by Walter Price
The article the fine folks over at RAZR published a list last September that has a mini-resurgence of sorts lately. At least a few small delayed but timely debates have been born in the shadows of its perceived obstinate silliness and rehash.
The article lists 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Music Out For Free written by the always interesting in any article, ‘Administrator’. This is a polarizing subject no matter whose bringing it up, a digital debate that started back with Napster and artists’ rights, copyrights, choice and ultimately the business of it all. How many artists forget about the business part of their craft.
This subject really does boil down to personal choice and experience in the business. What works for each individual artist. And opinions on the matter are vast and varied.
Faz La Rocca (Faz Waltz) told me, “Free music is good if it’s limited to a pair of songs as a preview of a band album for example, so that the listener can have an idea of the sound, but for this there’s already Spotify… free download is not that great for the bands, but what we can do to stop this trend by now?”
It is true the cat is out of the bag as Marc Griffiths (Screamin’ Miss Jackson & The Slap Ya Mama Big Band) lamented, “Should music be free? It shouldn’t, but Pandora’s Box is open, the Internet has made it free and there is no way to get the monkey back in the cage. It means a band has to go back to doing what a band should always do, earning money from playing. If you get successful then the money will flow, Prince gave an LP away with a newspaper over here, and Ryan Adams released 7 full albums on his website for free, admitted they were him basically dicking around playing hip hop but in the past you would have to have paid for that! So giving it away for free? Ultimately, it’s a fight over a slice of an imaginary pie, it doesn’t exist, for most bands the money box is and will remain empty.”
Exactly Marc, the imaginary pie is the current atmosphere we’re all existing in. The problem with the rate of tech progress in and out of the music business is it is advancing too quickly for near anyone to grasp. What is right for you the artists today will possibly be incorrect two months from now.
Now let’s dig into this RAZR article that has got this all stirred up once again.
Let us start at
- Free music is forgettable.
People in general do not appreciate free stuff even though they say they do. Free Music gets downloaded in bulk by listeners but very rarely does it stand out from the pile. Half the music they download for free isn’t listened to. Free music is often viewed as clutter you make the music gain a few extra followers and then your song or your mixtape is forgotten. When people buy your music the song or project its more likely to stand out from the clutter.
Couple things here. First, What?! Then, “People in general do not appreciate free stuff even though they say they do” This is weird, so an entire business sector devoted to free swag is wrong? Here’s the thing about this interesting point made by ‘Administrator’. If what you’re giving away is crap, then people will not appreciate it as much as something super sweet! In the long-term people downloading your music will be not just fans but customers. Gene Marks at Entrepreneur says, “It’s not just the great product you sell or the great service you provide, it’s a relationship you have.”
“Free Music gets downloaded in bulk by listeners but very rarely does it stand out from the pile.” Get out of my kitchen. Listen, I have been around this business longer than one would think and one thing I know is this. I couldn’t find anything on the web to support this claim and that there are people who hoard or go ‘bulk’ for freebies. In the radio business I saw these lovelies on a regular basis during radio events. They know how and where to find the free stuff and they go get it. But these people have and will never be the foundation of any money making business. Plus, I swear I have never heard of anyone ‘bulk’ downloading. Not saying it doesn’t happen just I’ve never heard or seen it. Same with alien life forms I suppose. “They’re out there.”
“When people buy your music the song or project it’s more likely to stand out from the clutter.” Stop downloading music you don’t like ‘Administrator’. All music I download or buy I like for one reason or another. Wanna know how I know. I listen to it before I download ‘clutter’. Silly bear, I think the majority of people do. Plus many high-end computers come with options that allow you to delete things you no longer want.
Faz La Rocca says, “The best way to have the albums on mp3 is to buy the vinyl and download the songs by the digital download code that you can find in any record at this moment!”
