Gnomoradio Blazes On:
Growing support for freely licensed music

Jim Garrison
April 20, 2004

Recently, there has been growing concern about the control that the five major labels (EMI, Sony, BMG, Warner, and Universal) have over the recording industry. Peer to peer file sharing programs, beginning with the original Napster, have forced people to consider other models for the distribution of music. Unfortunately, many of those innovative distribution networks have been stopped by the courts, working on the behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America.

The RIAA is working to stop innovation so that the five major labels can continue their oligopoly control over the music industry. File sharing gives relatively obscure artists great leverage in terms of promotion. This promotion of the independent artist threatens the control of the RIAA, leaving the major labels in a rather vulnerable position.

In reality, the RIAA is correct about one thing: the law currently forbids the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material. It is only legal to transfer files which are specifically licensed for file sharing.

Creative Commons has created a solution to this problem. They have provided several licenses which permit free distribution of artistic works under various conditions. Any independent artist wishing to harness the power of peer to peer file sharing can embrace a Creative Commons license. People can then legally share the artist's music in the open.

Gnomoradio takes this concept one step further: it is a file sharing program developed specifically for freely-licensed music. Because it is exclusive to artists who permit file sharing, it can be developed and used in the open, without the threat of legal action.

Gnomoradio was announced six months ago today. In our initial announcement, we detailed our plans for creating a music sharing community, designed for artists wishing to share some or all of their music.

Already, we have produced a stable music player that is capable of reliable file transfers. It can recommend songs to a user based on inferred and explicit listening preferences. A person using Gnomoradio can easily view the license of a song, visit an artist's web site, search for new music, and find information about purchasing an album containing a given song. It is easily installable on Debian and Gentoo GNU/Linux computers, and there is an experimental port to Mac OS 10.3.

Basicly, Gnomoradio makes it easy for users to find music that interests them. All of the features of Gnomoradio are designed to help each individual band promote itself. Gnomoradio allows an artist to directly connect with its best target audience on a global scale, virtually eliminating the need for an expensive middleman.

At this point, there are a few things holding the project back; we have not had time to complete every aspect of this intricate system. Relatively few bands have opted to take advantage of Gnomoradio. We feel that the biggest reason is the lack of publicity and awareness. Another problem is the difficulty in publishing music on the system. In order for a band to put its music on Gnomoradio, it is necessary to have some technical knowledge, as it requires posting an RDF file on the internet. By partnering with various online music sites, we hope to make this as automatic as possible in the coming months. This strategy will greatly expand the number of bands that are able to use Gnomoradio for promotion.

Another short-term problem with Gnomoradio is the lack of a Windows client. The majority of people in the world use Windows, and it is necessary to support it for wide-scale adoption of Gnomoradio. Also, until artists can see the direct results of publishing music on the system, they are unlikely to take the time to embrace it.

Thus, our biggest goals for the next six months are to complete a Windows port and to recruit more artists to take advantage of the system. There are no major obstacles to either goal. Looking back, it is amazing that we have already accomplished almost everything that we set out to do in the initial announcement of the project. I have confidence that we can complete our new goals before the one-year anniversary of the project on October 20, 2004.

If you are at all interested in Gnomoradio, I urge you to help out in whatever way possible. Talented musicians can publish music on the system; there are many potential benefits for doing so. Others can simply raise awareness about the program, visit and link to our web site, and begin to provide a supportive community for the artists who use it. Either way, it is great to hear from people interested in the program on our mailing lists.

Please feel free to visit our web site at I encourage you to come regularly, and to engage in our little community. Together, we can bypass the mainstream music industry to help restore musical freedom and innovation.

Copyright © 2003-2005 The Gnomoradio Project