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!

  • May 15 2013: I don't think that being a musician isn't any less of a "real job" as would be owning a fortune 500 company. Being a musician you are your own employer, like any business owner. Whether or not a musician is compensated for work is left to their own accord - ultimately relying upon the vehicle of sales. And this situation presents the major paradox at hand: the musician vs. the artist.

    The artist produces music for love, for the inherent rhythms of life which ache to be expressed. The musician on the other hand, professionally produces music (professionally in the strict sense of being paid for work) and hopes that other individuals' desire for music is enough to create substantial profits.

    In a naturalist sense, technology is here to stay and stealing music will only become easier. So what are your choices? Can one be both "musician" and "artist" anymore? Surly, jingle-writers for commercials or the pianist producing dark-ominous tones for tv shows are "musicians" per my given definition; but, i doubt anyone will be lining up for their concerts.

    Right now musicians aren't being paid much because that is the norm. I think if today a band, theoretically, had an impact equivalent to that of The Beatles, they would sell increasingly less albums as their popularity grows because the access to free music would only grow with their fame.

    But hopefully, this trend can reverse itself (and i think there is some reasonable evidence to support that it already is). As less people buy music, production value decreases for lack of quality musicians, and individuals become more inclined to pay for good music... I think the fact is tho, it is the greater society who needs to financially support musicians. As you commented earlier, certain vehicles use advertisements to pay musicians for their work. These vehicles i see as job security and if musicians (in meaning "artists" as earlier defined) want to be paid for their chosen trade, it is their responsibility to retain that.
    • May 16 2013: Mogan, I really like how you differentiate 'artists' from 'musicians'. As long as we're analyzing, you could even go further and say there are two types of artists, and two types of musicians.

      I suggest:
      There are artists who create, and there are artists who are created.
      There are musicians who love to make music, and there are musicians who have to make music.

      The artist who creates is exactly what you suggest, someone who "produces music for love, for the inherent rhythms of life which ache to be expressed".

      The artist who is created is the vehicle a label uses to cash in, but who has less freedom to express him/herself.

      The musician who loves to make music is someone who 'has a day job', but has the financial and practical freedom to express him/herself through music.

      The musician who HAS to make music is... well, is like that well-known joke:
      "What did the starving musician do when he won the lottery?
      He continued playing gigs till it was all gone."
      For this musician, making music is more than a choice, and it goes beyond love for music - it's a calling, a deep-rooted passion, and it's a livelihood.
      In fact, it's all of the above.

      I agree, that the trend is changing. I am grateful that the internet has allowed me to reach people on a global scale with my music! Like you say, it really does boil down to support, which as we've learned from this conversation and others, support comes in many forms, not only in the form of money!
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    May 15 2013: You might want to discuss this with your local pirate party (in the Netherlands). There are some experts on that matter who propagate a change in IP laws (and how BREIN plays it's role).

    It's not my specialty, and there are quite some good talks on the matter as well
    I think your question is not the right question.

    I think most IP laws are wrong and need revision.

    As for music: You performing does not need to be free. You selling records or songs at your desired price is you right. Crowd-sourcing money for your next album seems a good idea. Asking money from your fans is not the same as begging. It's sharing.

    There does not need to be a protection of something that is in the public or in the open. You want your music to be heard, spread, shared, mixed. If you can make money out of it: great for you. If you can't: too bad.
    Same goes for art or consulting or any other profession.

    If you want people to pay for your music: organize paid gigs where people need to leave any recording material outside and ask your price for exclusivity and uniqueness... And feel free to sell a cup of coffee on the side.

    Just the thoughts of a "starving" politician and "starving" idea generator (or "starving" TEDx organizer)... I don't blame anybody for not paying me to do what I like to do.
    • May 18 2013: Hey Christophe!
      Great points, thanks so much. I am more than willing to support a 'starving' TEDx Organizer! How can I do that?!

      You know, I certainly do not feel the need to 'blame' anyone either. The art of asking for money for any personally acquired skill isn't easy, especially when you're freelance. It could arguably be easier to require money for a professional service that nothing to do with creative expression, though...

      I want to venture a suggestion that I hope doesn't undermine my integrity!

      The competitive nature of the music industry is what is destroying it.
      The digital age is creating an even larger platform for musicians of all walks of life to share their music, which allows freedom of expression to flow without boundaries.
      Maybe, if music were free, once and for all, the competitive element would disappear, and music would no longer be considered a 'product'.
  • May 13 2013: Greetings to you Lizanne. I have many years experience of the music industry. I'm sorry to hear you are a "starving musician" and I presume you are this way because you have chosen to pursue your passion even though it does not provide you with suffient income to live on. I would say that if you belive in yourself then persist because eventually someone else will believe in you also and the more of those you get the better the odds that you will succeed.

