Six months ago while in the final throes of completing this album, we did a show @ a punk Rock venue in Brooklyn (do we look punk? No, but we think that way). The jam was a blast & I got to connect with some old friends and fans as it was our first NY show of 2011. The first question that kept coming up? "When is the new record coming out??" I told them it would be done in a few months & we'd be releasing it online for "free." The next question? "Why the hell would you do that?"
Let me explain. Artists typically don't make much money selling recorded music. As you can see from this article, there are a number of reasons for this. The economics of the Recording Industry itself do not support artists getting paid for selling records. But, what about Jay-Z, you say...and Eminem and Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift? It's true that after a certain level of sales an artist will make a royalty on their albums sold. But for an artist like Jay-Z, for example, the amount of money he makes from his record royalties, likely pales in comparison to the money he makes from publishing, endorsements, touring, and perhaps most importantly his entrepreneurial ventures including, Roc-A-Fella, Rocawear, Armadale, the NJ Nets etc.
The greatest value for an artist like Jay-Z is not actually in his royalty rate, but rather in his "brand equity." He has a brand whose value was generated through the music industry, but whose influence extends far beyond it. The same can be said for Madonna, or the Beatles, or Prince, or Bono. At the upper echelons of music, the value created by an artist is much greater than what is reflected in their record royalties, even if you only measure it in a monetary sense (we all know there is a greater value in artistry than can be measured on a ledger).
This doesn't directly answer the question of why "give" music away, but it hopefully reinforces the point that doing so doesn't necessarily ruin an artist's enterprise, because most of their money likely won't come from record sales anyway. But what about this "free" music rubbish? After all, giving away music is not something these mainstream artists do. Or do they? As I've written previously, in the early days of radio the Recording Industry felt it would kill their business, because of all the music being given away "for free." When a song is played on a music video channel, at a club or on a TV show, it may generate revenue, but not necessarily revenue that counts towards a recording artist's royalties. So for example, if I'm a country singer out of Nashville there's a fair chance my music was written by someone else. When that song is played on a TV show in the USA, the songwriter & publisher will get paid, but I the singer won't (it works differently in Europe but that's another conversation).
So in reality artists actually do "give away" music all the time. They do so for the benefit of increased notoriety, which translates into "higher brand value." But this comes at a cost, particularly when you're dealing with major labels. For next week's Million Download Campaign post I'll explain some of the reasons why an artist would NOT want to sign a record deal. In the end, it all boils down to "free" as in freedom...
THE MILLION DOWNLOAD CAMPAIGN
Wanna be down? DOWNLOAD!