23 May 2008

Funding the Musical Commons

One of the huge benefits of openness and sharing is that it divides up tasks into smaller, less onerous pieces: everyone contributes a little, but gets the lot. Here's an interesting application of that idea to funding the creation of a musical commons:

Musopen has been around for a couple of years but has recently rolled out a new version of its web site, added freely-downloadable sheet music, and raised enough cash to professionally record the entire set of 32 Beethoven piano sonatas and place them in the public domain.

One of the site's innovative features is its bidding system, in which users can pledge contributions toward specific pieces. When they necessary amount is raised, a professional musician is hired to perform, say, Bach's Goldberg Variations (currently the top request). Most of the money used to fund the Beethoven Sonatas was also raised from users in small increments, with a $5 average contribution. While individuals can spend that same money purchasing their own copies of such works, a donation to Musopen helps fund a musical commons that makes the pieces available worldwide and for any application.

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