Category :

Hot Topics in the Industry

Should You Give Your Music Away For Free? Thank You Amanda Palmer.

Should You Give Your Music Away For Free? Thank You Amanda Palmer.
Written by Jamie Leger - December 7th 2012

Allow me to be searingly direct... I think the root of the issue that so many independent artists don’t fully realize yet, is that they’re NOT selling music anymore.

They’re selling an experience. At a deeper level, aside from the stage presence, pyrotechnics or lack thereof, this includes their story, what they represent, what they are SAYING.

Successful Artists and bands, whether they realize it or not, whether it is sculpted and massaged, artificial or authentic, they are doing this really well.

You understand that it’s about ATTENTION. Everyone has ADD.

What separates people who get NOTICED, and people who don’t?

It all comes down to doing something extraordinary. That means being something extraordinary.

We are not shift workers...

We can’t passively clock in and eagerly clock out, EXPECTING a pay-check just for showing up.

Because IF we do, then that’s what is going to happen.

We’ll become shift workers, and no-one can say or tell you that you didn’t do your job...

I don’t have any issues of any kind with shift work or shift workers... I used to be one, but one thing i’m certain of - is it is NOT the mentality for success in the new music industry.

No One Owes Us Anything

Everyones talking about the Amanda Palmer Kerfuffle...

Look... All she’s doing is creating more opportunity, and modeling what can be done today. Good for her!

Good for US!

It doesn’t have anything to do with her not offering to pay the musicians. She doesn’t OWE them anything.

It is the BUSINESS of the artists and bands that she invited, to CREATIVELY design and maximize the exposure and promotional opportunity from the event.

It is ALSO their responsibility to handle negotiations.

This is the thing with us musicians and artists...

We don’t take CONTROL of our business, and become content with LETTING THINGS BE the way SOMEONE ELSE says they should be.

O, it must be a “sign...”


Go and GET IT. Fuck what it LOOKS like the “world is telling you...”

No one is going to give anything to you. That is the unfairly fair reality that the majority of us have to deal with.

SOME people will by default have a nice, smooth, almost perfectly sequenced path of development through some “standard” musical career carnival ride...

That’s great, but most of us WON’T, and that is a good thing. It’s what makes success taste that much sweeter.

The people who float through a “cookie cutter career path” aren’t the ones YOU want to try and be like, or learn from, anyway.

You Gotta Handle Biznazz

If you don’t know how to handle business in the new music business, you simply won’t exist past any level of mediocrity.

That’s NOT what the music industry is about.

If they’re ARE people in society who can and will stand up, splash around, live fully, and inspire others by WHAT they have to say... It’s INDEPENDENT MUSICIANS!

Please please please, i beg of you...

Do NOT fall into this “Well, i’m entitled to my appropriate rations of beans and rice” mentality.

It’s career and passion suicide.

Why didn’t someone UP the antie, and come back to Amanda and say... Ok, well, let’s work something out, i can provide you with x more fans at your show, as well as promotion of your new album to MY 10,000 fans...

So therefore, I believe I am worth “X“ to perform at your concert event.

All she can say is... NO.

You can still have fun with it, don’t look at is as you trying to ”get over on her,“ look at it as you just taking care of YOUR business.

If it doesn’t work, then design some other way to take advantage of the show to grow your fan-base and make more sales.

If you are asking the question of, should you give your music away... You are missing the point.

It’s about testing models, creating a strategy, and CREATIVELY executing until you find something that works...

Throw a bunch of stuff on the wall and see what sticks.

You also need to be doing your best to utilize all you have, to do ALL you can, where you are.


You need a focused plan of action.

I know we musicians have something against that word “strategy” for some reason, but it really is going to be the difference that makes or breaks careers in the future.

Musicians, just like Authors, at least for the full extent of ours and our children’s lifetime, need whats known as a  PLATFORM.

It is without question the single biggest asset you will ever own, and it is something no one can ever take away from you....

But you can certainly screw yourself by not building one, and/or by not valuing and adding to their lives in some meaningful way.

Should you give your music away for free?

Maybe. But I hope you see that this isn’t a question someone else can answer for you.

You need to be testing all kinds of things, and figuring out what works for you to live and fulfill your purpose and goals as an artist or band...

What are those? Do you have any?

In terms of business, which is a much more simple question to answer...

...If you give away a digital download in exchange for an email address, is that worth it?

How valuable is that new person who is now willing to at least “tolerate” what you have to say, and potentially even be excited about you and what you are doing?