    As for music and wheather should it be free or not. Well, most muscians I know try to make a living out of their music. It becomes their product. It usually involves a degree of skill to create that product and certainly involves a cost along the way, not just for the musician themselves but also for those who help to package that product and promote it in the market place. So, should it be free. Hell no! But alas, if the product is good there will always be those who want something for nothing. Such is life. But - don't let it bring you down it's only castles burning, and persistance pays.
    • May 13 2013: Hi David!

      You know, I used the term 'starving musician' to make a point - although money's tight (as it is for people of just about any profession these days), I manage, together with my husband, to get by doing musical activities of all sorts.
      If I were to rely solely on digital sales, however, I would not.

      I have been making music for the greater portion of my life, and to me, it's not a matter of persistence so much, as I simply can't not make music. Improving my 'product', like you say, and keeping on keeping on is the only answer - whether you're a musician or not! ;)

      Thanks for your thoughts on this!
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    May 15 2013: If you extend this into the future to where manufacturing is nothing more than 3d printing or nano printing, the only thing of value is the design or creation. If there is no private property how can there be exchange?

    The only reason we have the standard of living we have is because of exchange.
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      May 15 2013: i paint you a picture, you write me a poem. or i give you some ideas for your website, you give me a free account for a month.
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        May 15 2013: Maybe, but that is hard to think with, a barter system that would require a high level of responsibility.
        I can't buy that, too many people are not capable of fair exchange.
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          May 15 2013: "I can't buy that, too many people are not capable of fair exchange. "
          Don't you think that is one part due to our faith in currency based transactions?
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        May 15 2013: No, I'm talking about human nature
      • May 18 2013: A barter system would be tough to implement... A 'fair trade' by one person's standards is not necessarily the same for another.
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    May 15 2013: one cannot steal music. music is not a scarce resource, once it is created, it can be copied without reducing the value of the original in any degree. i can listen to that music, or have it on my hard disk encoded in binary digits, and it affects nobody else. for the same reason, music can not have a price either, and also can not be free. just like ideas, words, phrases or knowledge.

    we don't need anything else than common sense. i have a hard drive. i can put data on it. i can install a music player. i have speakers. on what grounds could anyone show up, and tell me that i can't use my own equipment as i like, as long as i don't disturb others? the question arises, of course, how this information gets on my hard drive in the first place. an author can make a contract, and hand out the data file only under the promise that it will not be given to a 3rd party. the customer is bound by that contract. but i, as a 3rd party, am not. i don't have any contract with the author. so if i manage to, without misconduct, without stealing a hard drive, or breaking into a house, lay a hand on the file, i can legally listen to it.

    if musicians can't make money selling data files, bad luck, i'm very sorry, but it is not my problem. the infeasibility of a profession does not warrant intrusion in my life, and immoral limitation of how i use my own equipment. what if i come up with the idea that the arrangement of furniture in a house is intellectual property, and from now on if you place a bookshelf above your sofa, at a certain height, you have to pay me? and the reason for that would be that otherwise "furniture arranger" profession becomes infeasible, and nobody will come up with furniture arrangements. guess what, nobody cares. people put furniture to wherever they want, and i should find myself an actual job.

    it is unfortunate that members of some profession managed to convince the rulers to intrude my life in order to ensure their income.
    • May 18 2013: True, Krisztán, no one can determine how you use your own equipment. I think the problem arises when music (or films, games, etc) are downloaded and sold for a profit. As soon as someone else starts illegally profiting from something owned by someone else, a higher authority needs to step in.

      But this conversation isn't about how you use your equipment, or where you place it in your livingroom, it's about the music you're listening to on it and how you acquired it.

      The problem is, that by denying artists what they rightfully deserve (royalties, copyrights, payment for digital downloads), there will very simply be no way for these people to continue to make music. Period.
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    May 15 2013: See and that's where I feel horrible. How can I put a price tag on something that makes me feel so much soul. I have songs that make me wanna dance, songs that understand me, songs that make me wanna go surfing.... I can't put a price tag on that right?
    but then financially... .99 cents for a song seems like it's already so little to pay until it adds up.
    but to the artist .99 cents it's like a negative number because they have to pay iTunes for example then the Record Label and the person making the beats and IDK who else but i'm sure that for each .99 cents there are a few hands waiting for a piece of that .99 cent change.

    I guess I feel better about my not being able to buy all the music when I promote my favorite artists. Like Ed Sheeran I always post new songs of him, lyrics with his name, his page, I get people to vote for him if it comes up... because if I can't pay him i'd like to at least help my promoting him all I can.
    and when I get the chance I buy his Albums cause his music is worth all that to me. and I do that for all the musicians I support.
    Also I can always go to a concert and pay in that way too so there are other ways to pay other than buying an Album... l'm so torn trying to answer your question fairly... it's a hard thing to ask someone who does so much with their music, to lower their costs...
    • May 15 2013: Sybella, if there is one thing that is truly vital to an artist's survival, it's what you are doing. Support by way of sharing, telling others, passing it on! Self-promotion is a skill, and unfortunately not all artists are good at it. I, for one, am not! Like you say, "How can I put a price tag on something that makes me feel so much soul."??
      I have the same problem - how can I ask people to pay for something I love to do??
      But creative people are rarely businessmen, and visa versa. There are exceptions - Bono, Madonna, The Stones - those artists know how to sell their product, and are not in any way ashamed to do so.

