Why the ‘Music As Free’ Argument Just Doesn’t Hold Water

Regular readers of this blog will know that I take a pretty hard line on the idea that music can ‘just be free’ and that I take a fair share of flak for my position  (see my previous post here for background).

Numerous sites, forums and discussion boards pride themselves on their ‘everything should be free stance’ and argue that only money grabbing cynical artists would ever take the side of record labels in the piracy debate.  This is patently not the case.  Last week’s statement on tackling piracy from a 100 UK artists illustrates that artists care about this.  They understand that if people stop buying their music and download it for free that they simply won’t be able to be professional musicians anymore.  I for one used to be a struggling recording artist, many years ago.  I never made enough money from music sales to give up the day job, but I would have loved to be able to.  Not so that I could be rich, but so that I could spend more time doing the thing I loved: making music.

It is easy to argue that if consumers want music for free that the industry will simply have to adapt and develop free business models. But we don’t like our favourite artists because they or their record labels are good business people.  If the music industry proves inflexible enough to adapt to a free model and many professional artists go back to their day jobs who has won?  If the music business (in whatever guise it may evolve – i.e. it doesn’t have to be record labels at the centre of it) locks into a race to the bottom, ultimately less money will filter back to the artists.  That means that fewer artists will get contracts, and artists will have shorter careers.  Many more aspiring artists than today will never make it out of their MySpace page or their day jobs.

One of the counter arguments used by commentators is that having a MySpace page is an ends in itself these days.  No, it is a means to an end, and the VAST majority of artists see it that way.  If an aspiring artist doesn’t get signed to a label / publisher / agent they’ll remain one of those many tens of thousands of artists struggling to stand out from the crowded pack on MySpace.

The majority of artists just want to play their music to their fans and to be able to make a living out of doing so.  Most artists with record deals won’t and don’t make much money out of it, but they get to do what they love, and we get to enjoy their music.  But that model breaks down if people stop paying for music, whether that be buying CDs, downloads, gig tickets, ring tones etc.  And yes, of course, ‘feels like free’ models can pick up the slack, but they won’t do the job on their own, and they certainly won’t do enough whilst illegal free services continue to dominate.

But rather than try to persuade you with my words alone, please take the time to read this blog post from an artist that just felt the impact of file sharing (note this was recently reprinted in the UK’s Guardian by UK Music).  This is the pain of a real life artist and reveals the fallacy of the music ‘must be free’ argument


86 thoughts on “Why the ‘Music As Free’ Argument Just Doesn’t Hold Water

  1. The majority of artists just want to play their music to their fans and to be able to make a living out of doing so. Most artists with record deals won’t and don’t make much money out of it, but they get to do what they love, and we get to enjoy their music. But that model breaks down if people stop paying for music, whether that be buying CDs, downloads, gig tickets, ring tones etc.

    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.

    1) As you said it, most of the artists never received much money from record sales. Only a tiny minority of them ever received enough money from cd sales in order to be able to dedicate themselves professionally to music. These are the big superstars. Nowadays, artists still receive only nine cents for every 99 cents download that is sold on iTunes. The fact is that live concerts were always the main livelihood for most of the artists.

    2) You speak as if record labels are the only option for artists who want to have a successful career. That is not true. Nowadays, you can sign non-exclusive deals with mobile operators who are willing to support undiscovered talents and promote them to their customers. You surely cannot dismiss the importance of this. But there are also several brands that have a deep commitment to music.

    3) If you are really good, you can always ask for your fans to financially support the recording of an album, via SellaBand, SliceThePie, etc. Or in alternative, you can try it on your own. What do you need? A MySpace page, a reasonable website and a well equipped laptop where you can record some demo tracks. That is the new DIY ethos. This was how Punk begun and this is how lo-fi artists are doing it right now. Don’t try to reach for the stars at your first attempt. Be humble.

  2. If you get a record deal you get paid beforehand a decent sum… if your record sells more than what was talked about then you get more money.. what’s the problem? the only person who is losing the real money here is the manager or the record company.. not the artist..

  3. an artist called Moldovar created a new cd with the song titles made in circuitry and the jewel case contains a light sensitive therimin he is making himself. i was happy to pay $50 for the release. he has, so far sold 500…

    do the math

    Shogun Konitoki have a vinyl release embedded with dots, to see and hear the release in all of its spectacular glory you have to first assemble the battery powered strobe light kit that comes with the release…..and watch a video showing you how to do it. By the end of the process, I guess you are unable to make an objective decision about the music after investing all of this time in preparing to be amazed – you probably will be. cost, $69.00

    In one of my lectures i say FREE IS THE NEW BLACK….that doesn’t mean that everything you have ever done should be free – it means that in the run up to a release of something new (and it doesn’t have to be an album) you give away some stuff, make a new shirt that will be available with the physical release or with a code from the download etc etc/
    according to their manager, the band METRIC from Canada have sold more of the tracks that have been available FREE
    Monty Pythons sales went up 213,000% after they launched their site where you can get every single thing they have ever done for free!
    they took control of this stuff.
    A band in germany Das Ich were also gutted by Russian download sites shredding their sales, they eventually negotiated a deal with the site – it enabled each of them to have a few unique tracks for a week – before they each had everything – this helped a little – but the main benefit to the band was in terms of information that the illegal download site gave them – they managed to turn this information into 6 shows in Russia……..they have since been back to Russia three times – i think the last tour was 15+ shows….

    so, i think there are two paths;
    you can’t download a t-shirt, a battery powered hand held strobe light or a light sensitive theramin……so go the extyra mile with the imaginitive packaging you put around your music (its importasnt enough for some imaginitive bubble wrap isn’t it??)
    OR, release material in smaller, shorter bursts – 6 eps a year perhaps? so that, as you give away #3 for free with a shirt ($10?) someone gets interested and wants #1 and #2………which are $10 each (maybe with a shirt maybe not, maybe the free shirt with 1 & 2 deal has expired)
    You are not just increasing the choices and the frequency that you communicate around a special event – you are also shrinking the time between creation and availability. Some of the examples above show that FREE is not the enemy – even of a small band – but you have to be prepared to deal with the many factors at work in the new ‘economy’ and the harsh new reality – not constantly be surprised ……..

    Martin Atkins

  4. True, bands both in the past and now will always make more money by touring. But Miguel and the rest, there was a time, before internet where bands did make money from record deals; deals that don’t exist today. I’m all for downloading a song or two to check out a band, but allowing people to get free music when this to some this is thier livlihood. If everythiong is for free then how do artists make money. Why should art be free but not anything else? The internet and downloading has done nothing but hurt the music biz and leave us with an outlet for everyone to say “I’m in a band man”, and most of it is crap. You can have all of the horrid music you want for free but let’s give the real musicians a chance to get thier due.

  5. True, bands both in the past and now will always make more money by touring. But Miguel and the rest, there was a time, before internet where bands did make money from record deals; deals that don’t exist today.

    Why do I want to contract a huge debt if I intend to record an album? Wouldn’t be wiser and more sustainable to opt for a crowdfunding approach (microfunding from the fans) than to go directly into the arms of record labels who just want to squeexe every penny from you in return of a big advancement? If your music is great, them let your fans hear it. They’ll support in one way or another, by subscriptions, deluxe box-sets and lots of other unimaginable packages. You have to think freemium!

  6. The real problem here is the pricing model. The major labels and large distributors still apply ridiculous wholesales to digital products, which in turn force the retailers to sell at higher uncompetitive prices. Music doesn’t have to be free to be fair to the consumer, it just needs to be sensible.

