Sounds from the Fediverse: an introduction to Funkwhale, a decentralised, community audio platform

Written by Jake Colvin (NKC)

 

New platforms for community and music

Since the pandemic began, I’ve joined about 20 Discord servers. That’s probably small-scale compared to many people, but even so, there’s a lot to keep up with when the communities on these servers number into the hundreds. I’ve tended to focus on a couple of servers that I’m most interested in, and within these I only contribute to a few channels. Still, I get a lot more out of checking Discord than compulsively doomscrolling social media like Twitter and Instagram. The expansion of Discord and online community platforms has clearly been accelerated by the pandemic, but the need for something larger than the group chat and less chaotic than conventional social media predated and will outlast it. The communities forming in these spaces have decentralised the task of social moderation, setting out their own guidelines and distributing power to chosen server admins. Separated and sheltered from the network hellscapes of social media, there are a lot of good faith interactions in the servers I’m in, and honest desires to build supportive communities and collaborative projects.

"Undoubtedly, the supposed ease with which people can raise and distribute money through web3 technology is simultaneously its most attractive and controversial feature..."

The increasing formation of communities in depressurised and segmented ‘dark forest’ online spaces like Discord servers, where you have to get an invite to join, has coincided with a burst of interest and activity in blockchain technologies – cryptocurrencies, NFTs and DAOs in particular. To critics, these technologies, grouped together under the umbrella of web3, primarily offer new forms of capitalist expansion and the ‘reproduction of capitalist class power’ masquerading in utopian promises and hyperbole. To some cautiously optimistic people creating music, art and culture, they also offer a ‘blank slate’ to develop ways to retain greater control and ownership of audiences and community spaces, and to build digitally-enabled governance and organisational structures.

In music and culture-focused Discord servers and online spaces, it is the modes of decentralisation promised by web3 that are most commonly discussed. Undoubtedly, the supposed ease with which people can raise and distribute money through web3 technology is simultaneously its most attractive and controversial feature, especially to artists and creators who have seen the value of their work treated like a testing ground for new technology in recent years. Web3 tends to be characterised as both a decentralised advancement from the web2 of centralised platform capitalism, and as a return to the early internet’s open source ethos. In response, there has been a small pushback against web3’s monopoly on the concept of decentralisation, by people instead putting forward a ‘web0 manifesto,’ who advocate for decentralisation without NFTs, blockchains or DAOs – in other words, its most highly financialised components. There’s an area of decentralised technology which, although not explicitly referenced in the web0 manifesto, seems primed to realise this alternate vision: the Fediverse.

The Fediverse is a loosely grouped set of software platforms built on the principle of decentralised and ‘federated’ (interconnected) servers. Many are alternatives to web2 behemoths built using open protocols: Mastodon is a Twitter substitute that’s ‘community-owned and ad-free,’ Peertube is a decentralised YouTube, and PixelFed is a community-hosted Instagram with no feed-skewing algorithms. Without any relation to blockchain technologies, these platforms don’t fit into the web3 world as most people see it, but the technology they use is certainly decentralised and community oriented, as many web3 applications profess to be. Most Fediverse services also prioritise interoperability, allowing you to access the service from third party clients and applications, encouraging open source developers to create alternative entry points and connections between servers and services.

Funkwhale is a Fediverse application for music – it’s a decentralised audio platform. Once you log in to the web client, there’s an audio player where you can create playlists, and you can browse music available on the server you’re on or across all Funkwhale server instances. You can upload music to your own private library (recommended for copyrighted material) or to share publicly in the server, and play it through one of many Funkwhale-compatible Android, iOS or other applications. This makes it useful for people who don’t want to use major streaming services, preferring to own their music files, but who still want the convenience of streaming their collection from multiple devices.

