Posted by Dave on November 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm in Blogroll, DIY, Technology

With straw-men, insults and shoddy evidence flying around on either side, the recent debates on filesharing and free music (sparked by Lily Allen’s now infamous blog post) exlempify our inability to approach an issue with an open mind and a positive argument.

Free Music Can Be Good For Musicians

Our artists evidently think so, or they wouldn’t have allowed us to distribute it.

I still believe that the primary reason most artists choose to make music is to get their music heard. Buying a guitar, amplifier and a few pedals will cost about £1000.  Practice rooms are about a tenner an hour. Transport to and from practice and gigs is expensive.

It takes time, too.  Months writing music; weeks practicing it; days playing it live and recording it. Hours of burning CD-Rs, printing labels, folding, stapling and assembling. For what? 100 CD-Rs sold (eventually) at £5 a pop? A profit of £300-£400, split between the band. There are easier ways to make money. Lily Allen says free music damages these ‘up and coming artists’. How? They each lose £80 after spending £2000-£3000?

Against that, you can distribute your music for free. EL Heath would not have sold almost 5,000 CD-Rs; but he’s had that number of downloads from RoR and our uploads on Legal Torrents. Indeed, he probably wouldn’t sell that many CDs/LPs if he had a deal with a reasonably sized indie label and some nice reviews in  The Wire. The musician has lost their £80, but they have gained 4,900 listeners.

Releasing music for free can be good for musicians.

Free Music Can Be Bad For Musicians

There are limits on what you can do if you release your music for free.

You can never quit your job to become a full-time musician. You cannot use expensive studios unless you are already rich. You will not even make back the money you spend making your music. It is financially exclusive. Whilst new technology means anyone can make a decent sounding album for not a lot of cash, it’s always going to be beyond the financial means of some people. Yet given that any cash injection from sales or a label would only come after some initial recording, it is difficult to see how people financially excluded from making music are included in the present system.

Furthermore, we don’t believe it is the fault of free music that some people cannot afford to make music. It is a fault of the system. Our economics dictate that people are excluded from a number of activities. Free downloads can only be blamed for damaging DIY musicians from within the capitalist system.

Nevertheless, it is in a capitalist system that we find ourselves and this makes it difficult. Many of our dearest friends struggle to make music within that system and are finding it an ever greater struggle as people stop paying for their records because they believe music should be free.

Yet it is precisely because we are in a capitalist system that we will fight for something else. A system where people are not excluded from making music because they have no money. A system where people are not excluded from buying enough music to satisfy their desires because they have no money. Free music is a utopia, in the present; on behalf of the future…

Free Music can be Good for the World

We believe in things for themselves, not as market commodities. Hakim Bey laments the fact that the internet did not bring about the revolution it promised: he cannot find free carrots online. No, but he can now find free music. Perhaps our example will inspire others to think that they would like to share what they have produced with passion and love for others, for free. Perhaps if enough people did that money would be less important. A gift economy: from each according to their ability to each according to their interests. The prize carrot grower wants all to share her produce, and offers her carrots for free. Furthermore, she takes great pride in sharing her knowledge of how to grow such carrots.

In our utopia, all will be the property of all. The power of the commons will be restored to the people, and from the commons there will be land to farm, carrots to grow and music to listen to.

Free music is good for the world.

Leave a Reply