Why Paul McCartney Would Have Been Better Off Giving Away His Latest Music For Free

from the promote-the-other-things dept

Earlier this year, we noted that Starbucks was going to start its own record label to sell CDs, with Paul McCartney as the first artist to release an album on it. This came after the relative success of promoting a few albums exclusively in Starbucks when they launched (on other labels). However, as Bob Lefsetz points out, McCartney's album looks like it's a money loser for Starbucks -- though McCartney likely made money from Starbucks who probably paid him a nice sum to put the album out on the new label. However, as Lefsetz points out, he could make a lot more in concert revenue much faster. Lefsetz goes on to point out what we've been pointing out for years: McCartney would have been better off giving away the music for free everywhere, and actually getting people to hear it. In fact, Lefsetz suggests that he might have put more effort into making better music if he knew that there was a much bigger likelihood that people would hear it and care about it. Where I disagree with Lefsetz is his belief that it makes sense to offer the music for free for now, while you still get a promotional bump just for announcing that you'll be giving away music for free, that it won't make sense in the future when lots of artists are doing it. Instead, it seems likely that more and more new models will arise, where the music acts as the promotion, and bands make their money elsewhere. The more popular and widespread the music is, the more opportunities there will be to make that money elsewhere. Once bands start seeing success using that model, more and more will pile on, and people will wonder why anyone pays just for the music if they're not given anything else of value with it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    RandomThoughts, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:16am

    Mike, I have a few issues with your post (I know, whats new) about Paul making more money by giving away his music for free. Paul received X amount from Starbucks for his music. If he doesn't do that, he doesn't get the X amount. Does Paul increase his concert sales? You can only sell out so many concerts, which I believe Paul does anyway, so no, you can't go that route. Does Paul sell more T Shirts? Maybe, but then again, how many does he sell today? Does Paul do commercials for others? I think he probably does as many as he wants now.

    Does Paul make his past songs free also, forgoing the profits from those songs (assuming, incorrectly or not that he would have that right)? How much revenue is lost there?

    Does free have its place? Of course it does. It just isn't every place.

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:38am

    I doubt ..

    .. that Paul McCartney continues to sell out concerts, unless they are small venues.

     

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      ehrichweiss, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:47am

      Re: I doubt ..

      I doubt that you know who Paul McCartney is then, unless of course your idea of a small venue is a 25,000 seat arena. You may not like him but there are millions of old Beatles and Wings fans who still attend his concerts religiously.

      The last time that I remember he came in my area he sold out our arena and he had only had that one semi-popular top-40 hit, "My Brave Face". We're not talking about a one-hit wonder, we're talking about Paul McCartney and his legacy and that's what everyone shows up for.

       

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        AMP, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:58am

        Re: Re: I doubt ..

        I think that this comment kind of gets to the point, "there are millions of old Beatles and Wings fans who still attend his concerts religiously."

        It seemes to me that Sir Paul's newer music is a lot less relevant. Selling out concerts is where he is going to make his money I assume (and merchandising). I don't believe that he still holds any rights to any of the Beatles works (I could be wrong about that). And I can't imagine that Wings CDs are flying off of the shelves. Anyway, I assume that he is not making much money off of album sales these days. He might as well give the music away and bring in a new generation of fans to his concerts (which still sell very well)

        Paul McCartney makes his living off of the Beatles legacy and to some extent Wings. That is what his fans go to hear when the go to one of his shows.

        Maybe he could bring Michael Jackson back and they could do another duet. That seemed to reienvigorate his career a little in the mid 80's. :-)

         

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      Rich, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:06am

      Re: I doubt ..

      The major problem with the argument that Paul should give away his album for free, as promotion for a concert tour, is that Paul is not touring after this album (afaik). The is 64/65 years old and I don't think he wants to spend a year touring everytime he releases an album.

      Although Bruce Springsteen, who is preparing for a tour, is giving away his new song on iTunes.

       

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      Yeah?, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:36pm

      Re: I doubt ..

      2007 figures (covers all revenue including tours). Paul was #1 in 2006.

      The top ten rich list:

      1. Rolling Stones (£55.3million)
      2. Sir Paul McCartney (£40million)
      3. Sir Elton John (£34 million)
      4. Robbie Williams (£30million)
      5. Coldplay (£25.3million)
      6. Sting (£25.1million)
      7. Phil Collins (£25.1million)
      8. Fleetwood Mac (£23.5million)
      9. Iron Maiden (£17.9million)
      10. Dido (£15.8million)

       

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    Gaas, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:39am

    Why it did not sell

    I bought that CD from Starbucks. I have not bought a CD in over 5 years. I bought it because I felt that I have to support this label or the big 4 will win. This album SUCKS!!!! SUCKS with a massive capital S. It is horrible. That is why it is not selling. This is the type of music that they used at Abu Graib for interrogations/torture. "Sir" Paul, you should be ashamed of your self. This is worse than Ben Afleck in Gigli or however you spell that.

