Today I finished up the last mix for my upcoming album. As I start the process of mastering, artwork, duplication, etc., the obvious question arises:

Should I give my music away?

Last month I wrote an article about pirating plugins which spawned a healthy debate. (As I write this, there are 147 comments on that one post.)

That post hit a nerve with a lot of you. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, I think we will all agree that the advent of digital products has changed things forever.

We can argue the point that you wouldn’t steal a lawnmower, so why would you steal a piece of software? … and I’ve made that argument plenty of times … but there’s still a disconnect. To go from 1 lawnmower to 1,000 would require many hours and dollars. To go from 1 digital item to 1,000 would require very little time or money. Just copy and paste, right?

The Digital Age

We’ve seen this affect the sale of music. People are able to easily access and reproduce music without spending a dime. Is it wrong to take a musician’s work and “steal” it without paying them for their efforts?

That’s been the focus of anyone and everyone in the music industry for years. They shut down Napster, the FBI got involved, but file-sharing has only grown with the advancing technology. The more it grows, the more people seem to focus on it.

Here’s what I think — We’re focusing on the WRONG THING.

I’ve heard politicians talk about wanting to bail out the big newspapers and magazines, making sure they never go out of business. But people are changing the way that they want to consume information. I can get news on my iPhone for free. Why would I pay for a magazine that isn’t nearly as comprehensive?

Technology is Not the Enemy

The problem here is that a lot of people are trying to ignore new and emerging technology. They want to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Remember Johannes Gutenberg? He invented the printing press. Was that a bad thing? Not at all! It changed the face of literature forever. Authors could reproduce their work much more easily. Churchgoers could have copies of the Bible, rather than just hearing it read aloud on Sundays. The list goes on and on.

But what about those scribes who made their living manually copying books by hand? They probably hated Gutenberg. “That dummy just made us obsolete,” they said.

We would all agree that the printing press was a good thing for humanity, although it wasn’t ideal for people who made their living from copying books by hand.

Embrace the Changes

Rather than fight against changes in technology, we need to embrace them. Had the local “scribe union” of the 15th century boycotted the printing press, demanding that people pay them to copy their books (at a much slower pace and with many more errors), they would have eventually starved.

The old model of the music industry is just that…old. When radio came along, did it kill music? Nope. When the internet came along, did it kill music? Again, nope. But it did change the way music is sold and distributed, and we as musicians/engineers/producers need to change as well.

We need to figure out ways to add value to our music. We need to entertain the idea of giving our music away for free. As Derek Webb, singer/songwriter and co-founder of NoiseTrade.com said:

“A great record is its own best marketing tool.”

The record, the album, has shifted from being the product to being the marketing tool. The product itself is now YOU, the artist.

For those of you who are songwriter/musicians like me, this is important stuff to think about.

For those of you who are recording engineers, this affects you, too. As engineers, we need to know what the goals of our clients are. They may not be expecting to sell their album using the traditional methods, and if you can develop marketing skills to help them market themselves using the album you’ve just created, you’re creating opportunities that a typical engineer wouldn’t have access to.

So, what am I going to do?

I haven’t decided yet, but I’m toying around with the idea of both giving the music away and also selling it…giving people the choice. I’m also thinking about coming up with extra bonus material to sell along with the album, like behind-the-scenes videos on how the album was made or a recording of the live CD-release concert.

Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know once I decide. 🙂

Until then, if you’re looking for ideas/inspiration, check out this video on making money with music in a digital world. I didn’t create the video, I simply found it and thought it was very thought-provoking. Check it out AFTER you leave a comment and let us know what you think.

I’ll need 15 comments on this post at LEAST. Let’s get the conversation started.

[Photo by MarcinMoga / Lolek]

  • Caitlyn

    I really enjoyed your article. I was wondering your opinion on something that is a bit unrelated. In the beginning stages there can be no doubt that artists struggle to get their music heard. What would you say to someone that suggested they pay a third party to play their songs? I’ll give you an example of the situation: let’s say I made easy cooking tutorial videos that happened to have a decent amount of subscribers, would an up incoming artists ever willingingly pay to have their music play in the background of those videos? Is that a concept so out of the norm or is it acceptable to pay someone to play your music on the premise of publicity and promotion. This is just out of curiosity! Thanks!

