Online music distribution: Not all free is created equal

Drummer in a gorilla suit
The image Andy Budd promoting Silverback is by Danny Hope and made available under a Creative Commons license

Jonathan Ostrow has written an interesting and thought provoking post on distributing your music for free at Music Think Tank. The main point is that no money doesn’t have to mean no transaction. Even if you are not getting paid cash you can demand value in the form of attention, in a newsletter sign-up or publicity, in a tweet or Facebook like. The post gives some good advice on how you can put this in to practice and there is a useful debate sprouting in the comments about the general concept of giving music away without charging cash for it too.

Jonathan’s post and the comment thread have made me think more about my previous post, Give your music away: You have nothing to loose but your obscurity. That post was intended as an overview but there is a great deal to this subject and it deserves a deeper look.

If they don’t value your music they don’t deserve it

This point is made well and forcefully in the comment thread of Jonathan’s article by Tim London. The key question is, are we as musicians devaluing digital music by distributing at no cost or are we reacting to an existing situation?

I think it depends on where you are in your career. My previous post was based on the idea of a musician emerging on to the internet with a small local following. For them attention is valuable. If you have a national reputation, are touring yourself (perhaps opening up for established acts) and have a robust and active online fanbase then perhaps free is no longer a useful strategy for you.

The main point is still how to you get attention. Perception of value is important. This perception is influenced by popularity. Even the most jaded hipster in the whitest skinny jeans likes some kind of validation of their choices. I think that risking a non-existent income stream to try to build a business is worth a shot. The perception of music as a free resource is not just down to independent artist distributing for free. Spotify, YouTube, Songza and the file-sharing community are part of this too. Changing a culture is a big ask. Continue reading Online music distribution: Not all free is created equal

Is Online Harmony Holding You Back?

"Argument" by Filipe Dâmaso Saraiva, made available under a Creative Commons Share Alike Licence
"Argument" by Filipe Dâmaso Saraiva, made available under a Creative Commons Share Alike Licence

There are many benefits to participating in online social networks. The ability to build a large network without geographical constraints gives access to support, insight, feedback and promotion opportunities in an immediate, easy and powerful fashion. There seems to be no downside apart from the time needed to engage with your online tribe, but there is an interesting problem lurking within the groups we create.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, director of the Information + Innovation Policy Research Center at the National University of Singapore, has put forward the idea that our online networks may be harming our capacity for innovation. He may well have a strong point that needs consideration for anyone getting deeply involved in online networking.

In an article in the journal Science Mayer-Schönberger examines the impact of extended online networking on software engineers and concludes that this is, in part, responsible for the incremental pace of innovation in the open-source community. Innovation still happens but the curse of groupthink keeps the pace of change slow. Continue reading Is Online Harmony Holding You Back?

Attribution Matters

Missionary DiplomacyThe imaginary band album cover game has come back up on Facebook, perhaps it never really went away. It’s a chance operation game where you,

  1. Find a bandname via the Wikipedia random article function. The article title is the bandname.
  2. Find an album title via The Quotations Page random quotations page. The last three to five words of the last quote on the page are the title.
  3. Find an album cover by using Flickr’s “explore the last seven days” link that selects recent content ranked by Flickr’s “interestingness” algorithm. Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
  4. Combine the elements in an image editing program and share it with your friends.

I like random operation games very much and I started playing but something wasn’t right at step three for me. The problem was that Flickr includes all uploaded images in its interesting tag and this includes copyrighted images. This is just a light-hearted game but it is taking an image creating a derivative work and sharing it. Doing this with copyrighted images is not legal. This started me thinking about copyright both from the creator’s and the user’s perspective. Continue reading Attribution Matters