     

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      janette, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:18pm

      Re: Why it did not sell

      ARE YOU KIDDING?????? YOU OBVIOUSLY ARE TOO YOUNG POSSIBLY, NARROW MINDED AND OR TOO STUPID TO APPRECIATE HIS TALENT...IT IS A GREAT ALBUM, POSSIBLY ONE OF THE BEST!!!!!!

       

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    thomas in texas, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:55am

    alcohol driven products

    most bands push alcohol as the main revenue source so whats new????

     

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    Doc_2029, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 8:56am

    Well....

    It was on Emusic.com. I downloaded there as part of my subscription in NON DMR mp3 format. It wasn't the best CD I've ever heard but then again it wasn't the worst either. I don't know what to say other than in away it was kind of given away. I mean I pay a flat fee and get X amount of downloads a month from Emusic.

    Anyway for a long time now I've avoided I-tunes and all the other DRM sites and belonged to Emusic. Supporting the independent labels and artists. I've found some great music there and well it is the best 20.00 I spend each month.

     

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    Sam, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 9:26am

    Paul

    Your mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?

     

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    DML, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 9:41am

    Ah, you're got a

    Thanks Mike. :)

    I suppose I better comment on this post to at least try staying on topic. The bottom line with Paul McCartney is he's not nearly as relevant to the music *buying* public as Starbuck's thought. He sold half a million CDs, which for most people would be considered a huge success. Bob does a good job of covering this.

    What he gets wrong is that this was do to some sort of lack of effort on McCartney's part. Not sure what he's basing that on. Of course McCartney could get more money if only he tried harder. He could have put together the infrastructure needed for a tour, tv interviews, radio interviews, press releases, etc...But Starbucks offered him 5 million for doing far less work - WHY should he try harder?

     

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    RandomThoughts, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Paul's new music isn't his draw and when all his old fans die out, he will be in trouble. Of course, he will be dead too, so maybe it doesn't matter.

     

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    Aaron, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 10:17am

    He is Giving for free

    you can actually get a song and a video from his new album for FREE from itunes.... FREE!
    to bad its not very good....

    here is the link
    http://freeitunessongs.blogspot.com/2007/08/musicvideo-paul-mccartney-nod-your-hed.html

     

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    The Man, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 10:25am

    Free Bastards

    He would not make any more money by giving music away for free. You bastards who want everything free are not going to pay for anything else he does, you will just wait for something else you want to be free.

    Why pay for oranges if you live in Florida? There are huge grove with oranges just hanging on the trees. You can just walk up and pick as many as you want. The farmers just need to find a new revinue stream to cover their costs. They have many choices of ways to get more revinue, I will just never say how. Maybe they can sell T-shirts that say "I grow oranges". Or sell tickets to let people watch them squeeze oranges into juice. If it is easy to take something for free then it must be OK.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 10:57am

      Re: Free Bastards

      I agree to an extent with the sentiment here. I do believe a lot of user comments that we see here are mere justification for not paying for music.

      Not sure about the analogy though, kind of comparing apples and oranges....terrible pun, I know, but i had to do it.

       

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      niftyswell, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:55am

      Re: Free Bastards

      I already get the content free. Every time I turn on my radio and drive to work I get it for free. Even funnier, there are scandals about how the music companies pay to distribute the music and tempt the broadcasters of this medium to offer even more of the content for free. What is even crazier is that the more popular the content is, the more they play it ...for free! Then the same content is rolled into advertisements, movies, played at sporting events, and soon I am just sick of it. All for free. Then if I want to play the content I am told I have to pay for the honor of listening to it when I want, that it is illegal for me to record the same signal being sent to my radio, television, or internet. For some reason I cannot use my vcr to record the music being streamed to the television on the music channels I get with my cable subscription and play it later or convert it to mp3. So in the end I dont know what the law wants from me...the artist really want me to listen to their music but dont want me to listen when I want to listen to it. Please explain this to me!

       

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      The infamous Joe, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:58am

      Re: Free Bastards

      Why pay for oranges if you live in Florida? There are huge grove with oranges just hanging on the trees. You can just walk up and pick as many as you want.

      But, would you consider it a crime if I walked into his orange grove and cloned an orange, then walked out with my cloned orange and without disturbing anything else? I only ask because that's much closer to what happens when you copy a song. ;)


      He would not make any more money by giving music away for free. You bastards who want everything free are not going to pay for anything else he does, you will just wait for something else you want to be free.