    • Interesting question. I think the historic way this has worked is TV/video producers have paid musicians to use their songs. That’s still a big industry, where musicians can make as much as $5,000 or more if they get their song placed in a big TV show.
      So I think most musicians are going to come at it from that angle and not see a ton of value in paying to have their song played.
      Secondly, as a musician, even if your cooking tutorials had 1 million subscribers, I’d still be hesitant to pay to have you play my songs, because I personally have never heard a song in a video and gone and looked up who the musician was.
      That said, if you agreed to play my music on several of your episodes, and THEN agreed to do a one-off video where you told people “Hey, the music you’ve been hearing lately on my videos was created by Joe Gilder, and he wants to give his latest album for free, click the link to get access to it.” …. now THAT would be more valuable to me, because it’s a specific call to action that a percentage of your subscribers would latch onto, and it’s real, measurable value for me, something that I would possibly pay for.
      But no, I don’t see a ton of value in simply having my music be your background music without something else added on to it.

      • Caitlyn

        Thanks for your reply Joe. I didn’t realize your article was posted a while ago so I appreciate your response. What you said makes sense as well. I guess not much can be gained by having music being played in the background of videos.

  • The Thons

    This is really like any other business decision: how much demand is there for your music? None? Then you should do a pay what you want model and play as many shows as humanly possible to get more demand.

    Do you have a lot of demand like Metallica? Then you’re not going to want people downloading your music for free because even 1% of their downloads is going to hurt your profits.

    I do think digital music has been largely devalued. Vinyl sales have been steady and cassettes are making a comeback. So investing in physical music, even though MOST people don’t buy it, can still bring profits.

    But really…you shouldn’t even care about profits for a couple years out. Most businesses don’t profit until after three years in business. Shits tough. Write good songs. Play good shows with good bands on good bills. People will notice. Then worry about making money.

  • Leaving it all

    OK. The product is YOU. To what end if you are a studio based musician only? How do you then get paid enough to be able to simply exist? Forget the like of Deadmau5 getting 400k a gig, it’s not the norm. Where once mid ranking artists could DJ at a club night for maybe 300 or so (netting a bit), all those nights have gone and it’s now play for free or pay to play (or worse you have to promote the event for them and get x amount of bodies through the door). Oh, you have to become all these other things now too: writer, producer, programmer, arranger, mix engineer, mastering engineer (plus the required facilities to do so), live performer (how, when? time? budget??), manager, business manager, tour manager, graphic artist, promoter, SEO expert, website designer, social networking genius etc etc etc. All on no budget, no time. Get others to do it you say? OK, what do they live on? How do you pay them? The quality of end product even from DIY operations IS rising all the time, a professional standard of product is required (which takes more TIME and MONEY: here speaks the experience of someone who’s been in the industry 20 years and isn’t making ‘music’ from presets and sample packs), even if the end product, the mp3 has become seriously degraded, the quality of masters has gone up a lot over the last decade (loudness wars be damned). Then you have the like of Google saying music should be free (well it suits them), and that advertising (give me a break!) will pay for it all. My advice? Forget music, seriously forget it unless it’s just something you want to do as an occasional hobby in your back bedroom. Don’t put in the years and thousands of hours it takes to get any good, and the thousands it will take to build a decent recording facility etc because there is NO payback for nearly all. ‘Do it for love’. OK, do it for love but remember in all of it you’re just oiling someone else’s machine.

