Online appeal sets classical music free

September 6, 2010

Online appeal sets classical music freeA group of classical music lovers have successfully appealed for funds to release copyright-free versions of symphonies by four famous composers. The money will pay for an orchestra to record the music on an “all rights basis”.

The project, Musopen, aims to deal with a problem caused by the way copyright laws work. Although the actual symphonies written by composers in, for example, the 19th century are long out of copyright, there is separate protection for every individual performance by an orchestra. That means that in most cases, the only recordings currently in the public domain are very old performances generally recorded with poor quality equipment and plagued with hiss and crackle.

Musopen aims to build a library of copyright free performances, allowing site visitors to do legally do everything from burn them to CD to use them in movies. In some cases this involves simply persuading copyright holders to donate their performances to the project, thus opening them up to the public domain.

The most recent appeal, however, went a step further. While the group has previously hired orchestras to record sets of music that are relatively low-key in terms of scale and personnel (such as piano sonatas), they recently decided to aim to record the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, with an estimated price of $11,000 to cover an orchestra’s fees and recording facilities. They also wanted to use a lossless format rather than compressed audio such as mp3.

To get the money, the group appealed via Kickstarter, an online fundraising site that allows the public to pledge a donation, but only collects and hands over the money if the entire target amount is pledged. As part of the pledge process, donators were offered rewards ranging from a data CD containing the recording files (in return for a $25 donation) to a sponsorship of a particular symphony recording plus an iPod containing all the recordings (for a $1,000 donation).

The project has now exceeded its target, eight days before the deadline set for donations. The group says that for each additional $1,000 it raises by then, it will record another set of compositions such as Mozart’s violin sonatas.

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23 Responses to “Online appeal sets classical music free”

  1. TonsoTunez:

    How many thousands of musicians have just been screwed out of future work, heath care benefits, and pension and welfare payments?

    Just keep clawing away at people who make music by making the years it takes them to hone their craft a complete waist of time and exactly who will be providing future consumers with wonderful, new, innovative additions to our musical culture?

    Most musicians – and particularly classical musicians, live from day to day on a shoe string as it is … might as well take that away from them as well. I’m mean you need a few extra bucks in your pocket – right? Let them eat shit!

    How selfish … how uncaring … how stupid.

  2. MakeItHappen:

    I think your comment is misleading.

    People will not stop buying their favourite records/artists because something is available for free. Do you eat out of free soup kitchens for the homeless? Stay at their free lodgings? Its all free but i dont see the entire population of earth giving up their favourite restaurants and coffee shops.

    Also rants like that can easily be turned around for arguments sake – you would like to protect the interests of a small group be they musicians or anyone else while hindering the progress of the entire human race? How selfish, narrow minded and blah blah blah of you..

    Its not about starving someone out of their earnings, its about progress. Evolve and adapt.

  3. TonsoTunez:

    And how long have you been walking around without a nose? You surely must have cut it off in spite of your face.

    You have absolutely no understanding of the creative process and how fragile – in terms of their economic well being – the people that make the music you love are.

    Companies are one thing … creators, for the most part the lowest paid – and most important contributors to music’s economic food chain – are quite another.

    Every time you remove any sort of an opportunity for a creator (including musicians) you lessen the interest of future generations of creators to dedicating their lives to becoming involved in the creative process.

    How many geniuses might future generation never have the opportunity to enjoy if all incentives that lead them to chose an extremely difficult path to attaining some sort of recognition are removed?

    Wouldn’t that be truly “hindering the progress if the entire human race?”

    Think before you fire, pal, your shooting yourself in your own foot and crippling the future enjoyment of music for billions of people that will come after you.

  4. Benny:

    Why use an orchestra at all?

    It used to take a small army to record some of these pieces. A great conductor, a well rehearsed (and well trained) orchestra, and cutting edge engineers were needed just to capture the sounds, let alone artistry.

    Maybe we don’t need that. Maybe a talented MIDI programmer can get the sound together. Hey, that way we don’t even need the publisher. Or a librarian. Or record label. Maybe we can do it for $10,000 or less. Maybe we can even get some advice from Sir Simon Rattle. He’d probably volunteer for this non-profit, right?

    But let’s definitely not compress this music to mp3. This is Brahms we’re talking about. We can’t have fidelity issues for these “classical music lovers.” Who would listen to youtube videos of high schoolers playing Beatles’ tunes if the audio is compressed?