Unlike conventional centralised streaming services like Spotify and SoundCloud, Funkwhale servers are run by independent actors. The music isn’t hosted, managed and served up to every Funkwhale user by a single corporate entity. Instead, any person or community can use Funkwhale software to host their own server instance, or ‘pod,’ that people can join. As a listener, this means that you create an account on the specific pod that you want to use (there are both publicly accessible and private pods). Depending on what permissions have been set on the server, or by another user on their library, you can join one pod and access music uploaded to another. Or you can access audio that has been made available across the whole of Funkwhale by artists or podcasters through their ‘channels.’ The basic idea is comparable to joining Discord ‘servers,’ but instead of being built around communication, pods are built around music. Each server has similar functionality and user experience to the others, but contains a distinct community and a different collection of tracks.

Running a self-hosted decentralised audio platform seems like a solid next step for labels, collectives and artist communities who are dissatisfied with major streaming services. Many musicians are currently in Discord servers sharing recent releases, WIPs, dubs and stems through private SoundCloud and Dropbox links. Imagine if, instead of paying for SoundCloud or Dropbox Pro accounts, these artists pooled funds and invested into running their own community-hosted, decentralised platform, and began uploading there with better control over the platform infrastructure. There are also immediate uses for online radio stations, who could archive shows on their own server without the kind of takedowns you get on SoundCloud for supposed copyright infringement. And I’m sure there are more imaginative possibilities that could be explored further through federation as Funkwhale develops new features. Likeminded artists, labels and collectives could link up and share libraries between their audiences, or even fork Funkwhale’s source code to develop their own federated streaming applications.

Of course, this isn’t all completely straightforward. Setting up a server instance takes some technical knowledge, and Funkwhale is an open source community project with little funding, that will only be developed further if they can continue to attract active contributors. The platform doesn’t deal directly with the economics of music and podcast streaming for creators and listeners, and there are further features that need to be built out. It’s not an ideal solution for artists, collectives, and creative communities yet, because much of its development has focused on the listener-experience. But the principled approach of its founder and core collective, its successful handover from the founder to the community, and the readiness of its technical contributors to be guided by this community, make it an exciting project for anyone looking for alternative music platforms.

My past article on new music platform Currents (who I went on to work with in 2020) was informed by two key ideas. Firstly, the values and beliefs of the people who develop new technologies are embedded within the systems they create, and will influence the way art and culture shared on them develops for years or even decades afterwards. As such, artists and creators should try to get a handle on the social, cultural and economic contexts in which the technologies they’re using are embedded. This has become all too clear for many artists through recent controversies and critiques of the major Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and streaming’s chief bogeyman Daniel Ek. And as we’ve recently seen with Bandcamp’s sale to Epic Games, we shouldn’t mistake the good community vibes of a private company for community ownership or control.

We also need to move on from cyclical arguments around the services we’re unhappy with, and invest time and energy into alternatives that are based on different models and values. If you’re reading this, you may already be aware of new web3 music services, like Audius and Catalog, or artist and community focused web2 services like Currents and Ampled. Liz Pelly has also usefully explored what could be seen as a more statist approach to streaming through her deep dive on the streaming services used by public libraries in the US. Funkwhale is a streaming proposition suited to DIY communities who might want to use the technology of the Fediverse to self-host their music and audio. It’s also a DIY community project in itself, which welcomes artists and listeners interested in decentralisation to help shape the direction of its development.

 

The launch of Funkwhale

Funkwhale was created by a self-taught developer in her 20s, Agate, as part of her experiments with self-hosting. When she began developing software, she tried to avoid using any corporate centralised services, using self-hosted email and file storage instead of, for example, Gmail and Dropbox. If she couldn’t find a solution that suited her purpose, she built her own. After her go-to music streaming service – Grooveshark – got shut down, she decided to work on her own version, which is how Funkwhale got its name.

