FREE vs Paid digital content
A decade and a half into the great online experiment, the last debates over free versus pay online are ending. In 2007 The New York Times went free; this year, so will much of The Wall Street Journal.
Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.
So what is an independent music producer, composer and recording artist to do? If selling mp3s is not the way to make a living and making mp3s is what you do, where does that leave the artist?
I sometimes find a band, author or movie director that I just love. When I do I tend to buy almost everything I can that they have done. Don't laugh, but I just recently saw every movie Ryan Reynolds has been in. Earlier this year I spent about $200 buying every Autechture album that was available at Amoeba music. I completely am sold on the giving out free sample position. But giving away all your music for free?
My friend and I had a conversation about the Merchandise based model ( or as Chris Thomas calls it the TShirt Economy) and I have to admit, saying my music has no value and trying to convince me that only the most devoted "FAN" will buy the merchandise to keep me from living on the street was a little scary. But it got me thinking . . .
Unlike so many songwriters, composers and recording artists I do not make a significant portion of my income from album or digital download sales. I make a living composing custom music scores and from licensing music for use in TV, film and commercials. And not until my last release did I design a couple T Shirt and put together a merch store. I even sold a couple shirts which was a surprise.
So what I realized is that I have an interesting and unique opportunity to play with the T Shirt Economy model and see what happens.
So I am starting today by offering 5 songs free from my new album The Radioactive Werewolf and retooling my online efforts to see how I could make this work.
Perhaps I need more merchandise. Perhaps I need a donate button like Radiohead did. Perhaps I should start a vote by donation section to see what kind of music my fans would like to hear me put out next.
More as I figure this out.