As some of you will no doubt now be aware, I have released an album of some of my “back catalogue” – some of the work I should have made available a long time ago, but which up until now didn’t get past my self-censorship. Now it’s out there! But when I chose to release it, I ended up doing a few things that went against the grain, and I’m now curious for your thoughts on two in particular –
It finally hit home a few weeks back while talking to my sister that, as someone who still buys CDs, I have become an anachronism! There are still valid reasons for buying CDs – you might have a CD player in the car… but increasingly I find that even I am now buying digital. For a long time I thought that the lack of something tactile, the feeling that you owned a copy, the tiny liner notes with the eccentric thank yous, credits… I thought until digital replaced that with some sort of electronic equivalent, people wouldn’t go for it. Instead, some people are reaching for the subscription model, paying monthly to get a fix of new earworms and access to the old ones, with no thought to that access suddenly being removed.
Obviously with a little self interest I’m interested in how everyone feels they support the acts they love. If they’re local, you can go and see them, but many artists have remote fans and internet brings down those physical barriers – I’ve enjoyed two bands this year I’m probably never going to get to see live. Some try the merchandise route, which goes best with the live shows.
I always buy a copy of music I like, hopefully managing to pick the option that gets the most cash back to the artist. But I’m curious – how many of you have gone down the subscription route? Spotify etc? (I know many musicians do as a way of getting hold of the tunes they need to learn for gigs!) And on a related note, how do you discover new music you like? Has this changed in recent times?
Making available for free
The second thing that initially ran against the grain for me was making my music available to freely listen to in so many places, but actually as an independent artist, your first challenge is getting anyone to listen to it at all! This I think is what pushed what has been a very long argument in the direction of just getting your music out there so people can share it and hear it. I’ve done it because I think if people like what you do, they will try and support you to do more of it. But in a world where people are so used to hearing music for free, does that devalue it?
As a performing musician, I’ve avoided setups where musicians are expected to play for free – I feel that devalues what musicians do. The time it has taken to hone and maintain what we do deserves financial recognition – you wouldn’t expect a plumber or electrician to work for free. The same applied to crafting music and making recordings, you can hear where the effort and skill has gone into a good record and/or song, but the results are so much more subjective… not everyone is going to like what you do, or appreciate the effort. In a world where your audience might be discovering your music for the first time for free on a shared youtube video, how do you persuade them to buy into what you do?