I’ve already posted most of this on Facebook, so it will be familiar to some or all of y’all. But here I’m gonna expand a tad…
First, like I said on Facebook… I’ve been going over the take-down of What.CD, a private torrent site that, yes, shared official material (music, audiobooks, e-books, etc… no video, though).
Now, before I continue, I’m going to quote what I said on Facebook:
No, I don’t want to talk about how or why I know as much as I do about it, and yes, I agree that piracy is wrong, it’s right that piracy is illegal, people should support artists they love with money, and blah blah blah… we’re not having that conversation here.
And I’m gonna stress that here. We’re not here to discuss the relative morality of torrenting sites, question why I know as much as I do about the site, etc. So that’s the commenting policy. And that includes you, too, NSA, CIA, and FBI.
So anyways… I called What.CD the Library of Alexandria of music, and one of the reasons for that is because What.CD amassed an amazing collection of out of print, rare, hard to find, and/or prohibitively expensive music you basically couldn’t find anywhere else. It was incredible what could be found on What.CD, what new music you could find that you never heard before, and so on. And now that’s gone. Sure, torrent sites are like a massively exagerrated Hydra (shut down one site, a thousand more will pop up in its place), but it’s going to take a seriously long time to rebuild the What.CD Library.
But there could be another way, too… a… perhaps… more legal way… to rebuild a part of that library and make it accessible to everyone…
I know that, despite what many may think, there’s a genuine demand for harder to find music… if there wasn’t, places like What.CD wouldn’t exist. It may not be a huge, world-wide demand, but I have a feeling that it’s a big enough demand to sustain a legal business model.
So the idea is this…
It’d be a streaming/download service like Spotify or Bandcamp, but for out of print, rare, and/or hard to find music and artists. You can download music in MP3 to FLAC or even WAV quality, or simply stream it from the app or site. You get it all either by a subscription fee or by paying for each purchase separately (you have the option to choose between the two, and if you go for the subscription option, you can do monthly, quarterly, yearly, or even one large fee for a lifetime membership). There would be a free option, as well, but it would be very limited (streaming only a certain number of albums per month, no downloads or saving of pictures, etc).
The money made through these revenue streams, and hopefully also from investors, would help to pay for the liberating of this rare music.
Both the app and site would also have a request feature…
So… let’s say you have a favorite band or artist that has an out-of-print album that is just impossible to find nowadays… let’s use Tim Minchin’s only album from his pre-comedy days, Sit, with his band Timmy the Dog, as an example… and you find the app doesn’t have it. You can submit a request form, and your request will go into a que. You would get a response from an actual person within 24 hours letting you know where in the que your request is and how long before anyone is able to go on the hunt for your request, and when you can expect the request to either be fulfilled or closed. You’ll be periodically kept up to date on where your request is in the que, and if the schedule is thrown off, you’ll be notified immediately. There will also be a public page for the album request with this same information for anybody else who’s interested, so they can follow along. Once your request is up at the top of the que, both volunteers and employees would then go on the hunt for the album, even contacting Tim Minchin himself. During the hunt, updates would be emailed to you and put up on the page.
Now, of course, I would expect the company to respect the artist.
If Tim Minchin agrees to release the album through the app, the album would be taken, ripped to a computer, and uploaded to the app with all of the following information:
-Artist Name (if it’s a band or group/collective, then all individual artist names would be included underneath the band/collective name)
-Full original release date (when it can be found), as well as release date on the app
-Record label and catalog number (when available)
-Complete artwork (all pages of the booklet, back insert, vinyl case, cassette insert, etc) in the highest quality possible
-Images of the original format (so you’ll see both sides of the vinyl, CD, cassette, or 8-track, or an image of the reel-to-reel)
-Original barcode if available
-Lineage (what format it was ripped from, how it was ripped and with what program and settings, the format it’s in for your download and for streaming)
-100% verified ripping log if available
-Full personnel credits outside the band itself (any extra musicians, including what instruments they play and what tracks they appear on, the musical engineers, etc)
-Any other information that can be put on the page about the album (the story behind the album, the story told if it’s a concept album, some info about how it was recorded, and so on)
If Tim Minchin simply decides he doesn’t want the album out there anymore, then you would receive an email apologizing, and a special page would be made for the album letting people know that, out of respect for the artist, the album will not be released through the app. It would still provide some information about the album (everything I list above that can be obtained without access to the album), but not the music itself. It would probably also include a plea for people not to be angry with an artist for choosing not to release an out of print title of theirs through the app, because the artist might have very good reasons for it.
