This is a guest post by Marcus Taylor, founder of TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk, a website that helps DIY musicians find resources such as music business contracts to help them succeed in the music business.
There’s been no shortage of discussion on the topic of selling vs. offering music for free over the years, and while I don’t expect this article to even come close to settling that debate, I thought I’d share my views anyway.
I’ve summed up my arguments into two bullet points, which are:
- Selling music is a historical habit, which made sense when it cost money to duplicate and share music – nowadays it doesn’t.
- Selling music will create an income stream for you, but it will cut off bigger income streams.
Selling music is a historical habit
Ask yourself – why should we sell our music? Any of the usual answers boil down to the fact that it’s traditional / it’s what we grew up knowing is normal. The thing is, everything we grew up with being normal has changed – it no longer costs thousands to share music, and music can now be produced at a fraction of the cost it used to.
I don’t need to tell you the changes the music business has gone through over the past 20 years, but what you do need to consider is that these changes require a change in mindsets – we don’t need to charge money to share our music (i.e. we don’t lose money by someone sharing an MP3), we just want to because it seems usual.
Selling music will create an income stream for you, but it will cut off bigger ones
Selling an MP3 for £0.99 is like going to a networking event and charging people to accept your business card – sure, you make a little bit of many from people who really want to get in touch with you, but you cut off much bigger revenue streams from people who don’t want to pay you.
It seems too obvious to say that if you could give out 2,000,000 business cards to potential customers for free, you’d end up better off than the competitor who gave out 200 business cards, selling each one for £0.99.
This may seem like an extreme and over dramatic example, in some senses it is, but the point is that IF you are able to offer more valuable services (touring, merchandise, licensing, sponsorship) then your music is the best business card you can offer to acquire those bigger deals. Of course, going into the studio, rehearsing new songs, and distributing your music costs money that you’d like to recoup – but as does printing business cards – if you’re serious about your music, you’ll see these costs as an investment in increasing your chance of attaining bigger deals.
Just ask yourself – would you rather work on getting your band’s name on 2,000,000 iPod Touches or 2,000? Which is going to earn you more in experience, money, and opportunities?
Image Credit: bstabler