      I so understand about you feeling torn - I do too!!!
  • May 14 2013: "The medium is the message." --Marshall McLuhan

    Another interesting viewpoint is to ask how people's behaviour changes depending on the medium that the music (or whatever) is available on. There is only one "Starry Night" but there are machines that can reproduce the painting faithfully enough so that all but connoisseurs cannot tell the difference. Yet people know that the thing in the shop window is not "Starry Night" and walk by it without so much as a glance. Even if it had been reproduced by a person, the same thing would happen. Van Gogh, as a medium of production, represents an idea that people are willing to pay many lifetimes' worth of cash for. So, I would argue that reproductions of any kind devalue the art, whatever it may be, because value increases with scarcity.

    So, while the climate of downloading we are living in today certainly may have the effect of reducing the value of your art and ultimately force you not to mass produce it (thereby eliminating the internet as a means of distribution), it will also ultimately increase your value as an artist.
    • May 15 2013: That's an interesting thought, Karl.
      Your example of "Starry Night" reminded me of the song "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton. But, it's not by Eric Clapton. It's by J J Cale. And there are so many more examples, of a 'reproduction' of a song becoming more popular, and more lucrative, than the original. When it comes to music, the original is in most cases less valuable... why? Perhaps because we attach value to the version we know best? The version that is most popularly spun? I think that covering a song can be as artistic as coming up with something completely original, but it is difficult to compare the value of an original piece of art with an original song... Or am I completely off, here?
      • May 15 2013: You are quite many cases, there are covers that we like better than the originals. Perhaps my painting analogy was misleading...

        Since the issue is downloading, what I had mainly wanted to emphasize were 2 things:

        1) People's behaviour changes whenever a new medium is presented to them.

        2) This change in behaviour may have economic results (scarcity::value)

        My own feeling is to let the changes happen naturally. This may mean coming up with new ways to make money from your music that take the issue of downloading out of the equation, and, until this is done, it may mean that music will become less of a mass-marketing phenomenon and will instead become more localized (geographically) and tribalized (digitally).

        Why is this a better way? As I see it, the issue of intellectual property (in music, at least) has too many problems to be sustained in its current state. For example, if we were to be consistent, every bar band that played cover tunes would have to send royalties to the original artists. But they don't, of course. Another example: I believe encryption technology exists that can prevent people from cracking into a 'digital lockbox,' yet people still release their products on media that can easily be cracked and uploaded. Why? Probably because it's so expensive to implement. So, do the artists themselves not value their own creations enough? Of course they do.

        These examples illustrate that copyrights can only work within certain boundaries of practicality. The internet has altered things. The question, as far as I'm concerned, is not "How can we force our now-archaic ideas about copyright to work?" but "How is the idea of copyright to be re-defined if we are not to dispose of it altogether?"
        • May 18 2013: Thanks for this comment, Karl!
          I agree, not only that we should let changes happen naturally, but that we really have no choice! As I mentioned in a comment above, perhaps doing away with charging money for music altogether could solve the problem completely!

          Anything bought or sold has value, to the person selling it, or the person buying it. As soon as that thing becomes intangible, like digital music is now, it becomes up for grabs. On the one hand, I am against increased security and implementation of IP, because it could limit the various platforms there are for sharing music. On the other hand, I depend upon it, because of the value I place on my music.

          I also doubt I could ever make a neutral judgment on this!
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    May 14 2013: I believe piracy can never be justified. Artist should always get their dues.

    Sometimes we see scenes in movies and listen to the music flicked from original tract. We may never get the chance to watch or listen to the original.
  • 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.
  • May 14 2013: Well first off, the "intellectual labor" given to this conversation is equitable to that of producing a piece of music. To produce a song, one needs an instrument, recording equipment, and acquired skill to preform; to write this comment, I needed an instrument (my computer), recording equipment (the internet), and acquired skill (knowledge gained from education and experience) - all of which demanding their respective investments. Another equity can be found in the fact that some people also are paid online publishers, yet the majority of online dialogue is composed voluntarily.

    Secondly, the issue of advancing technology eliminating paying-jobs, by no means is unique to music and musicians. As more sophisticated technology develops, the production and distribution of products becomes easier and easier - from an economic point, I see this as alleviating stresses from "supply," enabling "demand" to increase unabated, and therefore decreasing the overall price of a given product.

    So from these given points, I ask, why is it the musician you are worried about? Surly, I am willing to pay for an overpriced coffee at the cafe, but that cup of joe made at home doesn't come without cost either. In its infancy coffee was priceless and the efforts given to its production far outweigh that of most music. Now, centuries later, we give it no concern - and likewise for things like clothing or automobiles. Intellectual labor of production becomes consolidated, being reduced overall, within an industry as technology exponentially increases one's ability to produce.

