“Free” is Not the AnswerUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that the music industry has seen a lot of change in the last decade or two. There seems to be an emerging trend of “free” in music these days. People are expecting free shows and have even demanded free albums, disregarding copyright and reproduction laws if the end justifies the means.

Firstly, let me clear up the issue of piracy. It is still illegal. This status has not changed, and as long as it hasn’t changed, downloading an album without paying for it equates to stealing. This was a harsh reality that I had to realize myself, having once dabbled in peer-to-peer networks. My stance on this subject is that as an artist, I cannot justify downloading other people’s copyrighted material, because that is not what I want other people to do with my album.

Certainly, an artist can make an album available for free. However, that should remain the choice of the artist, and not the “privilege” of the consumer.

Secondly, I’m going to address the issue of free shows. An artist should not be playing a show for free, unless he/she discerns that a) it is a chance to hone one’s skills, b) they want to try something new, or c) there are benefits other than monetary (i.e. massive exposure).

An artist who needs to gain experience and wants to sharpen their craft should always be able to play free shows if he or she so chooses. Heck, I would do it if I wanted to shake things up. However, this should not place the expectation of “free” on every artist. There’s a level of professionalism that should come along with experience.

Music venues need to realize that a) there’s a great deal of preparation that goes into a show, b) an artist always has costs associated with performing, and c) what they’re offering is worthwhile (if they are taking themselves at all seriously).

I could go on, but I’m going to get right to the point. I believe there are still options for artists. I don’t believe that “free” is the answer, because it takes time, money, and effort for a musician to produce their product. Contrary to public belief, a musician’s life is not the “fun life”, it is not all glitz and glamour, and it is not the life of a slacker. A musician with any degree of professionalism is usually far more disciplined than your average Joe.

Music need not be devalued. There are still options available. It’s time to start thinking outside the box. How can musicians, venues, and consumers benefit each other and create a more fulfilling relationship?

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David Andrew Wiebe

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