Hugh Cornwell Is Still Not A Taxi Driver; Musician Learns To Embrace Free

from the good-for-him dept

Jean Savoye, a reader here at Techdirt, sent in a submission using the provocative title that "Hugh Cornwell Is Still Not A Taxi Driver," and wrote about how former Stranglers' frontman, Hugh Cornwell, appeared to be embracing some of the concepts we talk about here as a business model. On his official website, he's offering up his latest album as a completely free download. However, he's pairing that with a much more complete business model. Like Trent Reznor, Cornwell is also offering a few different options for those who want tangible (scarce) goods as well -- such as a CD, DVD or vinyl.

But Cornwell seems to be going even further in recognizing the power of selling scarcities. The DVD mentioned above is actually a film showing much of the recording process that went into the album. However, the film itself was also shown in some theaters -- with Cornwell attending each of the showings and doing a Q&A session at the end of each one. In other words, he's recognized yet another important "scarcity": access to the artists and (once again) that means much more than touring, as seen here.

As for the title of the post? Well, back in 2001, Cornwell was doing an interview with a website, and the interviewer showed him Napster and explained it to Cornwell. While Cornwell didn't react totally negatively (he seemed to think it was cool for rare or live tracks), he was very much against his studio recorded songs being up there:
I cannot condone the posting of music that I spent money making, being given away for free.... When I see that my new album has been posted, and everyone can get that for free, if that carries on I'm going to go out of business.... Napster is good in some ways, but if maybe just one track was posted from a commercial record, as a taster, because I know a lot of people who go to Napster are real fans who want the original artwork, want the real article, and are not happy having something that's downloaded. But then there are other people who are getting it for free, they are not giving me anything, and there has to be some sort of royalty paid or I'll have to become a cab driver.
Well, seven years later, Cornwell is posting his own music, and having it given away for free -- and he hasn't gone out of business or become a cab driver. He's figured out a business model that takes advantage of that free sharing of his music. Always nice to see musicians progressing along that curve.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    wasnt me!, Sep 16th, 2008 @ 11:37pm

    I guess i was wrong. Then again if i had never heard of Hugh Cornwell doesn't mean he is a nobody.

    i always say Trent Reznor's model would only work for artists that had proven them selfs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    mike allen, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 12:45am


    strange how it seems to work for both established artists and unknowns alike. so yes you are wrong

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 1:02am


    Masnick's Law, so early on in the comments. Dear me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Ben, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 1:13am

    Good to see!

    It is always a good thing to see artists who make the current environment profitable for them, and I love the fact that he did the Q&A sessions at the screenings, obviously a person with a good head on their shoulders.
    Mike, you must be pleased when you see people successfully make this happen, especially considering the amount of people that come on here to tell you otherwise :)


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Peter Thomas, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 3:53am


    Hugh Cornwell might be unknown in America, but here in the UK, songs by the Stranglers (Peaches, No More Heroes, Always The Sun, etc) are well-known, often played on the radio.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 17th, 2008 @ 3:58am

    Re: Unknown?

    Who said he was unknown?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 5:56am

    Re: Re: Unknown?

    Commenter #1 sort of did - not you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jake, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 6:13am


    How old are you, thirteen? The Stranglers are probably more established than Nine Inch Nails.
    Still, I've always felt that the various methods of using the music as a loss leader are a bit risky; a well-established artist with a few albums and a better than even chance of playing to capacity crowds for at least half their tour dates can weather a fizzle, and some bunch of hopefuls with a few demo tapes they recorded in their garden shed have nothing much to lose, but a band or artist caught halfway between those two points stands to be left out of pocket to the tune of a couple thousand dollars at least if the resulting goodwill doesn't drive people towards buying concert tickets and band merchandise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Isaac K (profile), Sep 17th, 2008 @ 6:33am


    PLEASE, somebody find that "middle-ground artist" example so these people will just have to SHUT UP and quit messing around with the Masnick Law!! :plead:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    hegemon13, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re:

    Actually, this is a guy who admits he was wrong in that opinion. Don't flame him. Everybody makes mistakes. Takes an honest person to admit it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    corkbender, Sep 17th, 2008 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Unknown?

    Hugh is not unknown in America. The Stranglers during Hugh's tenure were great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Graeme Robbins, Sep 25th, 2008 @ 10:13am

    art for arts sake...nearly

    There has been a long tradition of artists occasionally giving away their work, I do it with my painting on rare occasions, usually to women admitedly, but there is something very freeing about the handing over of something very personal without seeing any renumeration.
    I'm not sure if Hughs idea was 'just' a 'business model'.....sometimes it just has to be be honest, after I downloaded the album I was very dissapointed that I didn't have the art work to look at, the lyric sheet to read, I didn't have to get hold of the bottle opener to break the cellophane wrap, scraping the cd cove straight away and didn't get the pleasure of taking off that huge ugly sticker......of course I could be wrong and this all was 'just' a huge business plan....I just hope that it wasn't completely that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    colin davis, Oct 2nd, 2008 @ 3:09am


    it would be intresting to have hugh driving a cab,but not for him if it was in glasg

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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