The Free Music Archive — a free-to-use collection of music that’s shared and curated by artists — was supposed to close last month, following a funding shortage. Instead, the Archive will live on: it’s been bought by the camera and gear rental marketplace KitSplit.
“Many of us at KitSplit have admired and used FMA over the years,” writes Kristina Budelis, a co-founder of KitSplit in an emailed statement. “FMA has helped tens of thousands of creatives make their projects. Together with FMA, we’ll be able to serve creators + our community even more powerfully.” And there are more overlaps between KitSplit and the FMA than just the fact that making successful productions requires both audio and video; one employee of KitSplit had previously worked at the Archive.
The bulk of the negotiations were handled by Ken Freedman, the general manager of the legendary New Jersey radio station WFMU, which oversees the FMA. Cheyenne Hohman, the soon-to-be-former director of the FMA, said Freedman had wanted to make the decision quickly. (A few other organizations had been interested but couldn’t make WFMU’s timeline.)
“The Free Music Archive was my baby for four years,” she says. “And, you know, I was very, very attached to it.” Hohman adds that the archive had been thinking about pivoting toward serving the video community. KitSplit, Hohman continues, is “committed to keeping [the FMA] free and open,” as an educational resource they want to provide to their communities. The deal with KitSplit means that Hohman’s tenure at FMA will be coming to an end on Friday; the archive wasn’t able to bring her along in its acquisition agreement.
“I have to say I’m not stoked,” Hohman says. “I respect what they’re doing as a business, but they are a business. So it’s going to be a little bit different from being run by a nonprofit.” She does, however, think the FMA is in good hands.
“We see FMA as an amazing tool to help enable content creators to tell their story,” says Lisbeth Kaufman, another co-founder of KitSplit, when reached by phone. “We acquired it because we love what it’s doing, so we want to maintain the system that Cheyenne and Ken at WFMU have set up,” she says. “We’re eager to continue the legacy that FMA has already started and built and use our tech expertise and our marketplace expertise to bring it into the future.”
KitSplit was founded in 2014, and it has been funded by Broadway Video Ventures (the investment arm of Lorne Michaels’s production company) and Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, among others.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that two employees of KitSplit were formerly at the Free Music Archive; there was only one.