‘Music As Free’ – What You Think

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, I’m posting the highlights of the comments from a blog post.  The quality and the quantity of the comments was such that they deserve extra attention.  In fact the quantity is part of the reason I’m doing this summary: they added up to just under 8,000 words(!) so for those who don’t have the time to trawl through them all, this is for you.  For those who do have the time I heavily recommend reading them here

I’ll be writing up a follow up piece to my original post soon, addressing some of the recurring themes in the comments.

In the meantime, here are the comments.  I’ve tried to keep a balanced representation of opinion and they are largely chronological.  There are some real gems in there too.

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Your nostalgia for a golden past is wrong-headed because there was never a golden age in the first place, except for a small minority of superstars

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As an artist, it’s my choice whether to give my music away or try to force the common public to pay for it.

Do I deserve to be forced to? No.

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If everything is for free then how do artists make money. Why should art be free but not anything else?

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Music doesn’t have to be free to be fair to the consumer, it just needs to be sensible.

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A strange thing happened to me this morning. I had to get a new car battery and you know what? The guy from AAA wanted me to pay him for it!!! I said to him, “How are you gonna build any brand equity this way?!?! I finally caved in and paid the guy. Unbelievable!

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The profits labels experienced years ago were inflated….Those days are over…

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Record labels and artists are just as guilty as consumers for not being innovative and either going along with it blindly because the got a deal or because the same old prehistoric fat cats that have been exploiting artists for decades are still there and refuse to give up the excess they are used to.

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Not everyone fits the profile of an indie band. If every person on the planet wants to work for free, maybe the people in the music biz will join in. In the meantime, everyone needs to buy food, provide shelter, and take care of their families.

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It seems like the music business is disappointingly LAST to realise that giving something away for free isn’t the end of a relationship

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Composers and songwriters do not have “add-on services.” They do not have advertising revenue….not everyone fits the newcomer “indie band” model that can sell T-shirts and CDs at their next concert.

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$0.99 for a song is a ridiculously good deal for something you want, can keep forever and play on all your personal devices.

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Good tunes aside, everyone who wants my stuff for free should also want to pay – UPFRONT – for the cables, gear, time, talent, etc that went into the music they like.

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Q. EVERYBODY GETS PAID FOR WHAT THEY KNOW AND HOW THEY EXECUTE. WHY SHOULD MUSICIANS BE TREATED ANY DIFFERENTLY?

A. Because if people CAN pull it, they will.

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People are happy to pay McDonald’s, tobacco companies, and anyone else their hard-earned money to kill them slowly and break their bank, but to pay for something you enjoy, that does all of the things that art does for us, if you can steal it, why bother?

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Frankly, anyone should be happy to assign a reasonable value to the work of those responsible for creating the soundtrack of our lives. I know I do. The Music Business is indeed an incredibly tough one to survive. Thank goodness for those willing to stay the course.

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I believe piracy in general does the industry more good than bad and my livelihood will depend on this fact, since I’m getting in the music promotion business

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As far as giving away 200 digital copies online to sell 20 – that makes perfect sense to me – much more so than giving a plugger or publicist $2k!

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We are all learning. That’s why we’re blogging about this topic. But so far, I’ve only gleaned that you gotta be well established in order to devalue your main craft and make a living at it.

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I mean look, you believe free stuff is the way to go, too…
That’s cool if you pay my bills. When I can afford to be a philanthropist, I will.

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I’m not in favor of free music, but when it comes to 30-second snippets and other promotional tools (even a CD if a band WANTS to give it away), I believe they ought to be very, very free.

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17 thoughts on “‘Music As Free’ – What You Think

  1. Pingback: edythemighty's status on Thursday, 01-Oct-09 17:55:08 UTC - Identi.ca

  2. I like to take free sneak peeks at new albums. And now, as I can do this from home and don’t have to go down to the town, it’s a lot easier, especially if the weather is cold and rainy. But I like to collect old records and CD’s and think it’s worth to pay for them, if you like the music. I don’t like the idea to download thousands of songs for free and let them collect dust on my harddrive and never listen to them. So free, to get a taste is good, but paying for the full album is a MUST. Just my 2 cents.

  3. At it’s base, music is free, with one animal making noise and another hearing it. We humans have assigned a value to it. And if I never performed in public for free or for chump-change, I might never play out at all. We need a balance of both, with some music free, and some paid so that musicians can eat.