  7. Lots of thoughtful comments here, keep them coming! I’ll address some of the key issues raised so far:

    – the importance of money remaining in the industry and of record labels is not just the money that artists get (or don’t get after recouping) from sales. It goes much further. Music sales are the calling card for everything else an artist does. That’s the exposure they get for tours, merchandize sales etc. The core assets of a record label are 1) discovering talent 2) investing in and nurturing talent 3) promoting that talent. Without record labels fans don’t discover artists. As much as people may say ‘ah but I find artists myself on such and such a site or by word of mouth’, in most instances the label has already done a lot of work seeding those sources. It doesn’t have to be a record label that does that of course (to Miguel’s point it could be a telco for example). But some one needs to make the investment and market and promote. So if the money dries up because illegal downloading kills off legitimate businesses those key conduits will become much smaller and more conservative in their investments. We’re already seeing this happen, just look at the global ‘success’ of the likes of the XFactor.
    – I’m not making a defence of current digital music business practices. Indeed regular readers of my blogs and research will know that I’m a pretty strident critic. My point is that just because illegal downloading is succeeding and the current legal sector is flawed is not reason to hoist the white flag. Rather it is a mandate to fix what needs fixing. In fact this is the perfect time. All parties are more vulnerable now than ever before, that means that they are willing to take more chances. The crucial thing is that this leads to more equitable practices (e.g. 50/50 Net receipts deals) and to innovative, differentiated services.
    – It’s great that there are new alternative ways for bands to try to reach fan bases and to generate revenue. The bottom line is that all of these are highly nascent at the moment and none have yet made a compelling case for being part of a mass market solution that will work across all or most of the diverse rosters of most record labels. That doesn’t preclude investing further in these alternatives as a long term alternative future, but the piracy problem needs addressing right now.
    – Martin I really like your thinking about revolutionizing the release schedules and formats. So much so that I wrote a report on the topic! See my post here for more details: http://blogs.forrester.com/consumer_product_strategy/2009/09/music-release-windows-the-product-innovation-that-the-music-business-cant-do-without.html

  8. I have hundreds and hundreds of CDs, a significant investment in my own musical tastes.

    I have also downloaded music, but not very much. Where it does not lead to a sale of a CD, the tracks lie somewhere on a hard disk, never played again, deleted when I need to free up some space, or just lost when I get a new computer and it is too inconvenient to transfer the data over. I would never contemplate turning my CDs into MP3, or actually keeping something I like in MP3 format – it’s crap, a defective patent-encumbered codec that is only fit for a real cheap portable player. It would be a crime to play MP3s through a few thousand pounds worth of HiFi.

    I’ve also written some music – although my contribution is generally lyrical. As a consequence I have educated myself about copyright, and I do believe the general principle is correct. But it has been horribly abused.

    I suspect one of the main reasons so many people see nothing wrong with downloading and freeloading is the utter contempt we the public are treated with by the major content controllers (record labels &c). Not only have they lobbied for obscenely absurd copyright terms (effectively robbing the public domain / commons), but they act as if they’re insane. Seriously, did you know they want Apple to pay for people listening to samples on iTunes before they buy and download a song?

    If they weren’t so grasping and greedy then there might be an opportunity to discuss how copyright – a social contract between producer and public – could sensibly be reformed to take into account the radically different world from that in which the laws were first drafted. If you want to see how bad it is, look around the World for “media taxes”. In many, many countries you will be paying 20-30 cents per blank CD on the assumption you will use it for content obtained via copyright violation. It could never be the case that aspiring artists are putting their own music on these, could it? You do have to have sympathy for them helping pay the artists who have already made it.

    Mind you, I remember the “Home Taping Is Killing Music” bullshit. I must be old.

  9. Let’s see if Whitney Houston gives away any free downloads in her comeback that should set all this nonsense straight. Don’t believe The Beatles new release had a freebie; nor do I think The Rolling Stones will give away a thing in their 40th Anniversary release this November.

    This is a model that stirred up more mayhem in the indie music community and is supported by wannabes who will go nowhere with the free model. And so be it. It is a free country! If fans/audiences get some music for free and some they have to pay for…what a deal. That’s a very solid argument in being compensated for your work and recouping your investment.

    It hasn’t been that many years ago, people would not attend a free concert. The thinking was if it’s free it must not be any good…and I subscribe to that thinking 100%. If you need to build an audience giving something away…make sure it doesn’t much money to do so. Record a cover tune or other song out of public domain and keep the recording costs down. THIS, regardless of musicianship allows the listener to determine if (s)he likes the artist’s style. They can tell right away due to the familiarity of the tune and the artist’s treatment or variation on a song.

    Otherwise, take that money and donate it to a worthy cause and get a deduction come tax time.
    Janet Hansen

  10. Janet, you’re hopelessly naive. I challenge to to find something -hell, anything – in the public domain that has been featured in a music chart anywhere in the world.

    You will be going back to 78s or before to actually find something. More than 95% of the people currently alive will never have heard of it.

    Happy Birthday to You, possibly the best known song in the world, doesn’t enter the public domain until 2030.

  11. I’VE been watching these comments all day and it seems really really simple to me. you either get it or you dont. FREE IS THE NEW BLACK.
    even if you GIVE someone your music – they still have to give you THE GIFT of taking the time to listen to it!

    Believe me, I have a label (20 years 350+ albums) a bunch of large albums under my belt as a performer/;writer/producer AND FOUR KIDS!!! but, this is just the way it is, kick, scream, have a little cry if you want, then put on your entrepreneurial thinking cap, learn FIVE or ten new skills to add to the ones you already have and get on with it!

    or, you can join the RIAA and write your congressman……


  12. It’s time to change the way we release music, and many on this blog have pointed to the ways that artists are adapting. These up sell packages are irreplaceable products that super fans are asking for and will make up a majority of the profits for artists.

    I read the blog from Jim of Future of the Left and my question is why is there so much time between mastering of the album and the release date? If this was 15 years ago, I would understand that the label needs time to set up the marketing and promotion plan for the album. But it’s 2009. We should expect the album to leak…almost immediately. I’m not saying it’s right, just that we should expect it and it should be understood that even Jay-Z can’t stop his album from leaking.

    I don’t really know Future of the Left’s music but it’s sounds like they are having a rough go of it all around. “…playing shows like we just weathered at the laughably bad Camden Crawl this last weekend – fifteen people and a world of disillusion.” I don’t think it’s fair to use this band as the case study of what happens when music leaks.

    I think the best advice for young bands just getting started is to remember that as soon as you play a note and are being paid for it, you are in business. And you better know something about that business. Part of being in the business of music is knowing what distribution points you can and can’t control. Concert tickets, t-shirts, limited edition releases, exclusive events…this is what you need to focus on.

    And the most important piece of information you can get from your fans is their email address. Don’t ask them to add you as a friend on MySpace, become on fan on Facebook, follow you on Twitter. Sure your fans can do that too. But get their email address because you control your own newsletter. Don’t become beholden to social media outlets as your main connection to your fanbase. YOU should own that. This is your way to write directly to your fans about new tour dates, what’s happening in the studio, new merch, ways that fans can take an active roll in promoting your music.

    It’s interesting to see how the smart indie labels are operating in these times. They aren’t afraid to put download codes in their vinyl releases and give the consumers what they want. They look for ways to truly represent an artist’s vision especially if it’s outside of a simple CD release (see Arcade Fire’s Mirror Noir, Phish’s Joy Box Set or Nine Inch Nails Ultimate Deluxe Ghosts Release)

    I’m not going to cry too many tears for the other record labels. Just ask any of the older artists who never receive their royalty checks or even the established artists that had to sue the labels to get accurate accounting (even though most settle out of court and continue with the same label). How many years have they sold us the same album in multiple formats? The business has always been about controlling distribution and selling the same music over and over again. Think of how many formats Led Zeppelin has been sold on: Vinyl, Cassettes, 8-Tracks, CD (Gold CD, HDCD), Minidisc and now digital.

    The profits labels experienced years ago were inflated. Now they have to operate in the new paradigm and that’s why they are having so much trouble finding their place. They are used to huge profits, large parties, private jets…etc. Those days are over.

    I’m not saying that music should be free, just that business is done differently now. It’s not enough to play in a band and expect someone to take care of you. You have to create your own opportunities and leverage them. If you don’t adapt, you will disappear. It’s like whistling on the steps of Carnegie Hall.

