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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Rock the Calabash 
14th-Oct-2006 03:30 pm
asia face of the earth relief
Terrasonic on KGNU 1390 AM today mentioned World Music dot National Geographic dot com. It turns out it's a collaboration with Calabash Music. Calabash's slogan is "The World's First Fair Trade Music Company," meaning that artists get 50% of sales, which is a damn good deal.

The site offers DRM-free mp3s from scores of world artists. Like iTunes Music Store, songs are 99 cents a piece, but only 75 cents a piece if you buy 20 credits at a time. They also provide a free single every day. I added their RSS feed to my Google Homepage, but Google doesn't show the artist's picture and the feed doesn't provide the artist or song name. The service is entirely browser-based, including minute-long song sampling. The UI for song sampling could be improved by enqueuing songs at the bottom of the list rather than interrupting the current song and playing it after the new song finishes.

I'm still not sure how I feel about buying music online. I've bought about 20 singles on iTunes, mostly for tamheals, but I've never bought an entire album online. I like the physical CD: album art, lyrics, easily transportable case. I typically buy music at local independent used CD stores. Not only does it support local businesses and keep money in the community, the average used CD price is about $7 or $8, so I usually get a slightly better deal than the $1 a song that most download services charge. Pricing by the album also means that an album by The Clancy Brothers (no songs longer than three minutes) isn't twice as expensive as one by Tabla Beat Science (average song length close to ten minutes).

On the flip side, buying used CDs doesn't directly fund the musicians. I don't think this is a big deal when buying albums by artists who are popular (does U2 care if I buy used instead of new) or dead (I wonder what Robert Johnson could do with $15 delivered by time machine). But bypassing production and distribution costs and having some group in Africa get 50% of the price sounds like a socially and environmentally responsible way to listen to good tunes. I don't get a glossy book, but I can stick a picture in iTunes and may be able to download the lyrics, allowing me to give the album as a DIY present.
15th-Oct-2006 05:34 am (UTC)
I worry about used CD stores because there are so many reports of CDs stolen from cars and from college dorm rooms. I figure somebody is enjoying the potential to finance college. I asked Cheapo Discs about it, and they told me they can usually tell who is trying to sell stolen discs, and they don't offer them very much.

That is a double fung wa?! as far as I'm concerned. I mean 1) how can they tell whether or not the cds are stolen and 2) buying them cheap is the extent of their policy to discourage the selling of stolen discs?
15th-Oct-2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
CDs stolen out of a car rarely have jewel cases, and used CD stores don't usually buy without original cases.
25th-Oct-2006 06:33 pm (UTC) - Calabash feeds
Hi Trevor,
Glad you dig Calabash Music! I saw that you weren't getting the pics or the artist names in your feed. What feed are you taking? check out http://rss.calabashmusic.com. This is our feed generator that can give you a feed for just about any region, genre, or artist on the site. go wild!

also check out our blog


Calabash Music
3rd-Nov-2006 05:10 pm (UTC) - Fair Trade Music at Calabash
Thanks for all the good thoughts and comments about Calabash Music’s approach to Fair Trade. Creating a truly fair trade music company is not so simple. In the first case the label ‘fair’ is very subjective and there is no standard set for fair trade as it applies to music as of yet. However, we’ve created our own standards which are displayed on our site at: http://news.calabashmusic.com/world/fairtrade

We define Fair Trade Music with seven criteria which cover a range of contributing factors that provide for a thriving and sustainable music economy.

1. Fair Share
We use a ‘Fair Trade’ and ‘Equal Exchange’ agreement giving our artists an equal share of revenue from their music sales: whenever we work directly with an independent artist they earn 50% from every sale. When you buy music downloads from an independent artist on our site, they get half of your money. This is a far greater share than the typical 8% – 12% that they can earn from standard music industry contracts.

2. Pro-Artist
By working with Calabash Music, artists retain control over their music and their careers. Artists continue to own the copyright (author’s rights) to their music. Our agreements are non-exclusive. Artists are given a range of marketing tools allowing them to self-market and self-promote.
Each artist is given:

– Their own artist page with their own domain – RSS feeds of their blog for posting news – Streaming audio and video hosting – Embedded player that allows artists to sell music on their own site – Featured placement on our network of media partners.
Learn how to submit your music to us on our musicians’ page.

3. Pro-Consumer
Calabash Music has become the leading global music download service by providing easy access to all the great, but hard-to-find, music from around the world. We’ve created the most unique and broadest based international music catalog with a social conscience – served the way you like it, via the Internet. You own the music – there are no digital rights management restrictions placed on the music files you buy – and we’ve made it easy to share your music passions with others.

4. Supporting the Independent Producer
It is just as important to apply fair trade practices to support other music industry players such as small independent producers who continue to play vital roles in the digital music age. We are working with independent producers to create digital-only releases which are bringing new projects to market at a fraction of the cost, and at far less risk, than producing a CD. Some of these same producers also sign up new artists to our catalog and are able to share in their earnings similar to traditional A&R agents.

5. Supporting Public Media
Calabash Music has partnered with non-profit public media who are often the only outlet for diverse international music. Our partners include:

– National Geographic – Link TV – Afropop Worldwide – Mondomix

When you purchase music downloads through any of our partner stores, they receive a percentage of your money.

6. Transparency
Music industry agreements should be clear and open. We want to bring an end to hidden fees and costs that have been borne by artists and placed them in situations where they ended up owing labels money after tours. Calabash Music displays our artist agreements online and we’ve worked hard to simplify these agreements so that a lawyer is not needed to understand the basic terms. Calabash Music has built our business on a platform of open-source software -- the ultimate in transparency.

7. Sustainable Development
In Fair Trade arrangements, artists and producers no longer need large amounts of capital to access a global market. Calabash Music is working directly with self-produced music from around the globe, giving artists the opportunity to take advantage of our global platform for online promotion, marketing and distribution. Under our direct-to-artist licensing, musicians in developing countries are earning revenue from their download sales that significantly increases their standard of living.

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