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The Free Music Archive (FMA) is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by WFMU, the longest-running freeform radio station in the United States.[1] Every mp3 on the Free Music Archive is pre-cleared for certain types of uses that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright laws that were not designed for the digital era. These uses vary and are determined by the rightsholders themselves.[2] FMA allows users to sort media by license type and also offers a license guide, which explains the usage rights associated with the various licenses.[3]

Free Music Archive
FMA Logo
FormatMPEG Layer 3 (.mp3)
RestrictionsCreative Commons License, Other Licenses
Catalogue100,000+ songs

The Free Music Archive is a resource for listeners, podcasters, producers, remix artists, and more. All of the audio has been hand-picked by established audio curators including KEXP-FM, Dublab, KBOO, ISSUE Project Room, and CASH Music. The site aims to combine the curatorial approach that these organizations have played for the last few decades, with the community generated approach of many current online music sites.[4] Inspired by Creative Commons and the open source software movement, the FMA provides a legal and technological framework for curators, artists, and listeners to harness the potential of music sharing.[5] Every artist page has a bio and links to the artists’ home page for users to learn more about the music they discover.[6] Thanks to its permissive licensing and public API, the FMA is being used for research in Music Information Retrieval.[7]

While the Free Music Archive is free and open to anyone regardless of registration or other requirements, written and audio content is curated, and permission to upload/edit content is granted on an invitation basis.[5]

On November 7, 2018, it was announced that the Free Music Archive would be shutting down permanently on November 16, 2018. Existing files would be moved to the Internet Archive collection, but it would effectively end as a growing, ongoing project.[8] The closing date was later pushed back to December 1.[9] By January 2019, new management had been found to keep the archive operational.[10]



Initial funding for the Free Music Archive came from the New York State Music Fund, a program of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Additional funding support has come from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, by the National Endowment for the Arts, and from the project's users.[11]

Resource for Video MakersEdit

The FMA's curated approach to Creative Commons music has helped make it a key resource for filmmakers, educators, nonprofits, and others in search of music that can be used in derivative works, especially for online video projects.[12] The popular websites YouTube and Vimeo currently host over 100,000 videos that reference “freemusicarchive” as the source of their music,[13][14] including viral works such as “Pinokeo”,[15] “Screech Owls at Wildcare”,[16] and “Graphic Violence”.[17]

Nonprofit institutions including StoryCorps,[18] The Museum of Modern Art,[19] WNYC-FM,[20] and the Sunlight Foundation[21] utilize the FMA for their online content for their video projects. Music from the FMA was also used in the award-winning NPR multimedia documentary "Lost and Found."[22] Use in commercial and/or noncommercial derivative works are often pre-cleared under certain types of Creative Commons licenses. In other cases, creators reach out directly to the artist for more permissions.[23]

Landmark AchievedEdit

On July 19, 2016, a celebratory blog entry written by Cheyenne Hohman, director of the FMA, announced that the Free Music Archive had reached the landmark of 100,000 songs in their database.[24]

2012-13 Re:Mix:Media Contest SeriesEdit

In addition to its repository of music, the archive is notable for its Re:Mix:Media contest series.

"Sound for the Moving Image: The Past Re-Imagined as the Future"Edit

The first of these contests, called "Sound for the Moving Image: The Past Re-Imagined as the Future," was announced in September 2012. The FMA invited artists to mix their audio with video from the Prelinger Archives. The judges for this contest included musician and filmmaker People Like Us (musician), writer, director and editor Kirby Ferguson, WFMU station manager Ken Freedman, artist Mark Hosler, musician and filmmaker DJ Spooky, filmmaker Nina Paley, and Prelinger Archives founder Rick Prelinger.[25]

On November 30, 2012, the contest winners were announced. "How Do You Say Goodnight" by Carlo Patrao was the Judge's Choice Winner, while "Self Obscure" by James Davis and "Banana Land" by Charles Huette were runners up. "I'd Like Not To Pass Away" by Anna Sara D'Aversa was the popular vote winner.[26]

