Magnatune, a Creative Commons music label (Teresa Malango)

The old model of mainstream music labels has some problems. Music genres like classical, are on the edge of being cut because they are not bringing in enough sales. Many Bands have a hard time to surviving because so little of the sales of their music ever makes it back to them because of the label’s re-cooping costs.

Magnatune is trying something new. It is a consumer and a distribution business all under the Creative Commons licenses. In specific, they use: 

  • BY – Attribution to allow a try before you buy in full (not 30 second snippits)
  • NC – They can be used in non-commercial projects, schools, blogs, etc.
  • SS – Share and Share alike allow partnerships for remixers


They have 264 artists representing a large range of generas. They are not trying to have millions of songs, they are trying to curate beautiful things. For example, classical music accounts for a 1/3 of Magnatune’s revenue, while the regular labels have seen classical music decline from 20% in 1988 to .75% in 2006.

They take their model, “We are not evil,” seriously

  • All music is original or in the public domain.
  • Artists remain all ownership
  • 50/50 with artist
  • Contract is non-exclusive so artists can work with other labels. To survive artists must diversify
  • No musician makes their entire income from magnatune, but many can only be heard on magnatune
  • Flexible pricing asks “How much do you want to pay?” and radiohead showed how it worked. 1.65 million were sold when the physical cds were offered evan after many people decided to download for free.


Music is a $12 Billion a year buisness, $8 Billion is through licensing. Magnatune allows a client to type in information about their project then provide a real-time quote for a flat fee, one time payment and immediate HQ download. In the regular world, it takes between 8-18 months for license clearance. The ease works great for legal use by filmmakers, second life creators, bloggers, educators, students, home movie makers.


For example, this a snippet from their site when I told it that I wanted to make a class podcast:

To get the best-quality audio: we ask that you buy the album if you want to get a perfect quality audio version. You can then use the album for free in your student project.

Download 128k mp3s with speaking on them: You can also download the MP3s for this album. Each mp3 will end with spoken text that says “you just heard…” If you’d rather not have the speaking at the end of the mp3s (and we assume you would) please see option number one above.


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