Free music, anyone? Is it better to pay for music platforms?

July 21, 2018

Do you remember South Park? Especially the episode about how music piracy makes those poor musicians switch from golden jets to regular ones? We actually thought about how it really works with free music.

The thinking part came to us after an argument about why today’s music seems so different nowadays. Some of us have some personal experience with music making at different levels of production and while most had their brief moments of rockstar careers there was some room for a would-be producer to toss some pieces of knowledge into the mix.

Money for nothing

Dire Straits released that one in 1985 but it didn’t grow old, not one bit. Most people still think it’s easy and all you have to do is get some bongos to bang in. While it’s cruel to think like that, it’s way easier to assume this to be true rather than how much work it requires.

Right now it takes approximately $800 to put together a demo of a song. Do you have that cash laying about? No? Well, you might, but its most likely part of some long-term plan to go on a dream vacation or buy something more tangible than a shot at being a rock star. Anyway, you have to spend 800 bucks to record a demo in a mediocre sound quality. Did you get it? Great! Now what?

That’s where some of our experience dwindles… Not all though!

You get about .001 cents per stream of your track. Quick maths (we’ll get to that later)- you need 800,000 people to stream it before you cover the cost of even making that demo. Sounds harsh? Tell us about it.

Luckily music streaming platforms have much more listeners so the chance you’ll get your demo paid for is…well, there is a chance.

The good

A story from the personal experience of one of the guys on this side of the keyboard portrays the big problem a musician has at the beginning of a career:

Talent – the only thing you get for free. Everything else you have to pay for, one way or another. First, you have to resign from most activities your friends might engage in. You have to go to school or learn on your own to teach yourself how to use the skill you got. Otherwise, you don’t get to say that someone else got lucky.

Then you have to work on it to hone the said skill into something useful. Another bit of history:

Making music, you realize that there has to be a limited number of combinations of sounds that…sound cool. Once humanity hits that last combo, that’s it. The thought scares most young people especially when they reach this conclusion just before they realize how many awesome tracks have been written so far. That takes away so many combinations!

So you have to think of your own style at least. The direction you want to take your music.

Ever wonder how Santana makes his guitar riff so different from Tom Morello? They did their own things and worked on their “style” to perfection. You don’t get that straight away, you know.

The bad

It takes so much to make a hit song! There’s no way to describe it. Imagine that in every 10 songs you write, one has a potential to be a good one. You learn from that and make a hundred more songs. If you’re lucky – one in a hundred will rock your socks off. But it’s not true. Some people (like those that formed Nickleback) go by writing thousands of songs and not getting a single good one! Think about how much money they had to put in the industry before they got what they asked for?

Think about people that write, play and travel because they love doing it. Imagine their faces when they look up their music streaming tab and see that the last 6 months of playing got them a ticket home. It’s sad. It’s discouraging to a point where we’re stripped of all our experience from the musician standpoint. Mostly because of the last of us, that came so far, found himself far from home and didn’t have enough money to buy his ticket.

The ugly

It’s been 33 years since Dire Straits wrote “Money for nothing” and unfortunately, it didn’t grow old. Instead of appreciating the musicians for making the music, we take their work by piracy or scams. Yes, there are rich people, that got rich by their fans who went to concerts, bought their merchandise (which didn’t get the artists much anyway) and so on. But today’s greatest musicians don’t seem to create the greatest music anymore. They have unique styles, different approaches to various things. Create scandals and naturally, selling or at least endorsing clothes. But they don’t move us the way musicians did before. We believe that the people with the sound that would move us – those truly gifted, talented and passionate are locked behind the paywalls that we built around ourselves with mediocre music and its overblown marketing. Ouch.

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