  13. Normal speech melody is not constructed from musical notes selected from a musical scale. The normal function of the cortical map that responds to discontinuous musical melodies constructed from musical scales must be the perception of continuous speech melody.

  14. I’m amazed these days that some of my peers in the music industry expect to get paid for their work. Okay, so it’s original, copyrighted music. Who cares? People want it for free, expect it for free – it oughta be free, right?

    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!

    Then I went to Trader Joe’s for some food and guess what! (You’re never going to believe this.) Those guys wanted me to actually PAY for the food I put in my cart! Hello?!?! Welcome to the 21st Century, dudes. Get a clue! (I’m going to go to Whole Foods from now on.)

    So again, thanks everyone for being so cool and hip and aware that the “old” business models don’t work any more. People shouldn’t expect to be compensated for their work. I mean, you don’t get paid for what you do, do you? Of course not! (Hey, if you do get paid, send me a check, okay?)

    Let’s all drink to New Media and the geniuses who really know how to create “new” business models that work.

  15. I think what Shane said is pretty much right, “The profits labels experienced years ago were inflated….Those days are over…”. One of the amazing things that I have mentioned time and time again is how amazing the artists are when it comes to attacking the fans. Why don’t they react to the labels and their shady contracts and artist exploitation in the same way?
    I understand what Bob is saying as well but it’s hard to make the distinction to consumers when you go from tangible to intangible. Not to mention when those consumers are digital natives that are getting more and more accustomed to acquiring whatever they want through the internet. Everything from information to entertainment. Its a state of mind. Not just on the consumers behalf but on the labels and artists as well.
    The PC and the internet has been percieved as a growing trend since…well…as long as I have know of it. This is just as well with the growing mobile trend and other technology. The music industry has set the example for many industries as to what happens when you fall behind and refuse to adopt tech. It IS time for a new model.
    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.

  16. One point that I haven’t seen brought up here yet is the fact that the only way to recreate the world where music wasn’t free is to introduce artificial restrictions like DRM or Mark’s idea of ‘release windows.’

    Mark, there was a lot in your report that I appreciated. But one thing you mentioned is that the solutions you offered were aimed primarily at the ‘legitimate arena’ – people that still play by the industry’s rules.

    While I agree that those are the only people that would be willing to wait out the release windows, I would argue that this perpective misses an important point.

    Just because there are still individuals that are willing to play by a set of rules (that technology has rendered largely obselete) doesn’t mean that the industry should be content to keep those old rules around.

    Instead, the industry should be proactively looking for long-term solutions that truly address the way consumers want to get their music. File sharing isn’t just a scourge – it’s a case study more valuable and informative than any consumer survey could ever hope to be.

    The industry needs to adapt, not continue to struggle to regain control through restrictions and release windows.

  17. I totally understand what Bob is saying and I think that we will eventually get back to a point where music will be compensated through bundling as part of subscriptions via ISP, Mobile or directly to online music companies.

    But a lot has to happen before we get to that point. The business has to fall apart and be rebuilt. Just ask anyone who has ever had to deal with licensing music publishing on a mass scale. It’s a complete disaster. There is no other business that is more fractured than music.

  18. Well, I’m an indie artist and give quite a bit of my music away. I have no real aspirations to become the next big rock star or quit my day job.

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

    I think the problem here is that people have grown to the mindset that downloading any intellectual property (pictures, videos, music, books, lectures, even entire movies) should be free.

    I disagree. It should only be free if the artist or label agrees it should be free. Excuse me, but if you take something without asking, and you don’t have permission from the owner, that’s stealing. Just as if you walked into their house and nabbed their HD TV because you thought it would look nice in your own house.

    Granted, if you download it, they still have a copy, so what did you really take from them? The sale of the song.

    Let’s take the movie as an example. A production team of several thousand people depend on the sales of those DVDs. It’s not even just the artist. If all sales were to go free, every one of those people would eventually lose their jobs.

    My production costs are rather low (a bit of time, a PC and some recording gear, a guitar, some instruments) and I have a day job. So i can afford to give some of my stuff away.

    Do I deserve to be forced to? No.

    Much of the ‘stolen’ downloads would not have been sales anyway. If someone is willing to pay for something (an ebook, a song, a movie) then they’ll dig in the wallet. If not, a stolen download may make more exposure for the artist, but anyone else involved in the production or marketing for livelihood loses.

    But if you made it all free (and how could you have the right to when you don’t own the rights to it?) then everybody loses.

    Because the only ones who would still be putting their music out there would be those who are willing to give their work away.

  19. Chris:
    I agree completely. I think aspiring artists can give-away music (if they want) as a great promotional tool. On the other end of the spectrum, I think that ASCAP or any PRO asking for royalties for 30-second song previews is totally ridiculous.

    Everyone should keep in mind that music means a lot of things, not just up-and-coming indie artists. There are composers for film, television, games, trailers, promos, commercials, and so on. There are songwriters and lyricists. There are musicals, soundtracks, multimedia presentations, and more.

    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.

  20. I’m getting a little tired of the hysteria and drama……..i understand that plumbers etc dont work for free – but, I bet that in the beginning of their careers they underbid on a few jobs to get their foot in the door. And, it seems like the music business is disapointingly LAST to realise that giving something away for free isn’t the end of a relationship……its the beginning. (unless you are crap and your music sucks) I met a guy at the airport last week who works for a call center software company….how much is the software?? well, even though i’m sure they all have ‘families to feed’ etc etc handwringing drama etc etc – its FREE – they make their money on other add-on services and do very very well……my next 18 lectures across the country (more information at tstouring.com) yes, you guessed it….FREE

  21. Hey Martin,
    Not everybody is at the beginning of their careers. Not everyone in the business is forming the beginning of a relationship.

    Composers and songwriters do not have “add-on services.” They do not have advertising revenue. If you read my post, you would understand that not everyone fits the newcomer “indie band” model that can sell T-shirts and CDs at their next concert.

    The entire “free” concept is forcing prices down (sometimes to 0) in every segment of the market – as well as other markets. For you to call this “hysteria and drama” shows that you are not looking at the whole picture.

  22. Bob Safir is a funny guy (in good way). Thanks for the chuckle and the insight. Songwriting is a real occupation folks and like any other takes dedication to do it well. Btw, I trust that those who DL music without paying (unless it’s legitimately free) aren’t wondering why it cost $200 to see Madonna. $0.99 for a song is a ridiculously good deal for something you want, can keep forever and play on all your personal devices. Yes, the industry must adapt to a new world. In the meantime, just do the right thing: Pay for the music and don’t rip it to give to someone else. Thanks

  23. I’m somebody nobody knows, who’d like to make a career out of selling music. 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. In no other industry are people being told so often to give away their product in order to move said product. Giving away 2000 electronic copies
    to sell 20 is utter crap. I’d rather spend the money on PR that DOESN’T reduce my actual inventory. A taste for you is by my choice, but a meal of any sort costs you full boat unless I choose otherwise.

    See, the problem is people WOULD download and rip that aforementioned car battery for free if they could star trek it into their car.

    I wish I could go to wherever they work and get free or cheap-as-hell services.

    My intellectual property (and effective use of it) is no different than a lawyer, doctor, teacher, book author, etc.


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

    When I was growing up, I was anxious to spend my dough on music I liked. I still am. Nowadays, they only thing our thieving-assed WON’T pay for is bootleg Nikes and other fashion apparel.
    (And there’s a HUGE market for that too, but at least it’s socially taboo).

    I won’t quit writing tunes, but I’m not trying to give you my work so you can toss it in a pile of shit, look for more stuff to steal from me and others, and claim it oughtta be free BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T DO THE WORK, DON’T APPRECIATE (read: VALUE) the process, & PRETEND IT’S WORTH NOTHING TO YOU. But still you download & look for free shit. 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?

    It used to be artist’s/label’s CHOICE to give stuff away, not rule #1.

