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R.E.M. open-sources its music videos: The future of content?

The music industry is slowly opening up. Great things are on the way.

R.E.M. might have goofy lyrics at times ("you're drifting off to sleep with your teeth in your mouth") but it has broken interesting new ground with its decision to open-source 11 videos for a new song from its new album. R.E.M. will be releasing the videos under the Artistic License, appropriately enough.

Viewers are encouraged to remix the videos and share them on the song's YouTube page. The band will not be doing a Radiohead and offering the album for free, but this is an interesting twist somewhere in between that approach and the standard industry practice.

Think about that. What possible purpose could there be in locking down a music video? Such things are meant to promote the underlying music. It makes soooo much economic sense for R.E.M. to open up the videos and let people remix them to help promote R.E.M.'s new album. But R.E.M. isn't alone in this general idea.

It's a bit like this hyper-cool video from The Shins ("Phantom Limb"), where The Shins encouraged its fans to upload their videos from an Austin, Texas, concert to compile them into a music video. It's very, very cool to watch. Much better than the normal music videos out there. You really get the sense of being in the 30,000-strong crowd by watching it.

The future of media isn't amateurs uploading and remixing content. It's also not a bunch of professionals ramming "culture" down the throats of the mute masses. It's a combination of the two, iterating toward a collaborative product.

It sounds great.