Case Studies/Postmoderncore

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Postmoderncore logo, used with permission

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Postmoderncore is a netlabel concerned with releasing underground New Zealand music and other music of interest under local Creative Commons licences.

My feeling is that for an undiscovered artist who does dream of “making it” one day, the best thing they can look for in the meantime isn’t profit, but exposure. Creative Commons licenses allow your music to spread furthest. — Sam Stephens, Founder, Postmoderncore


Postmoderncore is Wellington-based netlabel that, in the words of founder Sam Stephens, ‘cares about music, not commerce.’ Established as a protest against the commoditisation of music and the idea that a musician needs to be motivated by profit, Postmoderncore believes in giving an audience to music that deserves it, and ensuring that the potential audience of a release is not limited by money or production constraints.

According to its website, Postmoderncore’s philosophy has been greatly influenced by the Negativland fan collective Snuggles. Founding the label five years ago, Sam expresses his underlying beliefs:

‘I came to the conclusion that copyright was a tool used by corporations to make profits, and control artists and their music. …Postmoderncore is the flip side of my protest against copyright and the idea of music as a commodity. I decided that the best method for sharing the music and accompanying art with its audience was to offer free downloads over the internet. I also wanted to reach a wide and international audience.’

Operating as a self-funded initiative, Postmoderncore sells CDs of the music available online, so that the label’s artists and fans can have physical CDs if they wish to. This is not a money-making exercise, and is intended more for promotional purposes.

License Usage

Artists on Postmoderncore are offered the ability to license under the New Zealand Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 or the Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 licence. Being happy with the licences so far, Postmoderncore will continue to release under Creative Commons.

The Creative Commons licences selected depend upon the wishes of the artists. According to founder Sam Stephens, some of the label’s musicians are happy to have derived works produced from their music, and some are not, so they end up using the according licence. Sam intentionally uses the New Zealand licenses to express Postmoderncore’s ties to New Zealand, and to support the CCNZ initiative.

After reading of the commercial use of CC-licensed images on billboards by Virgin Australia, Sam explicitly chooses non-commercial licences, so that further use of Postmoderncore material can be vetted by the artist(s) involved. In Sam’s understanding, ‘This doesn’t stop commercial use of the music; it simply requires explicit permission to be granted. I think it’s good to maintain this level of control.’


Music files of the artists hosted by Postmoderncore have now been available at for three years. The most popular albums have had about 16,000 downloads, according to’s statistics.


As founder of this netlabel, Sam Stephens first heard about Open Content Licensing through the open source software movement.

‘When I learned about the Creative Commons bringing these principles to music and the arts, I was very excited as I already was releasing on the internet, and thought these licenses had great potential, and expressed ideas I already had about creativity as a gift, rather than something to be owned and hoarded.’

According to Sam, Creative Commons licences provide the advantage of allowing for distribution of music by fans, removing centralised distribution and associated costs and annoyances: ‘They express the freedom and sharing I want from creativity.’

As someone who is encouraging others to release under Creative Commons licences, Sam is careful to ensure that artists releasing on Postmoderncore understand the full implications of doing so. In particular, Sam emphasises that artists need to understand that they can never revoke the CC licence, and once they’ve released the album, it’ll always be available for free, even if suddenly they get commercial interest.

‘It means that my artists need to not be particularly profit-motivated, and/or that they need to have the confidence to know that if they get commercial interest, they can create a new work that is as strong as the one they just released. My feeling is that for an undiscovered artist who does dream of “making it” one day, the best thing they can look for in the meantime isn’t profit, but exposure. Creative Commons licenses allow your music to spread furthest.’


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