Indie music, Creative Commons : A whole new model thriving on the Web

CASH music Photo by Taryn James The music industry. In my view, it's been in an identity crisis for a while now. The advent of online music sharing, legal or not, are part of the change. Most people I know rarely buy albums anymore. I'm sure it's hard to be in the recording industry these days, at all levels from artist on out. It's even rough for fans. I don't know about you, but I find it hard to buy music if I am not sure the artist is getting most of the funds, and stealing it online makes me feel worse (unless I just really need to hear WHAM! "Careless Whisper" once in a while; I think George Michael is doing okay). But really, the problem likely goes back even further. As we see with social media, the old content production models—where a piece is perfected behind closed doors and is then released—is going by the wayside. More and more, the idea of sharing, collaboration, and two-way conversations are becoming the norm, in all kinds of media. And now is where we come to one of my fave projects that I know of on the Internets. CASH music is an online platform and a new business model that uses Creative Commons licensing to help transform the music industry so that artists and the people who represent them can fairly and honestly sustain themselves. It's not dissimilar to Radiohead's pay-what-you-will release of In Rainbows, but it's much, much more. The platform promotes music sharing, artistic collaboration, and financially beneficial relationships between artists and their fans. It's brilliant. In the words of one of their founders, Jesse von Doom,

...The idea is that artists are exploring new ways to bring their music to an audience, with the ultimate goal being to strengthen both sides of that exchange. ... There are videos, interviews, photos, ebooks, and lyric sheets. Donita Sparks even opened up percentages of licensing for a track off her last album. Listeners could buy shares in a song, letting them participate in the profits from any TV or film licensing.

The site is just getting off the ground. Is it working? So far, yes.

We’ve been especially happy to see people donating to artists. From the very beginning we were determined to provide direct access to music without placing artificial gateways in front of it. ... we’ve seen numerous examples of people trying music and donating what they feel is a fair price. ... An artist spends time writing the music and money is spent on studio time, all to put out the best possible music. I like to think that people are genuinely considering all that, recognizing the effort, and helping it to continue.

Read more about the CASH project on Creative Commons' blog. And while you're at it, visit Kristin Hersh's CASH site and explore, grab some music, and see what you think.