Free Music Archive

On today’s radioshow I interview WFMU station manager Ken Freedman about the station’s very cool Free Music Archive project. The idea of the Archive is to take the fundamental idea of sharing Creative Commons-licensed music online, as seen with sites like, and add a curatorial element. According to Ken, the goal is to replicate the editorial judgment inherent in radio, a record label, music venue or gallery where the artists, songs and pieces have been carefully chosen. Thus the Archive staff and affiliates are engaged in proactively inviting artists and labels to contribute music rather than just opening uploads to anyone.

As someone who has tried to pick through numerous music sharing sites I have certainly been frustrated by trying to find artists and tracks that suit me. In our interview Ken points out that these open access sites tend to be dominated by people making electronic music or jam bands, which seem to be two groups inclined to be more inclined to use the internet or to share music than, say, modern classical composers and performers.

Over the last ten years WFMU has really solidified its reputation as a cutting-edge freeform music station driven by taste and artistic value. And it’s achieved that by carefully selecting the DJs it puts on air and giving those DJs full control over their programs. On top of that the station has been on the forefront of using the internet and webcasting to both better serve it’s local audience and to reach a broader, global audience.

As one might guess, much of WFMU’s aesthetic appeals to me, and so I am very much looking forward to the debut of the full Free Music Archive. Like a favorite record label, publishing house or rock club, I have come to trust that ‘FMU is likely to steer me towards interesting, challenging and appealing music that I might not otherwise encounter. Simply, I expect them to sort through the chaff and present to me the wheat, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (to mix my metaphors).

I don’t think that the Free Music Archive is intended to be or will be a challenge, substitute or replacement for open submission archives. The internet continues to be a big place and there’s plenty of room for both approaches.

One delicious irony of the Free Music Archive is that it was seeded by a grant from the state of New York that comes from the money received in the big payola settlement of a few years ago. I love that an archive of Creative Commons music is being funded by the entertainment cartel RIAA-members.

The Archive is not yet online, though Ken says they’re currently planning for a launch date of November. However, they’ve been posting selected tracks on a project blog.

You can listen to my interview with Ken Freedman about the Free Music Archive at the radioshow page. To learn more about WFMU and the station’s unique approach to internet broadcasting listen to my first interview with Ken on the Nov. 11, 2005 edition of the radioshow.


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