Of course, we’ll have to go through record labels quite often, but the company would go out of its way to ensure that the artist and/or their estate gets paid what they’re owed for recording and releasing this music.
There would also be no specified genre: so you could find anything from Classical to World Music to Folk to Blues to Big Band to Jazz to Rock to Country to Punk to Grunge to Metal to Funk to Hip Hop to R&B to Rap to EDM to Dubstep and so on. If we banned anything, it would be stuff like Nazi music (I don’t mean anything like old performances of Wagner’s music, BTW… I mean… like… Nazi Punk) and such.
Obviously we would also have artists pages, which would include links to their Facebooks, Myspaces, Twitters, Discogs, Bandcamps, Spotify pages, SoundClouds, websites, and/or any other online pages they may have. If there is none of that for an artist (because they are no longer active as an artist for whatever reason, for example), then the page itself would serve as the main page for that artist.
The information for each individual artist would include links to the app/site pages for any bands and/or collectives they’re in, the labels they’ve released under, any alternative/stage names (exceptions here would be dead names… those would never be included), a list of their complete discography (though the app/site would not include any part of their discography that is easily accessible elsewhere because it’s not out-of-print and/or rare; so the discography would be split between what’s available on the site/app, and for anything more easily available, links to where else you can purchase it, like Amazon or Bandcamp or Spotify or iTunes or Google Music or the band’s/artist’s official site or such), some official images of the artist, a basic biography, and so on.
As for whether or not this has already been done… I realize that Discogs comes pretty close, and yeah, this idea takes inspiration from Discogs (hell… it could very well be a Discogs product if they wanted to do it), but it goes a heck of a lot further than Discogs does, as it’s also a streaming/download service, while also being smaller since it would be dedicated to rare, out of print, and hard to find music.
As for how to handle the downloads… I’m personally a believer in the idea that once you purchase something, it’s yours to do with as you see fit… so no restrictions there. However, legal hoops would make that hard, so the question would be how to find a balance/compromise… it would be nice if there was some way to keep the releases from ending up on torrent sites, but I certainly can’t think of any way to avoid that without needlessly restricting what a consumer can do with the download once they have it to a point of making the whole enterprise pointless…
Oh… and then there would also be the question of how to define “rare” and “out of print” and such. Like… would Jake Holmes’ discography count? His albums are technically out of print, yet you can actually find both of them streaming on Amazon, and you can purchase CD and vinyl copies from third party sellers for both reasonable and unreasonable prices… so would his stuff fit on the app/site, or not?
What about the Nymphs, a short-lived 90s Grunge band, known mainly for their song “Imitating Angels“? I own their EP and their album, and got both for very cheap prices, but through third-party sellers. Their stuff isn’t legally available otherwise from what I can tell (though I could be wrong). Would they count?
What about music that’s available only in specific countries, but not others?
And should we also be a platform for new, small-time, independent artists to release their first album or two? That is… does it count as “rare” if it’s an artist who’s new/relatively unknown releasing their first album and looking for an audience?
What if it’s an out of print original release edition of an otherwise widely available album, like an official digital rip of the very first vinyl pressing of Led Zeppelin I?
Then, of course, how far should we go in excluding certain out of print/hard to find/rare music? Nazi music, sure… that’s easy to not allow. Charles Manson’s music is probably easy to not allow, as well (besides… it’s not very good; yes, I’ve heard some of his music for free… I can’t recommend it; it’s surprisingly boring, banal, cliche Hippy folk). But… I mean… well… at the moment, I can’t think of any other controversial out of print music, but I imagine there’s stuff out there where there would be a legitimate debate over whether or not to include it…
Anyways… that’s my idea. I wonder if it’s possible to implement?