Magnatune has started a business of curated online music distribution utilizing the 'some rights reserved' licensing plan in the Creative Commons model.
They seem to be specializing, at the moment, in classical and electronic artists. Artists are encouraged to upload MP3's or send CD's.
From their web site:
We call it "try before you buy." It's the shareware model applied to music.
Listen to hundreds of MP3'd albums from our artists. Or try our genre-based radio stations.
If you like what you hear, buy our music online for as little as $5 an album or license our music for commercial use.
Artists get a full 50% of the purchase price. And unlike most record labels, our artists keep their rights to their music.
Founded by musicians, for musicians.
No major label connections.
We are not evil.
As I posted two articles ago, I've been looking into how to make electronic music more compelling. One of my suspicions, about problems in this regard, has been that the general simplicity of textures typically employed in the realization of an electronic piece and the artificial nature of the performance contributes heavily to a dullness in the sonic appeal of electronic music.
To this end, I've been looking back into CMask a general purpose Csound event generator. Because the CMask syntax is a simple notelist, I've been thinking it should be trivial to generate MIDI files or instructions for other languages with CMask output. nGen and Score11 (available from the Eastman Computer Music Center) are two other systems I'm looking at.
My idea is to take traditionally composed melodies and render them with mass groupings of notes, say 10 or 20 MIDI instruments playing the same melody but using micro-permutations to generate sonic detail.
As I noted in a previous article I've been thinking about Kyle Gann's assertion that there are no longer any middle-tier composers, only wannabes and the top dogs. With 60,000 active composers in the world, 25-40 thousand in the US alone, its no wonder that composers are feeling as if it is just impossible these days to have a viable career in new music.
Although it is apparent, with the drastically reduced state and federal funding in the US that less money for commissions is being handed down, what is also obvious is the increased featuring of non-US composers. In NYC, we see regular promotion of Asian, Eastern European and Eastern Russian composers almost to the point of wondering if US composers are being considered as unworthy of performance.
There is of course the common platitude that 'you must leave your home country to make it in the arts' but where could a US composer go? There is nowhere to go for a career where, even with keeping a 9-6 job, ones music could be regularly performed and discussed.
I believe it's not just a problem of promotion or the general alienation of audeinces, but an essential tenet of the new art world. Beyond croneyism, beyond careerism, we now have a few islands of success which are incapable of harboring new citizenry. What is the solution? Competing for scraps by thousands of composers is hopeless and debilitating. Creation of your own scene, is costly, both timewise and financially.
Micro-communities of new music listeners on the intenet? Possibly, but it is unproven and is itself problematic regarding issues of promotion and the maintenance of authorship identification.
I"ve been thinking about why many classical music lovers have a problem with the basic textures and sounds of electronic music. Obviously there are huge changes in how the music is produced, resulting in potential perceptual enigma, such as the lack of personality in the performance itself.
But I recently remembered an editorial in Computer Music Journal where the writer (sorry can't remember the reference) was theorizing that more synthesizers, much more, and a doubling or tripling of the textures would produce an effect that would be more compelling to more listeners.
In other words, most electronic music relies upon a 'chamber music' performance space while removing the most exciting part of chamber music performance, the individual musicality of the small ensemble.
Its possible that with larger virtual ensembles, some of the well known problems in electronic music, the lack of personality in the offset characteristics and the overuse of hard attacks because of this problem might be obviated. I'll be writing more about this as I begin exploring generative methods that might be able to simulate these massed virtual performers.