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Singer Songwriter & Vocal Coach, Lizanne Hennessey - Voice Coach


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Should Music be Free?

We live in a digital age where music is easily accessible, which is a great thing.
We also live in a digital age where it is socially accepted to steal music.
It makes sense to pay a buck for a cup of pre-fab coffee, but not for a piece of music.


Behind a piece of music is expertise, investment, skill and professionalism.
You wouldn't ask a contractor to build your house for free, just because he 'likes his job', would you?

If everyone who contributes to this discussion were to buy my album (let me stress - this is by no means a request to do so!!!), I would have enough money to buy groceries this month. The royalties we earned on selling our music made it possible to buy our house.

Who benefits from free music?

I'm curious, from the point of view of the 'starving musician', what your thoughts are!


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  • May 14 2013: Something has just dawned on me! I think we're talking about two different things.
    1. The value of music.
    2. The value of digital data.

    Would you all agree with me, that digital data is comprised of ones and zeros. It is intangible. We can access this data from anywhere, and can do so with complete anonymity.

    So, when music is offered in the form of digital data, then it decreases in value.
    Do you agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts on this?
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      May 14 2013: It does indeed decrease the value of the "product"
      Music as an "experience", I think we both can agree, is priceless. The ability to access it at any given time is a huge beneift to many. I rarely consider buying music I have never heard before. It takes me hearing it for "free" to even consider.

      I think the true challenge of musicians these days is bringing an aesthetic property to their music. The resurgence of record sales (vinyl) is a good example. Often these records come with a free digital copy.

      This issue is similar to the current state of photography, or any media or art that can be digitized, really. A few years back it was impossible to produce a fine piece of photography without having an expensive camera, lense etc. Now anyone can snap a shot and print thier own from home. Who benefits from free photography?

      I think the artist can also benefit from their music being "given" away. The Grateful Dead allowed thier fans to tape their shows and trade them for free. The real music was the "experience" which for them revolved around their live sets and community they built from working hard and endlessly touring.

      From my own experience, free music has been beneficial for me and the artists who create the music I enjoy in many different ways. For example: I was given about 10 albums of a band whose music I enjoy. (I stopped illegally downloading years ago, now I rip cds from the public library) Having these MP3's reinforced my love for this said band, who I've seen live 4 times. The last time I saw said group, tickets were upwards of 50$ So lets say on avergage a show is about $35 US Dollars. So in all I have paid out of pocket $140 dollars. I don't know the economics of how much the band would actually receive of that, after paying mangagers, venue, sound, promoters, etc. But i would estimate the percentage is similar to what they would receive from the sale of a cd.

      If i hadn't experienced their catalogue for free.... would I be a fan?
      • May 14 2013: Well said, Colin! I agree with so much of what you say, as an artist as well as a listener/music-lover!

        You are so right - we are talking about ALL forms of art and expression, not just music! And you simply can't put a price on expression.
        I feel the same way - I can't be persuaded to buy a song when I only get to hear 30 seconds of it. It would be like buying a coat based on how well the left sleeve fits!

        I loved the way you supported this band that you love, and also, and perhaps just as important, how they supported you! Belief and trust in your fan base is essential to survival, and this was a truly wonderful way to engage fans and generate even more support.

        This is an example of how voluntarily giving away music can be profitable, which is something completely different than having it taken from you.

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