    Music is beautiful, but isn't also the noise of the wind? It is the musician who chooses to invest their labor to music and therefore I must say it is also the musicians duty to protect their property and retains its value. I feel morality, and in many ways business logic itself, say stealing is never beneficial in the long run. But in this ruthless existence, can we expect anyone not to?
    • May 14 2013: Hi Morgan!
      Thanks so much for your thoughts on this!

      You made an interesting comparison about musicians and writers: "some people... the majority of online dialogue is composed voluntarily".
      The contributions to this discussion are indeed voluntary and offered at no cost, which by no means makes them any less valuable, I agree. I am a TED translator because I stand behind what it stands for, and require no fee to do so. And, yes, there are times when I have given my skill away for free, or provided my music as a service, free of charge. Those are voluntary circumstances that I have control over, though. When I provide music and ask a price for it, that is also voluntary. When it is stolen, it is no longer voluntary. It is out of my control.

      You are absolutely right, that "the issue of advancing technology eliminating paying-jobs, by no means is unique to music and musicians". When it comes to music, there is an overwhelming supply. So much, in fact, that its value has decreased.

      Yes, music is indeed all around us, and inside us, which we can all enjoy free of charge. But does that automatically mean it should not be considered a skill? Do you think all musicians should just 'get a real job'?

      My answer to your question, "why is it the musician you are worried about?" is simple. Because I am a musician. I made the conscious choice to be a musician, it is a skill I have worked for and developed that goes beyond what I learned through education, experience and investment.

      Like any other skilled professional, I made time (and sacrificed) to achieve a certain level of professionalism and produce a product that I feel is very valuable. It costs me more than money to produce it. I guess that makes it difficult for me to understand why someone else would not find it as something of value.
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    May 14 2013: Why not ? Every one should pay in Cash or Kind.
    Ironically piracy increases your list of listners. You can have some consolation.
    • May 14 2013: You would think so, Adesh, the problem with that is, it's speculation. I have no evidence of who illegally downloads my music, or even IF they do. That is, in my opinion, a common misconception that justifies piracy.
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    May 13 2013: I support many artists when I can, but the honest truth is that I would never have the money to buy all the music from all the artists I love. I do know that artists have spent a good amount of time in their art so they deserve some compensation. put yourself in their shoes. I just feel that prices are way too high... I don't know how to answer hahahaha all I know is that i'd like to support my fav artists in other ways rather than just my paycheck... cause that's like 50+ artists.....
    • May 14 2013: Support is support, so the fact you support who you can, means a great deal to me, Sybella!
      I know what you mean - if I were to replace my entire vinyl and CD collection with digital downloads, I'd go bankrupt!

      I am curious though - what price do you consider too high for music? For a digital download? A concert? An album?
      An entire album costs less than buying the songs separately, and a single download costs around .99, sometimes less - do you find that too expensive?
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    May 13 2013: Of course I shall buy a CD of music and pay royalty. It's a product designed to entertain me and that entertainment is through music and that music has been produced by professionals. It should not be free.
    Yet music is free. It springs forth from people in love, in work, in struggle and in sorrow and joy for ages. It is spontaneous and it is free.
    You may starve for money and I admit it is necessary for life. But you are not starving on artful expression.
    For anybody who chooses to live by art faces this hardship. I am sure you will get the better of it. Best of luck.
    • May 14 2013: Hey Pabitra!

      You bring up a great point - there is an abundance of music around us, and in us, that we can enjoy.
      That is the difference. As you know, I am a strong believer in that we are all genetically designed to sing and make music, that expression is vital to our survival and that music is the language we all speak!

      Art is a tricky thing. It's hard to teach, and hard to sell. Selling art is like selling your soul. Making a living as an artist is tough, and the motivation for me is not 'fame and fortune', it's simply to be able to continue to make music. My fear, is that if music continues to lose its value like this, there won't be any musicians left.
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    • May 15 2013: Kate,
      I just saw Amanda Palmer's talk, and agree with so much she is saying. Her success is a result of her enormous fan base, who support her unconditionally! That is some achievement.
      Her situation is unique though, and like you say, with very little to 'tie' her down, she is free to wander the world and take risks with minimal consequences. Her support net is huge and global and loyal, though, which she worked hard to build. Kudos to her!

      The best point she makes is indeed the difference between 'making' people pay, and 'letting' them. That is where the loyalty of a fan base is vital. Lots of these music sites let you fill in the amount you want to charge for your music (only sites like iTunes have a predetermined amount), sometimes you can say, "Let fans pay what they want". Maybe I should try that, and see if that makes a difference...! It all comes down to trial and error!
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    May 13 2013: ideally no it should not, but right now that's how it is.

    it's funny, though, Liz, I tend to think that even if you don't get paid on the surface, in some way or other you do get paid. for example, even if noone gives you money for your music on the web, maybe they pay with love, in other words you feel good knowing that people like your music and are hitting you on the web. Or maybe more people come to your concert cause they stole your music on the web, and at the concert of course they're going to pay.
    • May 13 2013: Greg, I hear you, absolutely. In fact, this is a discussion I often have with my husband, actually!