    • You’re making good points. A lot of it comes down to your own personality and biases.
      I don’t look at the world as a zero sum game. (Meaning if I win, someone else has to lose.)
      I personally am not interested in making a living from my music. I know from close friends that it’s hard to do so, so I’m not saying it’s easy by any means.
      But I do see a trend in the world. Some people complain about their lot in life. Others do something about it.
      And it’s usually the ones who do something about it who end up getting what the complainers want.
      For example, I get a fair amount of complaints from people because I actually charge money for tutorial videos and memberships, etc. They claim it should be free, that no one would ever pay for them, that people can find all the information I teach for free on the internet, etc. On the one hand, I see their point. Some people will never buy a tutorial video. On the other hand, I see reality. The reality is that I’ve built a successful business that supports me and my family. How? By selling those tutorial videos that apparently “no one” would buy.
      I could have complained about the “system” and never made a dime. Instead I found a way to make it work. I found a way to create value that people will (and do) pay for.
      It was hard work, and it took a long time. And it was risky and uncertain. I had no guarantees. But it worked. I made it happen.
      So that’s what I would say to musicians. There ARE musicians out there who are living off their music. Therefore, it’s possible. Easy? No. Guaranteed if you want it really bad? No. But possible.

  • musicarmichael

    interesting post! If your interested I wrote my own post about this topic. thanks again for sharing and giving us an insight into your thoughts! http://musicarmichael.com/should-you-give-away-music-for-free

  • Pingback: Should I Give My Music Away? « Captive Records()

  • roger

    Dear “TakeAwayTracks.com”,

    I’m also very happy to discuss this with you and all other people, because I believe that I always learn something new in any healthy discussion. 

    Let me make it clear that I don’t believe that music should be free!
    15 years ago, I would go to a CD shop and be lost with all those CD’s on the shelf. I would like to take them all home (or almost), but I only had these 60-70€ / month left for music, and I had to made careful choices.
    Then a few friends of mine would do the same thing, and we would lend each other these new (or old) albums, so we can share music between us (it could be on cassette, minidisc, or whatever).
    In this process, and while we were at the CD Shop, the guy from the store could help us find similar artists to the one’s that we loved the most, and give advices while letting us listen to a few seconds of every track on the album.
    So, we didn’t have the same amount of options as today, but it only got us more focused to the music that we bought.

    So, if free or illegal downloads would stop today, I would gladly go back to the old business model. I can see the advantage in paying for music, because I know the huge value that great music has (in terms of what it does to our minds).

    As I have a regular job to pay the rent, I can’t turn myself into writing music as much as I would love to do. I’ll start working around a tune at the end of a working day, and when I’m really into it, I look at the clock, it’s like 3 AM and I have to get up a few hours later.
    I end up not having the time or the mood for writing as much as I’d love to do.
    The solution would be to live with the income from my music, and that goes against the “free” mentality.
    Writing a song tired from a day of work with a stopwatch on the table is the wrong way of trying to do amazing things.

    The big challenge is to figure out the best way of surviving (from a musical standpoint) in the current business model.
    Yes, it’s true that anyone can create an account on myspace/revebnation/tunecore and put its music there.
    But as a music listener, how do I find out this new band/artist that has amazing music, if it’s “buried” under several thousand bands that I make music that isn’t that great (or even mediocre)?
    I really don’t know the answer to this.
    But I’m still looking for it…

    🙂

    Cheers

    • Most of great musicians have a day job: and also musicians that live only by music have a day job, because I honestly know very few musicians that can live just by playing concerts or selling CDs.

      Most of them have to teach all the week in some school, run a recording home/project/pro studio, recording music for other people or write about music (I work for a guitar magazine and I run a recording webzine).

      For me what really matters is the way you play your instruments, the way you arrange and record your music and the way you play it live.
      Of course, if a guy just play his instruments once in a month… I would call it an hobby. But I work with tons of great musicians that during the day are store keaper, lawyer, assistant shop, doctor, telephone laborer… and the night kick asses with their instruments!

      Wes Montgomery, probably the most respected hard bop jazz guitar player “To support his family of eight, worked in a factory from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, then performed in local clubs from 9:00 pm to 2:00 am” (wikipedia).