Grooveshark’s benefits and drawbacks contributed to the shape of Funkwhale’s initial development. As Agate stated in a 2018 interview,[1] Grooveshark’s best qualities were its focus on user interactions and the social side of music streaming. She tried to replicate this with Funkwhale, creating a streaming player that was inspired by Grooveshark’s UI, with the intention of building social listening features similar to Grooveshark’s ‘broadcast’ function, which allowed users to make their own live streaming playlists to share with others.

In a familiar story for music platforms, Grooveshark was abruptly closed down in 2015 following a legal settlement between its operators and the big three major labels. This led Agate to develop Funkwhale using the ActivityPub protocol and with open source tools as much as possible. The protocol means that Funkwhale server instances can be linked, but are not critically reliant on each other. As she described, in this way federated services ‘reduce the development of a single point of failure’ because of their decentralised design.

‘Conversely, on centralized services, in silos, such as YouTube or Spotify, if the service becomes unavailable or disappears, no user can benefit from it. This is what ensures that Funkwhale will never disappear like Grooveshark: if you close one instance, the others will continue to work and, even if you remove the project and the sources, the existing instances will continue to function.’

Agate applied her commitment to open source and decentralised services to other areas of the project’s development, using the non-profit, public source code Liberapay to accept financial contributions instead of Patreon, where she would have been ‘constantly dependent on their decisions, their business model.’ Using open source and self-developed tools increases a project’s resilience by reducing dependencies on corporate platforms that could suddenly change their terms of service, or even cease operating. Last year, for instance, OnlyFans announced it would ban explicit content from the platform, threatening the livelihoods of the sex workers that depended on it (before backtracking a few weeks later). Many will also remember the outpour of concern in music communities over the potential shutdown of SoundCloud in 2017 due to weaknesses in their business model. As Agate explained further in the 2018 interview, her decision to avoid corporate platforms isn’t only a practical necessity, it’s part of her belief in the digital commons and public goods.

‘All this gives peace of mind, allows you to work in a more calm manner, in accordance with your principles. This is important to me, even though it takes a while to put the pieces of the puzzle in place, and find and configure alternatives. But I believe it should be seen more as an investment than as a cost. It is a vision of society, of human interactions and of what they could be. I want to participate in the emergence of that, a society that is based on giving, goodwill, the positive in fact. For me, this means developing Funkwhale in this manner, and using Funkwhale as a lever to highlight or use other projects that work in this same mode, to create an ecosystem.’

At the end of February 2018, Agate announced Funkwhale to other Fediverse enthusiasts on Mastodon, inviting people to test out the application. This formed the beginnings of a community around the project. People started hosting Funkwhale instances, contributing to the codebase and documentation, donating money and gathering on decentralised chatrooms and social networks to discuss the project. Agate started a Funkwhale blog and spotlighted community members through casual interviews.

Agate then left her job to concentrate on Funkwhale full time, and registered the Funkwhale Collective as a legal entity in her home country France in July 2019. This necessitated the development of statutes and an organisational structure, which includes a Board, Steering Committee and Moderation Committee. In January 2020, the collective received a grant of €48,000 from the NLNet Foundation, a Dutch association supporting open source technology projects, which kept Agate and another founder-member Ginny in financial stability to continue working on the project.

In the summer of 2020, Agate experienced serious health issues. She announced her need to hand over more responsibilities to the community and step back from the project in a blogpost later in the year. In many cases, the founding member’s departure might spell the end for a DIY music platform. But due to the foundations that Agate built, using open source protocols and following commons-led values, Funkwhale’s operating costs had remained remarkably low, and the Funkwhale Collective were able to keep the project running with the support of a dedicated community of users, developers and enthusiasts. They now primarily communicate through Funkwhale’s forum, Matrix chats, and collaborative development work on GitLab.

