Indaba Music

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Indaba Music is an on-line collaboration site aimed to bring the independent artist out of isolation and onto the net. The name is Zulu, evoking the spirit of collaboration. In Southern Africa, when there's an important problem, tribal chiefs come together in an indaba to solve it.

Created and run by audiophiles, Indaba Music site helps musicians collaborate over long distances. Anyone can use the site for free, and for a monthly subscription, upgrade their service for more storage and quicker file access. A&R scouts scour the site for acts, musicians search for gigs, and bands form organically out of mutual appreciation. There's even commercial work for jingle artists, film scorers and voice-over professionals. There are over 125,000 users in 170 countries and members include engineers, studio cats, deejays and even high profile musicians.

And Indaba is making a name for itself. In January, late night host Stephen Colbert, had copyright guru Lawrence Lessig on his show. During the interview, Colbert challenged viewers not to re-mix the interview audio into a song, which prompted many remixes on YouTube. Indaba then hosted an on-line remixing contest which produced hundreds more re-mixes. Colbert had Indaba Music owner Dan Zaccagnino on the show four weeks later to showcase his favorite remix.

The way Indaba works is simple. Users upload tracks to the site after joining a "session,” modeled after a real-life studio recording session. Then, other Indaba members, from anywhere in the world, can listen in, download, or upload recorded parts as they see fit. An on-site mixer enables users to combine tracks with different instruments or parts. And if desired, musicians can solicit opinions and advice directly in the session.

Following in the footsteps of MySpace, Indaba Music is a serious jump in networking for musicians. A number of high-profile artists use the site, some of whom use alternate names, while others are more public about their presence Grammy award-winners like Yo-Yo Ma have used Indaba to audition new musicians and build collaborative projects. Mariah Carey, Third Eye Blind, the Roots, and T Pain, have all offered their own music for creative use. Indaba in turn, hosts re-mixing contests where competitors can experiment without fear of copyright infringement. While these high-profile artists gain some publicity, up-and-coming independent artists get exposure, students and music hobbyists have a great place to experiment and everybody wins.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.