It's official: Catching The Waves is the world's first zombie Creative Commons music blog. Yes, I've killed it, buried it and sowed the grave with lime, but here it is, ready to rake its filthy, jagged fingernails across the ears throat of anyone it meets. Honestly, it's not my fault. I've finished with the damned thing but something I did in December has just raised its ugly head (out of the grave, as it were) and needs hitting with a sharp-edged spade. Besides, I know you're keening with grief at the demise of CTW, and this post will recommend a place where you can find free tunes aplenty. I'm so lovely.
Let me take you to a board meeting circa 2006. Around the polished oak table are heavies from WFMU, an American free-form non-commercial radio station that has been broadasting from New Jersey since 1958, and legal beagles from the Office of the New York State Attorney General. Think ceiling fans, drawn blinds and cigar smoke.
The chief lawyer twangs his red braces and announces that WFMU is to make contemporary music of all genres available to everyone across the state and compile a podsafe online music library.
"What am I, chopped liver?" asks a sweating radio luminary who has seen too many Woody Allen movies. "Who's going to pay for this smorgasbord?" he adds, hoping to sound sophisticated.
"Fugeddabout it," responds the lawyer, doing his best Chazz Palminteri impression. "Da Noo Yawk State Music Fund...
*CTW ignores the "You are offending millions of people" pop-up warning*
...is gonna ante up the dough. Da big record companies have been running a payola racket and we're giving youse somma da court settlements."
Hands are shaken and brows are mopped. But what to call this new archive of free music, this music archive that is free? Cigars are chomped, generic Italian dishes digested (as is one Chinese take-away, ordered by a newbie lawyer who hasn't yet been hazed at the local Masonic lodge), and legal pads filled with possible titles. At 3am, they have it: the Free Music Archive.
In April 2009, the website went live under the joint management of WFMU and some non-profit community radio stations and venues. Go there and you'll find a constantly growing library of free music that you can listen to and download. There are also short artist biographies and links to the musicians' websites should you wish to investigate further. If you're a little overwhelmed by the volume of music and not sure where to start, investigate the curators' recommendations or take a look at the FMA's constantly updated charts. I'll let the site itself take over:Inspired by Creative Commons and the open source software movement, the FMA provides a legal and technological framework for curators, artists, and listeners to harness the potential of music sharing. Every artist page will have a bio and links to the artists’ home page for users to learn more about the music they discover via the Free Music Archive. We also seek to compensate artists directly. Artist, album and song profiles will contain links to buy the full album from the artist and/or label’s preferred vendor(s). Users can also “tip” an artist if they like what they hear, sending a donation directly to the artists’ PayPal account. Artist profiles include tourdates, encouraging users to step away from the glowing computer screen and see some real live music.
Legally free music is still in for a bumpy ride, in my opinion, especially if it becomes truly popular. It remains to be seen whether the Creative Commons approach and the similar format adopted by the FMA can withstand the rigours of the internet. It's early days for the FMA (which will be refined as it grows in popularity), but it clearly has the potential to be a superb asset for fans of legally free music. Fingers crossed, everyone.
Anyone can visit and use the site, although music and editorial content is posted on an invitational basis - which brings me to the December stuff I mentioned.
*switches on megaphone*
AND NOW, AT LAST, SOME MUSIC. BUT FIRST, WITH THANKS TO ENGADGET, A JAPANESE ROBOT WILL PERFORM AN INTERPRETATIVE BREAK-DANCE SEQUENCE TO CONVEY MY JOY AT FINALLY KILLING CTW. TAKE IT AWAY, MANOI GO:
The FMA were idiotic kind enough to invite me to put together a compilation cum playlist of tracks. They'll be familiar to regular visitors to CTW, but I hope they will serve as a good antidote to the "All free music is rubbish" argument. To whit: some free music is superb. I am most grateful to Cameron Perkins, the Culture Program Assistant at creativecommons.org, and Jason Sigal, FMA Managing Director, who were very patient with me.
To give you a taste: Karaoke Mouse - Shanghai Reggae (DJ Side's alternate take)
The Catching The Waves FMA "Mix" (I'll make you go via the Creative Commons so you can bask in the glory of the CTW logo, which is made of plasticine and a lot of swearing.)