    …Bad enough full-length projects get decimated tune-by-tune on iTUNES and others…

    But what the hell do I know? I can’t AFFORD to let people hear 30,20,15,10 full songs online because Jack will rip them & have the nerve to post that I need to “put up more rockin’ tunes!!!”

    rant OFF
    sentiment ON

  24. Martin,

    I have personally worked with or know eight number one non-artist pop songwriters. Due to traditional CD sales and terrestrial radio play, all have done very well financially. I also know many more talented composers who have yet to have a song placed (recorded). Of this particular group overall, none has been at this for less than 15 years and only three have hit the elusive #1 target more than once. However, the income from one hit (typically short lived) amortized over the length of each of their careers may put things in perspective. Lightening rarely strikes twice in this business.

    There was a day when these or other writers might have had a ‘non hit’ song on a CD that sold well because it contained a hit song or two (The royalty for each tune on a CD legitimately sold (bar coded and scanned by a licensed retailer) is the same, whether a charted single or not). Well, that model is dead and along with it the (at best) moderate income of the vast majority of pop composers. Further, one step below this is a huge chasm that separates these writers (and recording artists) from others.

    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.


  25. Why would people stop coming to gigs if the music is ‘for free’?

    I believe most people will always be willing to pay for music.

    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 🙂

  26. at the risk of upsetting anyone, please let me make this point again……the Canadian band Metric sold more copies of the tracks that they had given away for free than the tracks that they hadn’t. Monty Pythons sales increased 213,000% AFTER they made everything available for free, Prince sold out 20 stadium shows in the UK after giving everyone a free copy of his new album. The artist Moldovar has created a light sensitive theramin inside the jewel case of his new cd – cost $50. He has sold 500 so far. Shogun Konitoki have a battery powered strobe light that comes with their vinyl album with dots on – for a full-on hallucenegenic experience – you have to make it yourself – cost $69. and of course lets not forget the Josh Freese brilliance – his album was available for a few dollars online – or you could go to his house, make a 3 song ep with him about YOU, take some clothes from his closet, a drum kit then have a ride up Pacific Coast Highway doing mushrooms in Danny from Tools’ yellow Lhamborghini – cost $75,000.
    oh, and theres amanda palmer – she made 19k in 10 days on twitter – google it.
    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!
    I saw George Massenberg at a conference a couple of years ago – he said that he has had to learn a new skill set every three years.
    OK guys, get learning.


  27. MA,

    I learn everyday, just like most (who care to do so), but most times, that’s not free either. You doing free nationwide lectures only means you’re rich, someone is supporting you, or you get/got compensated in some other way. I bet you aren’t footing the bill for travel, lodging, etc on your nationwide tour.

    I’m not saying what you’ve written holds no weight, but I’m a songwriter/musician, NOT a random, against-the-odds Canadian band (great for them, though!!!), nor am I 30-40 year old Monty Python music, or Prince (gimme a break). Moldovar is cool and theremins are cooler, but the stuff is so niche, that it doesn’t have a helluva lot of relevance to this conversation. I MIGHT actually order the Moldovar theremin CD (because it’s a novelty instrument, too), but I can guarantee you, nobody else I know will buy that CD.

    Shogun Konitoki, also an expensive, niche market gimmick. I’d still rather spend the money on PR (incl. hi-speed internet, cable bill, etc.)
    “…and of course lets not forget the Josh Freese brilliance…”
    “…oh, and theres amanda palmer – she made 19k in 10 days on twitter…”

    What’s brilliant about that? Aren’t they already established, well-known in the biz, connected, and in a much higher tax bracket than me? Yup. Those are mostly gimmicky, expensive, crap, established, rich and famous people examples.

    So how does any of that relate to anyone trying to get in the business now, or those trying to grow their business? Most of the people you mentioned except 1 got their start, got big (famous), and so on with the traditional music business models. You can’t find easily people giving away music and making a living from it. It just ain’t so…

    Surely Moldovar isn’t trying to sell to the pop (big) markets, right?

    So what exactly is your point?

    “…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!”

    I bet that 2k will go farther with them, than a myspace/twitter/spotify pages with regard to an actual internet footprint, site traffic, and hopeful sales. Also, it means I can concentrate on what I’m good at, and let someone else concentrate on what they are good at, namely promoting the music. For those without the money, get in where you fit in, free web pages, free music, blah, blah, blah… Hell, even Amanda Palmer PAYS for a “web guy” according to her site.

    If someone else tells me I need to tour & sell t-shirts in order to be a successful RECORDING ARTIST I might get sick. To me, that is astounding. How about I SELL some MUSIC first? I’ll gladly give you a $5.00 t-shirt for buying my $10.00 CD, but I won’t give you music so you’ll buy a shirt. I’m not in the clothing business.

    “I saw George Massenberg at a conference a couple of years ago – he said that he has had to learn a new skill set every three years.”

    I bet he doesn’t give his work away either, except that he has the luxury to do so if he chooses. 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.

    Don’t get me wrong, freebies are cool enough (i’ve got a free song or two available as well – as much as I hate to do so), but the paradigm shift, that DEMANDS I give stuff away, or continue to drop my prices to below legitmate market value is still crap to me.

    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.

    Better to write music for commercials than for music fans. The check is always in the bank, nobody looks for a freebie, and the work is treated as if it has some legitimate value.

    I just hate I’ve got to be a web/marketing guru to be successful writing & recording music. What do the web & marketing gurus then? Start writing music?

    I really am trying to find a middle ground or model that I believe will work for me (and others), but right now, hmmm…

    BTW – Not mad at you (or you, or you), but mad as hell at “it.”

  28. ok, heres one for ya – instead of standing outside a venue where a band that sounds like you or that your fans might like (or the potential fans of your band might like) ugh sorry – instead of standing there trying to give people a free cd……..go there before the concert starts and give the people in line hot chocolate in return for them agreeing to give a song a listen or give you an e mail address…….(substitute cool spray in arizona) these people are bored silly and will be delighted

    and, no one ios picking up my hotels or travel…….i’m doing a few dj gigs to offset some costs – but maaan that makes for a really long day with some lectures starting at 10am…….and, i’m a crap dj!

    and, without pounding this into the ground – so, Moldovar just sold another disc…….thats EXACTLY how it happens – its only one …..but its one more than NONE and its $50…….how many cds does a major label act have to sell to get $50?? its just a new, different way of thinking……..if you only have ten fans….then cook them dinner or do their laundry – something that creates a buzz and, as we just saw with Moldovar – gets someone talking…..THATS your promotion…..and, for the record, i think its this kind of activity (creating something remarkable) that is starting to make an impact with the music placement people too….they’re just people on the internet too!

    not mad either………..enjoying the discourse!


  29. Such nonsense.

    If you don’t like the terms, don’t buy the product. If the labels are capital-E Evil, what does that make someone who steals from them? Robin Hood?

    No — just a hypocritical clown who’s too selfish and immature to pay for his or her pleasures. Some music fan.

  30. i don’t usually double comment on a blog post but in this case I feel somewhat compelled.

    ASCAP is trying to get iTunes to pay royalties on their 30-second snippets?

    Ok, searched online and discovered that’s true. That’s… bizarre.

    The sample isn’t a full play, not even a half play for MOST songs, and is protected under copyright law I believe, and when you upload your music to them and other sites, you electronically sign an agreement granting them the right to play the sample without recompense to you.

    So, trying to get mo money out of them is really a breach of contract.

    ASCAP has usually geared itself to protect the rights of the artists and to ensure they get the royalties they deserve for public performances, but a digital download isn’t a public performance, it’s private.

    The sample is actually there to ensure the listener has the ‘right song’, and then they can buy the full track. Yes, the songwriter gets a pittance royalty on the download vs. a commercial license, but it’s essentially the same as a single tune sale on a custom CD. (Mechanical rights royalty).

    But nobody is going to really enjoy jamming over and over to that 30sec snippet. That’s just laughable.

    Perhaps this is just a sign of the industry feeling the pinch from the economy and trying to find the coins hidden in the couch…

  31. Chris,

    On this particular issue, I think ASCAP is out to lunch, breach of contract or not.