- Decreases your brand value
You control the way your brand is perceived to fans, this also means you are in control with the relationship you have with your fans. If you give away too many free projects fans will expect free projects regularly. You are giving away more than you are receiving from the relationship because your fans will expect free music with no exchange. You have set up your relationship with fans in the wrong way, you are showing your music isn’t valuable. Having a bunch of freeloader fans that don’t spend money is pointless. Indie musicians with smaller followings that are willing to spend more have more success than major label artists with huge freeloader following.
I like the way this starts out and then, “You have set up your relationship with fans in the wrong way, you are showing your music isn’t valuable.” Yes! But oh no, this is a tricky pickle. Not knowing how to properly market yourself does not make your music useless. By the way, Faith No More, Amanda Palmer and Best Coast are cool and I bet you know they have their new music avail just for you.
“Indie musicians with smaller followings that are willing to spend more have more success than major label artists with huge freeloader following.” This one is so confusing I had to listen to Sebastian Bach for comfort. Sure, people follow people (artists) on social media for all sorts of who knows why reasons but show me the science behind this sentence. The days of equating social standings and money (for now) are a little shaky to be so adamant. I will say this. I batcha (without solid proof) that Meghan Trainor can sell tons more singles after posting social than let’s say Holiday Sidewinder could at this point.
But then again back to Sebastian Bach, remember when he went wild after poor first week sales of his last album, “I have over 800,000 people that like my Facebook page, that read every word I write on my Facebook page – over 800,000 – and yesterday, it said.75,000 or 80,000 people are talking about it,’ But I would like to thank the 5,000 out of the 800,000 that got my record, and I would like to ask the other 795,000 people, ‘Why are you on my page? Are you there to look at the pictures? Is that why you’re there? ‘Cause that’s simple. If that’s what you want, I’ll put some pictures up, or whatever.’ But I have no clue, when it says 800,000 people and 70,000 people today are talking about this, what are you talking about? What? Like, what are you talking about? I don’t get it. Like, what? What? What? ‘Oh, he’s got a new record out. I’ve loved him for years. I’m not gonna buy that. I don’t get it. I don’t understand. I don’t get it. I don’t know why you’re on my page. Like, for what? Why? What? I totally don’t get it.”
In a recent same subject blog post J.P. Kallio wrote, “Sure you can still buy a physical product, but in the modern society we need to look at music more like digital commodity (software) or a service. This does not mean it has any less value, in fact I think in our society slowly, but surely the music is starting to have even more profound purpose, as so many of us feel the need to experience something real. If you look at any other field of business, the new model is to build a large loyal following by offering a great free product, and then offer an added upgrade to it. This is what Spotify, Soundcloud, Dropbox and so many other extremely successful companies (with an extremely well though out and valuable brand) are doing. So no, I do not for a second think giving something away for free decreases your brand value.”
- Doesn’t give you an edge at all
Every musician gives out music for free now, it’s the norm in the music industry. Free music doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd of starving artists in fact it attaches your brand with the thousands of musicians giving out free music. Charging for your music makes your brand look higher quality.
“Charging for your music makes your brand look higher quality.” Excusez mon français ‘Administrator’ but what the merde puante are you going on about. Charging for the majority of your music makes you look like you have a good business plan. Not higher quality. I swear on all that is dear to me that some of the best music I have heard the last few years came directly from a bit of the ol” free access…Rich Girls, Marty Ray, Livy Pear, Chris Leigh, Howlin’ Lord, J.P. Kallio, Last Drop to name a few. Not major-label rockstars if you will but full of edge just the same.
Let me ring clear, I’m not bashing on RAZR and ‘Administrator’, there are a plethora of these articles of “How To” or what-not in the business. At the end of the day, again, it is up to the artists to test the waters repeatedly until they find a system that works for them and their fanbase. Listen to your fans, evaluate and value the results of whatever it is you try to get folks into your sounds, shows and social media world. Don’t fully put all your marbles into management, labels or whoever ‘has your best interest at heart’. Control and drive your career in the directions you want. Your music is your cottage industry.
I have no idea if any of us learned anything today as this subject is ever present and will continue to change and be rehashed time and time over.
Make More Music…