A US-based website that aims to make new recordings of classical music that is out of copyright available for free, for personal or even commercial use, has raised $68,359 to fund new content.
The not-for-profit Musopen website, originally set up in 2005, hires orchestras to record new versions of classical scores. Although basically a charitable organisation, fundraising to date has been ad hoc, but recently founder Aaron Dunn used a creative fund-raising service called Kickstarter in a bid to raise $11,000 to fund the recording of the Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky symphonies. The deadline for that fundraising has now passed, with over $68,000 being pledged, an awful lot more than what Dunn was seeking.
He and his funders now have to decide what to do with the extra cash. He told Ars Technica this week the big decision is whether to hire a lesser known and therefore cheaper orchestra (probably from Eastern Europe) or whether to go all out and use the services of a celebrity orchestra like the London Philharmonic. Either, though, would be a step up from past Musopen projects, which have used perfectly capable but less impressive sounding outfits like Davis High School Symphony Orchestra and Oldham Music Centre Youth Wind Band.
Some in the classical music sector have been nervous about Dunn’s grand plan though, and some professional orchestras may as yet be unsure about whether to take Musopen’s money. Those who are nervous worry, of course, that if Musopen makes fine recordings of the classical greats available for free, even to TV companies and film studios, the cash-strapped professional orchestras of the world will lose valuable revenue streams – CD sales and licensing deals. Though Dunn says that he hopes services like Musopen will, in fact, expand public interest in the classical genre, ultimately bringing more money into the industry.