Grants/Fig's Library Recording Studio Free Music Project

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Fig's Library Recording Studio Free Music Project

Applicants: Fig's Library Recording Studio, Dustin M. Chaffin
Affiliation: The Music Collaboratorium
CC affiliated? No
Contact: Dustin M. Chaffin
Coordinator: Jeff Rose, Tom McLaughlin
Project Start: 2010/08/30
Project End: 2010/11/30
Download budget Discussion

Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

Fig's Library Recording Studio is a start up, low-cost music recording studio in Phoenix, Arizona dedicated to providing professional services to those artists who couldn't otherwise afford a session in a studio. Through artist education, affordable recording services, and a flexible, nurturing environment for musicians, Fig's intends to explore alternatives to the current music business paradigm and de-emphasize the music recording's status as a "product" using Creative Commons licenses. Instead of viewing audio recordings as a product, artists will learn to utilize them as a way to interactively engage their community, publicize their talent, and bring back value (and profit) to the live performance. Fig's intends to record a number of local artists for free in order to jump start the "free music" initiative in Phoenix and demonstrate a new business precedent for the recording industry.

Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).

The goal of this project is to produce three (3) or more EPs recorded by promising talent that will be shared, distributed, and used to inspire others to become a part of the commons community. Fig's Library also believes in documentation of the creative process; in addition to music files, videos of the recording sessions and band profiles (and maybe even some confessionals…) will be posted during the process. Song files of mixed and mastered songs will be available in MP3 & FLAC format on the web site, and master tracks will be available to anyone interested in remixing the tunes.

Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?

Phoenix, Arizona has a vibrant subculture of "desert hipsters" and underground music-makers that rarely see any national attention. This group boasts a strong DIY mentality and a carpe diem attitude towards exploring their art in interesting ways. This sub-culture is often comprised of individuals who don't have commercial appeal to major record labels and who can't afford the $5,000 price tag of even a short EP, and we want to use digital audio recordings and internet distribution to help them and their communities reach a larger />

What is your relationship with the community you are targeting? Why are you the best individual/organization to lead this project? Do you have prior experience in related projects?

I (Dustin) am currently in the Valley area pursuing my MFA in Theatre and Interdisciplinary Digital Media, so I am a piece of my project's target community. I may not physically/ideologically represent everyone in this community, but I believe that there is an interesting voice developing in the Valley community, and I have deep sympathies to the attitudes and ambitions here. I have been using a computer since I was four years old, writing songs since I was five, and using digital recording and MIDI sequencers since I was six. I've had formal training in music performance and music theory, and I've been learning about and practicing recording techniques most of my life. Because of my background in theatre and sound design, I've had plenty of experience in large-scale collaborative projects, but I hope that this can be one of the most defining experiences in my career (as well as others' careers).

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?

Each participating artist will hopefully come away from the experience with a deeper understanding of the recording craft and pursue it on their own; if each group uses their music to book a live gig, stimulate creative production in their community (remixes, covers, etc.), or even realize their own voice, this project will be a success for them and for Fig's.

Furthermore, we want to build a catalogue of royalty-free music that will be made available to local businesses that play music (restaurants, shops, etc.); the more artists we record, the larger the free music catalogue we will build, and the more options local businesses will have. A few years down the road, if a business can exclusively choose music from our library over having to use strictly copyrighted material (and having to pay licensing fees), this project will be a huge success for the community.

Ever since the 1960s, artists and consumers have been under the thumbs of the recording industry. (If you're familiar with Creative Commons, I'm sure that you're at least marginally aware of the music industry business paradigm, so I won't elaborate.) If Fig's Library Recording Studios demonstrates a successful and sustainable business model, there is hope for an adaptable new approach to a career in the industry that redefines the "digital divide" as a boon and not a threat. Fig's Library hopes to be a pilot project for others like it elsewhere in the nation and the world, exploring the "digital divide" and its benefits.

How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?

Fig's Library hopes to record at least 3 EPs of artists that represent the local community in Phoenix. We will actively seek local bands by attending shows and sending out scouts to find talented and willing participants. We believe that once artists are educated, the seductive possibility of signing a record deal with a major corporation will be exposed as exploitation and loss of creative control due to complicated layers of licensing and copyrights; through education and, of course, low costs, we hope to create an environment that breeds trust and dedication. We want artists and community members to see Fig's Library not as just another business, but as a developing hub of creative activity.

