This week, Radiohead released their new album, In Rainbows, exclusively via their website, and on an honor system — pay what you wish. WNYC Radio’s Soundcheck did a great episode covering this story, and you can hear it, and see my comments on the Soundcheck website. (Of particular interest may be the part about “REFUND” button.)
In a separate instance, Moby launched Moby Gratis to give away a large library of his music for use in independent features and short films and other non-profit ventures. Licensing, touring, and merchandising are the last fronts for an artist to make a living — and now this.
As an independent artist writing for film, I’m all for making music *affordable*, but giving it away for *free* is another story altogether. As we learned from the dot-com bubble, *free* is not a business model, it doesn’t pay for rent, health insurance, or the production of any further music.
By Moby — a big shot, by any standard — giving tracks away, he undercuts many musicians who would be happy to license their music for a small fee; or beginner/student/amateur composers, who would write custom music for free, if only given the chance.
Case and point — several years ago, a student filmmaker asked me to write a track similar to Moby’s “Honey”. Since then, I’m proud to say that has been used in several shorts, and just got licensed for a wonderful upcoming documentary. With Moby’s Gratis, this would’ve never happened.
There’s a reason that subscriptions to magazines still cost something, even if it’s $20/year. Every dollar helps.
Let’s make music licensing affordable to everyone – everyone can afford to chip in something, however symbolic it may be.