    Let the people have what they want. They’re still accepting donations. I hope they make all the generic public domain recordings they’d like to. At least they’re paying somebody, and not just stealing those old, over-priced Deutsche Grammophon productions. If the listener is not more moved by Karajan’s recordings, performances at Avery Fisher, or whomever, then he should be congratulated for solving the pesky “problem caused by. . . copyright.”

    Music is already free. Talent is not. Nor is taste.

  5. MakeItHappen::

    Tonso, i thought “creators” create?! As in make new music and get recognition they deserve? Like Hans Zimmer for example?

    Being passionate about something like you are is great but I think its abit misplaced in this case. Theres plenty of opportunity for creativity with the newly created media like games, TV shows, docos etc.. No one has taken away work from the composers and no one will. There will always be a market for that. And once again no one will cancel any classical concerts because some of the work is available for free.

    And like Benny said, music is free already. People will get access to that whether you like it or not. Monopolizing the work of old authors, which isnt your own, isnt a good thing to do.

    By sharing all this wonderful music there will be more exposure to that for the young aspiring musicians who will be the new generations of composers.

    So you can go easy on your rants, “pal”;).

  6. Jason:

    Tonso, keep in mind that the current copyright holders plus the RIAA et al are not paying those ‘poor musicians’ very well, but are likely not at a loss for having their own late model luxury vehicles.

    Your rant has all the tones of ‘trickle down’ and ‘biz friendly’ and ‘free market’. Begone.

  7. qwerty:

    Um, Sibelius died in 1957, meaning his works are copyright protected until 2027.

  8. David Piepgrass:

    Tonso, we’re talking about music that was made before my great grandfather was born. The general public–including the people who paid the $11,000–have as much right to that music as you do. You have the right to try to make money from classical music, but we have the right to spend our own money to provide it to the entire world for free.

    You don’t have some special right to get money from everyone else. Your rant is like a lawyer claiming people should sue each other more, or a doctor complaining that people are too well, thereby hurting his business.

    If you want the right to make money from your music, the only sure way to get legal protection is by making your own original music. If you’re playing someone else’s music, others have every right to record a competing version and sell it–or give it away for free.

  9. Paul Reinheimer:

    By the same token of this stealing from musicians, those musicians shouldn’t be playing Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. By playing that music, which has fallen out of copyright, they’re preventing modern composers (who live on a shoe string budget) from making any money.

    Playing music by long dead composers is selfish, uncaring, and stupid.

  10. Filmmakker:

    This is wonderful news! Now I can have a soundtrack for any of my artwork I put on youtube without having to deal with the copyright bullshit! Thank you, Musopen! I’ve bookmarked your site and plan on downloading all your music. Thank you! Thank you!

  11. Eric Anderson:

    David, I agree with you. Further, I’m always astonished by creative people of any stripe who seem to think that they *deserve* to make a living from their outputs. Nobody deserves to make money from being creative – it’s not some sort of natural right. I don’t have a “right” to make money from what I choose to do, but if people choose to pay me for what I do, great. If not, the world will have to miss out on my wonderful output and I’ll just have to find something else to do.

    I’m not being all libertarian here at all, I’m just making the point that creative people so often seem to think that their output deserves special protection, such that they *can* make a living at their trade, whereas most people have no such protections with regard to their livelihoods.

    Also, when I hear the hand-wringing from the creative sector (and in my opinion that sector is far, far smaller than the sum of those who claim to be members of it), I think back and wonder how the great composers and orchestras got along before copyrighted recordings were possible. If I understand, sometimes they survived through the patronage of the royal and the wealthy. But mostly they made a living by *performing*.

  12. yelp Yakington:


    How many times do we allow musicians to use public domain songs to make money??? Why are they not creating there own music??

    It time they Stop Stealing from the Public and start creating their own music.

  13. bobby blue:

    “Further, I’m always astonished by creative people of any stripe who seem to think that they *deserve* to make a living from their outputs. ”

    what nonsense. Therefore surgeons do not deserve to make money, bakers do not deserve to make money, carpenters do not deserve to make money, film makers, bricklayers, etc.

    Following your logic, we should just pay surgeons, bakers, carpenters, etc., if we feel like giving them some money. What a display of ignorance.

  14. ohlol:

    Hahaha oh how I loled at some of the comments.

