When people think "open source," they usually think software. John Buckman, however, has been applying some of the open source philosophy to music using the Creative Commons licenses, and it seems to be paying off. Magnatune has been in business for a while now, and seems to be doing nicely.
The Creative Commons website has a short interview with Buckman, and the way that the CC licenses have paid off for Magnatune and its artists. In particular, Magnatune music seems to be catching on with indie filmmakers.
We're having a lot of success licensing our music to indie films, with between 20 and 30 indie film licenses every month. These are real films with budgets from $20,000 to $100,000, but making films is expensive, and they need to keep costs down. The Creative Commons license lets filmmakers put Magnatune music into their film while it's being made. Then, once the film is accepted for distribution and becomes in effect "commercial" as people then start paying to see it, the filmmaker buys a commercial use license -- at a price they could determine online at the very beginning. This "free start-up, permission-not-withheld, fair-price" business that Creative Commons + Magnatune enables is unique today, and I believe is the reason we've been so popular with indie filmmakers.
I'm a big fan of the Magnatune approach to music distribution. I gave up on listening to radio many years ago because it was simply too boring. The only way I find new music these days is online through sites like Magnatune or CD Baby, or when I hear something I like in a movie. (The Garden State soundtrack, for example.) Getting to listen to music before I buy it (what a concept!) combined with the ability to easily download files not encumbered by DRM (Digital Restriction Management) or a proprietary and Linux unfriendly format has made me a loyal Magnatune customer. The fact that Magnatune has some really interesting music is also a factor, of course.
I'm not surprised that Magnatune is still around. What surprises me is that more music labels aren't following Buckman's approach. What do you think? Can Magnatune help change the music industry, or are we doomed to boring big label music? Tell me where you'd like the labels to go.