Although it came about in difficult circumstances, Funkwhale’s exit to community, facilitated by Agate’s handover, has been a success. The Funkwhale Collective have recently released an updated and improved version of the application, Funkwhale 1.2, and although they have accumulated some technical debt, they are optimistic about further developments this year. There are a handful of longstanding core team members who coordinate areas of work in Funkwhale, known to most in the community by their forum pseudonyms: gcrk, Sporiff, mjourdan, petitminion, egon0. I reached out to gcrk – Georg – to chat about the handover, the community’s shared vision of decentralisation, Funkwhale’s economic model, and how they now want to develop the project in collaboration with artists, creators and listeners.

[1] The French website Framablog interviewed Agate in 2018, which I retrieved in 2021. The text is no longer available online, but Agate confirmed to me via email that she still agrees with the statements she gave in it.

 

 

The community’s vision of a decentralised web

Funkwhale doesn’t demand payments from its users, or have any venture capital backing. Some funds remain from the NLNet Foundation grant that will pay for the project’s latest roadmap priorities, and Georg tells me that the collective have made progress on finding people to carry out this work.  Funkwhale also receives ongoing donations from its community, which are tracked on its OpenCollective account, currently totalling just over €4,000. But the core team do not have time to allocate this money beyond paying the project’s basic expenses such as hosting and bank account fees. However, Georg explains that the fact that Funkwhale is not a paid-for service or investment-backed corporate operation, but is instead open source and largely maintained by volunteers, is part of what keeps it alive.

“Most of the people who come and fix bugs are using Funkwhale for whatever reason, and they are annoyed by the bug. And they go and fix it because they can’t go to us as a community and complain because they [haven’t paid] us. We don’t owe them anything. So there’s something like the do-it-yourself spirit in the open source world, they maybe even expect to have to do this. It’s the idea. One of the important aspects of open source is the fact that you can fix it yourself.”

An essential part of the handover from Agate has been greater use of the Funkwhale forum, allowing its users to discuss more than just technical fixes. Georg tells me that the community’s conversations go beyond coding and bug-fixing: “there are a lot of people who are writing long texts about what features they can imagine … contributing ideas and testing stuff.” His emphasis on this aspect of the project’s development aligns with Funkwhale’s Code of Conduct, part of which iterates from the Post-Meritocracy Manifesto, pledging to ‘acknowledge the value of non-technical contributors as equal to the value of technical contributors.’ The full Code of Conduct, with its careful attention to inclusivity, is central to maintaining the welcoming, collaborative atmosphere of the project. “Funkwhale deeply cares about its Code of Conduct, to ensure that it’s a community where everyone can participate.”

Georg’s own place in the community is akin to a project manager, working for around the equivalent weekly hours of a part-time job, primarily alongside Sporiff, mjourdan, petitminion, and egon0 to draw the community’s contributions together. “I somehow grew into this position of the person who has the overview and connects the right people and makes sure that the things someone’s started will be finished … it’s not just one project after all … it’s more like community management.” In the day to day, this involves reading code and thinking about how to improve its design, and synthesising the various features and bugfixes community members have developed. But Georg is keen to point out that the cumulative effort of dozens of people in the broader group exceeds the core team’s work.

Beyond practical desires to fix bugs and share feature ideas, what makes people in the Funkwhale community volunteer their time to develop the project? Georg believes there are “a lot of motivations for doing this,” but that the community is broadly united by a rejection of the centralised services of web2 and their closed corporate design. He puts forward several features of Funkwhale, as a decentralised, Fediverse application, that are contrasted against the ethos and operation of centralised platforms. The first resonates with the web0 vision of a ‘small internet,’ looking back to a time of blogs and simple websites with a longing for more diversity of experience than is offered by the vast, homogenised platforms of web2. “I think the internet, the basic idea of the internet, is that you have a lot of places to go, a lot of small websites and stuff like this. And I really enjoyed this before.”

