in the background as we tackled explaining what kinds of collaboration we intended to write about and speculating about what the future of collaboration holds. As appropriate, we did use licenses — the book is released under the CC Attribution-ShareAlike license and incorporates a fair amount of previously existing material under the same or compatible licenses (surprisingly enough, none from Wikipedia).

A one minute video was made for the book’s New York launch, available at the Internet Archive and Vimeo.

There’s also a licensing (and collaboration?) story behind the video. Producer Bennett Williamson wanted to use “Rolands Vegners” by Ergo Phizmiz & Margita Zalite as the soundtrack. Bennett writes on his Free Music Archive blog:

This was a problem, because Collaborative Futures (and all its related materials) already had a different type of CC license than Ergo’s track; Attribution-ShareAlike and Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike respectively.

I really liked the song and wanted to keep it in the video, so I contacted Ergo and asked him if he’d be willing to change the license type of his track… and he agreed! Score one for copyright alternatives!

So remember kids, when syncing up these jams to your sweet vids, make sure that your derivitive has a license that jives with that of the original work. And sometimes all you have to do is ask.

With that, here’s ten more instrumentals from the Archives ready for you to slap into your timeline. Thanks to those of you who made suggestions of tracks to include; please keep them coming!

All well worth keeping in mind for future collaborations. Check out the book, and more importantly, FLOSS Manuals and the Free Music Archive, excellent free culture projects covering a broad range of tastes.

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FMA Guest Curator: Machtdose

Cameron Parkins, February 12th, 2010

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:

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.

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FMA Guest Curator: Catching The Waves

Cameron Parkins, January 12th, 2010

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!

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ccMixter Curation at the Free Music Archive

Cameron Parkins, November 25th, 2009

ccmixterThis Monday, we began a guest curation series at our Free Music Archive portal. Rather than attempt to distill the vast landscape of CC-licensed music on our own, we thought it better to reach out to those on the ground working to support and expose these type of artists in their given communities. What better way to start then with a selection of tracks from ccMixter admin/developer/mentor Victor Stone:

For all the activism in the Open Music movement, nothing pushes the ball forward like brilliant, evocative music. While there is plenty of underground music of all sub-genres at ccMixter, there is also a growing collection of mainstream, above-ground producers who understand the value of sharing as a means of boosting their own creativity along with their exposure.

You can listen and download Victor’s full playlist at the FMA and ccMixter – titled Above Ground Collection, it is brimming with excellent music from producers with “an ear for the popular without sacrificing artistry.”

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CC on the Free Music Archive

Cameron Parkins, August 12th, 2009

fma-logo
It has been just over four months since the Free Music Archive launched as a destination for high-quality, freely licensed music. Since that time, the site has developed an avid community and grown to include a number of fantastic curators all while expanding upon the site’s initial catalog to host over 11,000 tracks. All told, the FMA has, in a very short time frame, become an indispensable destination for music lovers looking for freely-licensed music to download, share, and reuse.

The FMA has always offered and promoted CC licenses as a means to share the majority of music uploaded to the site. Today we are ecstatic to announce that CC has joined the FMA’s curatorial ranks! We’re celebrating with 50 great tracks that will be both familiar to the CC community while hopefully offering some new names as well. The launch is split into two mixes – our FMA Inaugural Mix and The WIRED CD: Rip. Sample. Mash. Share.

We’ll be doing regular updates to our collection over the coming months and our next featured mix will highlight some of the great community-driven artists and collaborations found at sites like ccMixter, Jamendo, Beatpick, Sutros, and more. We are on continuous lookout for great CC-licensed music to add to our page and would love to hear your suggestions on tracks and artists in the comments.

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Rhizome Interviews Free Music Archive

Cameron Parkins, May 1st, 2009

fma-logoRhizome, the digital art and media outlet of the New Museum in New York (and CC supporter), posted a fantastic interview today with Jason Sigal of the Free Music Archive. The whole interview is worth a read, but Sigal’s discussion of how CC licensed music can help U.S. radio stations is of particular note (Rhizome question in bold, Sigal’s answer follows):

Was the move to bring together an international group of curators intentional? I ask this only because I feel the model of FMA is not only informed by the direction presented by web 2.0 technologies but it is also a response to outdated US copyright law and its impact on American radio stations. The reason why so many American broadcast stations are now turning to talk radio is because they are also trying to podcast their content online, and talk radio allows them to side step restrictions regarding music licensing and podcasts.

Exactly. (I just snapped my fingers in agree-ance!) Of course it’s going to be international, that’s the nature of the web. And that’s one reason we offer Creative Commons licenses — they adapt out-dated copyright law to fit the world wide web.

The FMA has already become a fantastic resource for curated CC-licensed music and is a database that looks to continue to grow in quality and quantity over time – see featured curators dublab and CASH Music for two prime examples. Also, be sure to check out our initial coverage of their launch for more information.

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The Free Music Archive Launches

Fred Benenson, April 6th, 2009

fma-logo
On Saturday WFMU celebrated the launch of its new website, The Free Music Archive.

Today, the community opens its doors to the public though is still in beta for now.

Since there is so much content on the site, the FMA is featuring particular curators such as WFMU, KEXP, and dublab.

So go register an account, and start downloading some of the 5,000 tracks already posted, or search by license type (special kudos to WFMU for incorporating some non-standard license search options here), and help one of the world’s greatest independent stations thrive on the net!

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Saturday in NY: launch party for the Free Music Archive

Eric Steuer, March 31st, 2009

fma-logo

The Free Music Archive‘s launch date is nearing, and there’s a party in Brooklyn this Saturday, April 4, to celebrate. If you’re not yet familiar with the project, the FMA is an online music library developed by the legendary freeform radio station WFMU and curated by partners including KEXP and Dublab. From FMA’s Jason Sigal:

Every track [on the FMA] will be offered in high-quality without restrictions, registration, advertisements or fees. Many grant additional rights under Creative Commons agreements, making the FMA a valuable resource for podcasters, video producers, remix artists, and others in search of legal audio.  […] Radio has always offered free access to curated audio, and the Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose designed for the Internet era.

Saturday’s party (see full details below) will have live performances by a bunch of great bands – Thee Oh Sees, Excepter, Sightings, and Pink Skull (mp3s by all of the acts who are playing are available here) – plus a DJ set from WFMU music director Brian Turner. WFMU will broadcast live from the event at 91.1-FM in New York and wfmu.org. Live recordings from the concert will be made available for download at the Free Music Archive.

Here’s all the info:

Free Music Archive launch party (curated by WFMU)
Saturday April 4th, doors 7pm, show 8pm sharp, 18+
@ The Bell House: 149 7th St, Brooklyn [map]
Admission: $10 adv. tix (available here) or a roll of the dice
11pm Thee Oh Sees (San Francisco, In The Red Records)
10pm Excepter (Brooklyn electronic-improv)
9pm Sightings (NYC kinetic noise-rock)
8pm Pink Skull (Philly kraut-house)

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