      I know a lot of “karaoke professional singer” (oh my god… is it possible? “professional” and “karaoke” in the same phrase!) that lives just by gigs (ceremony, marriage, dance bar), but I would prefer to work in a supermarket then “acting” to play a keyboard and singing for 3 hours “Macarena” and MIDI salsa/bachata/polka/dance tunes! 🙂

      A lot of respect for all real musicians, with a day job or not! 🙂

      Ciao,
      Simo

      • The Thons

        Agree agree and agree. If you want to make money quickly in music be in a karaoke cover band. I was in one and we’d make $400 on a night and PACK the place. It’s grueling and unrewarding if you’re someone with originals you wanna play. But it can pull in serious cash in big cities with drunks (like Chicago).

        I read something somewhere that Mike Watt (The Minutemen) was an attorney and they toured only once or twice a year but played locally a lot. The guys in Naked Raygun all had jobs and still played a lot and were successful. If you make good music people will notice.

        All of our band members have 9-5 jobs and practice / release stuff / play shows regularly. In 2014 (unless you’ve got a trust fund) I don’t know how you could get by as a musician without a career / job of some sort…

  • Seeing the comments denigrating those who expect to make money from music, I felt a response was warranted.

    I know people who’ve worked for free as an intern, or for non-profit organizations. They dedicated themselves and worked for a purpose. They were giving their time for free, maybe they get lunch. Eventually, some of these people who developed real usable skills, or who made spaces dor themselves were given paid positions in these organizations, doing what they loved doing. Maybe they weren’t paid great fortunes, but they made enough to support themselves.

    Music is the same thing. If you do it with a (realistic) purpose in mind, you can build on your successes. Develop your craft, improve on it, make sure you enjoy the hell out of it, and keep your eyes open for opportunity.

    This leads back to what I said yesterday about only giving away your music with a concrete plan. If you give it away for free with no plan, it’s a waste. If you give it away packaged with promotional materials (nice cover art, a copy of your current website, promotional materials, etc.) you give people a way to connect with you outside of just your music (which likely will be a hit-or-miss endeavor). Know your audience too, and try to target them as much as possible. For instance, you wouldn’t play an album full of explicit lyrics and subject matter to a kindergarten, would you? Figure out who your easiest audience will be and target them to start. There will be plenty of time to get converts from other genres once enough people know of you.

    • The Thons

      Yep – another thing about giving your music away for free is people use apps like Bandsintown or apps that scan a music collection + recommends stuff. This is a great way to get your music to people and have them get notified about your next show without you doing much of anything.

      I can tell you from personal experience very very very few people want to give you an email in exchange for music. Make it easy and a no-brainer for them to get your stuff.

  • roger

    takeawaytracks.com,

    The way I see it, if someone steals my car or my wallet, I don’t have them anymore. None of this applies to music or movies (I only talk about movies because this car/wallet was widely publicized in every DVD that I bought or legally rented, meaning that I paid to watch anti-piracy advertisements that I can’t even skip…).

    The Top40 Chart that you mention is still the top40, with all that comes with it: you can hear it all day long on the radio for free, you can hear/see it on youtube until you can hear it no more, and you can hear it in a lot more legal and free ways.
    Are you talking about mp3? Forget about it: I can hear/see that same music on the move with a iPhone from youtube and a 3G connection, or in other words, I’m listening in mp4 – for free and legal.

    The world has changed. I have hundreds of vinyl records, CD’s, cassettes, minidiscs (VHS were the first ones to ‘dive’ into the trash can).
    When Muse released the “Uprising” CD, I bought it even though I had the whole album on my iPod in mp3 (that I didn’t bought).
    Why did I buy it?
    Because I felt that the album was worth the money AND they released a bonus DVD with some footage of the recordings.

    You can’t expect people to pay for something that they can have for free in a legal way.
    The “Dark Side of the Moon” was made 38 years ago (man, I’m old), and you can’t compare things with a 4 decade distance and apply the same concepts.
    Provided one has the required talent, today is possible to do another Dark Side of the Moon without robbing a bank to buy ultra high-end equipment so you can have a basic sequencer, being able to use tape loops, having that “huge” amount of audio tracks (for that time), etc.

