published November 8, 2018

The Free Music Archive is shutting down later this month

I’ll find you again, Poddington Bear.

If you’re a producer — of YouTube videos, of random internet things, but in particular, of podcasts and other such independent radio-derived work — there’s a good chance that you’re very familiar with the Free Music Archive, an open marketplace project by the legendary WFMU radio station to develop a Creative Commons-powered space where musicians could share and distribute their music for free. FMA tracks can be heard as the ambient-atmospheric background music of so many podcast episodes to the point of being a near-cliche: I’ve had experiences where I hear the exact same music cue/track used across different podcasts, independent and otherwise. In addition to being just one of those amazing and generous artifacts of a kinder internet (so strange the notion these days), it’s a backbone of the podcast community and industry that’s often under-acknowledged but deeply vital and appreciated.

Citing funding shortage, FMA director Cheyenne Hohman published a note cementing the archive’s imminent closure later this month. “The future of the archive is uncertain, but we have done everything we can to ensure that our files will not disappear from the web forever,” Hohman wrote. Various efforts are already underway to preserve as much as possible. If you’re a producer with beloved tracks in the archives, head over there right now: this is the time to download those assets, and there are also instructions on how to help with the preservation process.

Four things I’d like to flag:

  • The actual timeline for the archive’s closure isn’t clear, but it could happen as early as tomorrow.
  • In the aforementioned note, Hohman wrote: “There is hope that we can find a new parent organization to help us continue the project, but for now, we must take a break and figure out the best course to proceed. We are interested in hearing from anyone who wants to offer web development help, funding, nonprofit status, or has other suggestions.” I know there’s a good chunk of the Hot Pod Insider readership that could be helpful in this regard; do reach out. There’s a comment form on the post.
  • I recommend reading The Verge’s write-up on the closure.
  • One brief thing I’d like to note: on top of being a straightforward music asset resource for existing podcast operations, the FMA was a great educational tool for many aspiring and early-stage producers. I’ve heard more than a few anecdotes of producers and students pulling music from the archives as part of their process of learning to cut tape and do stuff. To state the obvious, this would be a real loss in more ways than one.

Godspeed, Hohman and the FMA team.