Giving it Away

OK, i’m a little late on the blogging bandwagon, i know, but up to now i didn’t really feel that i had anything worth sharing with the wider world, other than the music that you can find here, and that has been public for some little time. The fact that i’ve changed my opinion maybe says something about my own state of mind (more of this another time, perhaps), but i have decided that it might be helpful to outline some of the background to my work. Of course, i still hope it stands up on its own anyway.

As it’s my first outing, i thought i’d go over some of the reasons why i don’t charge for recordings, as it seems to be an area where the conventional music biz is in flux.The whi music site is currently downloading the equivalent of 1,000 CD’s a year, which is a lot in this area of music (no, really), and would be financially self-supporting if i was selling that many. Which i’m not.

The first, and most important, point to make is that if i did charge, the recordings themselves would be identical to those you can currently access. My view is that there’s a huge mountain of recordings in the public domain, and i’ve no intention of adding substandard ones to the pile. If i’ve made it public, it’s as good as i know how to get it. As i’ve now got my own recording gear, there’s no particular budgetary constraints; i don’t have to get out of the studio at five (or nine. Or three in the morning), so it’s ready when it’s ready, and you get to hear it then.

So, on the face of it, giving it away after all that work is a bit odd, no? Well, like a lot of small label proprietors, when i used to press CD’s, things were a bit difficult. It’s hard to get distribution, even harder to get paid by distributors (one or two honourable exceptions). And then, even harder still to persuade the things to walk out of shops; the bulk of what little sales you make are at live gigs. The trouble is, i do every live gig i’m asked to do, which is to say, hardly ever. All of which means that a ‘commercial’ release is costing me about £1,000 to do and i’m recouping about half that if i’m lucky.

But – for £10 a month i can host the whole lot online. It means i don’t have to worry about who i give it to (if you’re charging people for CD’s, it then looks a bit tight if you give them away to other people). It means i’m not constantly chasing distributors for small change (a micro label is definitely at the back of the queue there). It means i can spend more time making music (hurray!).

What it definitely doesn’t mean is that i’m throwing any old crud at the website “cos it’s free” – you’re hearing the result of a lot of work here.

In many ways, the old-style music biz is dying here, and the model is being rewritten: recordings aren’t valuable in the age of the CD, cos they’ve got no rarity value, and you can’t collect them in the way that you had to with vinyl. When i was 15, your musical identity was defined by your collection. To own vinyl was to collect. Now my own son is 15, and he and his mates have no real idea of what a ‘collection’ might be. Files are swapped and available, CD’s are ripped. Feargal Sharkey has apparently been appointed to combat piracy, but he’d be better off writing some new songs and singing them in his local – that particular genie is well out of the bottle, and off over the horizon. Encouragingly, the thing that does impress the 15 year-olds is gigs: if you’ve got a gig ticket, that’s the thing that makes the eyes widen. So maybe there’s hope for us after all, in a music biz where recordings aren’t valuable any more.

Comments are closed.