Monday, April 18, 2005

Who's Song is it, Anyway?

Here’s another interesting twist in the online musical revolution, one that was, in fact, predicted years ago by a teacher in a recording class I was in.

Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) has released a new single. That, alone wouldn’t be big news, unless I were a bigger NIN fan. What’s interesting about it is the format it’s being released in. It’s not a CD, it’s not an mp3 or a wma. Instead, it’s a 70 megabyte .band format. That’s the format used by the Macintosh Garageband program.

A little clarification: Garageband is a program that people can use to record music at home. They can assemble a song, track by track: first drums, then bass and guitars, keys, and finally vocals. I do all of my recordings on a similar program, called Cubase. It all runs on my computer and it’s a wonderful thing. It’s what allowed me to put “One United Generation” together without drowning in 25,000 worth of debt in studio recording.

So, what?

Why is this so amazing?

First of all, is the program itself. I paid around $400 for Cubase. Garageband ships with Mac OSX. That’s right. It’s free with the operating system. Now, it might not be quite as full-featured as Cubase or Sonar, or any of the other pro-level recording softwares, but it’s dang close. That means that every new mac user has it.

Second, Reznor is releasing the song, not as a finished, completed mix that people can listen to, but as a Garageband file that people can edit. That’s right. They can remix it, add to it, take away from it, rework it, change it anyway they want to. He’s created a community work of art. I have to hand it to him. Most artists don't have the confidence to let go of their work like that.

Now, this has some very interesting and far-reaching implications. Not the least of which deal with copyright and ownership. Once everyone has done their own versions of his song, will it really be his? It’ll be like a musical wikipedia… Like a musical barn-raising…

Mark Hansen


  1. This is very cool and indicative of fundamental changes happening in the music industry.

  2. This is kind of cool. Even though Garage Band has limited usage, when compared with the number of desktop NOT running the Mac OS, it's still a significant step towards music as a shared art form.
    What's ironic as well is that Apple has always been a very propriatary company, and yet here is a successful pro musician using their platform to "open source" his music.

  3. Another way to share music is through the Creative Commons. You might want to look at their website:



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