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Monday, February 6, 2012 at 2:02PM
Last week I wrote about the economics of the music industry, and why it's not necessarily such a radical idea for artists to give away their music for "free." But there are different definitions of the word. For the purposes of this argument, there's "free" as in no cost, and there's "free" as in music.
What do I mean by "free as in music?" Think about it for a moment - why does a person become a musician? Why become a poet, a painter, an actor, writer, filmmaker or any other form of artist? Have you ever spoken to a really serious artist about what they do and the motivations behind it? If you ask them why they do what they do, the first answer will rarely be "I do it for the money." This is not to say there aren't people in the creative industries who are more about the paper than the performance, but I'd argue they are in fact the outliers in the creative community.
Artists don't do their work for the sake of money, though I'd argue much of society does. How many people do you know who truly "love" what they do? Call your friends, call your folks, ask your peeps on Twitter & Facebook, how many of them love what they do and how many just do it for the money? Inevitably a number of them will claim they love their work and it's not about the $$. Then ask, how many of those would do that same work for free?
It's at this point you begin to get an important glimpse of the artists spirit. True artists do what they do, whether the world is watching or not. They create not simply because they want to, or get paid to, but because often they simply can't help it - the expression of their artistry is a fundamental aspect of their humanity.
This is where the issue of "free" comes in. Not because artists don't want or deserve to get paid. Rather, because they are hyper-motivated to do their art at almost any cost, they are prime targets for exploitation. Thus, in the case of music, an industry has arisen around artistry that is typically not beneficial to artists. I know, you think musicians do well, because you've seen some jumping around on your TV screen. But if you follow the links from last week's post you will see the economics that underpin that exploitation.
So why give away music? I'd argue it can be a simple, but important element of building a model for creation, dissemination & consumption of music that actually benefits artists rather than takes advantage of them. Next week we'll dig into why artists not only deserve to be compensated for their work, but how giving it away can help them achieve that.