      You see, the thing is that if my boss wants a quarterly report, and I type one up and give it to him, I get paid. Then, next quarter I just copy the one from last quarter, my source of money would quickly become cut off. I didn't do any work, I just copied my old work.

      However, if a *musician* records a song, they somehow feel that they should keep getting paid for copying that song over and over again. Go figure, I guess they're all better than me.

      Along the same lines, if all the work he needs to do to get paid is copy the song, and *I* can copy the song myself, there's no reason he should get paid, right? I mean, I'm simply doing what he would of done myself. If I decide to re-tile my bathroom instead of paying someone to do it, I don't pay that person, because I did the work they would have done myself.

      I, however, have no talent in music, so if a musician really wants to get paid, said musician should play music for me, *not* copy something recorded earlier. Since I can't copy the concert experience at home, it has value to me, and because it has value to me, I will pay for it.

      Also, the "bastards who want everything for free" don't want everything for free, they don't expect to get a BMW for free, or a house, or any number of *scarce* items for free.

      If something has no real economic value, however... well, you see the trends already. :)

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

        Re: Re: Free Bastards

        Flawed Logic, Joe. But he owns the song you do not own your quarterly report your company does. Also your quarterly report is only useful for that quarter. Good try though.

         

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    RandomThoughts, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 10:41am

    An interesting article on why the majority of people don't see copyright infringement as being morally wrong was written by Mohsen Manesh. It is titled "The Immorality of Theft, the Amorality of Infringement. Written for Stanford Technology Law Review. (I would post the link, but doing so tends to trigger the need for a Techdirt review.)

    It is an interesting read.

     

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    Michael Long, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:01am

    Wrong focus?

    Yes, but Starbucks paid money to feature McCartney's album. Instead of focusing on how many sales Paul did or didn't make, or Starbucks ROI, how about looking at what OTHER things Starbucks gets out of the deal? Publicity for one thing (including this post).

    When you do, you'll see that the question isn't so much about Starbucks "breaking even", but whether or not they're getting value for their money. As such, any "loss" they take is a marketing expense.

     

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    Steve, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:05am

    "Better Music?"

    I'm sorry, but while I find your argument that he might make more by giving away the music convincing, I have to take issue with your claim that McCartney might have "put more effort into making better music if he knew that there was a much bigger likelihood that people would hear it and care about it."

    1) Musicians, in general, are making the "best" music they can make. Only the most superficial of pop star would half-ass any music they plan to release. To think that they could somehow turn up the creativity and increase their music's "quality" assumes that (a) they are releasing music they feel is not good enough, and (b) there is some measurable "quality" factor that they could increase.

    2) Musicians are always trying to reach the largest possible audience, and naturally create music with the idea that it will be heard by everyone. If it ends up being poorly distributed or marketed and fewer people hear it, that's unfortunate, but an artist will never think "well, this is good enough for the people I'm making it for, most people will never hear it anyway." If there are musicians who think that way, I doubt they get very far.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2007 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      1) Musicians, in general, are making the "best" music they can make.
      Yeah, right. That's why they NEVER EVER do ANYTHING that might injure their creativity. Like abusing drugs and alcohol, right? Because hey, their biggest concern is always just producing the best music possible.

      Anyone who seriously believes that crap is seriously deluded.

       

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    gigi, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:15am

    Free?

    The article made absolutely NO sense to me. WHY should he give it away for free? He is first and foremost a talented musician and a brilliant businessman. To have sustained himself after all these years, above and beyond any 60's Invasion British group, proves his talent is withstanding. He donates to animal rights causes and does many good things for humanity. Paul will alwas be a legend until the end of time. Signed: A very fit, (not model tall, not blonde, not a singer or actress, but petite, cute, smart, and intelligent) and most of all, not shallow or a golddigger and a caring animal rights advocate and Vegan. Hi to Stella; love your fashions!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:38am

      Re: Free?

      "To have sustained himself after all these years, above and beyond any 60's Invasion British group, proves his talent is withstanding. He donates to animal rights causes and does many good things for humanity."
      What does that have to do with anything? I agree, for him this is a good business decision. But in my mind it hurts his legacy. It is part of the overall problem with today's music. Put forth a half-assed effort, take a dump into a CD jewel case, sit back and expect to get paid a bunch of money. Paul McCartney is hoping to sell CDs based on his past work. In my mind that is no different than wanting to get paid royalties for something you did 40 years ago.
      That being said, he was able to $5 million for relatively little effort, good for him, but in my mind, it tarnishes his musical "legacy" that you seem to hold so dear.

