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An Internet-based music label

What if there was an non-profit organization specifically dedicated to distributing artists' music in return for voluntary donations? A way to organize the "giving in return" for the enjoyment of free music? Imagine a site where you could download anything you want from your favorite artists, and find a small link to give back to them. The site takes just enough for maintenance/server costs, and gives the rest directly to the artists that have signed with them. A small tag could be added to the music file info with the name of the distributor, so that people getting the files second-hand could be referred back to the label's site if they so choose.

From the artist's perspective, they could take in money from fans without the overhead of CD printing, advertising, agents, and all the other expenses of physical distribution. In the current system, the artist normally sees only a small fraction of the royalties from their music - what if they got nearly all of it? In addition to that, knowing that the money was given freely by their fans, as opposed to being forced out of them. This could lead to a revolution in the fan/artist relationship.

I don't personally have the connections to make something like this happen, but I know that among the TED community, there are plenty of people well-networked and able to envision something like this. If can you take this idea and can make it happen, please do!

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  • Mar 2 2013: This is a good idea. Here are two music sites I know about that offer free music while providing artists with some form of income from licensed music etc:

    http://www.jamendo.com/en

    http://songza.com/listen/hot-100-songza/
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    Mar 27 2013: The commerce (distribution/payment) function of a record label is almost trivial. I would recommend listening to (or reading the transcript of) Pete Townshend's 2011 John Peel Lecture, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/nov/01/pete-townshend-john-peel-lecture

    Most relevant to this discussion is his list of things labels have traditionally done.
  • Mar 9 2013: This is an idea that I think definitely needs to happen. Flattr (http://flattr.com/) seems like a huge step in that direction since it integrates well with other websites.
  • Mar 4 2013: Nate, Neferiu Records has largely operated this way since it's inception in 2000. We have released over 65 amazing albums and the vast majority of them are available for free or 'donate to download'.

    We actually took huge inspiration from the Demoscene which is a massive community of artists and musicians operating on this 'non profit' model for decades.

    Check http://www.neferiu.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene for info, respectively.
  • Mar 3 2013: DFTBA records
    They help YouTube musicians.
    http://dftba.com/
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    Mar 3 2013: Hi Nate,

    Bandcamp http://bandcamp.com/ pretty much does this already. They have been going for the past 4+ years and this is where Amanda Palmer gives away and sells her music & merchandise. Bandcamp gets paid by

    "We make money via a revenue share on sales: 15% on digital, 10% on merch." That drops 10% after selling more than $5k.

    Compared to other ways of collecting donations or getting paid something Bandcamp offers the advantage of instant payments via PayPal to the musicians directly. PayPal depending on which rate you use is around 4% for most users and so for low volume Bandcamp users the the transaction cost is around 19% which is still much lower than for iTunes or most other deals out there.

    The most significant aspect of Bandcamp is the the "name your price" function. You can make a recommended price or leave completely up to the audience. http://amandapalmer.bandcamp.com/ if you want to see how that works.

    For the first 2 years Bandcamp was free but they changed to the 15% model in August 2010.