Free Music. A Bad Idea?

Coldplay just released a new album, Mylo Xyloto, and they have made a bold decision to not stream the album on free digital music services, such as Spotify. When I read this article, I was swarmed with so many thoughts.

1. Wow, way to go Coldplay.
Many listeners might be upset that they won’t get to listen to the album for free. I mean seriously, Coldplay makes so much money. It’s not like they’ve given their entire lives to writing music, recording music, playing music, sacrificing time with their families to go on tour… they really should give the album away for free.
$10 is such a high price.

2. According to the Guardian article, Adele made the same decision. Now it makes sense to me why she had such high record sales. Very few artists are selling their music. It seems that in the rare case that they do sell their music, it makes the charts.(It may also have something to do with Adele’s amazing talent.) It will be interesting to see if Mylo Xyloto also has top record sales because of this.

3. Selling music is good for the artist and it’s really good for the listener. Take a moment to Google “Free Stuff“. If we take advantage of every “free” offer that we receive, will we actually have the time to enjoy, to savor, to be moved, to be thankful, to be changed, to appreciate? Do we even hear the lyrics of these songs that artists have invested hours into? Do we feel the need to have background music on 24/7 because we’re uncomfortable with silence. When free services such as Spotify and Facebook make changes, can we really be upset when it never cost us anything to begin with?

What would happen if you only acquired music that you want to be moved by. And what if instead of being part of the rat race accumulation frenzy, you valued everything that is part of your life.

Thoughts on viewing things as they are worth instead of their convenience:

*300 people whom you love are in a room. A good friend is trying to talk with you and yet the entire time they are communicating, you are distracted by other conversations, laughter and friends in the room. Mid conversation you realize what you’re doing. You refocus on your friend and have a meaningful time.

*With good intentions, you fill your fridge with deals and bargains and leftovers. You eat your meals in a hurry and often stop for fast food because, who has time to cook? It’s not uncommon for you to throw away 40% of the food because it goes bad before you can use it. This month you decide to buy fewer items that are nutritious. Because each item you purchased cost you a little more, you don’t want to waste any of it. You realize that by eating healthy food you’re doing preventative health care. You realize that by slowing down, sharing, and talking about the food with someone, you appreciate it more. After a week or 2 you realize that you haven’t thrown a bit of food out, you haven’t spent any more money, and you’ve consumed more vitamins and had more conversation than previous. You also feel better.

*In the past you’ve downloaded every NoiseTrade album possible without tipping, every Starbucks download card without listening, and have Pandora on 24 hours a day. You resolve to only download music that you will in fact listen to and pay what you believe it is worth. When you listen to music you allow it be more than background music. Because it’s worth something, you pay attention. (Warning: you’ll probably have chills, tears, and be moved more often. You’ll also probably realize that not all music is worth your time and investment.)

*Grace is free. Or is it? We often take it because, “Why Not?” In actuality it costs the person who gives it everything. When we view grace as, “Someone pouring everything they have into a gift just for you” rather than Sam’s Club, Sunday afternoon free samples, it means a lot more. It may even change the way we live.

Somehow in all of these scenarios I want to exchange my entitlement for thankfulness.

3 Replies to “Free Music. A Bad Idea?”

  1. I agree completely with everything you said here, Katie. We make the world around us the way it is by all the little decisions we make. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Well said, Katie. What do you think about the whole Noisetrade thing? In the end, don’t you think artists are able to make more sales when they give away some music for free?

  3. After I posted this I realized that I hadn’t said anything about the benefits of services such as NoiseTrade, Spotify, or Pandora. I think they can all be incredible tools for both promoting new music and finding new music. The challenge comes in viewing them as a gift rather than feeling entitled to them; Using them as a tool instead of a replacement for purchased music. NoiseTrade is wonderful in theory but if every person takes as much as they can without contributing a tip, the person at loss is the artist. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to have integrity and pay for something when I could get away with it for free. But if I want them to continue to provide beautiful music I need to take some responsibility and support them.

    As far as artists making more sales when they give away some music…I’m going to say… maybe. Depends on the way you look at it.
    If we apply basic principals of business to the question, it is most definitely yes.
    In any business there is a healthy balance of gifts and earnings, contributing time and managing time, giving albums away, and charging full price. If anyone has attempted to quantify these delicate balances in a study, I’d love to read it. 😉
    I think the part of this topic that bothers me has more do with a society buying into a dangerous philosophy.
    For the artist the problem isn’t a matter of giving some music away for free but that the entire culture demands that they get it for free.

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