The State of the Commons, Part One

6 Nov 2014 by Corporal Real, No Comments »

This untitled photo by Davide Ragusa is in the Public Domain (courtesy of Unsplash).

This week, I’ll attempt to tame the wilds of the interwebs just enough to categorize and credit some of its most noteworthy hubs of Creative Commons licensed music (CC Music or #ccmusic, if you speak hashtag). If you are an independent artist, producer, or creator of any sort and you’ve contemplated sharing the fruits of your labor with the general public under some permissive licensing structure, I would like to turn you on to a number of popular tools with which you can distribute/market/monetize your content. There are many other healthy bipeds involved. Some, such as Lawrence Lessig, Amanda Palmer, and Cory Doctorow, have achieved some level of notoriety. Many are just playing. I presume that many of those who don’t consider themselves creators—look out, the path from fandom to creative compulsion is short—will find these repositories of content useful.

Jamendo hosts CC music exclusively. This, and the fact that all their downloads include a “license.txt” for clarity, are its major upsides. All are free to upload/download material to/from Jamendo, and to post comments and reviews. Their site-wide search is simple and powerful. The slippery downside is that they have zilch for curation. I’m seldom inclined to brandish objective judgements of art, but I’m not hesitant in this circumstance to warn you that one can find unpleasantly inaccessible music while perusing their archives.

My latest finds at Jamendo include The James Quintet, Angus, and The Good Lawdz, Circa Vitae (whom I was tipped off to by the CCHits Daily Exposure podcast), and “I’ll Be Right Behind You Josephine,” an old track by Jamendo staple Josh Woodward (‘cause it’s a favorite among our #OO Stream community and it was time I had my own copy).

Bandcamp is another outstanding website that serves in much the same role as Jamendo. In contrast, Bandcamp does allow for creators to publish works under the standard copyright model, but what’s more conducive to open culture is that they present clear license options to them. They also differ from Jamendo in the types of files they support being packaged with releases (like high-quality FLAC audio files and .pdf liner notes). Lastly, Bandcamp will facilitate payments. I see an equal proportion of artists and groups using flat-rate pricing as I do using the “pay what you want” model. I, for one, am convinced that PWYW is a golden road to the future of independent media, and all the cool kids claim that it yields more chedda’.

I’ll continue on this topic in my next few columns. Next week I’ll focus on the more collaboration-centric site CCMixter and other places on the web to find libre and gratis audio that doesn’t fit the definition of music. Part three will consist of a survey of open culture movements and their discrepant, delineating principles. Part four will be a netlabel avalanche, and I’ll additionally fill some white space in that one with shout-outs to some of the moving human parts of this globe that inspired, motivated, and tutored my early education in open culture citizenry.
An innumerable number of Earthlings, matted like mycelial communities, use and give back to these commons regularly (precisely the sort of collaborative creativity the tubes were imagining as they dreamed themselves into existence as an ARPANET transmission from UCLA to Stanford). We would love it if you stopped by.

“The State of the Commons, Part One” by Alex O’Brien is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License and was originally published at

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