Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Doing Things for Free: Part 3

A lot of musicians complain very publicly about not receiving enough money for their work. Whether it is record companies or streaming services, artists claim they are not compensated enough. They make these claims loudly, looking for enough sympathy that consumers will buy their records from their own labels to maximize a profit. But for every artist demanding more money for their music, there are ten musicians who produce everything by themselves hoping for even a dozen people to hear what they’ve done. Even if they hear it for free.

This brings us finally to the interplay between producers and consumers of music. Like most content creators, musicians make music because it is a passion of theirs. This is as true for major musicians as it is for high schoolers playing in their garages. And anyone who is passionate about something wants to share it with others to spread their enjoyment. Luckily, there are places, again on the wonderful Internet that makes it possible to share and promote music for their audience.

SoundCloud is a community devoted to just this purpose--artists giving their music to any interested person. It benefits both artists by promoting and listeners by providing new tunes. Because SoundCloud is disconnected from most major labels, it hosts tracks to be played directly on the website, or in some cases, to be downloaded for personal playback. This is an ideal use for someone who does all of their own work independently and can just upload finished products immediately. Fans can interact with the music instantly, as well as browse and discover new interesting songs. Occasionally, even major established artists take advantage of this service to share new music before the major release of an album.

Bandcamp is a similar service in that it allows songwriters to upload tracks and even full albums for distribution to interested fans. People can stream music directly on the site or, as is more commonly the case, they can download individual tracks or albums. The site utilizes a “pay what you want” strategy, where users can give what they feel the music is worth or what they can afford to spend, even if that cost is nothing. This system allows artists to earn a bit of a profit, if they wish, while still being able to advertise their own creations. From a listener’s perspective, there are dozens of great artists ready to be discovered for no cost. Some fans even curate lists of the best music on the site that’s also available for free.

But not all artists who want to share their music happen to be small independent musicians using these aforementioned websites. English rock band Radiohead, famously released their album, In Rainbows, for any price, including $0. Just as famously (or perhaps infamously), U2 forced any iPhone user to have their album, Songs of Innocence, at no cost but without the user’s permission. Influential hard rock musician, Trent Reznor, has made use of public copyrighting known as Creative Commons licensing to release several albums for free. Numerous rap groups give songs away in the form of mixtapes. The list goes on and on.

Obviously, even well-known and critically acclaimed musicians care enough about their listeners to simply give their music away. Once again, the Internet provides several outlets where consumers can get what they are looking for from producers with a little searching and no cost. Most people can find places to stream music online or download it illegally, but there are many great places where music makers can interact directly with fans. After a bit of poking and prodding around different websites, it’s not hard to broaden one’s mind, for purposes of both entertainment and information.

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