      He is a multi-instrumentalist and recording/mixing/mastering engineer. He went to a musical elementary school, then graduated from conservatory with honors. He has won numerous music awards, performed with well-known artists. He has invested money, energy and his life in music and is someone with integrity, and an incredibly professional mentality. I sometimes say, as a joke, he is music incarnate. But he really is. Music is the only way he has ever earned a living.

      I am self-taught, a professional amateur', you might say. I make music and sing because I love it with all my heart and soul. I have done lots of crazy jobs - from picking tomatoes to waiting tables to designing children's clothing - and have now made the conscious choice to focus purely on music.

      We are both musicians, we write and record the music we release together, we perform together, but often have very different views when it comes to asking for money for our music. Performing live is a good example:

      My instinct is to give. If we are asked to perform somewhere, I tend to always say yes, even if there is no money. My first love is singing, so at that moment, it's all I am concerned with.
      My husband reminds me that it costs money to buy the gas to drive there, it costs money to park there, the babysitter costs money, all the equipment we use cost money to buy in the first place...

      If we did all our gigs for free, it would actually cost US money to perform. We would be paying everyone BUT ourselves to work.
      Which, of course, makes no sense, and I am thrown back into the 'real world', where just can't pay my bills with a smile...!

      When I consider whether or not I am a successful musician, I believe I AM, because I have reached people with my music. My husband believes he is NOT, because he can't pay the bills based on the sales of our music alone. That's the difference.
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        • May 14 2013: Indeed, Kate, I feel we're lucky we found each other!! ;)

          What a neat thing about that motor mechanic! I truly wish something like that was possible in our community. We live in a small, rural area with a limited source of, or interest, in cultural enrichment. Our experience is, that if music is 'required', and if there is any budget available, it has to fit certain requirements our music just doesn't comply to (read: people want a loud, live jukebox, not an acoustic duo who plays sensitive songs they wrote themselves).
          But, I wonder if it's a cultural thing.

          When we visit my parents in the states, on a small island in the Pacific Northwest, we do experience this! The community is close and appreciative of skills and the arts. We have performed there to raise funds for local education, as a trade for skills, services and goods, and sometimes, purely because it is so appreciated. Sometimes, those rewards go beyond the value of money.
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        May 14 2013: yeah, it's hard to put into words, but I do believe if you do the work, you get the pay. But you never know how it will work out, for example let's say you gave a free gig, and your husband was bitter, but then some billionaire came up to you afterwards who was in the audience and wanted to, I don't know, use your music in an ad for one of his products at some tremendous rate. So it all worked out, right? Didn't the punk rockers used to tour and perform for low profit, but then the fans would put them up for free in the towns they played in, and feed them for free, and who knows? give them gifts, so in a way they got paid. Gotta think it all works out.
        • May 15 2013: Hey Greg,
          you've just described my wildest dream, Greg! Where are all those billionaires for pete's sake? Why aren't they at my gigs?! ;)

          Your comment reminded me of how The Police 'broke through'. They were on the verge of throwing it in, were constantly fighting, going nowhere. They played a venue for next to nothing in New York somewhere, to an audience of about three people. It couldn't have been more depressing, but they played and they entertained, because that's what they do.
          After the show, one of the members of the audience turned out to be one of the hottest radio pluggers in NY. He loved the band, gave them maximum exposure on stations throughout the nation, and the rest is history.

          I have stopped 'waiting for the big break', because making music means more to me than 15 minutes of fame. Or, any length of fame for that matter!
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        May 15 2013: Lizanne, just letting my mind wander, you were asking why the billionaires aren't at your gigs (with a wink and a smile), I'm wondering if you're ever at their gigs, sometimes billionaires appear in public here and there and we might have a chance to see them. No, I get it, you're an artist, so you let's see you don't want to learn more about finance? Or you do? Let's say you were given a chance to attend a talk by Warren Buffett, a famous billionaire, would you take it? Some people think artists are bad at finance, but some of the big ones are good at it, for instance, Mick Jagger is reputed to be a great businessman.

        Do you think the music business is competitive?

        Why do you think some people score big in music, and others don't? Do some people just write better songs? What makes one song better than another? Why do some people write better songs?
        • May 16 2013: Hi Greg,
          In all honesty, I have been striving to improve my business skills ever since I started singing professionally. It is not my strength, but I work at it to get better, absolutely. I actually think all artists should get some training in business - we are, in fact, small entrepreneurs. Money is not going to fall at our feet, just because we play music (unless we play in on the street!!)

          This is actually my criticism of music schools and conservatories, that are wonderful at teaching people to be proficient, skilled performers, but don't teach them how to run a business - like how a contract is put together, what to watch out for, how to protect your rights, how to book a gig, how to make sure you get paid!