Another aspect important to the community is that Funkwhale, as it was when Agate developed it, remains open source and interoperable, so that users retain freedom over how they use it. Georg tells me that Funkwhale is built “using HTTP and IP, and these are, on a basic technical level, open standards.” It also uses RSS for ‘channels’ through which artists and podcasters upload their work, “so you can use any [RSS-compatible] app on your phone or application on your PC to subscribe.” Using these open standards means that Funkwhale software can always be exchanged for another compatible application by a listener, and its open source code means that it can be forked by community members. If the Funkwhale Collective introduced a feature in a new update that a server administrator didn’t like, Georg tells me “[they] are always free to not update anymore, or [they] are always free to re-implement [an earlier version of the software].” Unlike corporate streaming services, this also means Funkwhale can’t be closed up or sold off, so the communities who use it retain power at an infrastructural level.

Georg makes an interesting argument about the ecological sustainability of decentralised applications, based on a smaller scale internet, versus the long term environmental cost of multinational web2 streaming platforms. “As soon as you start building one huge platform, like Spotify, which is globally available around the clock – whenever you want, wherever you want – in order to serve this, you need so much energy and so [many] computers around the world, for no reason. It’s just a waste of resources, and I don’t think that’s a way you can [survive] for the next [few] hundred years.” In Georg’s view, this is the case even when the server is hosted virtually, on a cloud based service, because you don’t need “servers in ten locations around the world. You can just host one file where ten people are interested in this one spot, and serve it for them.”

The hypothesis that a decentralised service will result in lower energy consumption might be tricky to test, and a virtual machine (VM) running a Funkwhale instance will exist in a server bank somewhat comparable to those used by centralised streaming platforms. However, Georg’s point speaks to a desire for a kind of off-grid self-determination among people interested in decentralised, Fediverse applications like Funkwhale. If you want to run a physical Funkwhale server yourself, you can do it – petitminion, another Steering Committee member, runs their server from a garage. That this option exists shifts further power and resilience into the hands of Funkwhale’s users.

Another fundamental principle of Funkwhale, ethically linked with its use of open standards and protocols, is the project’s opposition to digital rights management (DRM) in any form. DRM is the use of technology to restrict the sharing of copyrighted digital files. In conventional music streaming, this plays out through the user’s inability to download anything saved to their collection or library. Streaming services treat digital audio as property to be rented from them. They act as intermediaries between listeners and copyright owners, never allowing a listener to download the audio files. Georg sees this as a form of arbitrary enclosure, and believes that copyright is in need of fundamental reform in response to the technical realities of digitisation.

“You have the problem that the law behind this music production stuff is quite old. With the internet, the situation changed. There are a lot of problems from a legal perspective when it comes to the internet. It doesn’t cost anything anymore to copy a track. It’s just, take the file, copy it somewhere else, and you have it twice. Legally, it’s a huge problem, but maybe for no reason.”

 

Funkwhale’s economic model

In a 2018 interview with the French website Next Inpact, Agate stated that with Funkwhale she had focused not ‘on payment but on connecting creators, platforms that host the content, and the user’ with the hope that creators would ‘voluntarily distribute their content under free licences.’ In line with Funkwhale’s opposition to DRM, artists and podcasters can only select from creative commons licences when they upload audio to their channel on Funkwhale. These all give permission for free copying and distribution, with varying conditions on usage or attribution depending on the licence you choose. As a user, if you’re able to listen to a piece of music on a Funkwhale server, you can download it. This means that you should only upload copyrighted music to private libraries, though the moderation and removal of copyrighted content is left up to server admins. Georg describes this unrestricted access to digital files as “an ethical decision” that “won’t be changed,” but that’s not to say he believes that creators shouldn’t be paid for their work. He instead argues that we need a new economic model to deal with the distribution of digital audio, that doesn’t depend on DRM, and removes intermediaries.

“I fully understand that the people who are producing the music, they need to be financially safe, or they need to get money in order to do this. I’m fully aware of this, and I don’t say they should do this for free. But… we need a new solution for this. From this point of view, I’m quite critical about huge labels. Everyone who is earning money from this chain – from the production of the music until it gets to the listener – everyone who is earning money is basically taking it away from the artist. And I think that’s a problem.”

