Digitalia: Sarah Elizabeth Foster and Creative Commons
Whoever said cutting-edge musicians don't come from Houston should meet Sarah Elizabeth Foster. The 26-year-old Houston native now lives in New York, owns a record label (Studio Sarah Records), and just released her debut EP, Gardening from the Ground Up Part 1.
Foster used the hotly debated Creative Commons (or "CC") license that allows listeners to share and remix her music for free. Although the EP is available for purchase online, Foster seems positioned to lose money. She is relatively unknown, and the CC license she chose legalizes any non-commercial use of her music.
A high-profile Internet DJ, known as Nexeus Fatale in the virtual-reality game Second Life, has already used Foster's song "Wake Up" in a podcast and has offered to remix more of her songs. Foster stands to profit nothing from this apart from the extensive exposure of her music to a huge online community.
Hypothetically, the song could become a hit single without Foster ever earning a dime from it. Foster, however, is comfortable with the risk because she feels it cultivates her image as an artist on the cusp of music trends.
She explains that musicians such as Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, who she observed to be using CC licenses, "were innovators, the people who were making my industry exciting again. I wanted to position myself in the industry as an innovator and as a forward-thinking person, whereas the rest of my industry always looks back in the past."
In addition to releasing music under CC, Foster promotes her record label as "eco-friendly," printing CD covers on recycled paper and contributing a portion of each sale to the 1% For The Planet foundation.
Of course, the planet will not receive much money from Foster if few people purchase her record - a very real possibility, since the songs can be shared legally for free. To decide for yourself whether the EP is worth buying, listen to Foster's fresh, airy vocals and piano-driven arrangements on her blog, www.sarahelizabethfoster.com. - Linda Leseman