          Yes, I think the music business is incredibly competitive, which I do not agree with, because comparing music is simply comparing apples and pears. Another reason why I do not like competitions or music-based reality shows.

          Why I think people score, and others don't? So many reasons. Some are within your control - proficiency, talent, business know-how, money. Others aren't, like luck, timing.

          I don't know if songs are 'better' than others. What I do know is some songs 'reach' me, and others don't. I believe there are a gazillion good songs in the world, though, that we sadly never get a chance to hear, because the competitive side of the industry takes over the airwaves with a low-risk, money-making product. Just because a song is spun often on the radio, doesn't necessarily make it good... but some people are easily convinced.
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        May 16 2013: it kind of seems to me like you have some mixed feelings about succeeding financially with your music, L. Didn't you say you're inclined to perform for free if someone asks, and yet you wish a billionaire would show up and pay you a lot of money for your music. What really are your goals, do you want to hit big and make a lot of money, do you just want to be happy? Personally I don't see any contradiction between making money and being happy, but it does help to be clear on what you want.

        If someone wanted to seriously succeed in music, I believe my first advice would be to move to Los Angeles. Would we agree that Los Angeles is the center of the music universe? I live on the edge of L.A. in a suburb called Glendale, and I can tell you that life is awesomely great in Southern California.

        As for what makes a great song, wow, it's tough. Could part of it be that we feel like we like the singer, that if we knew that person we would like them and consider them a friend. I know likeability matters when we choose a President in the U.S., people rather feel that they'd like a president who they'd enjoy sitting down and having a beer with. Then there's often something about a great song that lets everyone in, you feel like you're living the song with the singer, like you've had some of those experiences or felt some of those feelings. Or sometimes a great song teaches you something, about how to deal with a situation in life.

        You know, I follow the Maasai way, and we believe courage is the most important value in life. When you show courage, maybe you get ideas and inspiration for a song that non-courageous people don't get. How do you show courage, Lizanne?
        • May 17 2013: Greg, I so enjoy your thought-provoking comments on this!

          You know, I think what I want is quite simple: to continue to invest in and make music, to improve my technique, to write songs and share them with the world, to reach as many as I can with my voice.
          I have consciously chosen to make music my profession, which means I need to earn my living from it. Fortunately, like many musicians do, I have a variety of methods besides selling my music to do so. I think, being versatile is essential to survival in the music biz.

          The 'joke' about the billionaire has to do with a joke I think I posted here somewhere, but I'll do it again:
          What did the starving musician do when he won the lottery?
          He continued playing gigs till the money was all gone.
          No amount of money can change the inherent goal of a natural-born musician, which is simply to make music forever.

          How much I would love to move to the states, Greg! Unfortunately, I am a Dutch citizen now. That's a long story, but I renounced my American nationality about ten years ago. We're on the waiting list for a family sponsored visa, but I do agree with you, that Holland is probably not the best country to be in right now, for anyone in the arts.

          I agree, courage is incredibly important. Sometimes, just getting up in the morning takes courage.
          Choosing this lifestyle, making the decision to live off music alone, takes courage.
          Hearing people say 'Get a real job', and continuing my job anyway, takes courage. Teaching children the importance of music, but never forcing it upon them, takes courage.
          Passing on what I know to my students, showing them the reality of that world, and that it really isn't about those 15 minutes of fame, that it really is hard work, that it takes time and practice and sacrifice, and that it isn't always fun to be a musician, in the knowledge it could ruin their idealistic view of being one, takes courage.
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        • May 17 2013: I agree, Kate. I personally think, knowing anything about music has nothing to do with it. A 'good song' to you, is one that touches you in some way!

          Although, and I'm sure you know what I mean, there are catchy songs (like those used in commercials) that stick in your mind to the point of utter torment! Don't know if those are necessarily 'good', but they certainly do get their point across...!
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        • May 18 2013: You wouldn't believe how tough it is to get into that world, Kate. But you're right, it is lucrative, and just as competitive as the music industry.
          My husband wrote some music for TV, the royalties alone were enough for us to put a down payment on our house!
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        May 17 2013: Thanks, Lizanne, so you were joking about the billionaire, you don't really want a billionaire to come up to you after your gigs and proffer some enormous sum for one of your songs.

        Know that I tend to be a hyper-critical person, if someone is happy doing what they're doing, I'll come along and criticize them and try to make them dislike what they're doing. With that said, I slightly wish you'd become more ambitious. I tend to think that ambition drives people to produce better productions, and it also makes them more interesting people. Don't get me wrong, you're already good and interesting. But if you were to say I want to make five million dollars off of music, and live in Beverly Hills (or the Dutch equivalent thereof), I think you might be even better and more interesting.

        You'll probably kill me, but in some of your vids you looked a little overweight. What if you got a gym membership, Liz, and really went, I mean when I think of the women making it big in music, most of them are a little trimmer. I know you have children and a husband, but these other women have many responsibilities, too, many of them have husbands and children as well.