    There are always 2 sides in every coin, and if it’s great to have such thing as a computer that you can use to browse HomeStudioCorner.com and make your own recordings…
    I could complain about the money that I have spent on audio recording and instruments, but it wouldn’t make any sense, as I always get lots of fun while playing with them.

    If I was seriously into making money out of music, I would need another perspective, but we must keep in mind that it was always very hard to make money with music.
    It was very easy to make loads of money for the ones that got discovered by the big ‘industry’, but those were always a very small and almost insignificant percentage of music performers overtime.
    Do you actually believe that an artist of the Top40 of 2011 isn’t making a lot of money?
    I don’t!

    • I’ll agree with you that it’s very difficult to make money with music. It’s difficult to make money in any artistic endeavor.

    • Roger,
      if a lot of people take the bus without ticket, the owner of the bus company still has the bus… but probably he’ll change work.

      This moment is probably one of the most difficult for everyone, and art is one of the last thing people thinks about.
      Musicians and band are often too expensive for a club: they buy a karaoke and have people that pay to sing…

      I know personally (and often work as guitar player with some of them) a lot of Top 40 italian musician and most of them are not rich, believe me!

      This is a great moment for people that does music as hobby: with a cheap rig you have super cool results (if you are able do record and mix great songs).
      But for people that lives by playing, gigging, recording, arranging… it’s very hard.

      Music is passion, but if you live by that… it’s your job (and you do it with passion, sacrifice and dedication!): when someone take your work and don’t want to pay… it’s difficult to think that you are not stealing something!

      • roger

        TakeAwayTracks.com,

        When I wrote “Top40” I was meaning the “U.S. Top 40”. Here in Portugal most artists in the Top 10 aren’t rich (by any means). Some of them did receive a very substantial payment for having their music played on the soap opera of a main tv channel (or even using the title of the song as a title for that soap opera), but that’s not the most typical scenario.

        We also have the same problem regarding bars and bands vs karaoke.

        But I believe that the problem may be a little deeper than this whole download / free thing.
        Even if I forget the fact that I really love music since I can remember, I have a distinct ‘picture’ in my head that when I was a teenager (early 80’s to early 90’s), most of my friends would have music as an important part of their life.

        Computers were things like the zx spectrum, and we would spend our free time playing football, riding a bicycle, and… …listening to music!
        We didn’t had internet, (real) computers or gaming consoles, cell phones, +100 TV channels, etc.
        Music, stereo / hi-fi systems or even the walkman were huge pieces of equipment and fun.
        I still love music, I still love hi-fi systems, I still love the iPod, I still love my synths/piano/electric bass, and I love how I can do decent recordings with the same amount of money that a 4 track cassette multitrack recorder from Fostex would cost… and do a lot more, and a lot better (to a level that I never thought it would be possible to do in my spare room).

        But this only means that I’m not the average person as music is concerned. I still listen to music, and I mean “listen”, with my eyes closed, as I don’t need anything else to distract me from this pleasure.
        The average person may have the music playing while is surfing the web and watching some videos that steal any attention left to the music. Others will listen to music in their cars, while driving and listening the guy on the radio talking about the economical situation and trying to tell some jokes in the middle.

        In this modern world, we usually have more things to grab our attention than time to enjoy most of them. Music is fighting on iTunes with apps for the iPhone/iPad (in terms of something that is an alternative for that money that you’re going to spend on purchases.
        As a matter of fact, music is fighting with many things that it never had to fight before.
        I still prefer music over any of those things, and I’m sure that most of us here feel the same.

        But we aren’t the average music listener, are we? 😉

        Cheers

        • Dear Roger,
          you got it! 🙂

          I’m sure we share the same great passion and I’m more then happy to be able to record, mix and produce music at home!

          I started to record with a Yamaha MT120 4 tracks cassette and it’s unbelievable what we can do now with the same money!

          For sure we are not the listener who just put on the radio and listen passively: we love to catch every nuance of the music we listen to!!

          But, of course, the average listener just put the radio and do other things…

          …and does not understand the differences between .wav files or 128 mp3! 🙂

          One day I asked to a guy: “Which kind of music do you like?” and he responded “Happy music… the one that plays the radio”.

