Some musicians have a fear that if they make their music freely available, they will see no financial reward. Bandcamp is one of many models which flies in the face of this - with many artists choosing to offer their music in a "pay what you like" arrangement. I detailed my own thoughts on this almost 3 years ago in my post titled "Is Bandcamp A Good Way To Sell Music?".
There are differing views and countless varying experiences of the value (or lack of value) in offering your music in a "pay what you like" arena when it comes to the financial gain (or lack thereof).
However I'd like to present a different perspective. Stop thinking of how you should make music available to sell. Instead, think about how you can make your music available to share.
Shift the focus to sharing your music, not simply selling it
It was such a tasteful song, delivered with such delicacy, beautiful simplicity, and real sentiment. When I had the first opportunity, I made a note in my phone of some of the lyrics I remembered, to investigate it further when I had a chance.
Later that night, researching the track online, I soon discovered Mark Sholtez' website and enjoyed learning more about him. Being unfamiliar with his work, one of my first ports of call was YouTube - hoping to see some recent live video or a clip for the track I'd heard. No such luck.
I also wanted to share my discovery with others. Facebook is an avenue I commonly use to share discoveries like this with my friends - and often this is done simply by pasting in a YouTube link to a video.
In this case I couldn't. The track didn't exist on YouTube, and the catalogue of music I found was still at that stage unfamiliar to me (and therefore not on my radar to share).
I found no alternatives to quickly share a listening experience of this track to others. So, until writing this post, my enjoyment of this new track and my discovery of this artist had stagnated.
Now I'm not picking on Mark Sholtez here at all - his online presence is actually very good compared to many, and he is regularly active, appreciative and engaging with his supporters on social media - which is awesome to see.
However my experience is not uncommon i.e. wanting to share a musical discovery and having little or no means of doing so in a way that enables someone to hear more than a brief sample of a track I've fallen in love with.
Brief snippets available to listen to via iTunes are fine, but they're not really share-friendly. In this way, these samples are valuable mainly to those who have already discovered you, or are close to an album purchase already and want to hear a little more before committing.
What's the solution for the artist?
My own opinion - the process of getting your music "out there", even if for free to some, may pay off in the longer run. If you let someone choose what they would like to pay for it (including $0 if they don't think it's worth more), then at least you're not introducing a barrier to sharing your music to a wider audience.
Those who wish to pirate your music will always find a way to do so. But don't let that be a reason to stop your music being shared by those who have discovered it, love it, and want to spread the word!