      And to your point about his talent sustaining itself, I think that an argument could be made that he has been standing on reputation, rather than current work, for the last 25 years. But that is more of a subjective opinion.

       

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    Andrew Tohmas, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:27am

    I thought the album was awesome

    I'm 22 and I'm surprized by all the negative feedback here in regards to his newest album. I personally thought it was great solo album. Granted it's not as good as his Beatles work but what is? His voice is not what it was but overall his songs are still a lot better than the most of crap out there. I would suggest you listen to the album five times over and then you'll appreciate its worth.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 6:28pm

      Re: I thought the album was awesome

      I'm with you Andrew. I think it's a pretty good album too. Paul connects strongly with his own history, but isn't rehashing it. He's not in his prime, perhaps, but he's still got more talent in one finger than every Top 40 artist from the last 10 years put together.

       

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    RandomThoughts, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 11:36am

    Gigi, petite, cute, smart, and intelligent is good. You might add redundant? If you lost a leg along the way, Paul may be interested in you.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 12:53pm

    Copyrights out of control.

    Copyright laws now protect a work for 99 years after someones death. This is way out of control and if patents were the same Tom Edison's patent on the light bulb would just be running out. If copyrights were for 20 years just think of all the music that would be free to use. If you can't make money off a song in twenty years then free might be OK.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 1:57pm

    Ever notice how computer geeks do all the work they can to get $200 (often much more) worth of Software for free...going through all the trouble of cracking, hacking, etc. But then they'll go out and blow $2000 on hardware without even second-guessing.... yea... kinda makes you wonder.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 1:59pm

    I don't see how McCartney could really make any more money on concert venues. People like Paul sell out concerts on name alone. Its like Cher's 200 year long farewell tour. People go to see them because they don't know how much longer they'll have to see them. Trust me, the moment I hear about McCartney coming anywhere near my city, I'll have a ticket to it, and so will alot of other people just like me. The man is a certifiable legend. I really don't care if he's good in concert or not, I don't care if he only plays covers the whole concert. But being able to remember seeing someone like Paul in concert, is worth more than the cost of a ticket to me. For other acts, sure, the press of giving away an album for free, may be a good thing. But for the relatively few truly great acts, not so much. Don't believe me? People flock to this city by the millions every year to see a house that a dead man from Mississippi lived in. And IMHO, Elvis isn't nearly as good as the Beatles were.

     

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    Paul, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 2:38pm

    Typical Mike story template

    Something happened that wasn't very beneficial to someone. This is proof positive that my socialist views are the only real way to go, and that this person would have been better off if he hired me as his communist consultant. Never mind the fact that my views are not only proven to be less effective, I'm going to assume my readers are too stupid to to do any research, or a simple google search for that matter, and continue to make absurd claims without offering a thorough explanation of all the loose threads that come with my raggedy sweater of an idea.

     

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      The Man, Aug 30th, 2007 @ 2:54pm

      Re: Typical Mike story template

      No, no, no. You got it all wrong Paul. Don't you understand simple economics. If you give everything away for free you will make more money. Also, the sky will be bluer, the crippled will walk, the blind will see. Free is the answer to all our economic worries.

      -May the giant omnimpitent sparkplub shine light into your life.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2007 @ 12:00pm

      Re: Typical Mike story template

      Never mind the fact that my views are not only proven to be less effective, I'm going to assume my readers are too stupid to to do any research, or a simple google search for that matter, and continue to make absurd claims without offering a thorough explanation of all the loose threads that come with my raggedy sweater of an idea.
      Sucks to be you then, doesn't it Paul? Maybe you should try reading some of the essays Mike has written to see if you can can straighten out your twisted logic. Then again, maybe you like being twisted.

       

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    Brian Shaw, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:42pm

    BEATLE, Sir Paul MCcartney

    Paul had more more money than he could ever spend in a life time by 1966.He does'nt care about money.He cares about helping animals,and human beings that are in need, or suffering.With a love like that you know you should be glad,ya ya ya!!!!!!!!!

     

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    Brian Shaw, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    BEATLE, Sir Paul MCcartney

    Paul had more money than he could ever spend in a life time by 1966.He does'nt care about money.He cares about helping animals,and human beings that are in need, or suffering.With a love like that you know you should be glad,ya ya ya!!!!!!!!!YA YA YA YAAAAAAAAAAA.

     

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    Brian Shaw, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:51pm

    BEATLE, Sir Paul MCcartney

    Paul had more more money than he could ever spend in a life time by 1966.He does'nt care about money.He cares about helping animals,and human beings that are in need, or suffering.With a love like that you know you should be glad,ya ya ya!!!!!!!!!

     

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