Magnatune: Get Your Early Music Here

Magnatune is a record label which only publishes online. You can’t get music from them in CD format but you can make yourself an account for either downloading or for streaming their artists. For me, this is where I get my fill of early, medieval, renaissance, baroque and lute music.

(At this point, I predict half of you have stopped reading and the other half have pricked up your ears. There’s plenty of other music and genres from folk to jazz to industrial and metal available. Keep reading.)

Now, a little about Magnatune. The company began life in 2003 out of the experiences of the founders in trying to get their recordings published. Unlike the major record labels, Magnatune is an entrepreneurial venture by music makers rather than music exploiters. It’s grown to an important, if niche, music publishing company on the basis of a couple of strengths.

First, the company exists only online. For around $15 per month you can get an account which permits you to either stream content through Magnatune‘s Shoutcast stations or download music to any and all computers and other devices you own. Music is available in a variety of formats from loss-less FLAC and WAV files to both fixed and variable rate MP3, AAC and Ogg Vorbis.

Second, there’s no DRM (digital rights management) on any of the tracks you buy from them. That’s right. There’s no lock-in to any particular player application and, more importantly in the modern world, no limit to the number of your devices you can copy the music to. Once you’ve purchased a track or an album, it’s yours to listen as you please.

Third, they pay their artists well and fairly. Magnatune‘s business model is pretty simple. Each user of service pays his or her $15 per month. That money is divided between all artists the user downloads that month. Magnatune takes half. The artist gets half. There’s no mucking about with percentages or negotiated rates. There’s one simple policy for all.

For me, I’m a Magnatune download customer because they have tons and tons of early music available – all created by professional classical musicians as side projects to their day jobs in the orchestras of the world or by music academics with a passion for these periods. In both cases, the quality of the performance are miles above the dross generally available at medieval and renaissance faires. And the breadth of styles is surpassed nowhere else that I’ve found. Whether Middle-Eastern or Western, court music or peasant melodies, you’ll find a big stash of it on Magnatune.