#087: Roundtable – The Value of Music

moneygtarThe value of music is undeniable. Music is woven into the fabric of every human culture. The digital age has made more music available for cheaper than ever before. This is an exciting time for music listeners because of the unprecedented variety available. This is an amazing time for musicians because they have access to millions of potential fans through the internet. The flipside to all this availability is decline in monetary value assigned to music. People expect more for less. As a musician, should you find hope or dismay in the state of the industry? The CD Baby Podcasters find both and everything in between in this lively discussion which revolves around last weeks interview with Chris Anderson. Also, our listeners weigh in with good points, agreements and disagreements. Don’t miss this one!

  • Thanks for delving into this topic guys & sorry for backwards attempts at humor!

    Great discussion. I really like the analogy of giving away free music now to what Radio used to do/provide. You think about radio DJs/stations, and in addition to playing these songs, there would be commercials, “mix-ups/mash-ups” that listeners would hear. I wonder if it would be beneficial to release a song with a free “edition”, that would have maybe a voice over towards the end (or beginning) that says “If you like this, you can get more at so&so.com”. Or even send it out with upcoming tour dates within the audio before the song begins. And of course, still offer the “regular” song via standard channels. I wonder if that would work, or if it’d be too intrusive…

  • Congratulations guys! Not only was this the longest podcast since 2007, it was also the best roundtable edition in ages (plus Kevin’s a Dad again!).

    I too listened to the Free episode with a mixture of fascination, agreement and confusion. What do I give away, what do I sell, to whom, for how much? The list went on. For every good point Chris Anderson made, I had about ten questions. I still haven’t come to a conclusion on it. I want to sell my music in order to fund future projects but in order to sell it people have to know about it in the first place!

    Chris (Robley), I feel your pain. However, I think Kevin’s got a point. When you have a large back-catalogue, it’s surely easier to give some of that music away as a sweetener for the fans who may want to buy your music but aren’t sure.

    We haven’t sold a great amount in the 4 years my band has been together so it wouldn’t be such a big deal to give much of it away but we don’t often get paid to gig either so it’s a free/free situation for us! We have to do it entirely for the fun of it or else there’d be no point in us doing it at all. Fortunately, we always get asked back to whatever venue we play so we’re doing the right thing in entertaining the audience, and that’s usually a cue to open payment discussions, but very few venues pay over here, particularly if you’re an original band.

    Also, I kind of feel bad about offering music free when some of our fans have already paid for it. I then feel I have to give them something to compensate and then it just escalates in my head! There is also the confusing conundrum of having an album that is free in one place yet a chargeable item elsewhere. For example, we’re probably going to offer our first album for free to all new mailing list members, yet it will still be available to buy on iTunes etc. (just noticed I can set a price of zero for digital downloads at CD Baby though – nice!)

    I guess every artist will make their own mind up eventually. I see a combination as free and chargeable as the best solution – it’s worked for the past hundred years. Right?…

  • Doozie Rue

    Herr Karl Kuhn (Reply):

    It would be fine.

    Our company has done it with great success in Missouri, New York, and Tokyo.

    Respectfully and Sincerely,

    Dr. Rue

  • Whoo hoo! My Obscurity is world Famous!

  • By far, this was the most entertaining episode to date:) The humor was well worth the listen.

    That said, I am vindicated in the following:

    “P.S. I found your Albums on Torrent and MP3.com
    I downloaded from Torrent, Paid on CD Baby.
    Is the sound quality better on CD Baby? I think Torrent might be a ripped/zipped “pirate” version Correct? or no?

    Anyway, I like most of it and that’s rare….”

    The former were the closing lines of an email requesting permission to submit my music for inclusion on a film currently in production. The party emailing, as is plain to any reading, wondered if the free/pirate version was of equal quality. In short, was the FREE version as good as the paid.

    Do you all not see how deep the meaning of that simple question truly is? FREE is considered inferior, always.

    By the way, I don’t post here to be mentioned in the podcast, I get quite alot of mentions globally thank you. I post to share my views and maybe save some from making mistakes I myself have already made.

    Obscurity, is not my problem. After all, if you don’t know me for my music, you know me for my fiction or in rare cases my artwork. Obscurity might be your problem, if so, how does giving it away help?

    The sad truth is, it doesn’t. How many of you know the artist “Juan Cuerillo”… He’s a blues/rock guitarists often cited as being the “Jimi Hendrix” of our age. How many know Rudy Parris who, according to Guitar World magazine is one of the 100 most influencial blues guitarists of our time. Who, by the way, spends his time playing in a cover band mosts nights of his life.

    My point is this, exposure means ZERO. Developing fans on the other hand, leads to continued streams of recognition and ultimately revenue. I will never grow rich from my music but, my music, and art, written and graphic have earned me much more than I could ever earn with a label or doing one show after another.

    If your intent is to earn a living from music well, sorry to break it to you but NO-ONE makes a living from music, not just music. The reality is, those who make a go of it, do so by doing many things and music.

    If you care, some of my fiction is available on my website. The three short stories there, earned me more money than many of you will ever earn playing music. Sad but true.

  • In bristol (South West UK) certain open mic nights are all packed and they are all free –
    – they don’t wanna pay even 3/4 for a really really quality night
    and this does link in with the overall no one paying for music, digital/internet behaviour/or wanting more for free
    Bristol is jam packed with creative individuals which is why it is great to develop here
    – but to get paid you must go away on tour…which is what BADgertRAP will be doing…

  • RLK: The three short stories there, earned me more money than many of you will ever earn playing music.

