Free or die. Or not.

I’ve been debating with myself out loud on this blog whether or not to charge for my album when I finally release it. Thanks to many killer komments, my thoughts on the whole subject of free are much more clear.

In the big picture of the music industry, I think free should be a choice, which it is today. As an artist, you can choose to charge or not, and as a listener, you can choose to pay or not. My struggle is with the second half of this, but I agree with those who say that controlling music theft is kind of like trying to legislate the weather. It is, indeed, a tough problem and it’s possible that the total cost of an effective solution would be too high -- both in terms of money and to society. I have to think about this more, but that’s another post. As is copyright. Personally, I’m for copyrights and patents, but I do think the system could be improved. Again, though, another post.

Right now, I just want to focus on where I’ve netted out. First, my plan:

- release the album on bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon, but only really personally promote the bandcamp option
- use email, Facebook and Twitter for base promotion, possibly hire a service for something more effective (anyone have any suggestions?)
- on bandcamp, charge $5 for a digital download, $6 (plus $2) for the physical CD, which I think is a good deal, because I will be releasing 14 songs
- the album will be free to listen to on bandcamp, but if you buy it from BC and change your mind, I will give you your money back (gotta work out the details of this still...)
- use free songs as a promotional tool to drive album sales (still thinking about this, but maybe choose 3 songs and offer to give them away during limited periods of time, mulling)
- continue with Soundcloud, join Taxi and open my VERY thin Rolodex in order to try to get some licensing deals
- down the road, think of a “special edition” idea...

And there you have it.

As for free as a subject, here is where my thinking currently stands for me personally (not a touring or even performing act)::

- there would be no barriers to people getting my music and passing it along
- would promote impulse buys, always good on the ‘net, where people’s attention spans are short
- my generosity might inspire people to return the favor with some loyalty and interest

- would make me feel like the work I’ve done -- and the work others have done for me -- isn’t good enough to charge for (purely emotional, I know, but still...)
- I want the contract of a paid purchase, I want to feel extra obligated and appreciative because someone paid me, and I want people to feel like they can come back to me with praise of criticism and feel fully justified either way, free (to my mind) would not promote this
- if I start with free, where do I go? By charging, at first, I can use free as a promo tool more effectively, I think

Overall, I’ve decided that the cons outweigh the pros. For other musicians, things might be different, but this is where my head currently sits (as well as atop my neck).