    The 30-second snippet is a promotional tool.

    And this is the essence of the confusion and subsequent arguments on this post and elsewhere: There is a difference between “free” music as a promotional tool and free music as a final product that produces a revenue stream.

    If people can’t make that distinction, the the debate is a vicious circle.

    Remember, 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.

  32. Martin,

    I’m sure you are a decent, honest person but where are you getting your facts? I would like to verify your claims.

    Metric appears to be using all the marketing weapons at its disposal to succeed. Kudos to them. However, the motivation to offer many the (non-digital) add-ons at various price levels has been, at the core of it, made necessary by the reality of the marketplace. So be it.

    I agree that necessity is in fact the Mother of Invention, but you seem to be avoiding the core issue: The very idea that the vast majority of music consumers ‘believe’ they are entitled to harvest creative works, in their digital state, without paying for them. The moral implications are far reaching. Many such consumers are legitimately unaware of some of their breaches and reconsider once educated. But, most simply feel entitled. They justify their actions by claiming they are railing against some big bad corporate machine while loading thousands of compositions into devices made by (what?!) corporations. Please! Parents look the other way or are directly involved in the problem. Would one of these let their child knowingly take a chocolate bar without paying? Why then music, software?

    Ironically, the current and subsequent generations will rely more and more on the income derived from Intellectual Property. Once they have their creative works ‘acquired’ without permission (free or otherwise) I suspect the proverbial light will come on.

    Let’s all keep moving towards a workable solution but let us never take ‘Right and Wrong’ off the table. Thanks. JW

  33. ok, my point was – it is the tracks that Metric have given away that have ended up selling the most, my source for this was Mathieu – Metrics manager.

    But, lets have a look at this version……IF (lets say) 20,000 people download your album for free – then i’m assuming that they like it and listen to it – then GREAT – now you can sell them a concert ticket, a t-shirt and the live album, the remix album, the version that you recorded in the cystine chapel with the lyrics on parchment or the recipe book that contains the amazing dishes that fuelled your recording process……..
    Its not a problem if 20,000 people download your album for free …..its only a problem if they DONT!

  34. The internet and illegal file sharing has only allowed consumers to become as criminal as the labels they pretend to be screwing.


    20,000 people download my album for free, then they probably ain’t buying shit. That’s lost sales in my opinion. I can’t tell you how many times I tell people who come through my studio that illegal downloads & buying bootleg CDs & movies is crap – as they spend their time & energy trying to create a product that’s market viable. If it’s a project I’m producing, the fight just to keep the music in the studio until the work is all done can be huge.

    These younger artists don’t even understand why they shouldn’t have their new song we just recorded (maybe just a rough version, at that!) in their email, as their ringtone, and up for grabs on myspace. “But man, I already got 28,000 views on myspace, yo…” They just don’t understand the value of their work, and certainly not mine. I always offer to let them do whatever they want with their acapellas if I didn’t write the lyrics, but the music stays home for free, until it can move out for pay (or by MY choice).

    I’d rather 200 people buy my stuff than 20,000 snatch it for free. Maybe with the money I earn I could further promote my product and get more SALES. If I sell more, I can give more (if i want to).

    Maybe I need a guy like Billy Mays or Anthony Sullivan to help me out!

    As a dj, how much of the music you play did you get legally vs. illegally?

    Better question: When you’re rockin’ the crowd with music bought, borrowed, or stolen, how many people run up & ask the name of a song/artist so they can buy it? Furthermore, of those who do ask, what percentage of them buy versus steal the song somewhere online? Especially if they are under 30? When there was no choice, everybody bought. Nowadays, a whole lotta people straight up s-t-e-a-l.

    26 years behind the wheels myself, and since about 1994 or so, I really only know ONE person who buys music as a consumer. But EVERYBODY’s got all the new songs, *yesterday.* Amazing.

    I think what you’re missing, MA, is this:


    And finally, I certainly am not eating dinner with, washing the clothes of, or screwing anyone who buys my product. That is not the business of music, is it?

    The internet and illegal file sharing has only allowed consumers to become as criminal as the labels they pretend to be screwing.

    -think i’m repeating myself, now-

  35. when i spin my tragic dj stes its all of my mixes – dubs and mad mash ups from the studio – so there goes that one. But, I’m sorry sorry maaaan, you are still missing the point. The biggest hurdle to an artist succeeding is people hearing the music. IF 20,000 people download your album then some of them will grow attached to it and BUY IT – thats a fact. they will also come to your gigs, park drink and buy a shirt then buy another album because they LIKE you and they want you to sign something and they feel silly handing you a napkin. if your music is crap – of course – then when 20,000 people download it – you ‘re done! just like a terrible movie – the internet has lifted the lid on those games.

    and, of course, i’m not suggesting you do a fans laundry – but whatever is your version of that kind of GIVING…..and, yes, the new business of music is about creating fanships and connecting…pure and very very simple.

  36. 1. The business of aquiring fans, etc isn’t new! That’s what it’s always been about.

    2. The biggest hurdle isn’t getting people to hear your music. It’s getting them to pay for it if they like it instead of aquiring it by other means.

    3. I live in a city of over 7-8 million people. Getting a pointer to a website to check stuff out via magazine/paper review isn’t that hard. Ask every hack band in the city! The biggest hurdle for any artist, aside from being good is earning MONEY from your work to continue to work.

    4. You didn’t answer if you buy all the stuff you spin, or not, but judging by this thread, probably not. Your mash up doesn’t necessarily equal 100% made up, right? (just rhetorical)

    5. I’m not worried about writing crap music (waaaay subjective), but I am worried about the 200 or 2000 out of 20,000 people who would’ve bought my stuff that went along with that free mp3 instead. I don’t own a club, bar, or clothier, I own music.

    But maybe all this cynicism in the face of bold-faced thievery is going to be my waterloo.

    Giving away an album worth of music? Geez.

    With friends like those…

  37. 4. You didn’t answer if you buy all the stuff you spin, or not, but judging by
    this thread, probably not. Your mash up doesn’t necessarily equal 100% made up,
    right? (just rhetorical)

    yes – its all my stuff

    over and out – good luck!


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  39. Several significant points have been overlooked in this “music as free” conversation.

    1. Since the advent of recorded music, in some way, shape or form music has always been “free.” Many people who listened to a phonograph record had never bought it and were hearing it for free played on a friend’s record player. When pop radio then album radio came in, everybody listened for free to most songs available on anywhere on record. The more they heard them the more they emotionally bonded with a particular cut. Eventually they loved the song or collection of songs so much that it became worth the price of the unit to own that recording. Exposure, which is “free,” has historically always resulted in increased sales.
    2. People have been stealing music and making copies since the first home recording deveice became available. Anybody could record on a tape or CD. Did it keep the record companies from having their most profitable years? Absolutely not.
    3. The record company product pricing structure has always been based on excessive greed and the companies’ ability to hold their customers hostage. When the computer age made it quick and easy to copy 1-10,000 songs at a time, record companies started targeting their customers in numerous odious ways to stop them. Consumers learned to hate record companies. These very same companies never refused to sell to Best Buy, Circuit City or Walmart even when they knew, those stores would be selling their product at vastly below market prices to get customers into their stores. If you had to pay $3 for a single or $17 for an album versus being able to record it from somewhere else and own it for free, the forces of a rational market place eventually had to take over. Slowly but surely, the record companies never adjusted their prices and ran their customers into the hands of “free” ownership in ever increasing numbers. Their constant refusal to change prices made it an easy decision for the average consumer. Had they started dropping prices to a reasonable level over the past 10 years, this whole process towards free ownership would have been much slower but nevertheless inevitable. This became true the day digital recording became available to the masses.
    4. YouTube, MySpace, Spotify, Pandora, Last.fm, Imeem and hundreds of similar sites make it totally unnecessary for anybody to buy anything if they don’t want to. They are rapidly replacing radio as the chief means of exposure for music. People trade or share with their friends, not 10 or 12 songs, like the good old days but sometimes 1000’s of songs.

