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.

Selling Music Is A Waste Of Time

freakonomicsThe New York Times’ Freakonomics blog has an interesting post about Mike Skinner of The Streets, and how he’s giving away music on social networking site Twitter:

He’s giving away new songs using Twitter because, he writes, “all this trying to sell you music … wastes valuable time.”

A new study out of Norway suggests Mike’s business model may be a good one, for it shows that people who download music for free (legally or not) are 10 times more likely to pay for music than people who don’t. This seems to make digital bootleggers the music industry’s biggest customers. All the more reason for labels to stop suing them?

Freakonomics seems to be blurring causation and correllation.

Those people that download music from the Internet are 10 times more likely to buy music, not because they’ve downloaded music from the Internet, but because they’re already hardcore music freaks.

Freakonomics also seems to want to draw conclusions from musicians that are outliers.

Like Trent Reznor, Skinner is an established artist with a large fanbase, so what works for him may not work for new artists, indie or mainstream.

Nobody knows yet what the new model will be for music exposure and distribution. It’s going to be happening over the Internet, though.

What do you think? Is it a waste of time, in this day and age, to try and sell music?

The Trent Reznor Case Study: NIN Is The Future Of The Music Business

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Techdirt’s Michael Masnick discusses why Nine Inch Nails is the future of the music business:

Since completing his earlier major record label contract, musician Trent Reznor has been experimenting with a variety of new and unique business models for Nine Inch Nails to reach and connect with fans.

This case study explores Reznor’s experiments, examining what has worked and what has not – and why.

If you can get beyond the cheesy consultant-style acronyms, there’s a good overview here of how NIN is using new media.

Get Your Music Heard Via Twitter

Solipsistic Nation, a podcast that covers all genres of electronic music, sent word about an upcoming show focusing on electronic musicians on Twitter.

Here are the details:

If you’d like to participate in the Twitter mix here’s what I’m looking for:

  1. Your best track. The duration or the genre of electronic music is not important. I’m looking for quality stuff.
  2. Keeping in the spirit of Twitter, I’d like you to record a 140 character intro for the song. It can be why you chose the song to be featured on the Twitter mix or what inspired the song or how you recorded, etc. Anything to give the listener a connection to your song.
  3. I’d also like you to include your website where people can find you on the web and on Twitter. This bit of information is not limited to 140 characters. Both your intro and your personal info can be sent to me as an MP3 at solipsisticnation@gmail.com or you can record it on my voice mail at 1-619-717-6322.
  4. Please keep your intro and personal infor brief one to two minutes.

Here’s Solipsistic Nation‘s page on Twitter.

If you’re already using Twitter, this is a great opportunity to get your music heard. If you’re not using Twitter, this might be a good opportunity to give the free service a try and see what it’s about.

And, while you’re there, follow my account, podcasting_news, where I post updates about electronic music, new media and other interesting tidbits.

Free Album From Nine Inch Nails The Best Selling Album Of 2008

Need a reminder that the Internet has changed the economics of music?

Nine Inch Nails‘ Creative Commons licensed Ghosts I-IV, which was released as a free download, is ranked the best selling MP3 album of 2008 on Amazon’s MP3 store.

Despite the fact that you could download Ghosts legally from file-sharing networks, and despite the fact that you could copy the album and share it with your friends, people, in droves, purchased the release at Amazon. 

I’ll be very surprised if more artists don’t try to reproduce NIN’s success in 2009. 

What do you think this means for artists that don’t have the high profile of Trent Reznor and NIN?

via CC

The Slip Download Map On Google Earth

NIN has released another interesting bit of Internet media for its most recent release, The Slip (our review).

They plotted the downloads of the album onto Google Earth, so you can browse interactively and see where the Nine Inch Nails fans are:

We’ve had just over 1,400,000 people download The Slip from our site since its release May 5th (that number represents individual people, and excludes multiple downloads from the same order), and this map displays ONLY downloads that came directly from us.

NIN is doing some pretty geektacular stuff and exploring a lot of interesting ways to use Internet media to promote their music.

If anybody can connect me with their tech gurus, let me know. I’d love to ask them some questions about what they are doing!