"Happy Birthday"Edit

In January 2013, the FMA challenged users to send in original "Happy Birthday" songs, in order to replace the copyrighted Happy Birthday to You with a Creative Commons-licensed song.[27] The judges for the "Happy Birthday" contest were Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, musician Jonathan Coulton, NPR editor Frannie Kelley, Yo La Tengo co-founder Ira Kaplan, Ken Freedman, artist Maralie Armstrong, and Deerhoof drummer/keyboardist Greg Saunier.[28]

On March 5, 2013, the winners for the contest were announced on the FMA homepage. Los Angeles musicians Monk Turner and Fascinoma won first place, Long Island jazz musician Bob Barta won second place, and The Blank Tapes, a project led by Southern California multi-instrumentalist Matt Adams, won third.[29]

"Revitalize Music"Edit

In April 2013, the FMA launched a new contest called "Revitalize Music," this time challenging users to create new recordings and arrangements of public domain songs.[30] The judges for this contest were country music artist Laura Cantrell, Ken Freedman, International Music Score Library Project founder Edward Guo, The Public Domain Review editor Adam Green, Dust-to-Digital co-founder April Ledbetter, and Soundcheck (radio program) executive producer Joel Meyer.[31]

On April 30, 2013, the FMA announced that Brooklyn band Crown the Invisible had won with a power pop version of "The Spaniard That Blighted My Life" by Billy Merson.[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Breihan, Tom (April 15, 2009). "WFMU Launches the Free Music Archive". Pitchfork. Conde Nast. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  2. ^ Kiser, Matt (April 10, 2009). "New Website Offers 5,000 Free Downloads That Don't Suck!". Spin. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  3. ^ "License Guide". Free Music Archive. Archived from the original on November 17, 2018.
  4. ^ [1], "Billboard (magazine)", 9 May 2009. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  5. ^ a b Moss, Ceci.[2], "Rhizome Magazine", 1 May 2009. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  6. ^ Dylan. [3], "Slideshow Blog", 12 March 2012. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  7. ^ Defferrard, Michaël; Benzi, Kirell; Vandergheynst, Pierre; Bresson, Xavier (2016-12-06). "FMA: A Dataset For Music Analysis". arXiv:1612.01840 [cs.SD].
  8. ^ Bloom, Madison. "WFMU's Free Music Archive Is Shutting Down". Pitchfork.
  9. ^ Hohman, Cheyenne (November 15, 2018). "Update: Closing Date Pushed to Dec 1". Free Music Archive. Archived from the original on November 17, 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Connor, Sean. [4], "Saylor Foundation", 8 March 2013. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  12. ^ [5], "HS Video Teacher", 28 June 2012. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  13. ^ [6], YouTube. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  14. ^ [7], Vimeo. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  15. ^ [8], Vimeo. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  16. ^ [9], YouTube, 27 June 2011. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  17. ^ [10], YouTube, 28 December 2010. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  18. ^ [11], SoundCloud. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  19. ^ [12], MoMa Multimedia. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  20. ^ [13], YouTube. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  21. ^ [14], YouTube, 26 October 2009. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  22. ^ [15], NPR. Retrieved on 25 July 2013.
  23. ^ [16], FMA interview with the artist Podington Bear. Retrieved on 1 August 2013.
  24. ^ Hohman, Cheyenne. "Director". Free Music Archive. Free Music Archive. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  25. ^ [17], 28 September 2012. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  26. ^ [18], 30 November 2012. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  27. ^ Haglund, David. [19], "Slate (magazine)", 2 January 2013. Retrieved on 24 January 2013.
  28. ^ [20]. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  29. ^ [21], 5 March 2013. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  30. ^ Harmon, Elliot.[22], "Creative Commons", 17 April 2013. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  31. ^ [23]. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.
  32. ^ [24], 30 April 2013. Retrieved on 24 July 2013.

External linksEdit