    I could go on but eventually shooting fish in a barrel isn’t fun anymore.

  40. Pingback: Baisse de fréquentation des concerts, music business, U2, IMDB, Blur, Facebook et les salaires des métiers du Web… | zdar.net

  41. Bedtime Stories wrote in #36:

    “The internet and illegal file sharing has only allowed consumers to become as criminal as the labels they pretend to be screwing.”

    So why do you want to be a supplier to criminals? Go on strike! Withhold your services until society rearranges things so you are justly rewarded!!

    This could become another way of tackling music’s supply and demand problem.

    (note smiley: 🙂 )

    To paraphrase an American leader:
    “Musicians go to market with the audience they have, not with the audience they wish they had.” (No smiley.)

    – – – – – – – – – –

    One of the things which gets me ranting about these discussions is that most of the people from the industry side have this passive position that Someone (the US Cavalry, as I wrote once) should ride over the hill to save them. It’s not going to happen.

    At this point, saving the music industry from “retail”, home-based copyright infringement requires removing the Internet, and most likely requires pushing everyone back to 1990-era PCs with small hard drives. The tools for copying and distributing are inherent in the PC and the Internet: it is their reason for existence, it is how they make things happen.

  42. Well well! We have a ‘clever’ condescending music intellectual in our midst. If pointing out the somewhat less than obvious was a marketable talent, then musicbizguy would be on the cover of Time.

    1. Re: Free exposure leads to increased sales

    Sales of what?! Unless you have been living in a cave, then you know that the vast majority of single song downloads globally are not paid for. How does your model begin to apply if someone hears a song, likes that song and can then acquire a copy without paying for it? Are you referring to non-digital goods (T Shirts, signed posters, etc.)? Are you then, like many other ‘well intended’ music biz guys, reducing music to a commodity intended to promote the sale of something else (like ads, a cell phone or…)? Since the advent of music, let alone the recorded kind, people have turned to its melodies and rhythms for comfort, motivation and salvation. Thanks, but I prefer to assign music to a considerably higher status than a mouthwash commercial.

    2. RE: People have been stealing music and making copies since the first home recording device became available.

    I will give you that when the cassette was introduced back in the 60’s there was a cry from the Industry hearkening the end of the world, so to speak (see? we can get along you and me). This of course did not materialize. Why? Glad you asked. Turns out that making mix tapes was a tedious, real time process, that subsequent copies of same were clearly inferior to the original and that mechanical and electrical differences between cassette tape players resulted in both speed and azimuth (= sound quality) discrepancies that further deteriorated the listening experience. Other factors such as quickly selecting specific songs on the tape were also problematic. And, here is the proverbial rub: Back then, only a select few hardcore music geeks were willing to spend the time to compile these collections because the process was so ‘inconvenient’ Hardly enough to ultimately have a decidedly negative impact on overall sales in spite of industry whining. Now that the inconvenient, quality deteriorating and difficult-to-do negatives have been completely eliminated….well you connect the dots.

    3. RE: The record company product pricing structure has always been based on excessive greed………

    Blah Blah Woof Woof! No one denies the abject stupidity with which the ‘evil’ record companies attempted to stumble, far too late, into the digital age. Personally, I never had a problem paying $12-$15 for a CD. Buck or so a tune plus liner notes and pics? Cool! I ‘did’ have a problem with the notoriously underhanded bookkeeping methods the RCs subscribed to that illegitimately caused artists to be well under or never paid. However, I would never have used this as justification for taking a record without paying for it. So, to all those who knowingly download or rip ‘for the cause’, if you had an inkling as to who you were truly harming, you ‘might’ rethink your actions.

    BTW, one reason that CD sales were on the decline before the single tune, cherry picking world of iTunes became part of the digital landscape: Lousy albums! Once it became ‘necessary’ for many pop artists to also pen all their own tunes, even though many could not write their way out of a paper bag, the album format was already on its deathbed.

    4. RE: YouTube, MySpace, Spotify, Pandora, Last.fm, Imeem and hundreds of similar sites make it totally unnecessary for anybody to buy anything if they don’t want to.

    If you are in fact a [Professional) songwriter then you might also appreciate that organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, NSAI and others are valiantly fighting an uphill battle to preserve current and pen new royalty agreements. In fact, agreements are being penned and implemented that will rightfully require all legitimized streaming services and more to pay for use of copy written material. Hoorah!

    I’ll have the salmon.

  43. you got it right Joey – “hundreds of similar sites make it totally unnecessary for anybody to buy anything if they don’t want to.”

    so, the free track, the song that becomes part of someones lives, that resonates with them….becomes the reason that they will purchase something else – its not about songs anymore – its about relationships.
    Amanda Palmer just twittered yesterday that she was doing a free show at gate 42 or something of dublin airport with a eukelele…..

    and, on mix tapes, for the poeple that made them and gave them out to people, it had nothing to do with how much time it took….interesting that one……and the nostalgia and creation of ‘digital mix tapes’ and, i guess, my space and i tunes playlists…….same thing. I’m going to stop posting now, i feel like i’m being dragged backwards instead of being inspired to move forwards……..and forwards is where its at.

    I’m on the road for the next 2 weeks lecturing (tour:smart) dj-ing badly and doing $1 a minute consults/chats for bands and businesses ALL consult $ go to benefit The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir injured in a nasty accident when their van rolled on the interstate last week…twitter me for details at https://twitter.com/marteeeen or go to tstouring.com

    be safe!!

    peace Love and respect to all.


  44. Hi Martin,

    Sorry to see you go. I have both enjoyed and appreciated your perspective. Thanks for respectfully providing some rich food for thought.


  45. I think it would be in the best interest of artists if their musicis made available free of charge to listeners. Advertising revs can generate a handsome royalty if negotiated right.

    I know that`s how my clients are managing to get by.

  46. Pingback: A Short Girl Living in a Tall City » Free – It’s The New Black (Part 2)

  47. I’ll be short and sweet. I remember about 20 or so years ago, I would record songs from the radio to cassette tape. I guess you could say I was ‘stealing’ the singles of the bands I liked. Those tapes consisted of artists like Swing Out Sister (Breakout, Twilight World), Everything But the Girl (Driving) and Sade. I am happy to report that I not only bought those artist’s cassettes, but I replaced them on cd, and for most of their catalogue, I’ve bought their catalogs on iTunes. When I say catalog, I mean EVERYTHING. Every song, remix, album, single. I own. And I paid for every last bit of it.

    Just wanted to give some of you a little hope. Its not all for naught.


  48. Pingback: Bizzmodels.com » Blog Archive » When Free Works

  49. Starting bands can use free downloads as a marketing tool but the problem of theft will never go away. It is crime that has been around before civilization took hold. Technology needs to advance in ways that allow downloads but not uploads. The incentive to pay needs to be because of perks. Radiohead offered rough mixes for free but the finished product was sought after from this exposure. It just cant be free is my argument as well

  50. no music canot be free its unfair to the musicians..but the little band need a voice too and that may mean giveing away free music.

  51. Miguel Caetano:

    1) Songwriter’s get 9 cents as dictated by federal law (which we would like to change). The artists negotiates their cut with the label.

    2) Please give us an example. This is the first I’ve heard of it and I suspect it’s bunk. Regardless, what do you think it does to freedom of speech when an artist has to depend on a large company to fund him? Do you think I’m going to speak out against the government if I’m sponsored by AT&T wireless?

    3) You just said nobody buys CD’s and you’re arguing that they shouldn’t have to. Then you suggest sites that help artists get funding by promising the investor a piece of the profits from sales of the album. Color me confused. Who’s going to invest in something that no one is going to buy?

    The fact is, the listeners are hurting themselves even more than the artists when they steal our work (my song is my work, not the CD, not the MP3 file, the SONG). Big corporate sponsored artists don’t care if you buy their CD – they have other sources of income. By denying up and coming artists of financial support from listeners you are destroying any chance of them competing with the major label acts.

