Author Topic: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?  (Read 14887 times)

MarkM

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Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« on: August 10, 2008, 05:01:39 PM »
For established artists such as NIN and Radiohead, free (or nearly nearly free) distribution can be a financial advantage for them.  However, can free distribution harm a genre of music, such as ambient, by diluting it?  Would free distribution hurt established artists such as those on the Hypnos label? Obviously it cannot be stopped, but I wonder if the practice is devaluing the genre.  Are some established artists just moving on to something else out of frustration?

APK

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2008, 05:56:28 PM »
There is an analogy to be made with the realm of photography.
There are lots of sites where people post their photographs and holiday snaps and so on, and you can view and download them for free.
But professional photographers only put up small, lo-res versions. Their full size prints and images are only available for sale.

A lot of people stringing samples together and making some music in their spare time are happy to just put it out there for free.
You won't see, for example, Steve Roach doing that. He's a professional musician who puts a LOT of time and work into his music. He expects to be paid for that work just as people do in their own types of daily 9-5pm jobs.

Yep, I do think all the free stuff dilutes the pool and can divert attention from the best in a genre.
When stuff is free or cheap it will attract an audience on that basis alone, rather than on quality. Its like people attracted to fast food because its cheap and easy to obtain.

Free stuff, when it becomes the norm, leads people to think it should ALL be free. Which leads to file sharing and mindless posting of artist's works as though its some amorphous unattached product and not a work of labour that took time and skill. It's like thinking all paintings, photographs, and other works done by artists should be offered for free (or pretty much anything made by individuals for that matter). Which is clearly not the case.

That's my current state of mind on this 8)
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Altus

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2008, 06:49:53 PM »
APK, you just released "Land" as a free download.  I'm saying this in the nicest way possible:  From your comments here, doesn't that make you a hypocrite?   ;)

Personally, I enjoy the simplicity of uploading my music to my site and having it readily available to everyone.  Generalizing that an artist giving away his/her music means that they didn't put a lot of time and work into it is silly.

Judging from the numbers of my only release that isn't available for free, I could have enough money to buy all those music-making tools I've been drooling over.  But it's more important to me that people have unlimited access to my work.  Sure, there's going to be a lot of people who may download a release and never even listen to it.  But there's also going to be a lot of people who will enjoy my work, but wouldn't have purchased it because they didn't want to take a chance on an unknown artist.

In the past, a label decided who was heard and who wasn't.  It wasn't really a problem because we didn't know what we were missing.  Now, thanks to the Internet, everyone has the ability to be heard.  We all have a choice of who we want to hear, but as you mentioned the drawback is a huge dilution of music.  Nothing is perfect and you have to take the good with the bad.  I'd take dilution over never having the chance to hear a particular artist.

In my opinion, there's no right or wrong way to distribute music... only different thoughts on what's right or wrong.  I have no problem with an artist charging money for their hard work.  But it boggles my mind if you feel that my choice to release my music freely is ruining the genre.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2008, 06:51:30 PM by Altus »
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APK

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2008, 07:37:48 PM »

Mike: I do release only a few free things, so maybe I'm only a little hypocrite  :)

But seriously, I see free releases pretty much the way you do ... you can hopefully reach a wider audience. And as such it's also a form of promotion.

My primary concern, though, is with how free releases set up expectations in the public mind. As I said in the previous post: the growing expectation that all music should be 'set free', and be freely available and freely passed around and copied with little or no regard for copyright or the sheer work of the artist.

I'm not against free music per se, and i also believe its good that the artist has gained lots of freedom in this digital web-world.

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APK

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2008, 07:45:37 PM »
Another analogy that might say something to this issue.
Pornography -- its just not the same now there is so much of it freely available.
It loses its potency.
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ffcal

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2008, 08:57:02 PM »
My view on this has evolving somewhat.  Although I agree with Anthony that there is the issue of dilution, my greater concern is that of quality control.  This issue has always been there, from the days of mp3.com.  It may be asking too much to expect an artist who may be too close to his or her own music to be an efficient editor/filter of the material that is to be released as well.  I think it is more respectful to the listener's time if less rather than more is released.  It's not just the wasted time in downloading a file, it's wasted time for the disappointed consumer listening, too.  I think that traditional labels still perform a valuable function not only as curators with a particular aesthetic/vision, but also as gatekeepers, so that only releases that meet a certain threshold get released.  Maybe a well-run netlabel such as Resting Bell or Monotonik can serve the same function, but there are only so many hours in the day to spend trawling for free music.

