"Steal My Music!!" Says the Starving Artist :-)

Discussion in Movies, Music & Games started by unstrung • Jul 22, 2014.

  1. unstrung

    unstrungMember

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    I was inspired to start this thread after reading through a similar one in this forum:

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    In that discussion, the primary focus is on movies. But, there is a similar issue regarding downloading music, and as a musician struggling to get by, I thought I would take a moment to put in my two cents (coincidentally, two cents is approximately the amount of money I have made to date selling my music online).

    A lot of the controversy regarding obtaining music via torrent is the argument that it takes money from away from the artists. This has been a hot-button issue for music companies since way back in the Napster days, and groups such as Metallica have been very vocal in speaking out against music piracy. And, technically, this is not exactly incorrect - after all, every MP3 that gets downloaded for free represents $.99 that didn't get paid to anyone for that song, right?

    Well, not really, as it turns out. Radiohead actually disproved this back in 2008, when they made their album "In Rainbows" available on a donation basis from their website, and allowed it to circulate for a while on music-sharing networks for a while before the album's official release. When the CD finally arrived on the shelf in music stores, it ended up being the

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    that week.

    When you consider this, in addition to the huge number of ways that one can listen to songs online for free (Pandora, Youtube, and Spotify are perhaps the most visible tip of the free music iceberg), it becomes clear that there really isn't nearly as much money being lost from music torrenting as some would have you believe.

    But what about for me, the independent musician struggling to survive? Surely I must need each and every penny that I can get from music downloads, right? Interestingly, the answer is still "not really".

    If one person downloads my music and pays $.99 for the track, I made a bit of money. But, when someone shares my music with 10 people who enjoy it even though they didn't pay me a dime, I have potentially made 10 more fans. 10 more people who might tell more people about my music. 10 more people who might come to see me at a show. 10 more people who may even want a T-shirt ;-) The exposure I get from free music sharing is worth WAY more than the money I would get from a simple download.

    In short, I wish for everyone to pirate my music, and spread it far and wide...
     
  2. Nickchick

    NickchickWell-Known Member

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    Personally I try to buy music when I can if I'm a fan of the artist. I've downloaded freely here and there. However, either way you slice it like you said people are going to listen it freely with other services like you said so it doesn't really matter if they download it or not. If I download a song, it's not going to deter me spending money on the artist either way. If I only like one or two songs then yeah I guess it would but you'd only miss out on a few dollars. However if I was enough of a fan of an artist nothing compares to listening it live and if I like several of their songs I could save the money I would have spent on downloading songs/albums to go to their concerts.
     
  3. Livvy

    LivvyActive Member

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    That's the hope anyway, isn't it? That by sharing it with one fan, you'll get ten others who are more than willing to help you out of any financial hole that you might have found yourself in. What I would like to know however, and this is definitely best to be answered by you, or any other starving artists, is does it actually work out that way? Do you find that if you release your stuff online for free or even 'pay what you can', do you notice that you actually get more fans, and thus more money?
     
  4. bmarks

    bmarksMember

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    This is why I like Hoodie Allen (proving your point here by giving him free promotion right now). He is aware that people are going to download his music illegally, so instead of trying to fight that, he uses it to his benefit to build his fanbase. After all, more fans mean more potential tickets/merchandise sold and more free publicity. I wish you all the best in your endeavors; you have the right idea.
     
  5. unstrung

    unstrungMember

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    Excellent question. I mentioned Radiohead's experiment in my initial post, but that's somewhat different because they already have a huge fanbase yearning for more of their music. You're wondering more about how it pans out for people like me who aren't already famous...

    The answer from what I've seen is that in the short term, it can really feel like it is not helping, but in the long term it eventually does. Here is one example:

    I am based in the Tampa, FL area, and have had my music online for some time. And, it doesn't seem like giving my music away has resulted in more gigs or more attendance at those gigs. However, A few months ago I was travelling to Texas, and posted a quick thing on Craigslist asking for suggestions to pick up a performance while I was in the area. Someone responded who, by random chance, had heard my music before and owned a pizza shop that have live music, and I got myself a paid show. So, in this one case, setting my music free and letting it travel did indeed make more money for me than charging for a download.

    This hasn't happened often (yet), but I am continuing to believe in giving my stuff away, and hope it works out for me ;-)
     
  6. May102014

    May102014Active Member

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    This is an intriguing topic. I can understand both point of views. I think you made an excellent observation of the exposure you could gain from word of mouth when people learn about your music. Some people don't know that the music business is a hard one where artists don't make a lot of money from albums or song downloads. They make a decent amount but the big money comes from tours or promotional deals with well known brands. At the same time, I can see the artist's perspective of wanting people to pay for music they have worked hard on and prefer not to give away for free.
     
  7. unstrung

    unstrungMember

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    So true. As much as I've been supporting the other side of the equation, I must admit that it involves a fair amount of teeth-gritting to resign one's self to the fact that that song which involved so much blood, sweat, and/or tears is not going to make any observable income (I say observable because of the indirect benefits I mentioned previously). Interestingly, it is often more difficult for musicians than for people in other types of businesses.

    Honestly, many businesses do product giveaways - there are portions of this very message board that deal specifically with them. Add that to other giveaways that you might see elsewhere, plus coupons and rebates and other price reductions, and it is easy to see that businesses give stuff away all the time.

    The difference, I suppose, is personal involvement with the product. When a musician creates a song, they put a piece of themselves into it, and are thus connected with it in a way that can't be matched by other products. You will never have the same level of involvement with, say, a pair of shoes or a brand of dish soap that can hope to come close to the emotional attachment that an artist may have to their song.

    And somehow, I manage to keep giving those suckers away ;-)
     
  8. Livvy

    LivvyActive Member

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    Yeah I was thinking more about the less famous artists, sorry I should have said that!

    I can see what you're saying though. I know an artist who gives away all of his stuff for free, because he gave up his life as a lawyer because he wasn't happy, whereas now he's happy because he's rapping about nerdy things he loves, you know? I believe that he has a donation drive once a year, if people feel like giving him anything, but he also does release albums as well every few months or so. Otherwise he releases a new song every week for free.