We hope that this project will have a great number of participants outside of Phoenix that produce derivative works based on the EPs that we produce here, and by using the Attribution/Share Alike licenses we hope to be able to track these participants' creative activities and present them back to our community.

We are in the process of securing the involvement of The Conservatory of Recording Arts in Chandler, AZ, and once we've become established and recognized as a beneficial entity, we hope to attract the attention of other local businesses, educational institutes, and non-profits. The list of possibilities for supportive, collaborative initiatives is long.

Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".

By providing easy and cheap access to local recording studios, education about the benefits of CC licenses, and a more holistic approach to music recording, the Fig's Library Free Music project hopes to bring increased awareness and utilization of Creative Commons to handle the challenges of being a music-maker in a digital world. With our expanding online catalogue of music made publicly available, this project hopes to further the reputations of young artists and give inspirational/musical fodder to other aspiring musicians.

Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?

Fig's Library is a Mac/Logic based studio with Apogee converters and an all-digital format. I (Dustin) have been recording for several years in many formats, and my experience as a musician enhances my ability as a producer and my ability to speak the same language as recording artists. In order to achieve a professional recording we need a bit more gear (microphones, converters, room treatment), and in order to distribute it we need to build a professional website that generates many unique hits; we will need to outsource a web designer, and that will be a significant cost. Because of my (Dustin's) background in theatre construction, any room treatments and acoustic changes necessary in our current facility can be handled without a contractor; our only expense is tools and materials (and time).

What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?

Room renovations are necessary for quality results, and those will take time and a great deal of physical effort. With the combined efforts of Jeff, Dustin, and Tom, we will be able to make the necessary changes at very low cost. The amount and cost of the marketing necessary to draw attention to this project is still an unknown, but with professional guidance and a keen awareness of public reception, this project seems capable of benefitting a good number of people.

How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?

Fig's Library will continue to record artists at a low cost year-round, even during this project; because most of the audio equipment is a lifetime purchase and because the studio's operating costs are quite low, the studio should be both sustainable and profitable. Exposure through the Creative Commons funding, Fig's website, and community reputation should do wonders in establishing and expanding a dedicated clientele as well as an interested audience. Advertising in local papers (The Phoenix New Times, The State Press, etc.), online marketing, and the exposure gained through artist/studio attributions should all significantly increase the presence of the project and the buzz around the studio.

Fig's Library aims to be a higher traffic studio and a consistent flow of musicians will guarantee its continued success. Other services will be offered, such as album art referrals to local artists, photography referrals to local photographers, and CD reproduction, that will boost sales and connect music artists with visual artists. Expansion to other cities is a goal for the future, but it is one that we'd prefer to think about when expansion is a viable option; when we do expand, it will be well thought out, deliberate, and within our financial and ideological means.

How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?

Once the success of our current business model is determined, we will make our business model publicly available in writing in hopes of inspiring similar projects in other locations. If Fig's Library is capable, we will expand to other cities with similar needs. Because of our focus on digital music distribution, the effects are naturally scalable; the music can be shared and its reach expanded using websites like,,, and through many non-commercial channels.

What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?

Publicity, funding for operating costs and equipment, and a conversation with the forces behind Creative Commons about mutual goals would help us along quite a bit. Web hosting would be nice, too. Because this project is geographically centered around Phoenix, most of the footwork, publicity, and scouting will be done by us, but there are certain costs associated with these activities. Other resources (like time) aren't as readily available as others, but will we make the most of everything we have.

As suggested in the budget sheet, our main funding request is for operating costs; though, any other funding would be a great help in kickstarting the capabilities of the studio.

Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)

As of now, communication is limited to word of mouth. A web site is in the planning stages, and an email newsletter is on the way. As we start things up, we believe that word of mouth, artist scouting, and a bit of legwork will create interest, and an actively updated website with an ever-changing catalogue of music will make Fig's the creative hub we want it to be both online and in the studio.