        Watching one of your vids, something about screaming by, reminded me of the movie "Screamers" by System of a Down, a fairly famous rock band. Actually System got their start right here in Glendale where I live, Glendale has a huge Armenian population. Screamers is about the Armenian genocide, the band's grandparents were affected or killed, the title of the movie means some people have to scream when they see something wrong. I saw it in Glendale, many older Armenian people in the audience.
        • May 18 2013: Greg, you are absolutely right, and I so respect and appreciate your genuine honesty!!

          I am absolutely aware, that I lack ambition, not because I don't stand 100% behind what I do, but because I do not crave society's definition of success in the music industry. I also firmly believe 'success' in music these days is, at best, temporary.

          And no, I am not skinny, not just because I am a Mom, or because I lack the discipline or physical ability to exercise, but mostly because I am completely satisfied with my body. In fact, I would sooner try to counter the trend by remaining how I am, then try to squeeze myself into the mold.
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        • May 18 2013: Kate, I'm flattered by your comment.
          I don't feel 'at all 'attacked' by Greg's observation because 1) I think he is posing a view that is not necessarily his own, and 2) even if it is true, I feel no desire whatsoever to yield to society's notion of beauty by altering my own, and 3) it is true that physical appearance is essential in the popular music industry. I have a pretty indestructible self-image, which I worked too hard for to let falter!

          My husband and I were just discussing the importance of the visual aspect in music. Recently, someone told him, they didn't like a particular song, but after they saw the video for it, they suddenly 'got it', and found the song to be good after all. We were bemused by this, because to us, a song's quality has nothing to do with a visual aspect, but to many, apparently, it does.

          Yes, his work was on Dutch TV. It ran one season. We've actually got our music on lots of licensing sites, along with a gazillion other pieces... But you never know, one of our songs may be just what a producer is looking for! Thanks for your support, Kate!!!
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          May 18 2013: I'm kind of surprised, Kate. Here you are criticizing my expression, but you don't mind lancing into me and saying I make "gross" judgements. I was very soft in the way I expressed myself, you are being very harsh. If the soft criticism I directed toward Lizanne would make her stop making vids, she better never enter the public eye in any way whatsoever, cause she's going to get a heck of a lot worse than that.

          Lizanne seems like a special person to me, exceptionally smart and well-spoken. It's true, a lot of people are content not to go for too much in life, but I would tend to think Liz would have a better chance than most to really succeed big-time. I like to see people go for big-time success, what's wrong with being ambitious, as you attempt to fulfill your ambitions, you meet more interesting people, you have more adventures, you produce better product, you improve more people's lives. I was trying to analyze what might hold her back, and, I'm sorry, I noticed her figure. I don't see any way to say it except to say it. Why are people so sensitive about weight, when I was overweight people said I was fat and I didn't get bent out of shape about it. I would think they meant well. What would be wrong with going to a gym and getting into better shape, you'd feel better, be able to do more and better, meet new people, look better, probably feel better about yourself. It's no skin off my back if she doesn't want to, it's her life, it's just a suggestion. Personally if I could entertain millions of people and make millions of dollars and travel around the world, and all I had to do was spend some time in a gym, I think I'd do it. Would you?

          I'm not obsessed with fame or wealth, I simply think life is short, and you should go for as much success as possible.

          I don't have weight issues. I found a diet that helped me lose weight, and I guarantee you life is better when you're slimmer, so I mention the diet here and there.

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        • May 18 2013: I see what you mean, Kate.
          It does indeed take quite a bit to push my boundaries, as we talked about in another conversation!
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    May 13 2013: I am going to answer the question, "Should LISTENING TO/WATCHING music be free?" Should the benefit of anyone's labor be free to the world? We all expect to receive our proper earnings for the product or service we provide. Should a singer/songwriter/musician/composer/conductor/recording engineer/, etc. work for free so we can enjoy the fruits of their labors? At first we paid for the music by listening to the commercials on AM/ FM radio. Then we could pay for vinyl records to play on our home equipment. Then 8-tracks. Then cassettes. Then CD's. Now we can pay for satellite radio or listen via the internet. Why should the obligation to participate in the commercial aspect of music suddenly be eliminated? Advancements in recording/listening technology do not eliminate the need for makers of music to earn a living.
    • May 13 2013: Darnit, I'm out of thumbs up for you, Edward!

      I am on both sides of the fence on this...

      Listening to music is a joy we should deny no one. And thankfully, there is enough music around (especially if we make it ourselves!) to listen to enjoy, free of cost. Something that comes naturally, should be free, right?

      Music is also a skill. And when someone chooses to pursue their passion and make a career out of it, regardless of what that passion is, they should not have to literally pay the price by not earning anything from it.