          How can he have the same attention we put in listening? 🙂

          By the way, stealing or not, I think we have more things in common that things that can divide us! 🙂

          Happy to discuss with you, it’s always nice to exchange points of view!

          All the best!
          Simo 🙂

  • The reason I make/play/record music is because I can’t imagine not doing it, it’s so long been a part of my life. I’ve invested and borrowed time, money and equipment to this end and what I hope to achieve is the ability to make a living doing this thing that I love. That said, I think one problem that is prevalent in the music industry is the lack of understanding so many musicians have regarding the value of what they are creating. You see this in the contracts artists sign, the way they allow themselves to be taken advantage of in the race to “fame,” and the unrealistic expectations people at large have about what it takes to be a good musician.

    Many think that all it takes to make a good song is to pick up an instrument and get to it, and truly it can appear that way to many. What your standard audience member doesn’t see is the hours of blood, sweat, and tears that can go into the creation of a single song. Add to that the way many untrained musicians undervalue themselves and you come to a situation where the art form at large is considered valueless.

    Where I sit regarding giving away music for free is that it should only be done in conjunction with a larger concrete plan. If it must be done, do it for a reason, whether that spreading a message to support a cause, sell a product, or to draw traffic or attention to your project. Don’t just give it away because you “want to get fans.”. It cheapens us all and in the end, if the music is nothing special, it muddies the waters for those of us really trying to accomplish something.

    Nothing in life is truly free, so make sure your “free music” is paying you in some real way and not just so you can say you’re a “real artist.” There are plenty of real artists out there that don’t get a fair shake because some fool down the road pissed everybody off by flooding the market with free tripe.

    • Free with a concrete plan. LOVE it.

      • roger

        I believe this might be the answer.
        A part of me truly believes that you give more value to something that you pay for.
        15 years ago, when I paid something like 15€ (or more) for a new CD, I had to “force myself” into trying to understand that music. There was many times where I was left with the regret of buying something that I just didn’t like at all, and that was the worst part of the old business.
        You couldn’t try it before you buy it, you couldn’t return it either, and it was expensive (at least here in my country when compared to the average income).

        I don’t think that a “100% free” is the solution at all, but times have changed and you can’t get out of ‘nowhere’ with a product and start selling it.
        People need to know about it and need to understand and perceive its value.

        If you have loads of cash, you can do massive advertising and try to get attention.
        But if you have loads of cash, making money with your music wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

    • 100% agree!

  • roger

    Just a few thoughts…

    I don’t see any kind of “steal” when someone downloads a song for free to listen in his house/car/mp3.
    I do see it if someone downloads that same song and then sells it or makes profit with it without the artist’s permission.
    If you have a nacional TV show and it uses your song, they are making a lot of money with the show, and it doesn’t make any sense that the artist doesn’t get paid.
    But when we talk about private use, I have to remember those ‘old’ cassette days where you would record the song from the radio or the video with the VCR.
    Besides the loss in quality, I can’t see any difference.

    I can’t say if the current situation is better for the final consumer/listener, as we have more music offer than ever, but at the same time it’s very hard to find something new in the middle of so many new bands and indie labels.

    I honestly believe that there are a lot of downsides to this new way of doing things, although this technology as also allowed a lot of great things, such as making very decent recordings in a home-studio environment, but most bands would be happy if they would have lots of people making unauthorized downloads of their songs – it would mean that someone was actually paying attention their music!

    • Roger,

      “any kind os steal” is at least… hilarious!

      Top 40 charts comes from people that listen music in their house/car/mp3, not from people that resell downloaded music!
      If this people don’t buy music, artists can stop playing and go to work at the post office!

      If you live by playing, composing, recording and selling your music… and someone download your work for free… it is the same situation as you worked for someone and at the end of the month he say: “Hey man… I cannot pay you, sorry”.

      I understand that today if people can have something for free… they get it for free without thinking, but if you find that most of music is not decent, try to think from artists’ point of view: who can spend now all the attention, the time and the money to compose, arrange and record another “Dark Side Of The Moon”, knowing that people will download it for free?

