This is unfortunate. Nearly two years ago, we wrote about the indie music label Asthmatic Kitty, which seemed to take a really forward looking attitude
towards the new music market. In that interview, the label noted the reality of the new world, and why it was important to focus on reasons to buy, rather than assuming that people would just pay to hear music. This is what was said at the time:
I operate under the conviction that people buy records because they want to own them, not because they want to hear them. It is too easy these days to hear a record without having to buy it. I don't resent that fact, rather I feel we at Asthmatic Kitty embrace it through streaming albums and offering several free mp3s (even whole free albums). And why do they want to own it? They want it to illustrate to others their taste and identify who they are as a person. I also believe they want to be part of something bigger than themselves, they want to belong.
Our job is no longer to sell folks things they want to hear. They want an experience and to identify themselves as part of a community. Ownership then becomes a way of them supporting your community through investing in that community. Fostering that in an honest, transparent and "non-gross" way takes a combination of gracefulness, creativity and not taking oneself too seriously, while still taking art and music seriously.
Apparently, however, they do
resent Amazon for making music available cheaply. Reader Colin points us to a recent article about how Asthmatic Kitty has sent out a letter to fans of artist Sufjan Stevens, complaining that Amazon's pricing is too low
and asking people to go to Bandcamp and pay more instead. They do admit to being somewhat conflicted about this, at least:
"We have mixed feelings about discounted pricing," the label explained.
"Like we said, we love getting good music into the hands of good people, and when a price is low, more people buy. A low price will introduce a lot of people to Sufjan's music and to this wonderful album. For that, we're grateful.
But we also feel like the work that our artists produce is worth more than a cost of a latte. We value the skill, love, and time they've put into making their records. And we feel that our work too, in promotion and distribution, is also valuable and worthwhile."
While they're certainly not attacking Amazon or fans, the whole email does feel a little off. The simple fact is, if people want the music (as the label seemed to recognize last year), they can find it somewhere for free. Amazon's prices are meaningless when it comes to the "value" of the music. Price and value are not the same thing. Rather than complaining about the price that Amazon sets on the album, why not give people additional reasons
to pay directly at Bandcamp -- such as providing valuable extras if they do. Or discounts on other merchandise. There are all sorts of positive
ways to get people to find it worthwhile
to spend money without making them feel guilty and bad for paying a price that is legitimately offered by a retailer.