The topic of giving music away for free is very heated and controversial. It’s really a 50/50 depending on who you talk to. Some people believe that music should be given away as a promotional tool to help with booking and touring. Some industry professionals believe that the music industry goes in cycles. These cycles show periods of high recording music sales and lower sales of live ticket sales. Right now we are in the cycle of booming live ticket sales and lower recording music sales. I believe that there are a lot of reasons for the decreasing music sales. One of the biggest problems is that distribution of music is uncontrollable. There are still many sites where consumers can illegally download copy written music. Another problem is that the music industry has embraced music streaming services. These services give low return rates and give the consumers no reason to buy music. Streaming services are taking the demand of music away from the consumer. Streaming services are easily accessible to large catalogs of music for pennies on to the dollar. Nowadays major labels do not work on the same big budgets that they once did. These smaller budgets affect the way we market, promote, distribute, and find new talent. Labels have more artists than ever and a shorter turn around, which means less time for production, marketing, and promotion.
Even with many of the issues that the music industry faces, this does not mean artists must give their music away for free. I can understand using your music to promote yourself as an artist; however, I would not just give my music away for free to the consumers. After all, if you tell the consumer that music is free they will think that all music holds no value. I believe music does hold value; it is just distributed, marketed, and promoted with outdated methods. The music industry has been more of a follower than a leader. They seem to be using less unique tactics and business practices.
Also, we must not conform to what everyone else is doing. A good example of this can be found in this week’s Billboard. The article is about the upcoming R&B star, Sam Smith, and his choice to keep his debut album, “In the Lonely Hour,” off of Spotify. Smith eventually changed his decision to make his hit song “Stay With Me,” available on Spotify on July 12, with the full album arriving July 16. Billboard asked “What if?” What if Smith would have placed the album on Spotify, would it have gone straight to the top? Who really knows to be honest, but I would have loved to see the result of the album without the interference of any streaming services.
We as an industry must treat all projects differently, what works for one artist does not work for the next artist. We must be creative; we must drive the demand for music and bring value back to music. Taking control of distribution, marketing, and promotions of music will bring consumer knowledge and will bring a sense of desire back to the listeners of music. We must be trendsetters and not trend followers.