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Do Not Give Away Music

We have all seen (and heard) an extreme saturation of available music. Just about every artist that makes music is giving away music through free downloads, free videos and free listens. Stop and think about it for a moment; Does GM give away the vehicles they build? Does a contracter build a house then just give it away? If you spend time and money making music, then why would you just give it away?

A product that is “better” than all others will stand alone. Yes, advertising and promotion can increase sales and exposure, but in the case of music, unless you have a never-ending supply of money to advertise and promote, 99.9 percent of the time, you are just wasting your time and money if you are advertising or promoting your product. Why would you spend money to buy the newest release from an artist when chances are you can hear it free anytime you want? 

So how do you make money releasing music? The vast majority of people making money in music these days are doing so by ticket sales and merchandise such as clothing, perfume, etc. and yes, many people still buy music so they can get a better quality playback, but there is no doubt that giving away products are hurting the bottom line. Giving away your music also demeans the product by saying “It’s not worth anything” and if the product is superior, it does not need hype to prove itself.

Before the days of digital downloads and online videos, people spent much more on the product and piracy was more difficult. There will always be pirates, but there are many methods of loss prevention. Advertising and promotion is important to “get the word out” and branding is also important, but if you give away the products you are trying to make money on, you will never profit from your endeavors. I am reminded of what I consider to be the best Italian Restaurant in the world….They don’t advertise and have been making tons on money since the 1920’s and they NEVER give away food.

References (1)

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Reader Comments (3)

This article comes from someone who simply cannot get their hands around the current situation. "If we all just say NO!" is the theme and it is a weak one. DIGITAL MUSIC IS FREE. Ask anyone. The current listening generation feels entitled to it, and as such, failing to deliver is tantamount to commercial suicide. The GM comparison is a weak one . GM does not have its cars cloned for free and shared with other potential customers, and that is the reality of our "product".
Back in the day, when I was touring, playing stadiums to 20,000 people at a clip, we toured to promote the sale of a record. The tour may have lost money., but was record sales that counted. Those days are OVER. Recorded music, or videos, are just promotional tools now, like giant posters, getting people to come to the show. THAT is where the money is now, and there's not a lot of it. So chastising artists fro promoting their product this way is futile. Better to encourage an organic relationship between artists and audience rather than whine about the lack of funds coming through the door.

January 23 | Registered CommenterAndrew Pearson

More practical is the problem of if you don't put out some free samples on some early adopters how are the majority supposed to know to go looking for you and give you money!!? Regardless of how good or not good

January 24 | Registered CommenterElysian Fury

I run a series of small web sites catering to indie artists, internet radio stations, and radio / music consumers. Please allow a few observations:

Andrew Pearson is correct. The "just say no" argument is as weak as the GM analogy; 1) you'll never get every artist to hold back all of their music until someone pays - if not just for the exposure their freely available music brings; 2) GM sells tangible product, musicians sell emotion wrapped in music.

Who is it that should put a price on your music? Just how good a) do you think you are; b) do others think you are? I guarantee there will always be a difference in value.

Why, as a consumer or music service, should I pay a person who is unknown and seeking exposure the same as an artist who has a fan base of millions? As a secondary part of this, just how did that artist get such a large fan base if it wasn't for play on either radio or one of dozens of music sites? (And, is the musician giving these entities credit for capital expenses they incurred to build an audience?)

I am a former amateur musician who worked in radio nearly 3 decades. I pulled internships at a few studios in Muscle Shoals, AL during the 70s - learning the art of record making. I've also been writing software code for longer than I've been in radio.

As Andrew stated "...we toured to promote the sale of a record." He is very correct in also stating "Those days are OVER..."

It is now up to artists to uncover the variety of ways to make money, and generate a portion of revenue from each.

This wondrous tool called the internet has also ramped up the level of competition - that is an indie artist's biggest problem, not whether someone hears your song for free before purchasing your music or attending a gig.

January 24 | Registered CommenterKen Dardis

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