In this article I discussed my feeling that modern musicians should move away from the first objective being to sell their music; instead moving the focus towards making the music more shareable.
I concluded that while musicians may be reluctant, it is essential that music be made shareable for free to enable fans who have discovered the music to share it to their own circles - to broadcast their discovery.
Since that post I have been considering a further dilemma.
Several years ago I discovered an artist named Matthew Perryman Jones, via Noisetrade, through a brief sampler he had available on the site at the time. I fell in love with his track Canción de la Noche - still a favourite of mine to play along to on many late nights after a few glasses of red wine have been drained (and the track is below in this post)...
Just recently I saw that Matthew Perryman Jones made his entire 10-year back catalogue available to download for a pay-what-you-like (or free) price through Noisetrade. This offer is no longer open.
As a musician and a music listener / purchaser, the idea of music being highly shareable appeals to me. Once you have developed a relationship with the artist or even a song or two, it can become a part of your world. Something you listen to in your quiet moments. Something you call upon when you need it. Some songs you know will always be there when your soul needs them.
Having your music available on YouTube or other highly accessible platforms where songs can be played in full removes barriers to listening and discovery, allowing others to assess it, share it, and explore it further if it interests them. Hey - if someone likes it enough they just may buy some.
But is releasing an entire back catalogue a good idea? Offering an album to download via a service such as Noisetrade (let alone an entire back catalogue!) sure is generous - though it doesn't really foster the same share-ability as a platform such as YouTube. You can't simply copy and paste a link to share a particular song you love in full to others.
Furthermore, you are not compelled strongly enough to explore and assess the music before downloading it. If you find something on YouTube (for example), which you have listened to for free, and you want to support the artist, you can easily at a later stage find that artist's homepage or other means of buying music and make a purchase.
But if the first you've heard of the artist is that they have music available to stream from a page, and from that same page you can download all the music you could possibly want to hear from them for free before you've even had the chance to properly listen to it, the likelihood is you'll download for free and listen later. Then where is the incentive to contribute to the artist? Would you return to that page to download the album a second time and this time pay something for it? Not likely.
I believe that music should be highly shareable. But there should still be a clear and separate step beyond the initial discovery, which enables the listener to make payment to the artist. I feel that offering a pay-what-you-like download opportunity (which you could consider free for any non-fans landing on the page) virtually eliminates the likelihood of receiving monetary contribution from any of those non-fans who later, through deeper listening, feel they do have a deeper connection with the music (justifying an opening of the wallet).
What do you think?
In tribute to MPJ's generous and courageous step towards further spreading his music to the world, I leave you with this beautiful piece. Please, support the artist.