I mentioned this on Facebook the other day. It’s kind of humorous, AND there’s a lesson here for all of us.

Here’s an email I got from one of my subscribers:

You send these emails, but I think you’re just looking to make some cash. How do I do the same? I offer to do recording, mixing, mastering for free but no takers. Any advice?

And here’s a summary of my response:

Wait…so you accuse me of “just looking to make some cash,” then you want to ask for my advice?

Nearly every one of my emails contains something helpful that will help you make better recordings, and that’s without spending a penny.

But yeah, I’m running a business and I’m proud of it. I provide value and people who appreciate that value pay me money for it. It’s pretty awesome.

Anyway…back to your question….when you say you do your work for free but have no takers, what does that mean exactly? Are you interacting with a lot of musicians on a regular basis, and no one needs to record? Or are you more or less waiting for them to find you?

I know it’s definitely hard to put yourself out there and do some self-promotion, but it’s part of the game if you want to get some clients.

Here’s where I would start — what does your portfolio look like? If you were to walk up to me and offer to record me for free, one of my first questions would be “Where can I hear some of your work?”

Do you have finished projects available (preferably on a website or something) that they can listen to?

Recording people or free is a great way to build up clients and get your name out there, but people won’t be all that excited about “free” if they don’t know how good the quality will be. And they won’t know how good the quality is unless you’ve got some finished music they can listen to.

For example, if I was to offer to paint someone a painting for free…they really wouldn’t care unless they knew I could paint. Since I don’t paint, the painting wouldn’t be something they want to share with their friends or hang on their wall, so even though it’s “free” it has no value to them.

Make sense?

Now if you DO have a big ol’ portfolio of stuff for them to listen to, then my next guess would be you need to work on building relationships with musicians, which can take time.

Hope that helps.

If you’re realizing that your portfolio is on the small side, I can help you build it up in just a matter of weeks. All you’ve got to do is join Mix With Us:


It’s not free, but it IS valuable.

P.S. When I mentioned this on Facebook the other day, Mix With Us member Phil H. responded with this:

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me in relationship to music that I am a big fan of homestudiocorner.com. I’ve purchased just about everything Joe offers… and have never felt that I did not get more than I paid for. Joe offers a service and a product, just like a lawyer, doctor, accountant or plumber. That service and product has value, no matter what the societal trend of the day may be. I wish I had the guts 15 years ago to step out like he has and market my talents instead of getting the standard degree from the standard college to get the standard job.

12 Responses to “Why “Free” Isn’t Necessarily Valuable”


    I don’t offer to do things free, but I do offer to record one song with no money upfront, and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to pay me. Instead of seeming like my talents are insufficient to charge for, I seem like I am confident in my abilities. This gives the musician a guarantee, which goes along way.

  2. Dave

    If anything, Joe’s emails have caused me to spend less. I thought I needed heaps more stuff to get pro sound but he’s inspired me to play and work out my own way.

    I have a good mic, a good interface, a good set of headphones, an average computer, an old stereo amp and average speakers and a really ugly set of velvet curtains. But I have some skills and I’m doing ok.

    Doesn’t sound like Joe’s ‘looking to make some cash’ to me. it’s quite the opposite, he’s helping me make money. What a good guy.

    I’ll buy some of his products eventually, but not until my wife lets me.

  3. Xan

    Yeah I agree Joe…!

    And there’s another point here too. Millions ov bands offer *free* mp3’s for download now. The trouble is, most ov it is CRAP.

    And it’s not really free is it? It costs you bandwidth and time to both download & listen to it. And ya just know that most ov the time it aint worth it. 😉

  4. Al

    I’ve been a fan of Joe and HSC for about two years now.
    I think Joe, you are a multi talented guy, and not only you are a good teacher, but you also know how to advertise well.
    IMHO every product you sell is an excellent bargain.
    Not everyone can do all these by himself.
    To me, you are a true inspiration, and I thank you for that.

    PS – Not everyone is a shark in poker, eh?