    Is there a problem with giving people a choice? There are loads of recordings of the same pieces of classical music but they are all different! Surely all those angry people know this when they encounter different interpretations of their favorite pieces :o

    Performers perform, it’s what they do xD just because there’s going to be free classical music won’t mean people will stop going to their concerts. Calling this project a bad thing is like saying, “Oh noes! remove all the free classical sheetmusic from the public archives because it will put publishers out of business and I really need to complete my collection with the next volume release otherwise the spines on the shelf won’t match!!!!!”

    Really, there are people who think they like classical music but just hears music when they put it on. Then there are people who like classical music and actually listens to it.

  15. lol idd:

    bobby blue… Are you serious? How has these two things got anything to do with each other?

    No, I don’t have a right to make a living from being a surgeon/baker/whatever. But if I choose to do that, and I happen to be good at it, people will pay me to do it. Same goes for musicians.

  16. HEX:

    What hasn’t been mentioned here is that the entire orchestra is being paid to perform this before it’s placed in the public domain. As well as a conductor, recording engineers, and who ever else is needed for such a large scale production. I would say that those folks have the greatest interest in current/future earnings, and they agreed to take the job. That says more to me about the realities of the situation than a bunch of unknown people in the comments section spouting off about creators/performers being able to make a living. These people took the work knowing that they will not continue to make money from future play or sales of those pieces they record.

    PS: I can’t decide which of you are serious, and which of you are just trolling. So good job either way.

  17. Sherwood Botsford:

    I know people who have 4-5 different recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies. I know that I have a strong preference for Musica Hungarica’s recording of Respighi’s “Ancient Aires & Dances” to the CBC’s, and I’m partially deaf.

    If you look through the music CD catalogs some pieces of music have hundreds of recordings. And the bargain basement priced CD’s from Eastern European countries are not outselling the expensive versions, despite a 4:1 price difference.

    Having one reasonably good open source recording means that classical music will get used for YouTube, for indie movie producers, and so on. This in turn may introduce people who have seldom or never heard classical music to the genre.

    I will also point out that the availability of recordings has not made performances disappear, although in my case I strongly prefer a good recording the the unpleasantness of dressing up, and finding a place to park.

    It has always been tough to make a living as a musician. I went to school with one fellow who majored in music. He was good, but not great. He knew by the time he had been there two years that he would never get a job in a professional orchestra.

    So he was faced with spending his musical life either doing an endless series of night club gigs, and teaching kids how to push air through the trombone.

    He ended up going back to work for his dad’s plumbing business, and playing for the Spokane Symphony. The latter is a semi-pro orchestra — they charge for tickets, and the members get paid, but not enough to live on. On the flip side, they rehearse only twice a week, and give a concert every fortnight.

    This gave him the music he loved, and because he wasn’t doing it 40 hours a week, it remained fresh.

    If such an orchestra was any good, one way they could make money would be to sell tickets, and give a CD of THAT concert away with every ticket. Every CD a live recording. Every ticket stub is good for one download. Or if you wanted a real CD, you dropped your stub in a box on the way out, and it was mailed to you two weeks later.

  18. Derek:

    Yes, pay a musician for humming out a song or two if you like them. But why should we keep paying him for the rest of his life? I made a suit for a customer and stuck a leaflet inside the pocket saying, If you lend this suit to a friend then you have to pay me ten pounds. If worn on television twenty pound per show. Less if worn on a radio show. My friend is so important I can now live just on the commission that the suit bring in.
    A artist sells his paining only once. Sometimes for very little. He doest charge you again for showing it to your friends and neighbours. It is yours to what you like with.
    It’s takes a lot more work and skill to paint a masterpiece than it does to hum out a few tunes but the humming is where the money is.

  19. Bianca Gascoigne:


  20. Bertie Blaustein:

    its great to see somone discussing this concern sometimes it’s so difficult to discover a honest opinion and i appreciate your honesty on this concern i just wish you had a newsletter i could subscribe to as i would be extremely interested in readind your posts and debating on futher issues you may desire to discuss, stay blessed.

  21. Reginia Chandrasekhar:

    That makes more sense Thanks Paula, I really like your blog

  22. Tonda Raffo:

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after going through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m certainly happy I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!|

  23. Nicole Herrera:

    I don’t understand why anyone will keep listening to radio with commercials when you have which is completely free and has no commercials or ads.

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