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2008, 04:13:23 AM »
Netlabels have a lot of potential.  But I find that, as Forrest mentioned, they'll release anything just to say: We have a new release.  I find even the big players, for the most part, release too much mediocre music.  Or more often stuff that's just so off the wall that it's not that enjoyable (at least for me).  I enjoy a good drone/glitch/noise release every now and then, but 50 of them?  No thanks.

By the way, I just want to stress that there's no ill will towards you guys who feel the way you do about free music.  I understand your feelings completely, and in some respects completely agree with you.  (I guess that makes me a small hypocrite as well)  It's just that this isn't the first time this topic has come about and seems like the next "bad thing" that people turn their nose up to, like using softsynths.   ;)   But that's a whole other can of worms.  heh
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phrozenlight

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2008, 08:07:20 AM »
Quote
A lot of people stringing samples together and making some music in their spare time are happy to just put it out there for free.
You won't see, for example, Steve Roach doing that. He's a professional musician who puts a LOT of time and work into his music. He expects to be paid for that work just as people do in their own types of daily 9-5pm jobs.

rubbish;
I work 40 hours in a week to earn money for living,
I am working 25+ hours per week on my music (incl. the weekends, no holidays counted)
(my wife does not like it   :'(  )

On year basis it would be:
work 1700 hours
music 1300 hours (half of my holidays included)
so at the end of the year the difference is not that big ;)


I think free music is ok, but I like also see some money coming to me as a sort of reward.
That's why I release "free" and "not free" albums, or why I have made the possibility to donate  ;D

Problem is when you make your music for your living selling albums will never pay out.
You must give concerts, workshop etc to get money enough to have a living of it.

APK

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2008, 08:36:12 AM »
Quote
A lot of people stringing samples together and making some music in their spare time are happy to just put it out there for free.
You won't see, for example, Steve Roach doing that. He's a professional musician who puts a LOT of time and work into his music. He expects to be paid for that work just as people do in their own types of daily 9-5pm jobs.

rubbish;


I'm not sure what you think was "rubbish". Surely a lot of people do in fact do that. Yes ?

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mgriffin

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2008, 09:00:24 AM »
A couple of artists who distribute their work for free have said "I take my work seriously and put a lot of time into it" as if this disproves the idea that artists giving away their work for free are likely, in general, to be less serious about their work than those who charge for their work.

I don't think anyone would say that an artist giving away free downloads proves that the artist is careless or unserious about their work.  But those few examples of serious artists giving away free music do not prove that the generalization is not usually true.
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phrozenlight

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2008, 09:39:47 AM »
Quote
..He's a professional musician who puts a LOT of time and work into his music. He expects to be paid for that work just as people do in their own types of daily 9-5pm jobs.

rubbish;


I'm not sure what you think was "rubbish". Surely a lot of people do in fact do that. Yes ?


I mean ".. expects to be paid for that work just as people do in their own types of daily 9-5pm jobs" that is rubbish.

Maybe Steve does that, but I could do the same, and a lot of those "amateurs" do it also. But it is not a good reason to let people pay for your music ( in my eyes)
But everyone is free to make their choice to let people pay for their Art.

For me it is important to let my "music" distributed, so every can listen to it, not because the time I spend to produce it  ;D


APK

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2008, 10:33:11 AM »
Phrozenlight: " ... it is not a good reason to let people pay for your music"

???   It seems to me a very good reason. If creating music didn't take time and work I think people would resent paying for it.

(I'm of course not saying that because it takes time and work you must charge money for it.)
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jkn

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2008, 01:34:44 PM »

Lots of layers to this discussion...

Is free music devaluing the genre?   Not necessarily.   It could - but then so could too many labels and too many artists releasing music for sale.    I've seen a few artists mentioned from time to time that release a lot of music for sale and they get picked on for releasing "too much".    Are they?  I think that's subjective.   

I remember the old mp3.com days (which Forrest alluded to also) - and there were artists putting music for free that was brilliant and wonderful - and then a bunch of artists that seemed to put every single scrap of music they ever recorded up.   Because they could.   

Anyone with server space has the ability to post their music online for everyone to hear.   Getting noticed among the thousands of people doing the same thing... that's a different trick.   

Getting onto a netlabel that's free - some of them are easy to release with some aren't - I think it depends on who they are and what they're trying to accomplish.  Just like with artists - a label starts to lose attention if it releases subpar stuff. 

Anyway - no - I don't think it dilutes much.   People that love the music are going to wade through and look for ways to find the music they want to hear - either through forums like this and opinions of people on these forums - or reviewers - or blogs - or something else.

Technology is just changing and we have to change along with it one way or the other.   It's utterly amazing to me how wonderful the internet is, despite the pitfalls - it's truly crushing communication barriers that previously existed.   I would have never met 99% of the people I regularly chat with about music without it - or have found a huge number of artists who's cd's, cdr's, and downloads I regularly play.