    • Al

      PS PS – I’ve bought some of your products before, and they helped me ALOT to get better.
      I already have kicked many people’s arses with my Original MBOX and PT7; People who have their recoding engineering degrees and all that.
      So, I think that’s a proof that your products(and free stuffs) are highly valuable.

  5. Andrew

    People don’t value work that’s considered “FREE.”
    It cheapens the product you’re offering and shows that you don’t value it either (It’s a desperate attempt to buy the customers loyalty).

    Think of all the silly coupons you see out there “Buy one get one FREE.” Old sales pitch

    On the other hand, offering FREE innovatively has it uses.

  6. Roger

    I also believe that people don’t value (at least as much) what they get for free.
    There’s a big difference between a song and a engineering job:
    -You CAN download a song (even if it is illegal), but you CAN’T download sound engineering skills (it doesn’t matter if you read every single book on the subject if you can’t get a great sound in the end)!

    If you invest a lot of time (and many times money) in getting better at what you do, you will earn money with it.

    If you’re going to track a band and you don’t bring any aditional value to the final recording, you can work for free and still be expensive for the guys that are paying you only in beer.

    I have a feeling that most of us here (me included) would love to be able to live doing what Joe honestly does for a living, and I’m sure that it still envolves A LOT of work! 😉


  7. Michael

    A friend once said to me “People don’t value what they get for free.” I realized this was true.

    Now, I do agree that to get started with recording and mixing others’ music you do some free jobs, or for very little pay (pizza and beer!). Get a few of those under-your-belt then start charging…your talent and skill is worth financial compensation.

  8. Bob Sorace

    Earning money and making a good living seems to be the new dirty words these days, and stealing and pirating is the new norm and it’s getting out of hand. Why do people all of a sudden begrudge someones success? I just don’t get it, and I’m getting tired of having these debates with people that feel entitled to the fruits of someones labor for free, but would scream the loudest if someone was taking food of their table.

  9. Eric Jean

    I’m proud of Joe for promoting his products at the bottom of each post! Before he started doing this, I thought he wasn’t promoting his products enough. Joe offers a great product! Rather than asking, “Why does he charge for products?” my question was “Why does he offer so much for free?” Those of you who don’t run a recording business don’t know that providing content is a lot of work. So Joe, does offering free content help you sell more products?

  10. Sad Panda

    I think a subset of people get turned off or think you’re “just out to make money” because you put a link at the bottom of every post/email to something you’re selling. You’re never not in salesman mode. I don’t have an issue with it, as I keep on reading and I have gotten more than I have paid for with your products that I have bought.

    To those people who are turned off, I say: unsubscribe and quit reading HSC if it bugs you that much. Graham @ Recording Revolution, for example, gives away a ton of stuff. 2 x 31 = 62 days to a better mix. And then he’s also got his own products which are also super-valuable. I’ve bought from both of these guys and I’m a better recording “engineer” (really using the term loosely there) and a better mixer because of it.

    Just don’t knock a guy for trying to run a business.

  11. Andi

    Ha. I’m in a similar position to the original poster; I recently started the process of turning a hobby into a business(perhaps) and it’s a long and uphill path – we all know this. I agree that Joe is selling – that’s what business is. He has posted a number of times on the subject of free work to build portfolio and like good salespeople everywhere he practices what he preaches; here’s something for nothing and if you find it useful and want more…… Joe’s advice got me my first ever client – no cash but a job that I have permission to post on my website. Score 1 and I’m a small step closer. I haven’t subscribed to any of Joe’s services because I don’t have the cash in the business pot right now, and until the kids stop growing and the car stops drinking fuel that’s how it is (until Aerosmith gets fed-up with Jack Douglas and gives me a call that is 🙂 ). I welcome the newsletters and I learn something or am reminded of something from most of them. The ones I get have an unsubscribe link at the bottom too – which is a not-too-sneaky way of not having to get them if you find the 2 or 3 lines of selling at the bottom spoils your day.



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