      If an artist like to share his music for free it’s ok, but this must be his choice: sometimes some band give a song for free and that’s cool, 20 years ago it won’t happen!

      If a band sell his music, it’s not their choice to give you for free, so you are stealing something: you are using free a product that is not free.
      It’s the same if you take the bus or the train without the ticket. Of course you can do that, but if everyone does it, the bus company will close.

      It’s ethic.

      Most of the band have also a streaming preview (myspace, reverb nation…) or a video on YouTube: you can listen for free their songs!

      But if you like to have their song in your computer or in your iPod, it’s fair to give them 0,99 cents! Come on! You spend it for a coffee, you can spend it to have that song legally and to help the artist you like to continue making music!

      This is one of my band (I play in several projects):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNBHcV9nfTc

      People can see the video and listen the song for free and, if they like, they can buy it on iTunes or Amazon, knowing exactly what they are paying for. If they did not like, they have spent nothing!
      20 years ago it was not the same, you did not know what you was buying!
      Even today, if you go to the cinema, you pay first and you don’t know if you’ll like the movie!

      Just think to this before downloading music!

      Ciao,
      S.

  • Steve

    On top of it, we now have bands on Kickstarter asking for money or on Facebook begging for money from their fans because their truck or van broke down and they need a new transmission. And fans complain about merchandise costs. I have challenged musicians to show me their year end spreadsheet of DETAILED costs in and DETAILED costs out and not one band can provide that, even most managers have bad spreadsheets. You ask a musicians how much did you spend on gas last year, most don’t know. You ask them how many meals were paid for and food costs and they don’t know and then they respond but we made money last year – all our live shows made money…..oh really I say, show me your year end spread sheet of all costs in and out and they can’t do it. I’ll say it again, musicians have dug a huge hole with this FREE stuff and all those people that stated this is the new business model are few and far between. We have created a monster because of this. And now we have all these young people wanting it all for FREE, free this, I should not have to pay, that tee shirt at your concerts is to much, I have to pay a cover to see you guys…$10 is to much, and it goes on and on and on and all because of the FREE business model. And then the hell with copyright. Now we have a complete mess. Musicians should have stood up and banded together. We have a product, we sell it, we are a business

    • Again, I don’t see the actual CD as the only product. To look at it that way is short-sighted. The truth is that with the internet, people get LOTS of stuff for free. It’s not a music-specific thing. I can do social media marketing for free, with a bunch of free accounts. I can watch videos all over the internet for free. I can research ANYTHING for free on the internet. Does that mean I demand people give their stuff away for free? Heck no.

      If someone proves to me that they are valuable, then I’ll pay them for their service, whether it’s music, a new book, or a training program.

      I think the problem is that the people who aren’t making money want to blame anyone but themselves. If my business here on HSC fails, it’s not because everyone is demanding too much free stuff, it’s because I haven’t provided enough value for them to feel good about spending money with me. Plain and simple.

  • Steve

    This is old school. Musicians are losing money faster then ever, why? They gave away their product and people expect FREE now, not just music but they complain about Tee shirt costs at concerts. The worse thing you can do now in this economy is give it away for FREE. Travel, gas, time… live performance attendance for indie artist is decreasing, down almost 25%. You make a product, you sell it, business 101. Most indie musicians are losing faster than ever because they sold themselves out and gave it away and this created a FAN mindset of FREE this, FREE that, I WANT FREE. The whole concept no longer works and it backfired. You make a product, you sell it but what’s happened, the fan mindset of FREE, FREE, FREE. Musicians dug their own hole, they did this to themselves. Most musicians have really poor business skills to begin with so now what do we have….a 25% decrease in live show attendance, people copying music, getting it for FREE, and more and more poor musicians running around. That whole business model for most musicians is a failure but they created a train wreck and now they are seeing the results

    • Great points, Steve. I agree that musicians should be more business-minded…but how can you be so sure that “musicians are losing money faster than ever” BECAUSE they give their music away?

