When I was up until 2 in the morning reading The Last Colony, I wanted a little music to fill up the rest of the room. My friend Andrew (yes, that Andrew, who edits all my books. Say thank you to Andrew if you liked Happiest Days) turned me on to Magnatune dot Com a couple of years ago, and since I hadn't been there in several months, I decided to check out their ambient music. As it turns out, ambient music is perfect for filling up a dark and quiet room while you read an awesome science fiction novel.
If you don't know what Magnatune is, I'd like to do you a solid and spread the virus: Magnatune is not evil. It's an online record label, owned by awesome people, who sell all kinds of music without any DRM at all. You can buy digital versions, or you can have them mail you a CD. Their artists don't give up any of their publishing rights, and they get 50% of every sale. Did I mention that buyers get to choose how much they pay for something? Yeah, how awesome is that? You can pay as little as $5, or as much as $18. If you really like what you've bought, you can give it to three friends for free. Yes, for free, as in beer.
Everything in their catalog is Creative Commons, and non-commercial podcasters can license all of their music for free. This makes me happy because I've always thought it was profoundly stupid of the music industry to force podcasters -- who could be providing their artists with thousands of dollars or more of free publicity -- to pay idiotic licensing fees. They have an enormous range of artists from Classical to Jazz to Rock to all forms of Electronica. I don't like everything in the catalog, but there's so much in there, it wasn't hard at all to find a lot of stuff I do like.
Examples: When I was reading The Last Colony, I listened to Trances-Drones by Robert Rich, because I freaking love dark ambient. In fact, back in the early 90s, my friend Dave and I DJ'd several dark ambient chillout rooms at after hours clubs. We were called feck. I was Frank Booth and he was Silent Bob. It was awesome.
Today, while I've been Propelling and breaking this story that I'm really excited to write, I've been listening to Knives to the Treble, by Burning Babylon, which is the fattest, smoothest, heaviest dub I've heard this side of King Tubby and Scientist. I liked it so much, I bought it for $10. Before the day is over, I'm likely to buy Stereo Mashup, because I lub me some dub style onna record, so pushit ovah now ya roughneck. Wheel i' tup!
Uh. Sorry about that. It sounded boss in my head. (Boss? What the hell is wrong with me today?)
I agree with pretty much all of the philosophies behind the founding of Magnatune, both as a creator and as a publisher. I hope that WWdN readers will check out their artists, and share them with friends and family. You can preview every single song in their catalog, and even stream entire albums for free. If you're looking for a place to start, check out the Magnatune Compliations. The 2006 SXSW compilation, the 2005 Red Hat Summit compilation, and the Electronica Compilation are all great starting points.