Magnatune -- sharing-friendly, artist-friendly label -- goes all-you-can-eat, no-strings-attached

John Buckman, the founder of the radical, sharing-friendly, artist-paying label Magnatune, sez,
The Magnatune music service has been transitioning from a "buy album downloads" model to a "DRM-free, all-you-can-eat, pay-what-you-want" model. I believe that Magnatune is the only DRM-free all-you-can eat pay music service.

Today, Magnatune removed all commitment requirements for membership, so that literally you can join for $10 and get access to all Magnatune albums and downloads.

This marks the end of a 3 month experiment, in tandem with Yochai Benkler's research group, to see what effect different prices, pay-what-you-want strategies, and commitments might have on a post-scarcity online music business model.

Membership without obligations (Thanks, John!)


  1. Actually, I think may be a DRM-free, all-you-can-eat, pay-what-you-want service that was working before Rythmbox (one of the default music players on Ubuntu) can stream music from magnatune and jamendo.

  2. Excuse me, I’m going to go pay Magnatune 10 bucks. Let’s see some support for this model. Also, there are some really talented artists on Magnatune. Check out Human Response, for example – that piano teacher rocks the house.

  3. When I saw the title I thought it said “Manga” tune, and I thought “who would want to buy all-you-can-eat anime music?”

  4. They just got themselves another customer here too. Bought a couple of albums before, but not really trawled around much since. The Braid soundtrack interested me, but it was spread across multiple artists and I didn’t want whole albums. Time for some proper investigating!

  5. It’s an awesome idea, but I’m unclear how they implement the “50% of your membership is paid to the artists you listen to” part. I mean, how do they know what you listened to?

    I imagine there’s a special player or interface that they use to track your plays, but I imagine most people don’t listen to music primarily on their computer – they’re using their MP3 player, stereo, car, etc.

    Seems like a system where the user is asked to assign points or votes to the artists they like would work better. And if they choose not to assign their points, they could then be distributed according to whatever listening stats the service has.

    This would take the participatory, direct nature up another notch, in that consumers with “memberships” would now really be a member, and have an explicit role in deciding how the money is dealt out in the organization they’re a member of. I would imagine the ability to bestow votes on artists would be an additional fun and desirable activity for a lot of people.

  6. I love Magnatune! It saves me from having to search out my favorite unknown artist by not going to their myspace account and downloading the same tunes for free!

  7. I was the first person to pay *maximum* price for an album at MagnaTune back when it was new. (Beth Quist? Rules.) You can bet I’m jumping on this now.

    And I might think about submitting my music there… though my problem is I deal with too many styles to choose one representative track to submit :P

  8. FLAC downloads for your lossless pleasure.

    I’ve bought probably 30 albums (paying what I’d pay for a used CD, ~$8-10). Artists I’ve bought albums from (in some semblance of priority): Shiva in Exile, Jamie Sieber, Solace, Ruben van Rompaey, Headroom Project, Glen Bledsoe/Professor Armchair, Hands Upon Black Earth, Hans Christian, Aba Structure, Atomic Opera, Domased, Jay Kishor / Touching Grace, Jade Leary, Jesse Manno, Memories of Tomorrow, Mr. Epic, Mr. Gelatine, MRDC, Suchita Parte, Psychetropic, Rajdhani Quartet, Saros, Self Delusion, Sherefe, Stargarden, TranceVision, Kenji Williams, Williamson.

    Jamendo is great, too, although far more chaff mixed in with the wheat. (Look me up if you care what I like and donated to.)

    And don’t forget for your clickytrack goodness. There seems to be a definite movement in France towards CC electronic music.

  9. I was introduced to magnatune after playing braid on xbox 360. The game’s creator posted the soundtrack links to magnatune. Needless to say $30 later, i was + 3 awesome albums (+2 Jamie Sieber!).


  10. @acejohnny #4

    Its more the buying part that got me than the anime part. I am under the impression that alot of anime music is created/ripped by the fans, so you would want to get it via torrent networks rather than actually buying it somewhere.

  11. #7 zikzak: They just count the downloads. They don’t care where you play it. You still have to download the music, no matter what.

  12. I can’t see that there’s anything to celebrate about Magnatune and similar ventures. Their role is virtually same as conventional labels. They see their job as controlling the spigot through which cultural works flow. How much they charge or whether they charge by the the album, the megabyte, or the month is immaterial. What they are doing is by their own admission shareware culture, not free culture.

    It doesn’t make economic sense. They are aiming to subsidise production by charging for distribution, but distribution is no longer a valuable service – anybody can do it at practically zero cost. In order for this to work, they must “ask you to be mindful of our business model and recommend you share no more than one album per friend per month.”

    Thanks, but no thanks. “Hey, I found this great new band on Magnatune. But I’ve already shared one album with you this month, so I’ll have to let you hear it in a week and a half.” It’s absurd. If I was a recording artist, I wouldn’t be happy with my record label asking my audience to keep my music to themselves and refrain from promoting my work.

    Magnatune’s racket is fundamentally the same as Sony’s: let us get between you and your potential fans, and we’ll cut you in on the action.

    Your audience is your record label. We don’t need shareware culture. We (artists and audiences) need free culture.

  13. Oh, and the cheek of this is astonishing. “Pay what you want“, Buckman claims in bold text, “though there is a $5/month stream membership minimum, and $10/month download membership minimum”.

    By this standard everything is “pay what you want”. Nobody’s going to refuse extra money on top of the price they charge. Just because I could give somebody five hundred dollars for a tin of baked beans doesn’t mean that my local supermarket is now operating on a “pay what you want” basis.

    It’s uncanny the way that otherwise intelligent people totally suspend their critical faculties and blog about press releases as soon as the magical phrases “Creative Commons” and “DRM-free” are invoked.

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