    You mean the three short stories I can read for FREE? I think you just proved our case.

  • You touched on an idea I really like — having fans pay for the creation of the music, rather than paying for it after the fact.

    I was even imagining a system sort of like kickstarter, but that the finished work would become free — sort of the 18th century patronage model, minus the eccentric royalty. You’d still offer the perks (e.g., a limited edition CD/LP, behind-the-scenes video updates, commissioned songs, etc), but the overall goal would be to create a ‘public good’ for the whole world, while still insuring the artist a living wage while they devote themselves fully to producing the best music they can. And using a CC non-commercial license, the artist would still have the opportunity for additional licensing income.

    I’m not saying this would necessarily work, but I like it as a ‘thought experiment’.

  • ScottAndrew,

    I already got paid for those stories several times over. While I could hold them back and resubmit them to more publications I choose not to.
    So no, I did not prove your point. Those stories are now out of print so I share them freely with anyone who might find them of interest.

    As I see it, their presence gives visitors to the site a tiny bit more insight into who I am above and beyond my humble musical efforts and that is the point. Or as our podcaster friends might say, it’s a little detail adding to my story as a creative individual.

  • Touche, RLK. If you’re not using those stories as a means to get more writing-related work today, you’re certainly not doing the “free” thing as described.

  • Doozie Rue

    The point you’re all missing is,

    (A) Kevin prefers Dolphin-Safe-Tuna


    (B) The CD BABY Podcast was built by Nordic Monks


    – Dr. Rue

  • Obviously, it’s very hard to disagree with you Doozie. I think you’ve summarised the podcast in a nutshell. 😀

    My little experiment with ‘free’ has been interesting so far. I’ve offered our debut album as a free digital download. So far, whilst traffic has very much increased (partly down to some good re-tweets) and downloads have very much increased – more in a week than in the previous 9 months or so – it’s not really driven people to go buy our other products.

    And, as a lot of the downloads have been in the States, that’s not going to drive people to our gigs as we’re a UK-based band. Also, our mailing list has seen no extra signups and hits to the website haven’t particularly increased.

    This could easily indicate that people download the album, listen to it and hate it. Alternatively it could mean that people really don’t want to put any more work in than is necessary when it comes to getting hold of music.

    The jury is still out at the moment, but the free download will be permanently free, regardless of our conclusions.

  • It’s quite simple really, your job as a musician is to:

    1. make great music
    2. put it in front of the people who will like it
    3. repeat, until they make an emotional connection with it and it MEANS something to them (which they will do if it’s good)

    The money follows from people who GET something from your music, and in return most want to GIVE something. People are smart, most realize you put a lot of effort into what you do, and when it helps them, they want to help you back. People know what is fair.


  • here’s my 2 cents…. or rather free sense. there is an old marketing mantra that goes something like “you sell where the people are buying”. free is the price of purchase. if you don’t want to sell your product for that price, than you don’t have to sell it for that price. it doesn’t make sense to blame the consumer.

    you know there used to be a market for people to handwrite books because there were no printing presses. that market is gone and forgotten. handwritten books are not worth the time it takes to make them. we don’t blame consumers for putting the scribe out of business. maybe music isn’t worth as much as we’d like it to be.

    one day a computer program will write an original piece of music, and artists will swear it is somehow flawed. the truth is that there may come a day when songwriters are replaced by a machine as well. then who will we blame.

  • I left a message on a previous episode inquiring about ways in which to obtain the email addresses from fans when they download music from a web site. I found that the web site http://www.bandcamp.com offers this service. Here’s a snippet from the FAQ on their site:

    Did I know that I can collect a fan’s email address when I let them download a free track or album?
    This too somehow escaped your seemingly limitless capacity for knowledge! And yet it is true! Simply tick the “require email address” checkbox on the Edit Track or Album page, and when a fan downloads your music, Bandcamp will ask them for their vitals and email them a link to the goods. You may then extract that solid gold nugget of data from our servers with a flick of your mouse: on the right side of the navigation bar at the top of the screen, click Tools, and under the section titled Mailing List, click Export. You’ll not only get the fan’s email address, but their country, zip/postal code, and even the date they signed up. Given the power to use that information for good, or for awesome, we trust you will choose the latter.

    I will be trying this out very soon.


  • Lord Of Winter said the role of an artist is to:

    #1,make great music
    #2, put in front of people who will like it
    #3, repeat.

    While I agree with the premise, it would be better stated as:
    #1, make REAL as in honest, music
    #2, put in front of people who understand it
    #3, repeat.

    Good is subjective, real or honest, is not.

  • Every native culture has music woven into the fabric of their lives. However, in the ‘modern’ world, the U.S. music scene has nothing to do with the music. It’s all about: “LOOK at me”, see how freaky, weird, dirty, grungy and poor starving musician I appear to be. The music scene went from being creative in the 60’s and early 70’s to being glossy big arena business in the 80’s and 90’s to a freak show at the present time. For every quality artist such as Dave Mathews, Steely Dan etc., there are 20 no talent hacks like lady gaga. Because of the internet, these people spread their non-artistic endeavors like a disease. Struggling musicians, get real. Study music, play music and if fame finds you . . . consider yourself blessed. Stop trying to be famous and start trying to be a musiciam, and add to the culture you live in.