1. MOST PEOPLE DON’T ACTUALLY VALUE MUSIC.
Everyone is aware of the huge change that has taken place in the way that music is consumed. When I was younger people made cassette tape copies of their CD‘s and taped from the radio. The copy was always worth a lot less than the original. Now, at least within the realms of the internet, there is no difference. you copy a file, send it out, its identical to the original and as far as I can tell all music has reduced to the value of copied music.
When I have finished a performance and people approach the merch table, I notice new fans walk away having purchased your hard work of the few past years. You can see that they hold great value for the music they just bought. Now that the biggest market place is the internet, one of my biggest struggles is trying make people remember that this was made by me, I love this piece of work and it means everything to me.
From what I’ve noticed people always prefer to buy from a large company. For example my album is available from my website for the same price as it is on iTunes (give or take a few pennies) but people prefer to pay iTunes a few quid for granting me the honour of ME selling my music on their website. This said, my opinion of iTunes is indifferent. At least they keep their prices high, which is pretty much the only thing adding any value at all to music on-line.
Spotify on the other hand are making a change on a similar scale to Napster in my opinion, and I mean old style Napster.. music for free, illegally.
Spotify offer music essentially for free, it is a subscription service but per month it costs around the same as one album on iTunes and the artists don’t get that money (to any effect). So, as far as I’m concerned you aren’t paying for the music, you are paying for the convenient delivery system. Spotify have managed to remove the guilt aspect of consuming music without paying the artist, by paying the artists a fractional amount. This works for Lady Gaga, but not for anyone receiving only a few thousand plays a month.
For example in one instance taken from this months accounts. For one play of ‘No Soldier’ by my band Fight The Bear we received $0.00012249 my maths is pretty bad but as far as I can tell you could listen to that 5,000 times and it still wouldn’t be as much as a single purchase of the song on iTunes.
If you want music for free, just steal it and be under no misconception.
It is only natural that if you give something away from free it will be valued less by the consumer. Imagine buying a new release DVD from a pound shop. You would presume things weren’t going too well for that film and form an opinion.
And that is what is happening to music, in my opinion.
But for people like me, it gets worse.. I don’t have a large company watching my back.
2. INDEPENDENT IS SUBSTANDARD?!?
I and many many others of course don’t think this, but a lot of people do. They assume that if you haven’t been signed by a major record label then your music must be shit.
If I sell my music independently from my website, people assume that this means it won’t sound as good. Which forces me to use such services as described above. It seems like I’m constantly paying someone for the right to sell my music. I already invested a lot in studio time and mastering to get it to a standard I can be proud of. I then have to pay more to brand it with such logos as iTunes, Amazon etc.. companies which as a consumer I try to boycott, But people prefer heavily branded items, its a shame, but they do.
I understand why people think this. When you spend more money on music, sonically it sounds better. It doesn’t make the core song better, or the feeling truer but better outboard and better computers record to a higher quality. I have spent years carefully writing songs, But I always have to rush them in the studio because I can’t afford the studio time. I dream of a day that I leave the studio with my project actually complete not just out of time.
Because of this music has somehow found itself in a strange spot. For example.
– Handmade bespoke furniture VS. IKEA or catalogue
– Designer/Handmade Clothes VS. High Street
– Illustrator/Painter VS. Supermarket Canvases/Prints
– Handmade Pottery VS. Supermarket Tableware
– Independent Bands/Artist VS. Supermarket music on the shelves
I’m not referring quantity of units sold, this isn’t about distribution. In my opinion, of the above, independent music is the only non mass produced product that is considered to be lesser than it’s mass-market equivalent. This can also be said for film. I think this is mostly because, of the above, money can greatly improve the standard of technology used to transfer music from human to store. The same can’t be said for the others, Skilled human hands beat machines. I will always prefer the product that cost time not money. unfortunately for musicians time costs a hell of a lot and the only other option, ‘technology’ costs even more.
My thoughts also go out to independent artists of any kind. All suffer their own problems with regards to big business, often theft.
3. “YOU PLAY MUSIC COS YOU LOVE IT, RIGHT, ISN’T THAT YOUR PAYMENT?”
You hear it a lot. Indie Musicians, Illustrators and Designers often get paid in Exposure! or Their own love for what they do!
Of course I love what I do, for me it beats any job I have ever done. I get to travel all over the world meeting new people, I get to perform my music to people who want to listen to it, I genuinely love it and as always in love, I have irrationally given up a lot for it. That said, in this society I have to survive in the same way as everyone else. I can’t feed my daughter with my love of music (despite me trying).
I think people often forget how much they hear music..
In the Pubs, Clubs and Restaurants. In every Advert, Film and TV show. At Aerobics, Zumba in the Gym, on Plains, Trains, Cars, Running, Walking.. People fill there lives with music even people who would say they don’t listen to it. Yet, parents still discourage their kids from becoming working musicians and send them off to uni, along with a million thousand other students.
People are surprised when you tell them your job is ‘Musician’, they respond “Yeah, but do you have a proper job?”
It is very, very common to be asked to perform, then after responding and discussing fee’s they will reply. “Oh, I didn’t realise you required payment. This gig’s more about the love of music” notice the quotation marks… it is a quote. or “We can’t pay you but we’ll give you a beer or two” imagine a plumber working for cups of tea.
The presence of decent, well organised entertainment brings money, sometimes LOTS of money to a venue. If you can’t afford it or disagree with that don’t book entertainment.
The problem being, because our job is so fun. We are more likely to play for less/nothing.
BUT.. Loving your job should mean that you MIGHT work for free. NOT that you SHOULD work for free.
Enjoy your music