  4. THIS IS SO TRUE I MEAN PEOPLE JUST ARE NOT REALLY BEING INNOVATIVE AND LETTING THE IDEA OF BUSINESS BE CRAFTED AROUND BUSINESS CAPITALISM WHICH IS TO MAKE MONEY. ONCE THE FAT CATS LOSE THERE WEIGHT THEY WILL THINK ABOUT THE SMALL KITTENS WHO MAKE THEM FAT CATS.BUSINESS IS BUSINESS AND IF A PRODUCT OR COMMODITY IS GOOD IT SHOULD BE PLACED IN A MARKET WHERE IT CAN THRIVE BE WE ALL KNOW BUSINESS AINT ALWAYS FAIR AND SOME LIKE TO CONTROL MARKET PROFITS BUT THE TABLES OF LIFE NEED TO TURN SO EVERYONE CAN HAVE THERE FAIR SHARE OF SUCCESS BECAUSE THE BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS TO HOUSING AND LIVING CONDITIONS WHICH ARE SUITABLE IS A HUMAN RIGHT TO EVERYONE AND TO CAPITILISE AND THRIVE FROM IDEAS IS WHAT BUSINESS IS AND WE ALL DESERVE CREDIT JUST FOR OUR EFFORTS ALL THE SMALL PEOPLE ANYWAY.

  5. It is still true that the “fat cats” are still there! BUT I, as a “starting out” music publisher (myself= to get an even bigger piece of pizza) know for a fact (I’m, also a retired singer/songwriter) that they will control the biz longer than a copyright!! Last time I checked – a copyrigght was 150+- years! There generations WILL take over if WE, as independent musicans – as a whole, or in part, let them know WE don’t have to do it THEIR way!! Not anymore!! Even though there is a LOT of talent in my area, I do NOT represent the fact that I AM a publisher because I am NOT!! Don’t REALLY think I EVER want to be!! BUT check oput my music, & IF you like what you hear, I could USE a full tank of gas!! OR if you KNOW somebody IN the biz who MIGHT listen (yeah – right!!DREAM ON!!) LOL – tell then about ME, too! Thanks for allowing ME to add a comment!! Ray Withrow/President of No Creek Music (ASCAP)

  6. The unavoidable fact that completely destroys every single “music should be free” argument I’ve ever heard is that it costs money to make music and to market it … just like any other product. Likewise, the people making it have to pay rent and eat just like every other human on the planet.

    Put even more simply, someone has to pay for it somewhere at some point.

    Up until now the consumer paid the bills by purchasing recordings … we ultimately answered to them. In the absence of a consumer we are forced to rely on our sponsors … our sponsors are big companies who don’t like to take risks … they’re not interested in the “new” sound that’s going to change everything. By refusing to pay for music and insisting that it be free, these people who think they’re “sticking it to the man” are in fact giving “the man” complete control over everything we do as writers and performers … and everything they hear on the radio.

    Ironic, isn’t it?

  7. As an independent artist, I depend on my music to survive. I don’t have a record deal in the US. A few years ago, I booked myself to play a tour of college campuses to promote my cd. Every concert I played, I played to full houses, and they were very appreciative. At the end of each concert, I would find that I had only sold ONE cd. This happened at every college I played at. Then one day I discovered all my music had been posted on digital lists. Numerous digital lists. At every campus that I had played, they had all chipped in and bought just one cd, and then shared the tracks over pier to pier networks. I tried lowering the price to $5 for the cd, which was pretty close to my costs. This was to encourage students to buy instead of download, but I still sold only one cd at every concert. The only difference from lowering the price was that I got even less money to support my tour. And for every concert I had to pay for transportation and motel… After nine months of playing to packed houses, I had to stop touring. I couldn’t afford to do it anymore. I made a decision to promote my music to older people, because they would BUY, rather than steal, my music. This was in spite of the fact that original target audience for my album was 20-30 year olds. The bottom line is that if you download music without paying for it, you are hurting the artists. If it is an indie artist like me, the loss from downloading is an immediate direct loss. But even artists on major labels are hurt. If you download a song by a major artist without paying, you deprive them of their royalties. And it’s not just royalties for the recording, it’s royalties for songwriting as well. So downloading is a direct loss for the major artists as well. If an artist wants to post a free clip or even an entire track as a free download – that’s fine. Take the song for a test-drive. If you like it, buy it. Even though they offered it for free, you should still buy it. Think of it as support for the arts. If you don’t support the kind of music you like by paying for it, eventually you won’t be able to find that kind of music. The artists will have been ground into poverty until they couldn’t afford to do it anymore. But if you support the kind of music you like by buying the tracks, you will be supporting the artists and there will be more of your kind of music in the marketplace in the future.

