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Smithsonian Global Sound®


Smithsonian Global Sound is an international network of music audio archives and an educational resource that delivers the world's diverse cultural expressions in an informative way via digital media.


As a nonprofit endeavor, Smithsonian Global Sound is above all a mission rather than a commercial product, offering broad accessibility to the less-often heard voices of people all over the world. In pursuit of this mission, it harnesses the power of internet commerce to deliver recorded sound from many cultures around the world to the widest audience possible. Smithsonian Global Sound's essence and purpose are fundamentally different from that of commercial digital music delivery services. It aims to heighten communication among and about people and cultures, accomplished principally through the culturally potent, meaning-laden medium of music, accompanied by informative notes and educational features. The content it delivers is the window through which Smithsonian Global Sound users may discover and appreciate other people, other value systems, and other realms of human accomplishment. And, in an increasingly mobile and culturally scattered world, it provides a link for the culturally estranged and isolated to connect with their own heritage through a curated, distilled collection of recorded sound.

Smithsonian Global Sound is grounded in the mission of the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage: to promote the understanding and continuity of diverse, contemporary grassroots cultures. It is closely allied with another Center division, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, dedicated to strengthening people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and enhancing awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials. It also collaborates with the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an exercise in cultural democracy in which people are given a platform to speak for themselves. Smithsonian Global Sound strengthens these efforts as it further extends the notion of the "Long Tail" of internet music sales, making available "people's music" from archives in India, Africa, the United States, and elsewhere, increasing the internet's range of access to the world's cultural heritage. The revenue earned from sales of downloads and subscriptions supports the creation of new educational content and is shared with archival partners, who in turn pass on a portion of those revenues with artists and communities.