Last week The Free Music Archive opened its virtual doors offering thousands of free tracks for streaming or download. Yes, there are tons of sites on the web that offer new music for free, but the FMA is different. The music on the FMA is curated by music experts (radio programmers, webcasters, venues, labels, collectives and so on) – so that instead of a slush pile dominated by bad music typical of other free music sites, the music at the FMA is really good (or at least one human expert thinks it is good). Most of the music on the FMA is released under some form of a Creative Commons license that allows for free non-commercial use making it suitable for you to use in your podcast, remix, video game or MIR research.
For free-music aggregation sites like the FMA, music discovery has always been a big challenge. Without any well-known artists to use as starting points into the collection, it is hard for a visitor to find music that they might like. The FMA does have and advantage over other free-music aggregators – with the human curator in the loop, you’ll spend less time wading through bad music trying to find the music gems. But the FMA and and other free-music sites need to do whole lot better if they are going to really become sources of new music for people. It would be great if I could go to a site like FMA and tell them about my music tastes (perhaps by giving them a link to my APML, or itunesLibrary.xml or last.fm name) and have them point me to the music in their collection that best matches my music taste. If they could give me a weekly customized music podcast with their newest music that best matches my music taste, I’d be in new-music heaven.
The FMA is pretty neat. I like the human-in-the-loop approach that leads to a high-quality music catalog.