There has been a minor whirlwind of articles about this subject in the past few weeks that started in response to an article written by an NPR intern and college radio station general manager, Emily White, who copped to owning thousands of songs and paying for almost none. This was followed by many passionate responses (on both sides, it turns out) and what I fear will be a soon-forgotten and short-lived desire to discuss a better way for musicians to make a living making music. You can read two of the responses here and here. You can also read a great response to the whole hulabaloo by Scott Collins, writer of the Guitarchitecture Blog.

To me, the mind-boggling quote from the initial article (Emily White’s) is the last sentence: All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?”. I think most of us would agree that having what we want when we want it and how we want is, in fact, not something we would generally take for granted. To require it seems a little much. I can’t quite tell if this question is a joke or not, but it doesn’t seem like one to me (and, really, the fact that most people can have the music they want when and how they want it is precisely the problem).

Having seen from all sides what goes into making a recording, it’s amazing to me that so many people think that music should be free (same holds true for books and films, of course). The ethos seems to be that if it can be reproduced easily, then why bother paying for it. I don’t have any major insight into the issue, and I do think that something has been gained by removing the major record labels as the exclusive purveyors of music or taste makers, but the situation hardly seems tenable going forward if we remove the incentive for people to record their music.

Actually, I’m mostly curious to see what you all have to say about it, since we’re all musicians here. Any thoughts?

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3 Responses to “Should We Pay For Music?”

  1. Chris says:

    “it’s amazing to me that so many people think that music should be free”

    The quote of Emily’s that you included here says nothing about being free. People want music to be easy to obtain. It’s not about cost, it’s about creating a frictionless experience: how easy is it for a fan to obtain your music? Could it be easier?

    To some folks, a torrent is easier. I use amazon for almost all my music purchases — their cloud drive makes it easy to get that music anywhere.

    What I think we’ll see in the next 10 years:
    – Decreased relevancy of the major labels
    – More crowd funding (eg. Kickstarter, indiegogo)
    – More pay what you want for music (including $0)
    – More creation of value beyond just music. Kickstarter campaigns are a good example of this. Why donate (prepay, really) $100 for an album? Because that $100 includes additional benefits beyond the recording itself that are meaningful to the buyer. That’s going to happen more and more — it’s like an arms race, really.
    – More and more music distribution choices like CDBaby and Bandcamp
    – An increased centralization of purchase points for music. Example: Amazon and iTunes are going to win because it’s easy for CDBaby and like to hook into those services. The artists will have to eat the cost of distributing on those platforms.

    This is a familiar tune, but we need to make it easier to buy music and we need to give fans a reason to do so. Maybe that means the traditional music-only package is dead and will be replaced by the additional experience packages featured on Kickstarter campaigns. Maybe not. Maybe it’s something different.


  2. LAWRENCE says:

    Musicians also need to eat and to pay their rent etc.

  3. Hey Guys!

    Great to see the post linked to here. For those of you who are interested part two (which actually addresses the Lowery/White issue) is up now:


    Hope you enjoy it!


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