You’re in a band. You care about issues like fair use and free culture. You are poor, with no money to get your music out. Have we got news for you.
Antenna Alliance (antalliance.org), a new project spearheaded by Harvard junior Tim Hwang and Northeastern “middler” Christopher Budnick, is offering free studio time, online distribution, and college-radio airplay to musicians who release their work under any of a number of Creative Commons licenses — open copyrights that, in various versions, allow others to copy, distribute, perform, and/or repurpose your music.
Creative Commons’s ccMixter aggregator (ccmixter.org) is a great place to start. It’s an online clearinghouse where bands’ songs are made available not just for listening, but to sample from, use in your podcast, or remix. But while ccMixter offers a great framework for releasing music for free, Budnick says, it’s still “very, very hard to find a recording studio to record it for free.”
Budnick and Hwang were talking recently to a fellow Free Culture (freeculture.org) member who works at Northeastern’s WRBB; he mentioned there was a recording studio there. It was one of those eureka moments. “At first we were just gonna record people and let them do whatever they want with their music,” says Budnick. “Then we were thinking, ‘if we had some sort of open license attached, whatever that open license might be, that could be a pretty neat mechanism.’ ” The plan is to prioritize recording time based on the liberal-ness of the license selected by a band (see the various options at creativecommons.org/licenses).
Another carrot enticing bands to use liberal licenses: airplay. Budnick cites stations like MIT’s WMBR and Harvard’s WHRB, where CC-licensed music is often given priority on play lists. Several Antenna Alliance members are planning shows for next semester in which they’ll play only Creative Commons–licensed songs.
Antenna Alliance seeks to be, in essence, a virtual record label. “The mechanism is, someone wants to release their music CC, so we record it, and then we distribute it, and we also aggregate it through our Web site,” says Budnick. But it also hopes to have a physical presence, where if the music is “really, really good, we sit around making nice CD cases with construction paper and glue.”
With meet-ups every Monday night, show promotions, and CD-release parties, Antenna Alliance is committed, above all, to the local scene. It’s already drawn interest from 20 or so bands, including Allston’s Blanks and Somerville’s Robot Goes Here. But people outside of Massachusetts are also intrigued. New Jersey indie band the Wrens, for instance, are interested in participating in a proposed EP project where seasonal EPs would be split between more well-known groups and Boston-area bands who are on their way up.
“The initial project is just to release music, and release it as often and frequently as possible,” says Budnick. If they can give voice to artists who might not otherwise be heard while “allowing innovative uses of the music, and encouraging participatory culture”? All the better.