About Kevin

Kevin is a Grammy nominated artist, podcaster, and indie musician advocate. He resides in Portland, OR where he is the Director of Marketing for CD Baby (cdbaby.com). Oh, yeah, he also plays guitar in Smalltown Poets.
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    Music will be free + Touring is where the money is = BS!

    When talking about the future of the music business, it’s become a trendy statement to say, “In the future, musicians will look to playing live and touring to make their money instead of selling CDs and mp3’s because music will be free.” Well, I’m not afraid to call those people out with a big BS and here is why.

    First off, I find that these statements are made by people who are, either, not musicians, or people who made money as a musician years ago. They are not an artist or a member of a group who is actively playing live and touring in today’s market. For some reason, they are working with the notion that bands and artists somehow forgot to put a focus on live music revenues and just need to return to that to see the money start rolling in. The fact of the matter is, bands and artists never stopped touring. And if they did, it’s because the money stinks! Even successful tours these days barely break even, much less make enough money for the recording artist to consider recorded music as just a free piece of promotion and nothing else. It takes an immense amount of work, time, and talent to build a serious revenue stream from playing live. Let’s not forget that through the internet, you can reach an endless amount of people worldwide, but with live performance you are working with a select number of venues in confined markets. Last time I checked, there weren’t many venues with the reputation of paying out big to artists. While there are echos of the past through the return of the single release as opposed to the full album, we are not returning to the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s like some suggest.

    The future of music lies completely within the artist’s hands, period. If they want to focus on selling recorded music and their fan base will continue to buy it, selling music will be a big revenue stream for them. If they are fantastic live and want to give away a track to entice people to come to a show, then live shows may be their big revenue stream, but it’s all up to the artist and what their fan base will allow. The future of the music business is NOT in the hands of companies who dream up business models that artist should follow. The future is NOT free music because some guy with a degree and years working in the industry says so. The business plays by the artist’s rules now, and that scares the pants off the gate keepers that used to make a living deciding what the artists could do.

    • http://chojimoji.com Chris

      Well put!

    • http://www.robertleeking.com Robert Lee King

      A rare thing, alert the media, oh, never mind, they no longer matter:)

      I am in complete unwavering agreement with you on this one.
      Listen to the pundits, keep your day job. You’ll be broke otherwise:)

      Great post Kevin!

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      I agree that recorded music doesn’t necessarily need to be free. However, I don’t think Chris Anderson and the like are saying all recorded music needs to be free. Rather, I think he’s merely pointing out the fact that giving away some things for free could be a huge marketing tool.

      Sticking to your principles of “I should get paid for every CD or recording I produce” is very noble and all, but the reality is that you’ll reach more people (and potential customers) if you find ways to get your music (even just some of it into their hands for free.

      I’m all for selling my music…to the people who are willing to buy it. For the rest who would never pay for my songs, I’d rather them have it anyway…that’s the only way I have a chance of someday converting them into buying customers.

    • http://www.ashleygatta.com Ashley Gatta

      Amen. After reading some blog post by Trent Resner and reading Kusek’s “The Future of Music” I was starting to wonder if I’d have to just hand out my CD’s after pouring all of this money into producing the project. I’m still wondering where the money will come from though…lol.

    • http://www.kellypettit.com kelly Pettit

      I couldn’t agree more with Joe Gilder. I sell CDs at gigs all the time. But over the years of experience, I’ve learned when it’s good business to give a CD away. For me, performing live is the biggest promotional tool I have for selling CDs. Bar none! I’m on CD baby (as helpful as they try to be), and all the other social networks. This whole internet thing is probably 1% of my income. I don’t know why I bother? there’s nothing like the real McCoy. 10 years ago I dreamed of being international. Now I realize keeping a local fan base has been much more lucrative. (for now :) . But the internet has been great for staying up-to-date.
      Thanks for sharing Kev.

    • Adam Moritz

      Of course this business model assumes that all the bands/artists write 100% of their songs. Giving songs away for free may be a good promotion for the artist but it sticks it to the songwriter who DOES make all his/her money from performance royalties and sales. I’ve noticed that the people who say that music should be free, usually aren’t songwriters or, if they are, they are the artists as well and have other things to gain (i.e. marketing, publicity, fans) by giving stuff away. In addition, most of the money an artist makes touring comes from merch sales anyway by the time they pay everyone (20% booking, 20% management, players, busses, etc…)

    • Mike

      A suggested read “Free:The Future of a Radical Price” by Chris Anderson. I’m not saying that I completely agree with his thesis, but it’s a good read with some interesting points.

    • http://kevinbreuner.com KevinB

      The main thing I’m talking about, is when non creatives who work in the industry start deciding that things will be a certain way without consideration to how much has changed in the industry. They underestimate how much the fact that most artists own their music has changed things. They approach music as a product. The artist approaches their music as an extension of themselves. It a part of who they are. The other major fact they tend to forget is that making records is an art form separate from performing live. One does not necessarily lead to the other. Sometime the recording is the final piece of art.

      Yes, to generate income streams, giving away some tracks is probably a good idea, but in order for it to be beneficial, it should probably have some sort of trade off (Like email address for music). Again, when the artist own their music and their songs, it’s completely their decision, not someone else in an office deciding for them.

    • http://www.boyeatsdrummachine.com Jon Ragel

      I think you’re right on in your assessment of the economics of touring, Kevin. It’s stupid to tour ‘just to tour’. However, I think when coupled with a solid PR campaign, coming through a market for a show is still the best way to generate press and digital activities in that market, regardless of size, ESPECIALLY if you line up an in-store or college radio appearance while you’re there.

      I also think there is a difference between the larger markets, who seem a bit more influenced by national blogs and such, and mid-markets like Spokane and Missoula. These markets seem a lot more about who is playing there regularly and less about who Pitchfork says is relevant.

      And of course, I guarantee I would make A LOT of money if I got to open for one of Beck’s US tours. Just sayin’. If anyone could pass this on to his booking agent I’d appreciate it.:P

      But yea—you can’t even give away music anymore—It’s a non-story. I think direct-to-fan sales are the future for indie acts, along with making a few free tracks available to blogs to go along with a smart PR campaign, as well as going through a digital distribution company. It all works together and should include some well-planned touring IMO.

    • http://www.benmartin.at Ben Martin

      @Jon Ragel: As for opening up for Beck (or some similar artist): Given that this might be different in the US, in Europe you mostly have to PAY to open for an artist that size. Not in the sense of payola, but for their crew etc. If you’re lucky and the artist likes you or your music, you might be able to get a small amount of money per show or at least not have to pay anything. In any of those cases, you would have to pay for accomodation, food, your band, transport, etc. plus organise everything yourself.
      I know bands that opened up for artists like Bryan Adams or Lenny Kravitz. Though they were lucky not having to pay per night they still lost loads of money on those 20-30 nights tours.

      So I guess you’d better join Beck’s backing band instead of opening for him :-)