Why getting people to buy music isn’t enough…

Money has now become secondary to initial interest.

Music – one of the few products in existence that is insanely popular, yet is sold at an infinitesimal fraction of its production cost. Artists spend thousands on gear and spend years on agonising practice just so that they can score an emotion the way they want. Recording for a decent amount of time can also go into the thousands, not to mention marketing, physical mediums and online costs.

One would think that a single album would have an RRP at least on par with a modern video game, and would cost upward of at least £50. However musicians are not only expected to sell their music at a ridiculously low price, but oftentimes they are encouraged to just give and album away for free and then slog it out on the live circuit for an income. Unfortunately, unless you are in a band which plays covers of hit songs which were popular years ago, or have evolved your metabolism to eat “exposure” then this can be a tough ride.

Music has been so devalued over the years, and everyone is so desperate for recognition and validation that the ones who are a bit better off just give it all away. They’re ok, they don’t need to sell their album, or try and flog merch, becasue it’s just a bit of fun for them. What this does is saturate the market and condition the consumer into believing that music is not worth paying for.

This leads to a serious problem, but the issue nowadays isn’t trying to get people to buy your music – it’s trying to get them to even listen to it in the first place! Consumers will only listen to perhaps 15 seconds of a song before deciding whether they want to hear the rest. Most don’t even do that and will simply look at the cover artwork and scan the description before moving on, even when all it takes these days is to click a play button on Bandcamp or YouTube.

Indeed why should they? It’s not costing them anything so they have no obligation. In past days when you bought an album or even a demo from a band at a gig, you made fucking sure you got your money’s worth and that album/CD got thoroughly listened to. This ensured that all the little nuances, structures and sections which comprised the compositions were fully appreciated – and that ladies and gentlemen is how a fan is made!

Today, the the only real commodity is time, and that is firmly at the consumer’s discretion. “Why should I give this free stuff my time in order to listen to it?” they ask? The sad answer is that there is no good reason nowadays. You can bleat all you want about how amazing your music is but that means nothing. Peer review goes a long way to influencing a decision, but again getting people to actually listen to it in the first place is the big obstacle.

We need to stop devaluing music. The charts and radio are already awash with manufactured and generic pop music which hasn’t changed much in nearly 30 years, and all of these are made by the same few record companies who also control what’s played on the air. Young fools are deceived into believing that absolute crap like The X Factor or Pop Idol is the ONLY way to make a career in music, and the black hand of the industry happily leads them along, only for them to end up obsolete and out of fashion within a year, yet with the record companies sill raking in the royalties.

It’s amazing that people will pay £40-50 for a game, and nearly £5 for a pint of beer yet ask them to buy a full album for £5-6 which cost thousands to produce, and they snort that “It’s a bit dear innit?”.

Being a musician has been turned somewhat into a class based privilege. You can only really do it if it’s a hobby and you give your stuff away. The poor people are attracted to the “rags to riches” promises of Simon Cowell’s crapola exploitation shows – none of which is by accident I might add. The hobby musician doesn’t care about payment, and all the poor folk will gladly come on board to make the corporate music companies a profit before being chewed up and spat out.

This leaves the folk in the middle in a place where no amount of talent will earn them a decent enough income from their art, but they have enough sense to avoid the bullshit of the industry. Having a great sounding album just isn’t enough these days, becasue you are going to have to do a genuine sales pitch just to get someone to click on that play button, never mind bring actual money into the equation.

The constant necromancing of “vintage bands” is a spanner in the works of progression too, particularly in the rock industry. Bands that are 30+ years old still stealing the headline spot at festivals and still appearing on magazine covers because their name sells is overshadowing some new talent which could be getting the support and exposure. As much as I love them, the old guard have had their run and they don’t need your money. Paying £60+ to see an 80s band for the millionth time over going to a local show is killing the chances of seeing anything new or fresh ever appearing again.

In an ideal world money shouldn’t be an issue, but we’re working within a system here and expecting payment for your effort isn’t “selling out”, so support small music. If an album is free then donate £5. If it’s £5 then give £7. Similarly, if you have a product then for God’s sake put a price on it! Even if it’s just 2p for a song, because that’s a least a value attached to it.

If you don’t need the money you should still charge.  Don’t ruin it for the whole community just so you can “get ahead”. It shouldn’t be a competition, and if you see it that way then I think you have the wrong attitude and are favouring fame and status over artistic creation. Give music back its value, because at the moment there’s only one group who are profiting from your cash – and it’s not the people who make the music!

Think about that!

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Author: Kitsune Mifune

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