Jamendo is the world’s first B2C music download service offering all tunes under the Creative Commons license. At least that is Jamendo’s claim. Also, I do not know about any other one either. If there are small ones or large ones out there handling their business that way – please contact me. I really would be interested in your experience.

The Land of Digital Milk & Honey

Most importantly, any music offered on Jamendo is legally free for download. This is rather surprising to say the least. Yet all of us should have been prepared since OpenSource software like Linux is something we take for granted. But music? It feels like the Holy Grail being one-way used in a fast food restaurant and thrown into the litter box right afterwards.

Some limitations the consumer has to face. As far as I know, audio quality is limited to 192 kbps VBR mp3. Alternatively you connect to BitTorrents and download the tracks in mp3 or ogg format. The latter option obviously will appeal to the more tech-savvy ones. But, there definitely is no DRM whatsoever. On the other hand, there is a “Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved” tag which you might have noticed by now, along with some additional icons.

What is Creative Commons all about?

CreativeCommons is a non-profit organisation founded in 2001. In an attempt to cut it short, it allows the artist (or author) to protect his copyright while consumers may download, copy, distribute, and recycle (remix) the content for free. Although, there are limitations to that. The artist can choose from four basic types of CC licenses:

  • Attribution means: You allow others to copy, distribute, display and perform your copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it – but only if they give you credit.
  • Noncommercial means: You allow others to copy, distribute, display and perform your work – and derivative works based upon it – but for noncommercial purposes only.
  • No Derivative Works means: You allow others to copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
  • Share Alike means: You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

The constraints of reuse on the content are growing from top to bottom. Essential to all types is that in case of reuse, the original artist has to be credited.

However, I am no legal practitioner. Therefore, you might just have a look at some documents on CreativeCommons.org which provide a more precise introduction and a kind of overview:

I definitely will add another more in-depth entry on CC shortly. In preparation, I am reading Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity” right now. Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, co-founded the CreativeCommons movement and is member of Board of Directors at CC.

Back to Jamendo: The Business Model

I am sure there are several raised eyebrows, some doubtful faces, and even some compassionate smiles out there. Music for free, now that’s fine – but where does revenue come from?

First of all, since there are no royalties, ASCAP, GEMA, SACEM etc. are not involved. To be precise, none of the musicians/creatives involved in producing the content must be a member of any of the collective entities. It is CC or collective entity. You are in or you are out. On the other hand, when publishing under CC, you are free to distribute your content otherwise for free or for money. You are publishing your content under non exclusive rights.

Yet again, where is the artist’s revenue? First off, Jamendo allows for donations to artists. If you are willing to donate, € 5.00 is the minimum to invest. Second, ad revenue is shared between Jamendo and the participating artists. According to which key this revenue is shared, I do not know (if anyone does – please contact me). Third, individual commercial programs can be joined by artists. Revenue share for artists is 50% at minimum with this option.

Judging the Business Model

Of course, Jamendo does fine within the business model. No shares for label, distributor, manufacturing neither for physical storing.

If tracks are actually sold, the artist gets a good share. Donations are not really to rely on though it might be surprising to the public audience how many people are willing to pay voluntarily. This certainly applies for well known acts – I am not sure if it works out for new ones.

The benefit from ad revenues I really cannot judge. I am missing the figures and numbers here.

Commercial programs: If professionally arranged (see The Orchard, distributor of mainly digital content), this certainly pays off. But there is large effort to be expected.

Most importantly, if Jamendo does a good job (still getting used to the new CI though it has definitely improved by large), the music does the marketing and the artist gets massively more (legal) listeners by sharing. Each of those is a potential future commercial customer (physical media incl. added value, merchandise, ticket sales) and each listener is a multiplier in marketing. Now this DOES work for all artists, up and coming as well as established ones.

[update] Apparently, Jamendo goes CreativeCommons since April 2007 according to German IT magazine c’t. I was not aware of the fact that Jamendo has always been based on CC. Since CC got more popular it might have been a smart move to push this message just recently.

This text has been published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported licence. If you would like to make use of the text or parts of it in a way that goes beyond the scope please get in touch with me.