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
    Ima Fish (profile), 2 Feb 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "The shoemaker doesn't ask individual people to employ him..."

    Why not? If you look through the entire history of music, the notion of selling collections of music on vinyl or plastic discs is only a blip. A minuscule little blip. Selling collections of music did not really catch on until the 60s.

    "I don't give my stuff..."

    Your analogy fails because you're comparing scarce physical goods with nearly unlimited virtual goods. If you're selling burgers, and I open up a restaurant next door and also sell burgers. That's not stealing or immoral in anyway. That's competition.

    "It is sad to think that all of music will no longer be about making music, but about begging for cash and trying to sell trinkets"

    The era of making money selling albums was really about four decades. It started in the 50s, caught on in the 60s, thrived in the 70s, took dive in the 80s, slightly regained and then completely died in by the end of the 90s.

    Merely because something was done one way for a relatively short period of time, you expect it always to be done the exact same way. That's not the way life works.

    There are people who believe that evenutlaly the manufacturing sector in the US will come back. Just like it was in the 70s with high wages. It will not come back. Merely because it existed for a short time does not mean it will exist forever.

    And if you believe the 50s through the 90s was "about making music" you're either an idiot or lying. The music business was a business. It was not about music, it was about selling vinyl and then plastic dics. What was on encoded on those discs was irrelevant.

    Right now if you want to make music, you can make music. No one is stopping you. There are no middle-men/gate-keepers keeping you from having access to the world. If you want to make music for music's sake, you're living in a golden era. If you demand to be paid for that, you're completely out of luck. If you want to be paid for it, you're going to have to give people a reason to pay. Just like I do in my job, like you do in your job, and everyone else does in their jobs.

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