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Turning the Tide Against the Major Music Labels
October 30, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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Their tag line is "We are not evil." The phrase is used as an attempt to dissuade any prejudice, as most record labels are immediately associated with this term. This association is particularly strong for the big four record labels.

If you ask 10 different people why this association is given to the record labels, you'll likely receive 10 different answers. Many musicians feel the music labels are the real thieves, as very little of a CD sale is actually seen by the artist. Ask a file-trader why record labels are evil and the continuing lawsuits will probably be the answer. Ask a knowledgeable consumer, and the incorporation of DRM (Digital Rights Management) would likely be the source.

However, what if a record label existed that had none of these associations; perhaps one that understood that a CD was a thing of the past? Maybe one that thought DRM was draconian in its presumed guilt, and believed the musician/consumer relationship was a two way street? Surely the only place such a record label exists is in fantasy land.

Not quite. Meet Magnatune, creation of founder/owner John Buckman.

Magnatune is indeed an experimental record label. Believers in Creative Commons, it gives extraordinary power to both musicians and consumers. Unlike most major record labels, it has several unique qualities that separate it from the association of "evil."

Magnatune doesn't believe in the physical CD. As many in the file-sharing community have grown to understand, the CD is a cumbersome and outdated relic of the 70's. Instead, Magnatune encourages it customers to download albums. Interestingly, the consumer can choose the price. After listening to an album, the consumer can then choose to pay as little as $5 per download.

The downloaded tracks have no DRM attached. Files are available in a variety of formats, such as FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, and VBR MP3. Once downloaded, the consumer is free to transfer the music to one or one thousand MP3 players, CDs or trade on file-sharing networks.

Magnatune also appears fair to their artists as well. Unlike the major record labels that often give less than a dollar per CD sale, Magnatune splits the sale 50/50. This requires far fewer sales than mainstream acts to obtain the same profit.

In addition, musicians are not required to sign an exclusive contract with Magnatune. Artists only share their rights with the music they wish to sell with Mangatune. They are welcome to produce additional albums with other labels or end their relationship with Magnatune whenever they wish.

In the past, this type of label/musician/consumer relationship was virtually unheard of. While the major labels move at snail’s pace, this progressive music label is charting untested waters. Indeed, Magnatune readily admits this approach will yield results of unknown success. Magnatune’s strategy is to only accept the highest quality artists, as they reject 98% of all applicants. Since its incepting in March of 2003, Magnatune has grown from nothing to over 200 signed artists. If the downward spiral of the music industry continues, perhaps Magnatune’s approach will be the standard of the future.

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Authorized Music Store :: Other

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