A few months ago John from Magnatune pointed out that half of the label’s income comes from music licensing (e.g. film directors, websites, presentations, etc.) and suggested that I submit an instrumental album to capitalize on that trend. Magnatune’s appeal to film makers is critical for the future health of open music. Until a Sony rootkit virus infects his PC, the average music consumer will miss the intricate, arcane, integral corruption a film producer experiences trying to secure eight seconds of music rights for her film. Even enlightened music consumers (i.e. people who have bought my albums) might not realize that for every innovation Magnatune has made in the way it serves its customers and treats its artists, there is an even bigger breakthrough in the way it licenses music — from the on line licensing form to a fair pricing scheme that is based on the film’s budget, not a fanciful exorbitant flat price. I’ve heard John often say “Why would you out price any film project?” I’m not an economist so I don’t know. I’m just a musician who wants the entire world to hear my music and I’m for whatever makes that happen. The magnificent part of the Magnatune solution is that if the project does have a decent budget, then the musician is immediately compensated in dollars, not just exposure.
On my way to delivering the afore requested instrumental album I discovered that, in fact, Magnatune has standards. Of course John has talked about their single digit acceptance rates quite publicly but at the end the day he is a music label executive and I am genetically wired to assume the opposite of anything a music label executive says publicly or otherwise.
After a fair amount of churn we came up with 45 minutes of music that he felt comfortable releasing and that I felt makes no artistic sacrifices. This is kind of important for me because, looking the bull in the eye, I’m pretty sure I’m more qualified to work in fields other than making music if ever so slightly, even there. If I’m going to struggle with a music career it has to be 100% on my terms, which of course is the pedantic way of saying I need to rationalize the results 100%. Why? Well, in the spirit of two mangled quotable sayings “Never mistake passion for talent” and “Sometimes it isn’t enough to be Hungarian,” being true to myself (a priori lethal) is just one of the many, many ways I compensate.
The resultant compensatory album is “La Vie Chill” and it’s dedicated to my new favorite place to hang out on the web, where else, ccMixter. One of the emergent stars of the site, Eric teru Ohara (think Nordic Irish Asian Canadian brilliant), gave me a fantastic remix that I used “as is” thank you very much. For the rest of the album I made extensive use of samples from Magnatune (for which I pay royalties per sale) and ccMixter (for which I got permission to pillage), but I really feel as though these are original compositions — by the way: does anybody else recognize the oxymoron in the term “original composition” or is it just me?
This was the first time I actively avoided using vocals. I’ve been told forever that having singers means the music is more “accessible” (which I gather has nothing to do with larger bathroom stalls). But it seems the all-time best selling artist on Magnatune does 100% instrumental music so I’m ready to make some adjustments in my expectations of how this album will do compared to my other efforts.
If you get a chance, listen to the whole album (stream), if you like it then by all means do the right thing, not because you feel guilty for all the free music you’ve listened to from Magnatune, not because you want to screw with Sony’s head and pocketbook, not because you want to support open music, artist rights, birds singing and flowers growing. But because today, Dec. 6th is, donchano, my birthday.