According to Funkwhale’s Code of Conduct, part of its stated mission to provide ‘ethical access to music and audio content’ is to explore and work on ‘new funding models for creators.’ The economic model that Agate visualised for Funkwhale is akin to music-centred mutual aid: listen to what you want, and then contribute what you can to what the artist needs – whether that’s money towards a specific project, help with organising a concert, or even just feedback on their latest track. She began to develop this system with Retribute, a ‘community wealth sharing platform.’ It works with Fediverse applications Funkwhale, Mastodon, and Peertube, scanning your user-activity and presenting you with information about your most interacted-with creators. It then returns links to any funding services (Patreon, Liberapay, Bandcamp, PayPal and others) that are connected to the creator. Georg describes Retribute as “a great prototype to illustrate how we can imagine how this monetarisation works, or how it could work.” As his comment implies, Retribute has been left partly unfinished since Agate stepped back from Funkwhale, without implementation of some of the automated and more complex features she had envisioned.

At the opening of this article, I referred to the new funding models promised by web3 technologies. And it is here, at the mention of problems with the music industry’s available economic models, that someone with a hexagonal profile picture on Twitter might shout the solution: “just put it on the blockchain!” A micro-manifesto for a blockchain version of Funkwhale was in fact published by a member of Funkwhale’s community forum not too long ago, advocating for ‘a blockchain-powered, fully-distributed DFunkwhale’ directed and funded by a ‘Funkwhale Token.’ But it was met with scepticism by some of Funkwhale’s Steering Committee and the community members who responded. Georg makes it clear to me that the core team’s overall opinions on web3 are mixed, but personally he is heavily critical of some of its fundamental ideas, such as immutable ledgers “where you can’t delete entries,” and does not see Funkwhale fitting into this world.

“You know, what blockchain does is more like distributed computing. And what we are doing is decentralised computing. We have some instances and people gather round [these] and they can talk to each other. But if you imagine a distributed network, you have all the users and they are interconnected.”

This runs deeper than a technical difference, towards an ethical rejection of web3’s libertarian and techno-solutionist tendencies. Technologies that prioritise full distribution align with individualism, tending to ignore and so potentially reproduce already existing social imbalances in power between identity groups and collectives. In the Fediverse’s conception of decentralisation, Georg states that the “monopolised control” of corporate platforms is broken up into “multiple smaller instances” where power is decentralised to communities rather than individuals. It’s a good thing to retain this community-mediated control, he explains, “because otherwise you will end up in a situation where minorities or people who are not as strong as others in whatever aspect, they will just get overrun. They won’t have a voice anymore, and we don’t want this.”

In Agate’s writing on Retribute and possible economic models for the Fediverse, she pointed out that blockchain technologies have major downsides for creators, because you ‘can’t ever, ever remove your content.’ She also wrote that many cryptocurrencies can’t be relied on as a daily income source due to their volatility, and ‘cryptocurrency based platforms can also become effectively centralized due to the nature of cryptocurrency mining.’ In our conversation, Georg extends this to argue that web3 tends to propose complex technical solutions to what are actually social and legal problems. For musicians, “the problem to solve is that people don’t have enough money to create art. And that’s not a technical problem, and you won’t solve it technically.” Without social and legal changes, Georg implies that web3 will tend to reproduce the web2 monopolies it purports to fix. It’s not a problem of a lack of tools, but in the distribution of power.

“One important point to create this idea of web3, is that you want the decentral network back. But you know, the whole tech stack we are using to use the internet is already built around the idea of decentralisation. So you have a lot of servers, they can talk to each other, you can go to whatever server you want using IP addresses and domain name systems and stuff like this. The tools are there, but the fact that large companies came and built big monopoly platforms, like Facebook, like Spotify, like whatever you can imagine – Google – that’s a social problem, or maybe a legal problem.”

