Talk all I want about the sharing economy (which in wikipedia oddly redirects to remix culture – try gift economy) and the 100s of MP3s I’ve uploaded to here and ccMixter, most people wait patiently for me to stop babbling about philosophy and want to know “Yea, but how do you make money at this thing?”
That’s what my five albums on Magnatune are supposed to be for. Now, as a remixer, I sample musicians and I expect them to get paid with a cut of the profits and everything was hunky dory at first. Then they changed their royalty policy and I was left in debt, perhaps the only open music artist that owed their label money – just like the real world. I felt like I had arrived. Combine that with flat sales of my last two releases and things were grim in the summer, looking like my account would stay in the negative. (Just to be clear: The only reason this happened was because three years ago John and I felt the sampled artists were underpaid and he retro-actively paid them at the time. That money had to come from somewhere, so it was my account that stayed in the red. For, you know, three years.)
Meanwhile, you could count me as one of the skeptical when John told me about the whole streaming subscription thing. This is where people stop buying albums and pay a subscription to Magnatune for an all-access all-you-can-eat pass.
Well, color me wrong (again) because now that the tally is in for the first full six months of subscriptions turned on, it turns out to be a big fourstones windfall and lo, and behold – my outgoing royalties got paid off. This same time was really slow on licenses (not sure what that means) but the streaming thing kicked ass. An excited email from John (“Dude, you’re paid up on the vig” – I’m paraphrasing) and my account balance shows I’ve crept over that red line into profit.
I’m mainly happy for the artists I sampled because they’re getting more when there’s more money coming to Magnatune.
But I have to say, no matter what happens, I’m still most proud of the fact that there’s 14,000 hours of 100% new music on ccMixter and in the Commons that didn’t exist in the world when we started the site. I’ve used them extensively in my last few projects and I’m just that lucky because I get to sample them, collaborate with them and (hopefully) support them just a little.