what’s wrong with “free” music….?

Not too long ago I read an article in Digital Music News by Paul Resnikoff entitled “The 7 Attributes of Younger Music Fans” and if you’re on CD Baby, you may have seen it too. In case you didn’t, you can find it here. It’s a good, informative article and a short read.

Actually, this goes further back to an article on David Lowery’s Trichordist blog site – the “Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered” post. That younger fans don’t usually pay for their music has become common knowledge now or at least, a common assumption. And sure enough, there it is at #4: “If They Don’t Buy Your Stuff, Don’t Take It Personally.”

Well, I don’t… and by now artists know all this and it’s generally accepted that this is the way things are and that it’s not going to change anytime soon… However, it’s still a curious attitude as outlined in the first sentence of #4 in the Resnikoff article:

Fans, especially younger fans, have an expectation of free.  In fact, many younger listeners have never been forced to pay for music in their lives; furthermore, many believe music should be free on principle.” (emphasis mine)

OK… and what guiding “principle” would that be? Because there is more music being recorded and more artists recording that music than ever before? Does the sheer proliferation of music available somehow lessen its value? (I don’t think so.)

And where does this “expectation of free” come from? From years of downloading stuff or finding information for free on the Internet?

As an artist, it would never occur to me to not pay for another artist’s work – other than the freebies they choose to make available – because I have some idea of what the process is and what they go through to produce that work. I will always pay for an artist’s work that I like… because it supports them and their ability to do more of it.

I suppose if I were a gazillionaire and had more money than God, or Forrest Gump, maybe I would be inclined to offer all my music for free… but then again, no. Because here’s the deal: people don’t value what they get for free.

And giving away what you produce for free as a business model… is a bad business model. That may be the least appreciated and least understood aspect of the music business and environment now – that for a large number of artists today, if they are self-producing and self-releasing their own work, they are their own business, and in the absence of a record company contract, lucrative or otherwise, they are solely responsible for that business.

In one sense, you could have an argument for free music if the CD you buy from a particular artist is going to end up in the bin at a used CD store in only a couple of months or is going to be removed from your iPod because you’ve gotten bored with it in the same amount of time and have moved on to ‘the latest thing.’ Solution: listen to better music… and pay for it.

Here’s another bullet point from #4:

In that context, if they’re buying your stuff, they’re generally regarding it as a major gesture.  Indeed, 68 percent of Millennials interviewed by MTV said they only buy music out of respect for the artist, and they believe music should be free.”

There it is again – the belief that music should be free. And again, why?

If you go into an art gallery and see a work of art you want on your wall at home, that’s not free; you’re going to pay for it. That goes for most anything and everything. “Well, art’s different,” someone might say, but it’s not at all. Music is one of the arts – why would music be singled out as any different as an art form that should somehow be free? Doesn’t make sense.

“Because it’s entertainment,” someone else might say. Well, it’s a lot more than that – it’s a universal language that can (and frequently does) change the world through the hearts and minds of individual listeners. Less for entertainment purposes, more art.

If you’re a Millennial (and even if you’re not) and you’re still reading this, please explain why you think the music you claim to love should be free. Send me a comment here ’cause I’d really like to know. It’s a mindset that truly baffles me, and not because we’re of ‘different generations’ or that I’m ‘old school’ or whatever. Here’s why…

Buying an artist’s latest album is not a “major gesture” on your part – it’s called support. It’s also an exchange of energy – the time, energy, hard work, and money that an artist puts into their music and producing something to put out into the world is met with a reciprocal response in the form of appropriate value – value for value – i.e., usually money. If someone is not willing to pay for something, even if they believe they should get it for free, it simply means they don’t value it.

Think about it… you purchase tickets to see your favorite bands/artists live at a festival or other venue (I’m assuming you’re not a fence-hopper here), you value that experience – why would you pay for one and not the recorded work which will provide an experience longer than that one night?

What I’m really getting at here though is this whole sense of entitlement… to “free” music, which is really the toughest thing to deal with because it’s a very specific and particular mindset.

No one is entitled to free music, fans and consumers alike (except perhaps the ever-patient, long-suffering artist’s significant other), any more than the world owes anybody, including artists, a living.

The Wolf, from “Pulp Fiction”…. “Lots of cream, lots of sugar…”

Buying an artist’s work allows them to make more of the music they want to make – it allows them to keep going in their business, and keep making the songs that, presumably, you want to listen to from that particular artist in the first place.

So…  whatever you listen to, pay for the music… pretty please, with sugar on it… or at the very least, question whatever sense of entitlement you may have. Food for thought…

"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Another Day in Paradox,” the third and new album from Nights on Venus has just been released and is available on CD and as digital download (MP3) on CDBabyiTunesBandcamp, Amazon, eMusic, and other fine online retailers including the NoV website.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.


Author: nightsonvenus

Musician and producer with the band Nights on Venus.

2 thoughts on “what’s wrong with “free” music….?”

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