More From the Open Source Music Garage

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 16, 2008

We've reported a few times on efforts to apply open source concepts to the world of music, where many people perceive the music industry to be in need of change and improvement. For example, we wrote about Radiohead's successful effort to open source a music video and Bojam's effort to get musicians around the world to collaborate in open source fashion. So I was interested in this post from Matt Asay about Severed Fifth,  an effort to explore new music distribution approaches, headed up by Jono Bacon, who is Ubuntu's community lead.

Bacon has been working on a nearly complete full solo heavy metal album, and will record it performing all vocals and instrumentals himself. He adds: "I will then release all of the final pieces from this new album online at under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license. This will allow anyone to download, listen to, share and re-mix the songs freely, with the only condition that suitable attribution and credit is placed."

Bacon says his overarching intent is to test "the new economy of the music industry." Bacon has been drafting volunteer helpers to help his efforts in areas such as web design and community growth, and he is going to be inviting remixes of his songs. This is an open source-like approach that has worked for successful bands such as Nine Inch Nails, as we've covered before.

In all likelihood, Severed Fifth will see only moderate success. There are a lot of efforts on the web to introduce new methods of music distribution, but most of them only produce limited audiences for unknown artists.

That doesn't mean I'm not a fan of the effort, though. I applaud Radiohead's and Nine Inch Nails' efforts to apply open source principles to music, and the recording industry does seem like a broken industry.

The thing many people don't realize is that successful musicians get most of their money from live performances, not album sales. Since the Severed Fifth album will be offered for free, sales of the album are irrelevant, and commercial success isn't a stated goal of the project. If Severed Fifth can simply create an enthusiastic community around an album, live performances might attract audiences and grow the community larger, though. It will be interesting to watch this effort.