Lessons Learned From Producing Free Music

Reader James Kirsch responded recently to a quote I posted on posted from Bob Lefsetz on the myth of the ‘long tail’ – the idea that the Internet makes it easy for niche musicians to find an audience.

Lefsetz has a pretty pessimistic view of musicians’ prospects.

“Almost no one wins making music,” writes Lefsetz. “The odds are incredibly long. And if you think luck is key, you’re never going to win. You make your own luck. Through hard work!”

Kirsch shares a different perspective in a post that takes an optimistic look at some of the harsh lessons that musicians have to learn. His first lesson:

No one cares about my music the way I do. There’s no reason for them to – for me its a primary extension of self. It’s what I pour myself into, laboring, debating, molding, and refining everything for a ridiculous number of hours.

Then, after all this toil and triumph, I release an album, where all my pride and insecurities are balled up in an explosive state of nervous excitement.

My friends and fans will support and celebrate with me, which is truly amazing, but it’s important to recognize that most people don’t care about it, nor understand the effort it takes. It’s important (though almost impossible) not to have expectations of how my music will be received.

What’s most important is how I feel about my music. You’ll hear this again and again when you’re an artist – it just took experience for me to internalize it.

Kirsch’s post shares six hard lessons he’s learned from creating and sharing music online lessons like the fact that most of your friends don’t really care about your music, and that promoting music is sort of a thankless task.

But nevertheless, he still has an optimistic view of making music:

I don’t mean to sound like it’s a negative experience to create and release music – it’s not. There’s simply a lot of challenges I never imagined.

I absolutely celebrate the tools, ability, and lifestyle that allows me to craft the music that I want to. I’m still in awe that there’s a distribution method that allows me to share my music at almost no cost to the entire world.

We are still very much at the beginning of the musical explosion that’s about to take place. The tools that are available completely eliminate the cost barrier to create music. As this generation learns those tools, the variety and quantity of output will be staggering.

Check out what Lefsetz and Kirsch have to say – and let me know if you’ve got your own thoughts on lessons you’ve learned from making music in a world that, by and large, isn’t paying attention.


11 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Producing Free Music

  1. Good.
    Really, nowadays you need a big pair of balls to make and release music to a ever growing crowd of “pseudo-experts” in music/everything. There is so much information out there that it’s just too much for someone to catch the true essence of an artistic work without “spending” sometime at discovering and letting it grow inside.

    So much info and you see kids on tv saying that who painted the Mona Lisa was
    Leonardo …DiCaprio and Africa is a country in South America ! I’ve been a kid, i’ve been a teen and i certainly been through stupidity but never in this form or way.

    The great problem, besides the fact that the music business companies were completly responsable by the degradation of the business, is that they still act very bad by exclusively promoting Lady Gagas, Eminems, Rhiannas and all the rest of the CRAP GANG that will give them money again.I am so fuck…ing tired of Beyouces and J. lopez of the business that are millionaires without no talent at all for making music.
    They are pretty apples with no taste and dry inside. Music for kids in the right age for stupidity.

    For me the internet could dissapear and i wouldn’t care less! Not even for synthopia:)
    Best wishes Bob.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4
    • tis the digital information age and no one knows what to do with it by the looks of things.anyone can sell themselves as anything to everyone,regardless of intent and feeling.the world is now filled with pseudo superheros with online alias’ that dont match with the reallity of their being,guess we need to get a grip or completely let go in some vien atempt at sorting the wheat from the chaff.suppose i could google something really clever to copy and paste but personally i dont mind looking stupid under my own intelligence its the only way i can learn and get better at this that or the other.and it would be nice to see how the world copes with no internet

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  2. All kinds of movements and eras have their “golden age”, and rock music is sadly done with its days of glory.

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    • I agree. Nevertheless I have feel both empathy and respect towards musicians who decided to take the risk and make music for a living (or at least try). Some musicians can always rely on their day jobs, but others do rely on their music.

      I for one think making music and expecting to be paid for it is not the best way to start. Music is an art, and great art was never recognized before the artist´s death. If you´re a true artist, making great music will be your reward, I believe.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  3. O… but things are so much better then all our complaints imply. If you were living in 1986 right now you would complain how the only people that are heard live on MTV. We are in the golden age of a new revival in music for everyone by everyone. It is the “We the People” of our time and will be talked about in the future like the cafes the impressionist painters visited in. It will be looked back on as a time wished for and set on a pedestal. It grows everyday and there are still few enough of us to get your music noticed. Make your music and place it on the web for all to hear and you may well be heard from long after you have left this place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  4. After a fairly decent hiatus from even trying to get my music beyond my own little tiny circle I thought I’d try to get a recent album I made heard by more people(even sent a CD to Synthtopia). I’m not certain on the quality of my music in relation the deluge of music now being made and swamping all outlets’ ears, but I do know that the next thing I try to promote will have to be be super great in my own ears for me to even try. Eventually when the seas of change settle one can hope that there will be a way for adventurous souls to listen and navigate through a tremendous ocean of mediocrity, but the very good music, the most excellent stuff, will have a means to rise above the landscape. If you want to be really heard making some music is not enough, making great music will be the goal and requirement. Not sure if the interwebs are quite functioning that way yet, correct me if I am wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  5. One of the many sad things that marketing and consumerism has done to people is link financial success to everything. Music should be made for the sake of making music. It’s the process of making, playing and doing. Sharing it with other people is a side effect… a by-product. Making music and expecting anyone else to care at all, even just a little bit, is as ridiculous as painting a house and expecting to get fans for it, or buying groceries and gaining an audience because you do it so much better than anyone else. Just because we love doing it doesn’t mean anyone else needs to pay us for it.

    Do what you do in life. Sometimes people admire and respect you for it. Sometimes they don’t. But do it anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  6. To me it’s different and almost unrelated things.

    I make music because I make music. Music plays in my head and I’m compelled to play it. Sometimes I record it. But the creative process itself is the most rewarding part to me.

    Recordings are a way to share the music, especially online. I have a separate compulsion to share the music once it’s recorded. It’s human to prefer that what one shares is appreciated. Anyone who says they don’t care is lying to themselves or sociopathic or very good at stupid mind tricks. It’s very faux cool to not care, but it’s BS.

    It would be nice to make money from my music. I have made money when I played the crap that audiences want to hear. I am a good enough performer to capitalize on crap. But I hate performing. Showbiz sucks. Everything about it bothers me. It’s dirty and deceitful and pandering. Other personalities might love applause, but the approval of the musically unsophisticated doesn’t make me all happy inside. The approval of my musical peers does. But the market is the former and not the latter.

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