 


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michael sandler

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2008, 05:26:58 PM »
Part of the issue as well is something much alluded to already: the price of music. Is the difference between Altus and Steve Roach worth $15? Now, before I get pummeled with tomatoes, I have bought a few Roach CDs, and I think they were well worth it. Maybe there aren't any freebies out there as good as Magnificent Void, so I bought it. But there is a lot of music out there that would be well worth the same price if the aritist chose to charge for it, and I wonder if people might even subconsciously think more highly of it if it did come at a price.

Of course, you can get Roach music at a better price on iTunes ("Structures" for $9.99 vs. $15.00 for CD, for example), so maybe I'm just bitchy about the price of CDs.

Mike S


MarkM

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2008, 08:26:46 PM »
I think the general public judges quality by the price tag associated with it:  perceived value.  Of course the price doesn't always guarantee that the quality will reflect the cost.  For example:  Altus' music is free, and yet, in my opinion, worth paying for because of its quality.

Personally, I think putting a price on your music gives the artist a clearer view of how many people have listened (or want to listen) to your music.  If it is free, you don't know how many people downloaded, listened, and enjoyed your tracks.  If they have to purchase your music, the artist can most likely assume the tracks were desired and listened to, because the buyer  heard samples, were familiar with previous work, or were recommended to buy it.


CelestialMiasma

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2008, 01:56:39 AM »
I don't think it dilutes the genre, no. People tend to enjoy free things regardless of the quantity of it that's available, and don't necessarily value it more if very little of it is available, unless it's something greatly popular (which ambient is not) or material (which you would have to purchase anyway). Releasing the tracks for free will, if anything, divert people away from music pirating, as they will be able to hear your music without needing to pirate it - it will not create pirates. More likely than not, an unknown artist trying to commercially sell their music straight away will have very few if any buyers, and as such people may not even hear the music via a pirated source. People who tend to obtain music via a pirated source are likely going to do the same for ambient they're interested in too, and if they really like it, they may still buy it. It does not effect the percieved quality of the genre, and it's likely that the well known names in the genre will still be percieved as sources of greater products by their apparent popularity anyway - which just makes it harder for the lesser known artists, so offering the music for free is really a great buffer for getting a few listeners.

And of course, the quality can't be decided upon by whether it's free or not-free alone, since it should be safe to assume that the primary intent of any artist is to create that which is an artform to them (which is why they're called an artist), and the exploitation of it for survival should be secondary, if it is really being made for the sake of their own artistic fulfilment, with whatever intent that be interlinked with it (such as it being enjoyed by others, or some slight income to help you survive). Basically you do not necessarily make ambient (or most artforms for that matter) just to survive, so it is quite feasible that many artists will enjoy it if others can be exposed to their music by whatever means, and this does not have to take away anything from the genre - if anything it adds to it by allowing the expression of ambience to be more readily experienced. Yes, some may release material that really is poorly developed, but that is inevitable in anything really, free or not-free. Mediocrity isn't something worth arguing about seriously in such a context because society is drenched in it, it is quite obvious that people must search most often for good material - just discovering the respected artists in the ambient genre usually requires some searching or discovery. The same goes for free material.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2008, 02:20:18 AM by CelestialMiasma »

solyaris

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #16 on: August 14, 2008, 01:58:52 AM »
Mark,

two binary answers and an explanation afterward

Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?

Yes

Quote
Would free distribution hurt established artists such as those on the Hypnos label?

Yes


This is a topic so long discussed in past.

About the price of music and distribution:
there is a problem of costs on delivery music on a phisical support: CD (CDr) life-cycle is not exactly "free" for music maker that's why I need to cover operational costs and so I need to ask money on shipping :(
Virtually, I mean on music delivered on the net, would be free because costs for maker are really low,
so low that do not justify a cost cover to the listener; the problem is that, a part payments, I feel "too much lo-fi" the current digital music "technology" lyfe-cycle (audio compressions, bandwith, internet, computers, etc.); in other world: I think CD is the best hi-fi & simple in user experience (please listen far from pc ;) ), so I chose the compromise to deliver my music via shipped CD; that's have a cost that I ask to listener/buyer.

About the artist perspective:
I'm a musician, but more than that, I'm interested in the deep mystery of music.
Anyway let me assume the point of view of an "artist"...:  what I really think is that the main (initial!) point to possibly create art is freedom, but Money and Freedom did not ever agree ;). When artists will understand that, artist will be a bit more happy. If you, as art maker, are focused  on listeners responses ... on money return ... on social power ... you are ... let me say in a polite way: "not free" ... unable to discover true beauties, you will dry up.

