Should Music Be Open Source? A Remixed Conversation

Polish-ambassadorThe Polish Ambassador, a "beat machine from the future," raised a number of interesting questions on Facebook about "what it would mean to be an 'open source' musician." Discussion ensued. Mike Masnick pointed to this discussion on TechDirt. More discussion ensued.

I've taken some elements from these commentaries and remixed them with related material. I hope you find this remix useful in your own considerations of what open source music might be and how to become an open source musician.

Mike Masnick alerted us to the news that "Kevin H alerts us to the news that electronic music/DJ artist The Polish Ambassador recently began musing on Facebook about what it would mean to be an 'open source' musician."

Mike Masnick is "reminded of the experiment by K-OS, where rather than having fans remix an album, he pre-released all the stems, and let fans create their own original mixes, and then took the best for each song and released a combo album: one of his own mixes, and a second of the best fan mixes."

Clyde asks: "Is this available without having to purchase it?" Clyde can't find it.

The Open Source Definition includes "Free Redistribution."

Clyde says: "If K'OS redistributed Yes! It's Yours freely, it would probably be easy to find without facing the choice of purchase or pirate."

Clyde points out: "No! It's Not Mine."


The Polish Ambassador asks "If an artist like The Polish Ambassador were to become an open sourced project what might that look like?"

The Polish Ambassador has many questions.

The Polish Ambassador is a "beat machine from the future."

The Polish Ambassador is giving away his entire discography for free.

The Polish Ambassador practices Wildebeest Tactics for the 21st Century.

Discussion ensued on Facebook:

Kevin Miller: "That is one of the most forward thinking concepts I have heard in music in my life."

Justin V ForVendetta: "soundcloud seems like a step in that direction, as many unsigned artists are collaborating and sharing on a sort of open source platform…"

Clyde recalled mentioning the Disquiet Junto project:

Back on Facebook discussion continues:

Alan Kapow Masciangelo says "Its not about the fortune or fame…. its about the music and our love for it."

Sean Casmey encouraged people to check out RAC "=remix artist collaboration":

RAC says: "We provide re-interpretations/remixes of individual songs for artists/labels."

Clyde says: "RAC is a service provider not an open source project instigator."

Back on Facebook discussion continues:

Dalton Salisbury: "I think Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero. Was a great implementation of this philosophy."

Zach Warr responds: "I'm glad you brought up NIN…he open sources a ton of his music now."

Trent Reznor Year Zero Interview

Back on Facebook Jess Ceja has questions:

"But why would you want to be. Want to lose control? Open source sounds like mainstream. Which isn't bad. Who doesn't want to sell out. & I mean sell out shows sell out records & merchandise."

Jesse Burke points out: "Look at the monetization of android which is open source and you will see that it is very possible to make money."

Richard Stallman explains: "Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software"

Richard Stallman clarifies: "This is a matter of freedom, not price, so think of 'free speech,' not 'free beer.'"

Clyde thinks: "This is getting complicated but maybe even misinterpretations and disagreements can be productive as long as people are creating freely and not suing each other."

Back on Facebook discussion continues:


Alexi Girgis: "I use of only open source software, but am not a producer. I would say it means providing everything that somebody else would need to recreate the song from scratch or make a remix of it. This would be samples, patches, etc. Also probably a project file that could be opened in ableton, or whatever daw you use."

The Polish Ambassador: "Of course, music is the obvious one, but there's all sorts of artforms/ideas that could be incorporated into/pulled from this concept. Think outside the box!"


Shawn Conte has concerns: "I think it could easily become a breeding ground for shitty music and art, just my opinion."

Andrew Hatsworth counters: "Shawn: As opposed to the current way the music industry works which never leads to shitty music and art?"

Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith blogs about business at Flux Research: Business Changes and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Some of what people are calling open source music is really just a marketing plan to engage more fans. You give them your music and encourage them to play around with it.
    But I wonder what would happen if we had more collaborative efforts where so many people have a hand in the creation and modification of music that no one can claim it anymore. It’s the group’s music or the community’s music and no single person can claim credit or have it be attributed to him or her.

  2. Is this article a joke ? because a guy gives away stems for remixes music becomes open source ? as far as I remember companies “sell” sample CDs full of hits and loops royalties free for decades… hip hop or electro music has been built upon this kind of material for about 20 years or more…
    Now it’s called open source music ?
    I bought a guitar yesterday. It’s an open source instrument… because it’s able to produce sounds…
    Come on…

  3. It’s a stupid idea as it encourages mediocrity. The business has already been taken over by that.

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