Staccato Music Station

Staccato Music: an radio station consisting only of creative commons (“shareable”) music.

I got on the CC bandwagon early and have been using webjay, irate radio and other things to amass 35 gigs of legal/Creative Commons music on my mp3 player. About 3 or 4 gigs are still copyrighted stuff (mostly Asian) which I keep for mainly sentimental reasons. The rest of the stuff is culled from listening to lots of crap (I like longish trance/techo mixes, ambient stuff, pre-1922 fiddle stuff and hick Texas blues).

What Matt May has done is focus on the more eclectic pop/mainstream sound (which is often hard to find on and he’s been searching out various other labels. Also, he’s been distributing these playlists both on webjay and his own podcasts and via bittorrents.

My music site of choice has been webjay, but in his race to remain cutting edge, Lucas Gonze is now masking mp3 URL’s (which makes downloading mp3’s a pain in the neck, one fricking mp3 at a time). I’m not bitching really, and Lucas has suggested ways to scrape mp3’s from a m3u file. (Update: Lucas has changed his mind. Horray! I’ve really been enjoying the downloadTHEMall mp3 scraper, but if Lucas’s vision of XSPF emerging as a universal way to share playlists, user-friendly tools to download playlists (whether it be podcasting feeds or whatever) will emerge. BTW, although the concept of podcasting sounds fundamentally cool, in practice, the tools I’ve used so far have sucked.

Now that listeners are starting to “obey the law” more and spend more time on “legal” downloads than “unauthorized downloads,” we now come to the original question: how do we compensate artists? (This parallels the same question in the literary world). It all boils down to six questions:

  1. Will audience members give donations to artists if music is freely available? Or will they only give money if it is a business transaction for some ownership rights? (Dose of reality: the Jib Jab brother’s famous This Land is Your Land video earned them less than a $1000).
  2. Would the rewards of “opting in” to a centralized blanket license/divvying of the pie by bandwidth popularity be tempting enough for artists to want to enroll?
  3. Can an itunes kind of service actually offer music to consumers cheap enough that they would view it as “chump change” (not worth trying to steal)?
  4. Can this kind of service have an open submission process for artists? (mp3tunes and magnatune are trying)
  5. Can transaction costs be low enough that an audience won’t view the aggregator service as exploitative?
  6. will mainstream media outlets ever notice CC artists enough that the general public could find out about them? What about radio stations? (XM radio is a very promising sign; I’m sure by now there are lots of CC/unsigned musician stations).

    My answer to the above questions in February 2005: Donations are not widespread these days, but habits can change, and it remains the only way the artist can have a direct connection with audiences. Having that “direct connection” means unmediated profits. (more ). Blanket licensing….I think it’s a doomed concept made popular only because the EFF has supported it. Individual artists just won’t sign up (and they’ll constantly be bickering about their cut). Itunes/chump change: the actual itunes service won’t be reducing costs any time soon, but newer artists might be able to offer their mp3’s for much cheaper. The fundamental problem there is that music is unique; you need to hear it a few times to really want to pay for it, and DRM prevents people from hearing it. Opensubmission policy: this is happening right now; it’s unstoppable. Music services/always be exploitative? Paypal’s transaction cost is less than 10%; costs could easily go that low, so the outrage is likely to diminish. However, artists will probably be more cautious is selling off rights of unlimited scope or duration. Perhaps instead they will opt for Founder’s copyright (limited duration licenses). On the other hand, at a recent concert Kristin Hersh was selling not her commercial CD’s but demos from those commercial CD’s (which she owns rights for). That’s a nice loophole, one that music services are probably going to close soon. Will mainstream media (MSM) ever notice? Well, probably not, but over time ordinary citizens will start paying less attention to MSM, so it’s the same difference.