Every year, how much is that new fan worth financially to your business?

Over 5 years, how much is that new fan worth?

Since the attention of, and your relationship-with fans is monumentally more valuable than a one time 99 cent sale...

For me, there is ZERO QUESTION what is more valuable...

I would easily PAY $1,000, right now, to give away ALL my songs to 10,000 people who subscribed to my email list, and were interested in me and my music.

Again, it’s about building a PLATFORM, and then developing a relationship with your audience. Your music is the expression of who you are, what you have to say, and what you stand for or represent.

The people who nail that, will never have any problem finding or keeping fans... and the people who do THAT - will never have funding or money problems so long as they have enough savvy to understand that for a business to work, they need to make a profit.

I.E. The value they create, creates value for the stakeholders. In this case --> the Band/Artist.

Creativity needs to be applied to both the expression and creation of your music, as well as to the marketing and business management side.

Amanda Palmer already understands this, you need to build an audience, or you need to get in front of other peoples audiences...

But when you do that, you need to have some at least BASIC strategy of how this is going to help you grow your tribe and expand your reach in some way, otherwise you are missing the whole opportunity.

It’s not about, nor has it ever been about the “measly sum” of whatever payment these bands might have made to play at her show, it’s about HOW can we LEVERAGE this opportunity, (another word we don’t particularly like)
to not completely BLOW this amazing chance we have to play in front of this incredible and large group of people!

You’ve got to give it a little more thought, otherwise you’ll be like the guys talking about how the “glory days” are gone and all the songs on the radio suck...

Be that as it may, that’s COMPLETELY missing the MASSIVE opportunity staring at you-right in front of your face.

So should you give your music away for free?

You tell me.

If you have to ask someone else, then you are missing the boat completely.

You are in control, the strategy, the reasoning, the numbers, these are a part of your responsibility.

Please spend some time asking yourself some specific questions to pin YOUR answer to this one down-like the MusicPreneur you are!

Be Your Best,

P.S. And for god’s sake, if you haven’t signed up yet, it’s FREE, you become a PART OF THE CLUB, girls like you more and money pops out of your printer... So go and DO IT ALREADY!


Ancient Toltec Wisdom For the Modern Day Musician

The Value of Keyword Research for Artists

The Lazy Way To Sell Your Music Online

Is Music Business Automation The Next Step?

I Prefer The Foolish

Easy Tips For Getting Retweeted

Twitter -vs- Facebook - What's a better site for musicians?

Why You Need To Teach Music Lessons

Pragmatic Epiphanies

Implied Power

Artistic Terrorists

Top 15 most popular musicians on social media

How to Determine Artist Advances

The Trend

What is a 360 Deal?

The Essence Of Viral Stories

What Needs Does your Music Fill?

Was This Musician's Plan Ethical?

Significance of Branding as Recording Artists

You Learn To Be An Artist

How Artists Can Unlock Their Creative Potential

Do You REALLY Need a Record Deal?

Importance of Branding as Record Artists

What Every Musician Ought To Know About Publishing

Arrogance, Is It Crippling The Growth Of Indie Artists?

Hip Hop: Who are the highest earners & record holders?

5 Strategies That Guarantee Success

Fan Engagement for Independent Artists

How Creating a Set List is Exactly Like Creating a Mix Tape for Your Girlfriend

Using Your Fans to Get More Photos and Videos During Concerts

The Benefits of Crowdsourcing Your Music Production

To Self Publish Or Not Self Publish.... That Is The Question

How Are Musicians Using the iPad?

Spotiwhy? : Are Subscription Music Services a Sustainable Business Model?

Is "Singer-Songwriter" a Genre?

7 Social Media Mistakes Musicians Should Avoid

The Science Behind Why People Share Music

Which Music Discovery Platform Has the Biggest Audience?

10 Essential Apps for the Touring Band

Can You Master the Guitar in 10 Days? Why Does Anyone Think You Can Master Facebook in 10 Days?

An Argument Against "Pay What You Want" Pricing

YouTube's Dirty Little Secret

Psy Makes $8 Million By Giving It Away

Crowdfunding: Things That Will Piss People Off

Amanda Palmer's Mistake (and Why it Will Hurt Working Class Musicians)

Digital Sheet Music: The Times Are A' Changin

How To Skyrocket Your Twitter Promotion

Tips For Finding New Fans On Facebook

The Digital Music Battlefield

Music Licensing In The Digital Age

Will Music Streaming Services Save The Recording Industry

Why You Should Be Using Kickstarter

Signup Free