    By cutting the throats of musicians who depend on their fans to make a living you are handing the world of music to big corporations on a silver platter.

  52. H.E. Gen Colin Palmer:

    Yeah, that’ll be great for creativity and freedom of speech. Nothing spurs on artists to be different and rebellious like a big corporate sponsor.

  53. Martin,

    I’ve read your book. I imagine it’s easy to believe what you’re saying if you’ve already had a successful career. But it’s a little hard to take that a guy who paid for his tours by selling albums and merch is telling me I have to pay for mine with merch alone. Especially when that guy makes good money publishing books and giving lectures to musicians on how to sell our albums.

    Go back through all your meticulous spreadsheets from all your tours and subtract all the numbers next to “Albums sold.” See if you could still pay for the tour. I’m guessing not. I can’t, and none of the guys I know can.

    Not to mention that you completely ignore the fact that songwriters who don’t perform their own material are getting royally screwed by illegal downloads. You know that if somebody else records my song I only get paid if they manage to sell a CD.

    I won’t even get started on your statement that people will buy the CD if they like the music. Why would they buy the CD if they already have it?

  54. Yeah, this free model should apply to cars too, I mean, they make revenue from selling gas, oil and spare parts, so the car should be free. And of course car sharing is pretty obvious too – I need to get to work in the morning, so I can just take your car, not stealing it, just sharing it. When I get to the office, I work for free, but I get revenue from selling ad-space on my clothes and eat free food from the fridge in the lunch room (shared by my co-workers). So you see, whatever job you may have, you should do it for free and be creative enough to make revenue in some other way, at least until you get really good at it, then your customers (fans) will donate money to you.

  55. “If they weren’t so grasping and greedy then there might be an opportunity to discuss how copyright – a social contract between producer and public – could sensibly be reformed to take into account the radically different world from that in which the laws were first drafted.”

    This comment is typical of the “how dare artists asked to be compensated, when I’m entitled to what I want for free” crowd.

    Copyright is NOT an social contract between producer and public; it is a legal protection afforded the creator of a work. We pay to copyright our work. Copyright is legally enforceable, and is protected by treaties throughout the world. (Although, sadly, not in all countries.)

    So, even if you’re paying for the computers on which you download – illegally – that music, and the I-Pod onto which you load it – illegally – unless you’re paying for the music protected by legal copyright, you’re a thief.

  56. Thanks Bob,
    unfortunately, it’s not just about convincing people about right or wrong here.
    I love the internet and the technology, but just imagine if the malls, car dealers, banks and the grocery stores left their doors open at night and nobody was there to watch.
    Or what would happen if there was a switch on the water taps in everyone’s home, that would switch from water to any type of beer, wine, liquor or soda… and they told you: you are not allowed to use that switch.
    But until someone comes up with some technology that allows a song to be played and listened to, but cannot be recorded nor turned into a data file (seems impossible to me tho)the above examples are exactly how the music industry is operating.

  57. Martin (and others who keep saying that free music is somehow the new “business model”),

    You keep saying that free music results in sales. But think about the realities for a moment:

    Let’s say I make an album of 10 songs. Track #1 gets ripped and put on a P2P site without my permission or knowledge, and becomes very popular, making everyone interested in the other nine tracks.

    Do the people on the P2P site rush out and purchase my album? NO! They wait until some bozo rips the other nine songs without my permission and download THEM for free on the P2P site.

    How on earth is this a “business model” for me?!? Exactly how am I supposed to get paid? Selling T-shirts? I’m not a t-shirt vendor, I’m a composer. I should be paid for my compositions.

    The sense of entitlement I’m seeing in people who advocate for totally-free music is staggering to me. Unbelievable.

    Someone made the comment earlier about the equity of getting 20 sales from 20,000 free downloads, and how great that is. Seriously?!? Do you know how many thousands of dollars it takes to make an album?

    Studio musicians range from $50/hr to $150/hr, depending on your location. Studio rates, if you don’t own your own studio, are between $75/hour and $250/hour, depending on the quality of the studio. And if you decide to purchase your own recording gear instead of dealing with a commercial studio, your investment for the proper quality tools will still be at least $3,000, and will probably be in the $5,000 range, once you get your computer (which needs to be on the higher end nowadays to keep up with the recording software), a decent recording program like ProTools LE (NOT the free GarageBand program that comes with each Mac which will not give you adequate quality for a commercial release), a good quality condenser mic for vocals, a decent mic pre-amp, decent sound libraries for your synth sounds and orchestra samples, etc. Not to mention the cost of whatever acoustic musical instruments you’ve already invested in — basses and guitars that cost $500-$1500 each, a drum kit that costs several hundred, or thousand, dollars, etc.

    The “business model” of selling just 20 songs at $0.99 a piece while giving away 20,000, is a very bad model. Let’s see… we just spent $5,000 – $10,000 to make $20.

    Are you all the inept employees that ran AIG into the ground or something? Did you get mail-in business degrees?

    Artists are used to getting screwed by the recording companies. Sadly, they’re now getting screwed by their own fans who insist on illegally downloading the artists’ work from P2P sites, leaving the artist to pay the bill of the recording process, but giving him/her no return on their investment. (BTW, whether the artist is an indie artist or a big-shot at Sony, he/she is paying for the recording, CD pressing, art layout, etc. The difference is that the indie artist pays for it up-front, while the Sony artist pays for it out of the back-end royalties, if any.)

    Just because illegal P2P sites are ubiquitous does NOT make them moral. It’s immoral to steal whether everyone else does it or not. Get some morals, folks.

  58. so we go round and round and end up coming up with analagies from other parts of commerce and feel all happy that ‘There, i showed them! , i PROVED that its CRAZY for music to be given away.” get real and FAST – the guys that invented the 3-d printer made it open source. You can download the schematics and make it yourself – then use it to make 100 more – they say that they LIKE it if you want to order it from them – but you dont have to. THIS STUFF makes my head spin too – but DENYING it is THE NEW REALITY doesn’t do any good at all.
    Traditional education is OVER. the world is changing very very quickly. we should e very very careful about pointing the way BACKWARDS.
    I DO agree that anyne doing just ONE thing – is fucked. Thats why you have to (as George Massenburg will tell you) re-learn your skill set every three years…..hows that working out for you???

    BTW it turns out that the ‘immoral’ people who illegally download music – spend 30% more $ on LEGAL music than anyone else – precisely the LAST people that you should be fucking with! OOOOOPS!

    happy christmas

  59. Martin,

    What you’ve described in your posts above is not a business _model_. You’ve been describing business _tactics_ certain artists have used to try to get around the rampant illegal stealing of music.

    Here’s the thing. Free samples work only IF you control the distribution. Free samples, of course, are nothing new, and giving away free samples is a time-honored way of successfully generating sales. But that’s only IF you can control the sales of subsequent products.

    So, in my example above, I may choose to give away track #1 on my album in the hopes that it will spur people to go to the store and buy the other 9 tracks. But, that tactic fails miserably if people can then jump on an illegal p2p site and download all 10 tracks of the album for free.

    You tell me, what have I just gained by people downloading all ten tracks for free? Exactly how is this a business _model_?

    Now, can we compensate in part for the thefts by increasing performance tours and whatnot? Sure. But, it doesn’t solve the problem of illegal downloads cutting into the sales of one’s album. It just means that in order to survive, we have to work harder at something else that people can’t steal.

    What you (and everyone else promoting free music) have yet to explain is HOW illegal p2p sites generate income — not how can I compensate for the thefts by touring more, but how do the thefts themselves generate income? Why would people who can download my entire album for free go out and buy the album? (BTW, I’m not convinced of the accuracy of your statement that people who illegally download music spend 30% more on legal music. Doesn’t ring true for me.)

    The reality is, there is no brave new world of new business models out there in the music business. Business is still business, whether you’re selling music or cars. The basic model is the same: make a product, have control of the distribution, and sell it to your customers. The only thing that changes between industries are the marketing and distribution _tactics_.

