Yes, If You Don't Do Anything, You Shouldn't Expect People To Just Give You Money

from the wow dept

In the discussion on our recent post about CwF + RtB business models and how they work, one of our regular critics has been filling the comments with links that supposedly "disprove" this model. I find it fascinating that this person -- who claims to spend time helping musicians -- spends so much time in our comments constantly insisting that the examples that we show that work couldn't possibly work. Anyway, she pointed to the following article as some sort of "proof" that the CwF + RtB model doesn't work, because it involves a former supporter of "free" music, who was upset when money didn't come flowing in when he released his last album. But reading through the details, and I'm a bit perplexed. It looks like he did absolutely nothing described in the CwF + RtB model at all. He didn't support free music. He didn't work to connect with the fans and drive them to various reasons to buy. Instead, he just released an album the old fashioned way and got disappointed that people didn't buy it:
My experience with Lose Your Illusion was a big part of the reason my opinion about free music changed so dramatically over the course of this past year. It was the first album I'd been involved with that had a real label backing it up and covering the bills--all my previous records had been self-funded, self-released DIY projects--and as such it was the first one where the music didn't "feel" free. Somebody else's money was on the line.

When Illusion leaked via RapidShare shortly before its release date, at first it felt pretty good. Someone obviously thought the album was good enough to upload, and someone else thought it was good enough to download. Surely this would generate some positive word of mouth--when the record came out it might even sell better as a result. That never happened, though. I kept track of more than a dozen file-sharing links, eventually counting more than 1,000 downloads. I'm not sure yet how many copies have actually sold, but I do know it's fewer than that. Vinyl stock was still sitting on Flameshovel's shelves when the label packed up its offices late last year. (It's now strictly a back-catalog operation, with no new releases planned.)

Maybe people just didn't like the album enough to buy it. Maybe the important thing is that it got heard, whether they liked it or not. But seeing it posted online so many times was demoralizing. Nobody doing the posting ever contacted the band to check if the leak was intentional, and I can't imagine they were thinking about Flameshovel's tiny staff trying to steer the sinking ship. That really kneecapped my idealistic enthusiasm for file sharing.
So what did the band do to connect with fans? What reasons to buy did it offer? What unique ways did the band offer scarce value to users? How did it build up its fan base? None of that is explained in the article at all. Instead, it's just someone upset that a small number of people file sharing the album didn't translate into direct sales of that same album. That's not evidence against CwF + RtB, that's evidence for it. It's evidence against the old way of doing things.

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  1. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), 3 Feb 2010 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: I'll keep posting examples.

    You've left out the most obvious example:
    Be a session musician. Prowess with a musical instrument is a reason to buy.

    I left out a lot of examples.

    Here's something I have posted before, but lays out some options. Making your money directly from music (getting paid to play in some fashion, including being a session musician, or selling your recorded music) would fall under category one.

    No degree of separation: Sell your music.
    One degree of separation: Sell stuff related to your music.
    Two degrees of separation: Use your existing music to sell other people's stuff (e.g. have your music in commercials).
    Three degrees of separation: Write music specifically to sell other people's stuff (e.g. write jingles and commissioned works).
    Four degrees of separation: Play music. Use your visibility as a musician as a way to promote your real profession (e.g., the singing plumber).
    Five degrees of separation: Play music. Don't mix it with any money-earning activity. Keep your hobby and your income generating activities totally separate.

    As for being a session musician, some of them are losing work, too, as more recording is done via computer-generated music. A lot of tools are coming out that allow people to do it all by themselves without having to hire anyone.

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