      It's true, we have always been accustomed to paying for a music release, so why should the digital age suddenly mean, we can stop?
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        May 13 2013: You are on both sides? I know what you mean. Absotutely! A person can always choose to share their labors free-of-charge. If the music is part of the public domain then no rights of ownership and expectation for value received is enforced. If a girl chooses to stand on the corner and sing for all to freely hear that's a beautiful act (regardless of her tonal quality, timing, lyrical content, and resonance of voice). But, I do oppose the idea of listening to a paid performance without paying. Whether by sneaking into the venue, or by bootlegging the recording no one is justified by claiming it would be wrong to deny them the privilege of listening to the music. Sometimes denial is proper.
        • May 13 2013: Absolutely, my thoughts exactly, Edward. Stealing is stealing, whether it's bootlegging, or sneaking in or downloading illegally.

          You mentioned rights of ownership, which is an important point!

          If an artist registers their music with a Performing Rights Organization, a code is designated to that song, and whenever that song is streamed (read: listened to) via internet, the code is read, which tells the PRO that the artist (read: owner) needs to get paid.
          These payments are small (we're talking percentages), but accumulated, can ad up to a fair amount on an annual basis.

          Sites like Spotify work like this - when people listen to (stream) a song, the code is read and the artist gets paid.
          BUT, (and this is a big but, hence the capital letters), the artist only gets paid when the song is streamed in full, from beginning to end. If the listener stops the stream even one second before the song is finished, the stream doesn't count, and the artist gets zip.
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        May 13 2013: RE: "Absolutely, my thoughts. . . " WOW! For real? That must be changed immediately to get the artist paid for every click whether played all the way through or not. That is bogus!
  • May 13 2013: Shouldn't the creative artist decide?
    • May 13 2013: You'd think, George!

      There are so many kinds of artists who can offer their music...

      - Recording artists who are attached to a major label
      - Recording artists who are attached to an independent label
      - Independent artists with their own label
      - Unsigned artists with no label but big following
      - Artists who make music as a hobby and want to share it with everyone

      In my opinion, all of these artists should be able to decide how their music is offered, and at what price.

      The reality is that labels invest in artists, and want to see a profit. Those artists have no say whatsoever in what their music costs, let alone what they wear, who they get to hang around, etc. etc. Their music, and their identity (image), is property of that label.

      As you move down the list, the artist's personal preference plays a bigger role. The artist who makes music for fun has complete control over whether or not they charge money for their music, or not.

      Often, this is where the problem for professional musicians arises. Nowadays, lots of people have a home studio, which is great. Internet provides a gateway to the rest of the world, which is awesome! There are so many sites out there where you can upload, promote and - if you choose - sell your music, which is wonderful. But more often than not, artists who make music for fun, will most likely not charge money for their music.
      But, independent artists who make a living from their music, have to charge money for their music.

      If a listener can choose between music offered for free, or offered for .99, they will opt for the free one. It's common sense...
  • May 12 2013: The problem isn't whether music should be free. The question is why should a starving musician expect anyone to pay for bad music?
    • May 13 2013: That is an excellent point, Jahfre!

      I think there are a couple parts to this:

      1. Recording technology has become affordable and accessible - you don't have to be signed to a label to release your own music! Which is a great thing, but it also means, that unskilled technicians are releasing music that is not 'up to par'. Record engineering is a skill like any other. So I agree with you, starving or not, that it would be asking a lot to ask people to pay for a poorly made product.

      2. Taste plays a role in this too. What you call 'bad music' might be awesome to me. Of course, no one can be expected to pay for something they simply don't like.
  • May 12 2013: I only buy what I like. I like a lot of music. I have over 10,000 songs in my library, none of which are stolen. So, how do I know what I like in order to buy it? I must hear it for free first. Pretty simple.
    • May 13 2013: Jahfre,
      this is so great to hear!
      Like you, I have never stolen music. The music I have, I treasure, and respect, and have willingly paid the relatively small amount to have a piece of art, which is really what it is.

      In order to decide whether you like a piece of music or not, is indeed dependent on being able to hear it. This is also a part of the problem!
      iTunes allows you to hear only a fragment. This is so that people can't illegally download the song, using download software. As a listener/consumer, I need to hear the entire song before committing to buying it, so I find it annoying. At the same time, as an artist, I know my songs are better protected!

      Many other sites allow you to hear the entire song, but the song is also easier to download illegally. There are so many programs made specifically to illegally download music, an artist who charges for their music simply can't compete against!

      My issue, is that is listeners continue to download music for free, professional artists will no longer be able to afford to make music.
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    May 12 2013: In addition to the discussion that evolves here, do also check out the comments on the recent Amanda Palmer talk, which drew comment from many musicians on this subject.
  • May 12 2013: Naturally, one should pay for music. Afterall, it takes a great deal of hard work and resources to make a professional piece of music, let alone the creativity of the artist who should also be rewarded. In the past musicians were not paid a great deal but artists are driven by their inner passions and must follow this if they are to be true to themselves. They were once travelling musicians, then later in more stable societies, court musicians until the 20th century when everything became fully professional.