Should Music be Free?

Chris Anderson talks about Free in a recent Wired article. As you probably know there’s been an ongoing debate about whether music should be free. His argument is that the cost of digital goods is trending towards zero. You can have millions of people downloading your songs without any additional cost to replicate the song. While this isn’t completely true (there are costs and time in producing a CD and bandwidth costs – although these costs are also declining) there is some truth to it.

I usually get annoyed when people say music should be free. I often think, ‘Why the hell should it be free? We put a ton of effort into making a CD, pay for studio time and production, or software/hardware for our computers, spend tons of our own time and we should just give it away? Fuck that shit! I’m sick of society devaluing artists!’ But the practical side of me also says, ‘Well if people are expecting music and other stuff online to be free, how can I work with that and still have a career?’. The truth is I’m still trying to figure it out, and so are many others. For now I still have a day job. Maybe that’s the model that will have to be.

A popular business model for musicians is to give away their digital downloads for free and sell the ‘experience’. This means making money from the concerts. You could also sell tangible goods like T-shirts, Mugs, sheet music, special CDs and DVDS which Kevin Kelly calls embodiment.

What if you’re not a touring musician? How do you sell the ‘experience’? You could do a live video webcast of you playing some songs or teaching, and charge for it. You could teach lessons and link to songs or lesson books in which you are an affiliate, or put ads on your site. You can now put different types of ads on your videos. You could get sponsors from the guitar companies or related industries to put ads on your site. Most likely a variety of these techniques in combination will be most effective.

Everyone’s still trying to figure out what to do about the Internet. So get out there and try different things and see what works.

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