About established artists:
Their problem is that in many cases established artists consider their activities as a job ...
"work" / "projects" are common terms to describe their activities.
This is comprehensible because the artist fit himself in our society with a role apparently respectable ...

many years ago, I was eighteen, I was playing for money in an commercial folk dance music band ... a kind of Italian traditional ugly music called "ballo liscio" (maybe something similar to "country music" in USA...)
That's was a real job form me! I was paid for study and perform (complex) guitar lead parts ...
After two weeks of live I was in the point to break myguitar in two parts for the rage ...

Afterward I allways decided to separate the way to survive (any job) from the music.


giorgio

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2008, 05:18:53 PM »
I released Dreamscapes on Earth Mantra awhile ago and a french nelabel which appears defunct now (been down for a long time...not sure what's up) as well as over at last.fm.

I try not to charge too high a price for my releases, I think it's reasonable what I (and others) charge for time put in making the music, getting them printed (either professionally or in your home, hey, ink, etc...costs). I have been on the fence on doing a run of 100 for my 2nd and split release but seeing I have had hardly any sales on them (not for a real lack of promoting them) I am on the fence on it. I'll eventually release my 2nd release on a net label, probably Earth Mantra again. I am not looking to get rich as I have no delusions that I'll be able to sustain my lifestyle by doing that. With that said I think it's great folks put stuff out for free as well as sell their music. Hey, we all put a lot of time, effort, sweat, blood, whatever into our music/craft. It isn't unreasonable to try and recoup some of the costs for it. Be it for software updates, new gear, etc...

But in the end for most of us it's a no-win situation with regards to being able to recoup and maybe make a few bucks to the plus. I know I'm way down with regards to investment in software/updates and hardware. Even when I was playing in the band (for 4 yrs) we hardly saw squat with regards to money from doing shows. Even on tour we all paid out of pocket >$600 apiece to do 10 shows in 12 days. Times that by 6 for the 6 members on the tour + ~$1200 in gas = a big loss. We had fun for damn sure, a LOT of laughs, some good shows (less than the mediocre ones of course, low turnouts, etc...) but it was interesting. Playing the Heathen Crusade II back in Jan. 07 was a BLAST! We all had a great time, but again, we didn't make diddly for money, met a lot of great people, et al.

But to me in this style of music, you have to have a label in order to be able to at least meet what you spent on time/sweat/gear, but then again that's my opinion. At least some of us do this as a hobby/project (me), others are deeper into it for the longer haul (most likely). I don't know when I'll stop. I would like to continue putting out releases now and then, not the *yearly* thing like most artists. But when sales are null/little to none it makes you think twice on continuing some times. At least it does to me. Probably since it's ROIC that I look at more than others (RIOC = return on investment capital, i.e. gear and software mostly). But as long as I'm a) having fun, b) enjoying myself and c) putting something out that at least some folks enjoy (I love hearing from the few who've purchased in the past and ask when a new one will be out!) I am content. Of course I'd love to make a few grand or so a year on this but I know better ;-)

Anyways, off my soapbox. I'll still contribute to the Drone Download Project, any other label that's putting a compilation out and is interested in having me on it and any label that's interested in doing a release by me. Stephen Philips is next on my list for a release to the masses ;-)

Mike

phrozenlight

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2008, 01:47:47 AM »
...Probably since it's ROIC that I look at more than others (RIOC = return on investment capital, i.e. gear and software mostly).

That is why I have choosen for the use of freeware and a simple synth and web releases instead of CD ;)
BTW I think having more and expensive gear does not make better music. (IMHO)


Quote
But as long as I'm a) having fun, b) enjoying myself and c) putting something out that at least some folks enjoy (I love hearing from the few who've purchased in the past and ask when a new one will be out!) I am content.

complity agree 8)

Getting positive reactions... that's the reason to go on with making music  ;)
Getting negative reactions is also a good reason to go on, I still remember what the critics wrote about Schulze and TD  ;D

Quote
Of course I'd love to make a few grand or so a year on this but I know better ;-)..

I love MONEY too  ;D ;D

petekelly

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Re: Should artists distribute their tracks for free?
« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2008, 03:50:55 AM »
Why don't Robert Rich and Steve Roach release free music ?

I think the truth is that they know people are prepared to buy it.
Given the choice, I imagine all the artists who release free material would prefer it if people were
willing for pay them for their music.

Personally, I don't intend to release any free albums. My albums may not sell in vast quantities, but I'm
not prepared to give my work away. Like a number of artists (I imagine), I could release 3 albums next month if I wanted to (from all the
work-in-progress / unused material that I have), but I would rather take the time to make one good
release next year. 

cheers
Pete