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"It's almost painfully straightforward," Moby said. "The idea is basically free music for film students."
The prolific electronica master introduced his latest venture: Mobygratis.com, where students, experimental filmmakers and otherwise non-commercial artists can download the musician's work for use in their projects with no licensing fee. The website itself contains about 60 pieces of music that students can download and use in their projects. "It's really that simple," Moby said.
The socially conscious artist is keen to deny any selfish motivations behind the project. "Whenever you say that you're making something available for free," Moby said, "people's immediate thoughts are, 'well, what's the catch, why are you doing this?' There's no catch: It's free music."
Well, the musician says, there is one small catch. "If someone uses the music in a film that goes on to commercial success, you have to apply for a regular license, which is really inexpensive. Any money that is ever generated would go to charity," Moby said. "It's my way of keeping myself honest."
For Moby, the worlds of film and music first intersected in the early '80s, when he was studying to be an experimental filmmaker at SUNY Purchase. "I've been involved in the independent film scene since 1984," he recalled, "and this is essentially a way of trying to help out my friends. I found that over the years when I got together to have dinner with them, they would complain about how difficult it was to try and get music for their films. So I thought as a service to the independent film community I'd take a lot of my music and make it available."
For an artist who came to fame by licensing his music to films, TV shows and commercials, it's an oddly fitting step. "I've licensed my music to hundreds of different movies and found it to be a really remarkable process," he said. "I make music at home in my studio, and if it ends up in a movie, suddenly it's in a completely different context. On a creative level I've found that really exciting."
For that reason, despite the criticism he has faced for making his songs so widely available, Moby feels he's been vindicated. "Even 10 years ago, everybody looked at licensing with disdain, and now everybody's desperate to license as much as possible," Moby said. "The same people who might have criticized me are now on their hands and knees begging people to license them."
Moby offered advice to prospective filmmakers who would like to use his music. "Whether you want to do experimental films or documentaries or narratives, I think film school is an amazing time. You should experiment with everything and give yourself complete creative freedom. Try out anything you want to do, because it's the best time in your life to be as experimental as you want to be."
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