    The problem with our industry is that we’re losing control of the distribution with the proliferation of illegal p2p sites. For our industry to survive — for ANY industry to survive, for that matter — we must regain control of that distribution. Fortunately, we have the proper laws on the books to help us do that. What we don’t have is an efficient way to ENFORCE those laws.

    What you’ve described with the gimmicky albums (i.e., packaged theremins, vinyls with dots and strobes, etc.) is nothing more than an attempt by the artist to gain back control of distribution. You’re not describing a business model. You’re describing a business tactic: “If you want my gimmicky theremin, you have to buy the album, ’cause the theremin isn’t downloadable.”

    But, are we in the theremin selling business or the music selling business? Not everyone can do something gimmicky. Gimmicks are meant to help someone stand out, but if EVERYONE did something gimmicky, then gimmicks would no longer stand out. It’s a business _tactic_ that may work for some people in some situations, but is hardly a _model_ that everyone can use.

    So, instead of spending our time promoting the idea of free music with an attitude of “Hey, p2p stealing is here to stay, and there’s nothing that can be done about it…” Let’s try to figure out ways to stamp out illegal p2p sharing. Public education is one of the first things that needs to be done. But the type of arguments being spouted above are the very arguments that are confusing the buying public, and giving them the moral green light to steal our music.

    We should be very clear. There is a right way and a wrong way to download music. If you like downloaded music, fine. Go to a legal site, like iTunes, and purchase your downloads. Don’t go to an ILLEGAL site that will let you steal from an artist.

    Secondly, we need to step up enforcement. Do I feel bad for the people this year that have gotten slapped with huge judgements for their participation in illegal downloads? Yeah, sort of. But, I wish the RIAA would take a lot more people to court.


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  69. I personally love music very much, and love many singers, I know the music cost my money, but it worth. Music is free seems hard, all the way the singers make out the fancy music need a mount of money, so the income of money is necessary. I know the majority of artists just want to play their music to their fans, so music can not reach free, make the music cheaper than ever may be make sense.

  70. I think people will always ‘steal’ a little music and it depends why they’re doing. Record companies like to equate 3 million illegal downloads to 3 million lost sales, but this is clearly overstating their loses.

    A free download is cutting out the opportunity cost for the person- they can try a some songs by an artist for free. Sure you won’t be helping them by buying those tracks, but you might then (confident that you like the artist) go and buy their next album. And go to their next concert near you.

    In that sense one pirated download can let people discover music they wouldn’t otherwise try, and end up translating into money made for the record company and the artist.

    Not that this will happen for every track that’s downloaded, but the point is they were never going to buy that single anyway. To a certain extent it can give artists more exposure, and if people don’t like it, they won’t go on to buy a whole album. In that case no one loses.

    This is probably over optimistic and copyright is their for a reason, just a reminder that it is not all doom and gloom for the poor impoverished artist and the nearly bankrupt record company…

    I suppose the legal equivalent for people who want to try new artists is last.fm

  71. I’m a few years late on this chat, but it came up on Google search results…Anyway, this is always a tough topic. Will illegal downloading continue? most likely yes, always. Will CD burning continue, YES.

    At some cases, I feel like musicians (if they are really in it for the love of music) should be willing to distribute their music for free. Performances, yeah sure bring a cost. Sometimes, I see music (if we are thinking business) should be a service alone; A service for social events, ads, therapy, parties. Some further options for artists (and this will really see if they’ve got a true fanbase) to crowd fund their album sales and then reward their supporters with the album and whatever else on offer. Artists can give their music out for free and let the consumer decide whether or not he/she wants to contribute any money to the artist.

    Some arguments I have for music being free is that music is an expression and form of art. Can I/should I be feeling my expression? Music is a community thing. Should I be using downloads and purchases as a means for income. How was music used before all this money got involved? Because sure enough it was a part of peoples lives back in ancient times etc. Though this is more about copyright, why should I be copyrighting my work when I received influence from many other people (whether or not I agree to it or not), and nothing is new, nor is anything made mine because I didn’t actually make it e.g. I didn’t make the notes used to play a riff so how can I own this riff…thee is always a before, nothing is new, only recycled. George Benson is a great and humble example of a musician who openly states he got many of his ideas from his peers, role models and even students.

    Having said this, I do respect musicians (I myself am one) and I will/do pay for music out of respect. If an artist gives it freely I will freely receive it and sometimes offer a donation. I understand there are other ways to make money out of music (performance, tuition, ads/synconisation).

    It’s a forever heated topic this one.

  72. Hey wordaroundtownisthat.

    Being *willing* to give your music away for free is great. There are lots of times when that might be a great thing to do from a business standpoint. What *isn’t* great is when your music gets passed around for free by others when you don’t want it to. As always, the artist should be given a choice as to whether or not they give away their music or not. Illegal file sharing takes the choice away from the artist.

    As to notion that artists should give away their music because it’s “art,” it’s more complicated. IF you as an artist want to do music as a hobby, and you want to have a day job. By all means, knock yourself out, give away all your music for free. BUT, the trade-off is that by keeping a day job and doing music just part-time, you will be limited in your growth as an artist. It will be very difficult to achieve the highest quality levels. Why? Because of the time limits you have to keep. Where a professional musician might be able to put in 60 hours a week every week year after year on his/her music, you as an amateur part-time musician can probably only give your music 10 or 20 hours a week at the most.

    There’s something that happens to musicians when they take that step to go professional. All of a sudden, it’s sink or swim. You’re extremely motivated to become the best you can be, because if you don’t, you don’t eat and your bills don’t get paid. You put in countless hours of intense work. The combination of intense, concentrated work, and the countless hours you put in, unencumbered by a “day job” allows you to get really good in a short amount of time (assuming, of course, that you have the innate talent to begin with).

    The trade-off here, of course, is the lack of security. Your music is what has to pay the bills. If no one pays you for your music, then your career is short-lived, and you have to go back to being a part-time amateur.

    The world needs professional musicians with a high degree of skill. If we don’t have that, then the only music that will be around will be made by part-time amateurs, and the quality will suffer.

    You asked what people did anciently, before the advent of recordings, etc. Until the 1800s, musicians were employees of kings, and other royalty who were arts benefactors. Or they were employed by churches as church musicians. So, the world was able to have full-time musicians that developed their skill to the fullest. Mozart, Hayden, Bach, etc. didn’t have to have a 2nd job because they had wealthy patrons or were hired by the church who gave them a salary to produce their work.

    Unfortunately, the days of patrons are over. Musicians have to make it in a free-market society.

    Speaking of which, do you know how much it costs musicians to produce albums? Albums are quite expensive to produce. Is it really reasonable to ask musicians to pay thousands of dollars of their own money to record their music, and then ask them to give away their music for free just because it’s “art?” By that same argument, why pay for concerts? Shouldn’t musicians perform for free as well? It’s art, right?

  73. Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for the reply. Your points are very interesting. I’ve got much experience in music myself so I am aware of how much it costs to produce an album (especially if you’re renting out studio time) and I’ve performed paid gigs too.

    A stand out for me is the previous centuries where musicians were hired by kings and patrons, it was a service suited toward the client. Yes, the musicians made their own music but much was catered to a service for king or patron or whosoever. We can’t say how they felt about this, we we’re not there at that time ourselves. But we can see how such practices can be applied today, that is to use music as a service. As the king required musicians, so do weddings, government parties, community work, teaching/schooling, entertainment sectors, session work, ads, hospital treatment and therapy. All these are paid positions. Music is a art and because it so pleasurable we all want these pleasures and leave out the fact that people must work in order for the world to go round. Some people, not all but some, think music is a way of escaping such responsibilities (e.g. “I don’t want to work any job, I like the music, I can do this, make my own music, do what I want and people should support -$$$ – me” kinda thing). Too many people want to leave traditional pay (which I’m not completely against – it’s about getting a balance) and just do pleasure/leisure. Some lucky enough, some not. I think if people could see/use music as a way of giving/service then musicians would see many more opportunities when entering such a field.

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