Will Musicians Hear The Magnatune?

    December 29, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

As Eliot Spitzer gives music fans everywhere the holiday gift of seeing the four major music labels squirm in the face of his office’s investigation of digital music download pricing, musicians may start considering other online options.

Michael Arrington posted a reminder about Magnatune on his TechCrunch blog. The Magnatune site has been around for a couple of years, but its focus on classical artists and the lack of rancor about iTunes pricing until recently has kept it under the radar.

Playing off Google’s famed motto, as well as a healthy distaste for the corporate music world, Magnatune proclaims “We Are Not Evil” on its site. Its model is much more interesting than the motto, though. For one, artists keep the rights to their music.

How many artists, from Metallica all the way down to the newest garage band playing its first live gigs in clubs, wouldn’t like to see a business model where they make as much money as the music label? Magnatune offers 50 percent of the gross from each album, commercial sub-licensing, and merchandising profits.

Users pay a “pick your price” for albums; the site noted those prices start as low as $5. Downloads can be had in a variety of DRM-free formats, in much larger file sizes. Bigger files better capture the nuances of the more complex pieces of classical music and other works.

Like any music label, Magnatune picks its participants. Artists can submit music for consideration, but company founder John Buckman is very selective about who gets to join the label.

Any significant sea change in the way music gets to customers online will come from artists, not labels. Until more decide to find their way to Magnatune or another label offering similar favorable terms, the big labels will continue to dominate the digital music download discussion.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.