  8. Plain and simple music should be paid for! Both top artist and indie artist do give away samples or copies of their music in order to get it around and for it to reach farther but for millions of people all around the world to download albums for free especially when they don’t even like the artist is just silly, wrong and taking money out of not only the artist but the songwriters, engineer, producer, band, etc! Its not just about the singer, label and their personal access! No one questions the access of people that make smartphones, or ipods, etc! They make the product, you like the product and you buy the product! Illegal downloading is just another step to looser morals!!

  9. A recent quote by Gene Simmons (bass player in KISS) says it SO TRUE! “File-sharing is like ME stealing your car, & telling you I’m sharing your transportation”!! He might look strange, but he is one hard workin’ s.b.!!! It shows- he’s successful – regardless of his “make-up! Also, a great musician! I think we ALL should get paid!! There is a petition ASCAP (& others) are passing around to get Congress to recognize US – as artists, & creators, AND to help us get our FAIR share (the same one everyone one else says IS NOT imortant, & THEY always take the biggest piece FIRST!!

  10. Here is a great tool that allows musicians to create interactive albums and also give their music away for free if they want.

    http://www.ydrecord.com

    Your Digital Record is a powerful web based tool that allows artists and labels to:

    • Produce interactive digital albums by uploading tracks, liner notes, artwork, pictures, videos and other media in an easy to use online “studio.”
    • Share digital albums through embedded code, links and email as a widget.
    • Link users to whatever digital/physical music store an artist or label chooses for purchase (our site does not sell music directly).
    • Accept donations from fans directly via PayPal.
    • Connect with fans and receive reviews.
    • Keep the integrity of the album alive.

    Sign up today for free and start producing digital records !

  11. The argument that states that “because the record companies haven’t come up with a viable alternative to free downloading…” doesn’t justify free downloading, as some seem to think it does. Having said that, there is a huge onus on record companies, particularly the majors, to begin seriously thinking about changing business models wrt to selling product. It will be interesting to see what effect the Digital Economy Bill in the UK will have on this situation.

  12. Music should not be free to download unless the artist gives the customer permission. For many artists, their music is their only source of revenue, and by stealing music from them, customers are essentially depleting their income. If people continue to strip artists of their income, these artists may be forced to seek other work, no longer creating music. Do we really want to live in a world where the only music available is that of wealthy and well-known artists who can afford to pay record labels to publicize their music? Wouldn’t it be better to have variety and allow all different kinds of music to flourish rather than giving a few dominant artists total control? I think it is extremely important to support all artists by purchasing their music rather than illegally downloading it because we need to let artists know that we want them to continue making music.

  13. I started to agree with you, BUT I still do – on some of the things said! My 1st disagreement was the 1st sentence was toooo long! How? Music should NOT be downloaded, period! IF an “artist” or a musician IS going to freely give HIS creations away for FREE – then, doesn’t that kinda send up a “signal” that this “artist” isn’t REALLY serious about HIS music?? Does to me! I agree – US, as “artists”, musicains, & maybe, like me – retired, I still “pick” – have played bluegrass for 30 years, country 5 BEFORE that, & Rock & Roll 3 years before that!! Just MY comments! Ray

  14. I started to agree with you, BUT I still do – on some of the things said! My 1st disagreement was the 1st sentence was toooo long! How? Music should NOT be downloaded, period! IF an “artist” or a musician IS going to freely give HIS creations away for FREE – then, doesn’t that kinda send up a “signal” that this “artist” isn’t REALLY serious about HIS music?? Does to me! I agree – US, as “artists”, musicains, & maybe, like me – retired, sometimes just pick for gass money!! I still do – after 45 years of doing it! Gas goes up, & so have my booking fees!! LOL ! Ray

  15. Musicians need to eat so not all music is free. We need a balance.
    Singers can got money, musicians got the money less than the singers. That’s unfair!
    So the better musicians’ life, the more beautiful song they could write.
    Wish all the musicians can be paid fair…

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