 

Building out community features and working with creators

Funkwhale is under continual development through bugfixes and technical improvements, but there are some community-focused features and enhancements that will take greater discussion and the input of various user groups to develop. Agate’s early hopes were that Funkwhale could replicate Grooveshark’s focus on user interactions and the social side of music sharing. This is what sets it apart from other self-hosting music services like Sonerezh or Airsonic: the wish to provide a solution for small and medium sized communities to ‘socialize around music and podcasts and discover new content.’ Georg explains that Funkwhale has a feature on its main page showing what other users in the server have recently listened to, but in general there is a lack of “social features” that would help “engage people to build a community on their instance.” Some of these ideas are in Funkwhale’s roadmap, such as developing a feature like Grooveshark’s ‘broadcasts’ and user-recommendations. But further interactive features like user-comments, ways of sharing libraries between separate servers, and user communication channels have not yet been developed, and would take careful implementation due to the additional moderation work they would put on server admins.

Without more social and community features, Georg believes that the discovery element of listening to music on Funkwhale is slightly weak. This might reduce its appeal to some musicians and creators who are just starting out, because it doesn’t lend itself to building an audience from scratch. Georg tells me that Funkwhale could be a tool for a musician who already has a following, because “you can start your own instance, upload your music, and tell your fans to go there … But if you don’t yet have fans, Funkwhale is probably not [suited] for you to build up this community, because it lacks basic features for exploring new music.” This makes sense in the case of an individual artist creating their own Funkwhale instance, because it would only be their music available, but it could be resolved if likeminded artists banded together into a collective to start up a server, connecting their audiences. Georg and the Funkwhale Collective recognise that there are developments they need to pick up with input from artists and creators. Georg hopes the forum will soon host discussions between artists on the different use cases they envision for Funkwhale, so that they can “imagine a future version of Funkwhale with the users.”

The call for artist and creator input is partly what has motivated this article, and it’s the note I’ll end on. For people who are already familiar with ‘server’-based, decentralised community formation through platforms like Discord, Funkwhale offers something similar for music. For those who’ve seen a lot of talk about web3 decentralisation but are still feeling sceptical, the Fediverse is another route into decentralisation to be explored, that is more accessible and less financially driven than blockchain technologies. For listeners who want to get off centralised streaming services but don’t want to give up multi-device streaming, there are public Funkwhale servers where you can upload part of your music collection to a private library for your own listening (quick tip-off: the public pod at Funkwhale.co.uk offers 10GB of storage as a default).

Going further than that, starting up a self-hosted Funkwhale instance is relatively inexpensive, and could be a valuable tool for any music communities who share releases, WIPs, or even collaborative projects with stems and samples. With some organisation and investment, these communities could even fork Funkwhale’s open source code and develop their own Funkwhale-based streaming application.

For artists, Funkwhale won’t jump start your music career or flood money into your crypto-pockets. It’s been built to prioritise creative commons audio and open access to music, but there’s a nascent economic model to be expanded. With more creator input, Funkwhale could open up possibilities for community wealth distribution between listeners and artists. Agate’s ideas for Retribute, where artists share their ideas for future projects with those able to contribute – whether with money, skills, time or feedback – are an unfinished promise that DIY communities could take up. They could move creators and listeners towards a valuable system of mutual support, built around music and audio.

Thanks to Georg for the interview and Agate for the comments by email. Thank you to Kadallah Burrowes and Aaron Gonsher for reading drafts of this article and suggesting helpful edits.

If you enjoyed reading and want to help me do more writing, you can send a donation to my PayPal or ETH address. Anything is hugely appreciated.

Web2 (£) – paypal.me/nkcproductions

Web3 (ETH) – 0x28be34eB6Ac602D8c8598d229ed9D8e4Cf3D4364

Donate to Funkwhale here: https://funkwhale.audio/en_GB/support-us