One of the most enduring and endearing music communities on the Internet has to be ccMixter, a site dedicated to musical collaboration between all kinds of music makers: from singer / songwriters to DJs, from blues guitarists to EDM producers, from highly trained classical composers to self taught ukulele players, from poets to beat-makers. The community includes individuals from every conceivable walk of life and age group from around the world, celebrating the ability of music to connect with everyone of their uploads, from individual vocal tracks and instrumental loops to finished remixes.
While there are quite a few websites dedicated to musical collaboration, ccMixter has endured against some pretty well funded “competition” arguably because it’s open source music, using only Creative Commons licensing, allowing people to re-use musical materials for non-commercial purposes (some licenses even allow commercial exploitation), as long as credit to the musical creator(s) is given.
And it’s worth mentioning: At ccMixter participants are very nice to each other. Musical beginners are not only tolerated, but warmly encouraged. Top notch professionals are admired and cheered on.
Music from ccMixter has become very popular to be used in video soundtracks on YouTube and other video sites.
ccMixter had originally been founded by the Creative Commons non profit organization, who also funded it’s operation for the first 5 years. Since 2009 ccMixter has been held together entirely on a volunteer basis under the leadership of ArtisTech Media, a small privately held company in California.
And now the volunteer site admins have just put together a lovely video in support of a ccMixter fundraising drive to keep the site going:
For fans of ccMixter this holiday season brings a unique musical treat with the release of a holiday themed 2 album set “Season of Gratitude” featuring music makers from around the world, who are participating in this venerable creative commons licensed remixing community.
If you’re not familiar with ccMixter, there’s a bit more info about the album here.
It also a represents a chance to deposit a little something into something akin to a virtual tip jar for the community, by purchasing one or both sides of the album via iTunes, the Amazon music store or via the “Green Room” at tunetrack.net.
A great illustration of current copyright law shortcomings is explained by Ethan Hein on his excellent blog about music and related topics. It explains how someone who has absolutely zero contribution to a copyrightable work can still have their name on it, not via striking a deal, but by inheritance of copyrights. It’s a great read – including links to relevant youtube clips and a great infograph – just long enough to tell the story without becoming boring!
Ethan has numerous other blog entires which touch on quite a few topics of interest to music makers in general, and also specifically to remixers. For example his discussion about “samples and community” is a great perspective on what makes remixing such a seductive while simultaneously controversial part of music.
This is one of the very finest music related blogs I’ve bumped into. So it’s now added to the “other blogs i like” section on the right.
OPINION: A little while ago, ASCAP, one of the US based performance royalty collecting societies became the latest volunteer in an increasingly amusing battle to turn back time long after others have already moved on. Quite frankly, I see this attack as being more dangerous to windmills than to the creative commons infrastructure and movement. And I feel sorry for the level of intellectual helplessness this attack implies.
Larry Lessig (one of the founders of some of the organizations ASCAP is vilifying) has his own response and challenge showing levels of truth and humor that the ASCAP attack so sadly lacks.
For me creative commons licenses are a gift by a bunch of nice lawyers and the people and organizations helping and donating to their cause, who wrote a number of template contracts (licenses) for free. Cool – I didn’t have to hire a lawyer to write me a custom contract.
And because they have done that, content creators like me have these blanket contracts, which are reasonably well thought out and crafted, allowing us to protect our copyrights by setting conditions of use for our works. Contrary to what ASCAP says, Creative commons licenses are built totally within copyright concepts and law. Without it, they don’t make sense.
Creators generally have a number one priority: get heard, seen and felt. Creative commons licenses quite possibly have stemmed the tide of stuff that might by now implicitly or explicitly go public domain, if that was the only way for an artist to get heard. So maybe ASCAP should be grateful to the Creative Commons and start idea generating dialogs rather than attacks.
However, all that being said, I understand the underlying pain ASCAP is feeling. It’s the pain many an industry has gone through, as the product it produced became inexpensively available in higher quantities than the market needs. It doesn’t take a degree in economics to know that individual revenues tend to go down when supply exceeds demand.
