Open Source Music: Ramblings

The term ‘Open Source Music’ has been used more than once (not many times, admittedly) to describe my project here with  It’s been tempting for me to rush to define what this term exactly means.  I’ve admittedly done little research on the term to see how ubiquitous the term is on the net, but I also feel that the term is not normally used in everyday life.

A google search of the term actually brings up a website with the name:

“Music was the first open source language”

The site describes itself as a source for free music.  It seems to basically be a news feed listing various artists in different categories, including Famous Artists, Unknown But Great, and Public Domain.  It also has a news feed of various articles with interesting tidbits of information about how certain music is composed and whatnot.  I’m not sure, but it seems like the site hasn’t been updated since 2014.

While provides a list of good free artists, I’m not sure this actually qualifies as “open source”.  People familiar with Open Source in the programming world will no doubt bring up Linux as a prime example of what they consider it to be.  Linux is free to the public, but its source code is also available to the public for people to download, modify and improve.  The resulting Linux kernels are not quite as well known as IOS or Android, but they’ve been the backbone of portable device operating systems for at least the last decade.  Hell, even Android was developed from a Linux kernel and it is one of the reasons why there’s such a lax in standards for Android App programming.

So when you try to apply “Open Source” to music, it should imply that any song or musical music produced by an artist should be open to re-interpretation by other artists.  In this way, our culture moves forward by allowing artists to explore different avenues of approach to a familiar platform.

The best example that I can give to this would be the rock standard, “Hey Joe”, its ambiguous beginnings, including the copyright claim by an obscure artist known as Billy Roberts, have allowed numerous artists to revisit this track in the 60s and later.  One of the more famous versions of the track was, of course, done by Jimi Hendrix, but the song has been covered by Time Rose, The Byrds and Cher.

One would note that renditions of “Hey Joe” by these various artists weren’t exactly free to their audiences, as they had to buy the recordings made by Hendrix and others.  But this was one song that artists could seemingly visit and dabble in without worry of legal repercussions from greedy music corporations.  In a similar fashion, the Android Operating system may not be “free”, as anyone who buys an android phone will either have to pay for the hardware running the OS or sign a phone contract, but the building blocks that made that operating system–and even most of the building blocks of the android OS are open for programmers to stitch together new apps for the platform.

So “Open Source” shouldn’t necessarily mean that the final product is free, but that work is left open to reinterpretation by other people without paying huge legal or licensing fees to do so.

Certainly, in this day and age, we do have many artists ‘remixing’ and doing their own covers of popular songs on platforms such as YouTube, but there is always the inherent risk that Content I.D. matching on YouTube will take away your rights to the final product unless you either a) pay the money needed or somehow gain explicit permission from the original artists/distribution companies, or meet some sort of threshold that you are famous enough to get away with it.

(to be continued).



The State of Music (Part 1)


For Nine Inch Nails (NIN) fans out there, there’s a great resource for musicians that’s quietly tucked away in the internet.  A year or so ago, the NIN website changed to a new “Modern” format which got rid of all of its community links in favor of more direct links to their twitter and facebook page and music links to their iTunes and Soundcloud pages.  This replaced links to their onsite community which included an onsite forum and a place where you could download the studio files of specific NIN tracks and then share your remixes of those tracks.

And while the change on got rid of those links, those places still exist!


Remix site:

I’ve been meaning to do a remix of one of Trent Reznor’s songs, but given the promises of my Royalty Free Music and the almost absolute certainty that these tracks are in a YouTube Content I.D. management system somewhere, I’ve not done so yet and I haven’t been able to get any specifics on how I would appease the NIN gods in trying to distribute a remixed track on my site.  And distributing my own remix through iTunes would definitely be out of the question.

In any case, the most important post on the forum comes from Trent Reznor himself, who addresses aspiring musicians concerns on getting out there and trying to make a living doing music.  This post is 2007, which is before YouTube was ubiquitous across the internet, but in terms of money, Mr Reznor had this to say:,767183

“The point is this: music IS free whether you want to believe that or not. Every piece of music you can think of is available free right now a click away. This is a fact – it sucks as the musician BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT IS (for now). So… have the public get what they want FROM YOU instead of a torrent site and garner good will in the process (plus build your database). ”

In my defense, I read this forum post AFTER I started my music project and also AFTER the core, proto-beginnings of my website was set in stone.

But, Trent Reznor goes on to hint that musicians way of making money should not directly correspond to the direct transfer of music from one hand to another: T-Shirt sales, touring concerts, etc.  The musicians that have signed deals with major labels do have a better outlook in terms of revenue, but they willingly sacrifice ownership of their writings, their music to the labels that they have signed to.

This was seven years ago, of course.  So has this state of music changed in the better part of a decade?  In my opinion, things have changed, but for you aspiring musicians out there, the overall state of the monetization of music has stayed the same, and maybe even become worse.

In my mind, places like Pirate Bay or some form of it will always exist.  If government heads are finally able to bring that place down, then more than likely, a new place will be built up to replace it.  Remember that before Pirate Bay, there was a slew of other sites and peer to peer file-sharing programs that started with Napster.  Government legislation and court rulings haven’t stopped music piracy and nobody’s proved that this sort of piracy was the thing that killed the mainstream music industry in the first place (I will write about this later).

So I take a page of Trent Reznor’s advice.  My site gives away my music for free.  That is the core functionality of the site and it’s that heart of the site that will never change.

For the other thing that I recognize in addition to changes in technology since this 2007 post is the fact that people in the world are in a worse state now, in 2014, than they were in back then.  2007 was the year that the real-estate collapse reared its ugly head and a year before the 2008 market collapse.

And right now, in my mind, the government attempts to restart the economy have been celebrated with fake growth and job creation that pays people less per capita, both in real numbers and accounting for inflation.  So right now people have less money to throw around.  They are less well off.  People are struggling to survive and in these times, paying for music seems more of a luxury that less and less people can afford.

So the concept of my site is concrete and it will stay that way until the internet dies.  That’s my promise.