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Hessel van Oorschot for Free Music Archive

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Inside FMA - Chapter 1

In a series of short articles, the Free Music Archive team is sharing inside stories and research results related to the rebuild of a global iconic music service: Free Music Archive. We hope this will inspire you and fuels you with new ideas to help creatives around the world.

Chapter 1

Let’s go back to 2018. Breaking News: Free Music Archive is shutting down due to lack of funds. Phones started ringing and emails filled our inboxes. It was clear from the start that Free Music Archive needed to stay, not only because it became the leading free source for original music with millions of monthly users, but the music and community found on FMA, are like no other.

In September 2019, Free Music Archive was acquired by Tribe of Noise, a Dutch company with many common features, servicing a community of more than thirty-four thousand independent artists across 194 countries. The connection between Free Music Archive and Tribe of Noise was undeniable. Both communities support Creative Commons licensed music but most importantly, both strive to create space for opportunities to arise for independent creators.

But how to rebuild a global iconic music service while increasing support to musicians? Especially during a time when live events and performances have been put on hold due to the pandemic. We had to ask the bigger question:

Does online music, perceived as free, can still create value these days?

After analyzing an earlier survey of more than 5,000 respondents, it is certain that FMA members benefited a lot from a free, open and fair platform like Free Music Archive. Users go to Free Music Archive to find original music for videos, films, podcasts, radio shows, games and even school projects. But does the general public understand that free to access does not automatically mean it’s always free to use? And do artists uploading music to FMA expect a fair trade or just a ‘thumbs up’?

To find out, we connected with the FMA community. We gathered insights from more than 4,000 FMA musicians, curators and net labels. With the new normal, we met online via the webcam and interviewed more than 40 individual FMA members, majority being FMA musicians. We were very curious to get their direct input for the rebuild of Free Music Archive.

The elephant in the room

When gathering insights for Free Music Archive we had to ask FMA end-users an important question: are you willing to somehow financially support the FMA artists? And surprisingly, even though FMA is free to access, the majority is willing to tip or donate to FMA creators from time to time.

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We dived in slightly deeper and also asked our target audience which tools or services we and the FMA musicians can offer based on a feel good/fair trade basis. Not surprisingly but the majority mentioned and suggested a “donate” button.

Other great feedback we received from the FMA community: pay for some form of “safe to use” certificate, pay for curated content, pay for premium content, or subscribe to a low-cost service with advanced play(list) features.


The FMA community also felt strong against advertisements, paywalls and anything that tries to capture and sell user data. Many FMA respondents told us that they still rely on finding new music and new artists during live gigs and events. Something that’s really hard these days.

So, we investigated if FMA musicians think their current online presence is sufficient enough to connect with (new) fans and peers. From the insights we gathered, we can report that:

7 out of 10 FMA musicians are looking for a new way to present themselves online.

All clear signs to continue the rebuild of Free Music Archive with the help and guidance of the FMA community itself. We now know that FMA musicians are up for new opportunities online and would like to see FMA back to its iconic self.

Our next steps?

We will continue to keep an open-door policy to all artist and musicians that has any advice and suggestions for FMA. Starting next week, we will invite the first FMA musicians back to FMA to login and check all their existing music files, information and metadata.

Part of this rebuild journey is to walk alongside the FMA community, introduce them to new exciting developments (e.g. web monetization), free sharing vs getting paid by supporters and learn how to create value these days.

Moving forward, the first big project is obvious; it has to be a new online home for artists. Free Music Archive wants to empower musicians through fair trade and at the same time keep access to music free and open.

More inside stories by FMA?

We will continue to write stories like this one, share the insights we gathered with our FMA community and publish them here.
So make sure to follow us!

Inside FMA Chapter 2
Inside FMA Chapter 3

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Top comments (1)

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

This is super interesting. I'm a musician and am definitely going to check y'all out!