And here is where ASCAP gets it so wrong. ASCAP’s enemy isn’t the people who write a bunch of template licenses. Or at the very least they are not the only (nor even the first) enablers of this oversupply of music. The enablers of the oversupply of music include computer makers, the oh so very bad Internet, the writers of software (many of whom also give away (some) of their work for free!), makers of planes and ships who carry people and goods all over the world exchanging ideas and culture. And maybe above all, the oversupply of music is caused by the fact that so many people have some free time to create music. Some of it is even pretty good. And some of it is incredibly good. So you got more music than the market will bear. That brings down prices.
Of course that’s hard to stomach for the people who got used to certain revenue levels, that are now shrinking. Sorry, but that’s they way things go. And ASCAP isn’t the first to feel that pain. Just a few years ago, software makers have been down that road brought on by pretty much the same technological advances and other societal evolutions. And the good one’s have reinvented the industry. And make oodles of money in good part by writing software. Programming didn’t become an extinct profession. Music composition won’t either.
If ASCAP was smart, it would try to figure out how to align itself with the new reality of musical oversupply and create mechanisms that would make money for composers and publishers in the new reality rather than raising money for battles with falsely perceived enemies.
Why isn’t ASCAP the organization who invents nifty ways of easily licensing music online, self serve and for prices that the market will bear? If a small label like Magnatune can do it, why not ASCAP? Why doesn’t ASCAP offer a huge global online self-serve database service for compositional copyright registration and licensing? Or partner with someone. Or write a specification, so that service providers, labels and others could create something that inter-operates. Something that easily interacts with other royalty streams. There’s a ton of good work waiting to be done by someone with industry insight and a true service commitment to their membership. Automobile Associations (also membership based) have evolved – why not ASCAP?
This is 2010, not 1914. The ASCAP founders did some breakthrough and novel thinking suitable to their times. Music creators could really use some of that forward thinking leadership now. Why wouldn’t ASCAP want to provide that? And raise money for winning ideas embracing the present and the future rather than fighting loosing battles with imaginary enemies?
As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been a participant and even more so an avid fan of ccMixter.org, a community of music makers, who post individual music tracks of their own creation specifically to make them available for other music makers to use in their work, which most of them post to ccMixter.org as “remixes”. These remixes are typically complete songs ranging across a wide variety of genres. All of this made possible by creative commons licensing, and until late last year also sponsored by the Creative Commons organization and since then operated by startup ArtisTech Media.
The website ccMixter.org was mostly created and organized to facilitate this P2P sequential time-shifted collaboration process between music makers more so than catering to music “users”. Still, the music became attractive to podcasters, video makers on YouTube and elsewhere and lovers of independent music everywhere.
Enter the new website dig.ccMixter.org, a new home for friendly creative commons licensed music for DJs, music for podcasts, music for videos (YouTube or otherwise) , and free music for listening. This new website, making it much easier to “dig” into the considerable catalog of ccMixter music makers, is a labor of love created by long time ccMixter community leader and chief software developer fourstones in collaboration with software designer nvzion.
One of the valuable features is the little i button, showing additional information about a particular piece. So one can find for example who was the singer (also often the original song writer) of a particular piece of music, by first clicking on the i button and on the resulting page, clicking on the “Sample History” link, which leads to information about all of the individual snippets of music which were used as sources for the piece in question, including the vocal parts (where applicable). You may want to middle click or otherwise force your browser to open a new tab or window, so the song that’s currently playing doesn’t stop.
One of the interesting aspects of ccMixter music is, that on ccMixter one can “dig” with more accuracy into the artistic composition and history of a piece of music than with many traditional music sources, where the contributions of participating artists are frequently obscured.
Allow me to confess that I love a wide variety of music. This includes the occasional good dose of classical music. So when my email inbox this morning contained an announcement by John from magnatune.com, with whom I have a subscription, I discovered that one of the albums was a delightful set called “Bach Connections” by Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and Colm Carey.
I’m not much of a music critic, so my words wouldn’t do the pleasure of this album enough justice.
