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WFMU's Free Music Archive Receives MacArthur Grant

If it’s possible to have a crush on a radio station, then I have a crush on WFMU. The eclectic, freeform non-commercial New Jersey community radio station was an innovator in online streaming, offering on-demand show archives years before the word podcast was ever coined. In 2007 the station initiated the Free Music Archive as a curated library of audio and music available for free download and use.

On Thursday WFMU announced that the FMA has received a major grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Jason Sigal, managing director of the Free Music Archive, says

We’ve come a long way since our beta-launch last April, but we have even bigger goals for this project. I’m honored that the MacArthur Foundation shares in our vision. This is good news for everyone who likes free music, especially for artists with music to share, curators in need of an online platform, and producers in search of quality audio for their creative projects.

What’s most unique and interesting about the FMA is that it’s not a music-sharing site, nor is it an open archive like Archive.org. The curated aspect of it is important, with the artists and musicians featured being asked to contribute by an array of curators, such as radio stations WFMU and KEXP, record labels ESP-Disk and other cultural institutions. The idea isn’t to create a comprehensive archive so much as an archive of interesting and compelling music that is not just free to download, but also pre-cleared for reuse, typically under a Creative Commons license.

Back in July 2008 when the FMA was just getting off the ground I interviewed WFMU station manager Ken Freedman about the project and its goals. You can listen to the interview at the mediageek radioshow website.


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