      Take my website here at HSC for example. I’ve given away a TON of free information, over 500 articles, including over 100 free videos, not to mention all the webinars, etc. that I do. The result? People get a taste for how I teach things, and if they like it, they buy one of my more in-depth tutorial products. I can 100% guarantee to you that my business would not exist if it was not built on the concept of giving away a lot of FREE content. Nobody would trust me if I didn’t help them FIRST.

      It’s just a thought. One response might be, “Well the only product musicians have is their music.” I say they should get more creative. Give away SOME of your music at least. Make your albums more than just 11 mp3’s and some cover art. Make it unique.

      • Agreed with Joe. I riffed on this a while back on my blog as well: http://www.gethatched.ca/2011/08/10/what-music-industry-crisis/ in response to a non-profit organization based in Nashville trying to re-establish the old-ways of the industry and convince consumers of the “value of music”.

        A musician or artist who thinks of their music as THE product that is being stolen by pirates or free give-aways as being “lost revenue” is surely going to fail.

        The old distribution models are irrelevant and the controls put in place on IP combined with the vast number of artists vying for attention REQUIRE an artist to rethink their value proposition.

        That proposition needs to be NOT product/unit centric (i.e. tracks and albums) but rather customer-service centric. An artist needs to focus on building and maintaining a group of deep and commited relationships with his or her fans rather than trying a disassociated shot-gun approach to marketing to the masses.

        The relationship between artist and fan needs to be a genuine two-way street that involves a lot more give and take than in the old days…

        • Right on, Dave.

          Obviously I agree that NONE of these methods are necessarily easy, but it never was. 30 years ago it was REALLY hard to make it, because some A&R rep at a major label had to “discover” you.

          Now we can make great-sounding music at home, so that parts easier, but being heard in a see of a million other musicians is difficult.

          Things have changed. Imagine if Apple insisted that handheld mp3 players and cell phones were a waste of their time…that they should focus solely on desktop computers…I’m glad they changed with the times. 🙂

  • MantisBot

    Whether artists decide to give away their music or not should primarily be decided by their goals:

    Do they perform live or not?
    Do they have another source of income or not?
    Do they want to give away their music or not?

    My thinking is based around having an outside income and (currently) not a whole lot of time for live gigging. I’m currently working on putting together an hour or two of my own music or the purpose of putting on a live show of epic proportions. To entice people to come, I plan on printing off a limited number of CDs that offer what a digital download can’t offer with the idea of handing them out with paid entrance to the show.

    Yeah, I’m working on what that special something will be. Maybe it’ll be a musi video, maybe it’ll be some high quality footage. Maybe it’ll be original artwork by a local artist. I don’t know yet.

    After the show, I’ll put my music up online to download for free via torrents, but only mp3 player quality. If someone would like to enjoy it via FLACC or other such high quality recording formats I will put those tracks up for sale online for probably $1 as minimum. I’m aware someone will probably buy them and then torrent the high quality versions, but hopefully people will feel my album is at least worth $1.

    However, I’m not really going to sweat it one way or the other. My real goal will be to introduce myself to the listeners. I hope to offer them more than just the music. I hope to show them the entire scene I live and work in. I will introduce them to other musicians and artists I know who they may otherwise miss. Through these introductions the plan is to draw them out and hopefully get them to come to shows or request their local venues to have me or the people I know come out and play.

    Basically, I hope to use my music to get people interested in the things and people around me, be it my wife’s handba business, bands that I’m friends with, good venues in my neighborhood, local artist’s shows, etc.

    First, I’ve gotta make some killer tunes though:p. No one will give a hoot if they can’t stand what I’ve made!

    • Great points. What I find interesting is that there are lots of cases where the musician made MORE money when they gave away their music. THAT’s the fascinating part to me.

  • I get where you’re coming from, but I have heard statistical evidence that

    a. artists who give away music also make more sales
    b. consumers who download free music also spend more money on music than people who don’t download free music.

    Your concept makes sense, but I’ve seen proof to the contrary.