Welcome to the Information Age. Moving from stone to iron and through a few possible goldens, humanity as a whole has now combined into the first truly universal age of man, one in which information, more than anything, defines us. Information serves not just as a commodity or a tool but as a standard for wealth, power, even cultural success. As the importance of information grows, so do the efforts to control it. Information wars wage in countless theaters, as we struggle to define concepts like intellectual property rights, fair use and public domain.

Many people see the battle as nothing greater than two factions of extremists, those who would attempt to hoard and dominate all information for personal profit, and those that will happily steal any information they can lay their hands on without thought to the consequences. Without wanting to go into the details of that debate, it’s important to understand that there is far more at stake, foremost being the potential for information to grow via collaboration and reinterpretation.

A brilliant example of the collaborative potential of the information age are the almost emergent remixes done by the artist Kutiman for his project Thru-YOU. This first mix, The Mother of All Funk Chords, was an instant internet success and the entire project has enjoyed over 20 million views.

As corporate industry pushes for stronger, longer and more rigid commercial licensing, collaborative concepts like thru-YOU become increasingly difficult. Information enjoys less use, and less development. The potential of information is diminished, and the benefits we as a society can derive from it are likewise diminished, at a necessarily exponential level. In short, the more information is hoarded, the less the amount or quality of information society will enjoy.

But rather than take the extremist approach and declare revolution on the information industries, (not to mention the laws that support them,) a third alternative has emerged. Creative Commons, an organization founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson, and Eric Eldred with the support of the Center for the Public Domain, offers licensing resources which allow artists and designers to retain intellectual and even commercial control over their works while still allowing those works to be re-explored and used collaboratively by other creative minds. CC is growing increasingly popular among those who recognize the benefits, both personally and culturally, that can be derived through publicly shared information.

What such licensing freedom allows is much greater growth potential for information. But there are cons as well, things corporate licensing and control frankly do better. First and foremost is profit. Corporate sponsorship means distribution, advertisement and exposure. This makes it easier for creators to make careers out of their creations, especially when it comes to artistic endeavors. The second, which is to some degree an aspect of the first, is that it served as a filter. Industrial information control helps do the dirty work of narrowing down the pool of information we have to sift through to find what we want.

With free expression comes a lot of people expressing themselves, something that has only grown easier as the information age makes producing information, from software to music, literal child’s play. Filtering through the oceans of free information to find that tiny fraction that is quality can be a harrowing, fatiguing process most traditionally left up to for-profit organizations. Many people frankly don’t have the time or endurance to scour creative commons for, as an example, new musical arists to enjoy.

The purpose of atthecommons then, is to attempt to help shore up, in some small way, these two explicit weaknesses. The mission is to critically review Creative Commons licensed music, most specifically music that can be acquired and enjoyed by patrons for free. However this will not be done at random, and there will be no time devoted to negative reviews. Instead, I will be attempting to isolate and critique artists who have, as best I can determine, achieved some exceptional level of quality, artists who can be compared favorably to commercial artists in similar genres. In doing this I hope not only to help people more easily find artists they might enjoy, but also to increase the fan bases of these artists, which in turn might help increase the chances that they can make a living doing what they do so well, creating.