I came across a unique website this week called Magnatune. They specialize in musical styles such as ambient, downbeat electronica, and world music. While these are hugely popular genres, especially the sub-genre of electronica known as "chill," there are a limited amount of outlets available for finding this type of music.
Of course, where you live can have an impact on the availability of such music. Amoeba Music here in Hollywood has an amazing collection, but the bulk of the CDs I try to sample are never available in the listening stations. At Magnatune, you can listen to entire albums before making a purchase. They have their own web-based interface for tracking an album or you can stream the album to iTunes. My personal experience with streaming at Magnatune wasn't that successful, which was surprising since I have a very fast connection to the Internet. That said, I preferred their embedded player because it was easier to move from song to song within an album.
John Buckman founded Magnatune because he wanted to provide independent musicians who specialize in these unique genres with a new opportunity to actually make some money on their music. The background story about why he went down this career path is interesting, and you can read about it on the site.
Magantune offers music downloads at several prices and in a variety of formats including 16-bit/44.1kHz lossless audio, and everything is DRM-free. After sampling an album, if you decide to purchase it, you can download it immediately or have a CD shipped to you. Album downloads range from $5 to $18, and you set the price depending on what you think it is worth. They remind you the artist only receives half of the sale, so be fair. If you prefer hard media, the same sliding scale applies to CDs costing between $11 and $24.
If you hear a lot of music you like, two membership options make a good deal of sense. For a mere $18 a month, you have unlimited downloads in any format you like. Printable album notes are also provided. For $9 a month, you are given unlimited listening privileges. This differs from unrestricted guest browsing with exclusive podcasts and special members-only features. For both memberships, they allocate half of your monthly fee to the artists whose music you download or stream.
The 50/50 split with musicians would be considered extremely generous compared to the 25 cents per CD they might get if they were on a traditional record label. The artists have a non-exclusive relationship with Magnatune and can pursue additional opportunities to generate revenue with their music. Magnatune actively markets itself and its catalog. An important revenue stream is licensing, and these music genres are extremely popular in movies and TV shows.
Personally, I love the genres found on Magnatune, but I didn't recognize any of the artists, so I am looking forward to discovering some interesting new music. I took an hour or so to sample a few albums, and the one band that really jumped out was The West Exit with their catchy electronic dance/pop tunes. A cool feature on Magnatune is the ability to embed a player into your website or blog to share your favorite albums. So, click on the player below and check out The West Exit's most recent album, Modern Interiors. Enjoy.