Artists are finding innovative and seemingly eccentric ways to make money from music, as the debate for and against 'free' continues.

"Free is the enemy of good,” Paul McGuinness, the manager of rock idols U2 famously quoted earlier this year.

“Artists are entitled to get paid, whatever kind of art they do, the same way technologists are entitled to get paid,” he said in an interview to CNET News.

He was echoing the sentiments of thousands of artists and media companies who blame the woes of the industry on the free music phenomenon, especially piracy and file sharing.

Meanwhile, Josh Freese, former NIN drummer, is reportedly offering a limited number of records for a wide range of prices, accompanied by a wider range of add-ons that a fan would love.

Although the musician, who has also played for Kelly Clarkson and Guns and Roses isn't offering the kitchen sink, for the right price, you could get signed drum kits, lunch at a cheesecake factory, promise of a foot massage, offers to do your laundry, a chance to take clothing from his closet, change diapers, and Freese playing in your band if you have one.

Oh and you get his music as well.

Making money from free

According to IFPI, global music sales fell by 8% in 2008, although digital downloads continued to rise.  

Jupiter Research estimates a loss of £180m in 2008 in UK as a result of file sharing, although the exact figure has since been contested.

Industry experts are also equally concerned about loss of royalties and copyright infringement as music finds its way to audio and video sharing sites. Again, that’s music that we get to hear for free.

New online music services such as Spotify, and offer free, ad supported, on-demand music streaming options. Playing licensed music, the Spotify model is making a lot of people happy.

But licensing issues mean that these services aren’t yet available all around the world. As a result, artists have taken distribution into their own hands.

 “I have free music on my website. But you can also pay what you like for it. And people are still paying for it, if they think they like me and they want to support me,” Ben says.

The pay-what-you-want model was attempted by another music outfit from Oxford,Radiohead with their 7th studio album, In Rainbows (2007).

According to ComScore,although the album was available for download from their website for a minimum price of 1p, people paid an average of $6 for it. It went to number one in the UK and the US and has sold 3 million copies so far.

Charging for extra value

Stan Schroeder, web writer and blogger writes, “Offering goods that are infinitely duplicated (music) for free and tying them to scarce goods (vinyl records, t-shirts, collector’s items etc.) is another [new online business model].”

Believing that fans would pay for the extra value in these “scarce goods,” Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor allowed free download of 4 volumes, 36 songs of his group’s 2008 album Ghosts I-IV.

At the same time, you could get it from their website for $5, a 2 CD set for $10, a limited edition pack for $75, or for the die-hard fans, an ultra deluxe edition with signed CDs, a data DVD with the multitrack files for remixing. All 2500 copies of the ultra deluxe edition sold out, reports Wired Magazine.

Indie musician Amanda Palmer from the The Dresden Dolls, UK held a webcast auction of her personal effects, driven by Twitter and its 140 word posts. Although she doesn't offer her music for free, over a period of ten hours, she found a business model that her record label couldn’t offer.


Johnathan Phan, representative of Pirate Party UK says of the market models on offer, “Whereas earlier we had an artist making 10 million, we now have a hundred people making 1 million.”

Next: Beyond free music - what else can be offered for free? How about education?

Previous: The value of £0 - Is free music an inevitable part of sharing music online?

blog comments powered by Disqus

Creative Commons License
This website by Karunya Keshav is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License except where otherwise specified. Best viewed in Firefox 2.0, Safari or above