Monthly Archives: March 2011

Magnatune

Like I mentioned in the last post, a little while ago I signed up for a deal with Magnatune, an outfit I’d heard little about until a few months ago. I’d seen the logo inside of Amarok’s Internet Music tab, but I never used it and never really knew what its deal was. Since the site’s motto is the odd phrase “we are not evil,” I knew something was up. When I looked into it, I found out there were a lot of pretty cool things about it.

Magnatune is, on the surface, a subscription-based streaming music service. You pay a monthly fee and can listen ad-free to as much music as you want from their thousands of songs available across a bunch of different genres. But perhaps the coolest part of that is the unlimited download that comes along with it. These downloads are DRM-free, so you can copy them to whatever device you want to.

And their audience seems to really like that system. Much to my amazement, The Mathemagician’s Riddle (so far the only Psycliq album released with them) is sitting at the #1 spot on their electronica charts and has been for about a week, also floating around the #3 album on the overall popularity chart for at least the past few days. I’m sure it’ll float down once more new albums release (they do about 7 or 8 a week, it seems), but I’ll happily revel in being #1 at something while it holds.

Plus, everything they have is released under the Create Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, not a traditional all-rights-reserved copyright. This might seem like an arbitrary bit of legalese, but it actually means quite a lot to artistic society as a whole. When you get something under a CC license, you have the right to make copies of it, to share it with other people  and even to make derivative works from it with only a few stipulations. In this case, so long as you’re not making money off of it, you also put your work under a CC style license, and you attribute the artist somewhere, you’re free to use it all in podcasts, video soundtracks, and a bunch of other things like that. The CC license has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for artistic expression in the digital age, and it’s got the traditional media companies running scared to the point of them spreading fear campaigns against it.

Magnatune is far from the only place that is doing Creative Commons for music. In fact, that’s the license that you’ll get if you download Psycliq music from Bandcamp or The Sixtyone as well, since they both gave me the option and I really believe in the CC license for creative works. The difference is that Magnatune insisted on the CC license. It was in fact the only option available on the contract with them.

Speaking of contracts, that’s another funny thing about Magnatune. It’s not just a self-distribution site like The Sixtyone or MySpace, where the artist can upload any and all of their music. Instead, they run Magnatune like a record label, only signing on stuff that their founder likes. Since they only accept a small percentage of submitted artists, it’s an honor to have Psycliq signed up with them. But it’s a nonexclusive contract, which is wonderful for starving indie artists like me. (I really am starving right now, I should probably go eat breakfast.)

With this exclusivity filter comes a weird quirk. When I say it’s all music that the founder likes, it’s not just artists that he likes, it’s actual songs that he likes. In particular, their version of The Mathemagician’s Riddle is what I would consider incomplete, since they did not want to distribute “Your Eyes Look Like Starlight” with the rest of the tracks. The same will actually be true when Results Not Typical makes it on through there in a few months, since they didn’t like “By Pint and Pound” either. And it really is a matter of liking or not: I was told these songs “weren’t as strong,” something I’d expect to hear from a record label producer. I’ll admit, as an artist, and an opinionated one at that, this does kinda sting. But at least they’re upfront about it, and I’m still free as an artist to release whatever I want to elsewhere. Thus it’s my hope that folks will wander over from Magnatune and find out what they’re missing. Maybe I should offer a Magnatune Amnesty Program to people to get the rest of their music. :)

Along with this, the version of Burn Bright that’s up there is also a bit incomplete. Since Magnatune has a strict no-samples policy (it makes their licensing structure simpler), I had to cut the clip of Klaatu from The Day The Earth Stood Still from the end of the track, giving birth to the confusingly-named “Impatience Mix”.

All said, I’m so far really happy to be up on their service, since if nothing else it’s exposing lots of new listeners to the music of Psycliq who would have probably never heard of it otherwise. And that’s a good thing. So to any new listeners, welcome to the show, we’re glad you came. We hope you stick around, as there’s quite a bit to see.