So courtesy of magnatune’s embedding code, here you can preview this delightful collection of organ and trumpet music from the baroque period.
There’s a very intriguing new remix project called The White Cube at ccMixter.org. Please note that remixes have to be licensed with the popular Creative Commons CC-BY license in order to be considered for use during the exhibition. So no remixing Cream or some band from Liverpool’s double album or some song about nights on bed sheets! 🙂
This all is in support of an upcoming exhibition in the RAM Galleri on Oslo which is celebrating it’s 20 year anniversary and wants to explore “How to explode the white Cube”.
Deadline for remix submissions is on the 7th of December 2009, just 3 days before an unrelated small party in that very city of Oslo. Hopefully our friends in the black limousines doubtlessly all over Oslo right around that time will not misunderstand the context and confiscate all the remixes!
The remix project is organized and the two source audio packages are provided by Gurdonark (whom I’ve had the privilege to interview last year and the ever lovely and talented (I always wanted to say that!) SackJo22, whom I’ve had the honor and pleasure to work with on one of her many projects.
Given that the very first LP (yes, it was vinyl!) I ever bought was ELP’s “Pictures of an Exhibition”, this kind of thematic project holds deep intrigue and I may just have to fire up my trusty DAW software and mess around a little. mmmhhh let’s start with a little extra compression here and maybe some reverb there …
While change is always accompanied by uncertainty, I’m personally quite pumped about this particluar one.
However, let me start out by saying that there aren’t enough words to describe how grateful I feel about the contribution of Victor Stone – one of the understated and under-famed giants of open music. As regular readers of this blog know, ccMixter has been the at the core of my musical life for a bit over 2 years now. This site continues to be one of the most amazing places for music makers to mingle and make noise together. While every member of the community deserves varying amounts of credit for that, there’s one person who deserves a very largely disproportionate share of credit: Victor Stone. He has not only diligently and innovatively continued to work on the technical infrastructure of the site, but above all, he has set and enforced a tone of mutual acceptance, respect and even caring for each other, which reverberates throughout ccMixter and is extremely hard to find in any larger community on today’s web.
So while it remains to be seen how much and which way Victor remains involved (I hope it will be a lot!), this is a good a time as any to say THANK YOU, VICTOR!
Looking forward, I’m am very excited about the new management being led by Emily Richards (at ccMixter she’s known under the handle of Snowflake). She is amongst that very rare of combinations of being a great musician and an accomplished business person. She has shown in words and in deeds her passion for developing radically different business models based less on exclusion and greed and more on openness and sharing. It’s always been really hard for artists to make a living from their art and maybe that’s even more so the case today.
So I wholeheartedly cheer Emily, Alex, Jason, Derek, Kirsten, Dale and the whole current and future team at ArtisTech Media on while they try to figure out artistic and economic models that aren’t evil or stupid. While they figure out how to evolve free and commercial side by side and mutually benefiting from each other. There will be bumps on the road. That’s ok. Good and open minds combined with good and open hearts can overcome a lot of issues and build something special.
May ccMixter’s next 5 years be even greater than the first 5!
The Catching The Waves (or is it “sound the free trumpet”?) blog is an interesting place to go exploring for good free music. As the tagline says “Reviews of (legitimately) free netlabel and/or Creative Commons music. Yes, the music is completely free. Yes, the musicians know. Yes, they welcome donations and purchases. No, you won’t be arrested. Dive in.”
It has some excellent reviews of truly free and independent music and appears to be a genuine labor of love. Well worth a bookmark for friends of new independent music. I love days when I bump into sites like this! And maybe one day it will even feature a section for the creative commons remixing scene. 🙂
For people who like chill and downtempo music there’s are the most excellent chill/downtempo podcasts of DJ Cary (Cary Norsworthy). She is featuring mostly independent music makers in her podcast treasure trove of sonic goodness assembled from a wide variety of sources. Lovingly assembled in iTunes compatible AAC and generic mp3 formats, she offers a new podcast about once or twice a month.