Music Should Be Free?

May 23, 2013

This is Vic Lawson and something came to my attention a couple of days ago. A person was very adamant that music should be free. This person felt that no one should get paid for a mere 3 or 4 minutes of work. He said that if we love playing music so much, we should just do it and not worry about getting paid.

The problem I have with this goes a lot deeper than his shallow opinion. Sure the end product may only be 3 or 4 minutes long, but it certainly takes a lot more than 3 or 4 minutes to create that product.

First off, somebody has to write that song. Joe Melson comes by from time to time and he said that it took him and co-writer Roy Orbison about a year to write, polish and hone “Blue Bayou” into the hit song that it became. The person assuming that it only takes a few minutes to come up with the words and music for a hit song has no grasp of the reality of the situation.

It also takes way more than 3 or 4 minutes to record a hit song. It takes a well-equipped studio and experienced and talented people to setup and operate the equipment to get the best possible sound on tape, or hard drive as it is today. You’re talking producers, engineers and musicians who earn their stripes through many years of striving to be the best they can be.

It is sad that the average listener has little ability to distinguish any difference between hackers and seasoned players. They don’t realize how many hours of practicing every day and how many years it takes to become proficient enough to make it look as easy as we make it look.

That results in opinions like the guy mentioned in the beginning has. They think anyone can learn a half dozen chords on a guitar and go out and be phenomenal. If it’s so much fun and so easy, you shouldn’t get paid for it. Or should you?

Let me make a comparison. Anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence, diligence and motivation, can learn to be a lawyer or doctor, but when it comes to being a musician, it takes more than intelligence, diligence and motivation. It takes talent.

This secret, missing ingredient makes a world of difference because not everyone can learn to play with soul and passion which in my opinion is what separates the great players from the not so great.

Everybody needs to eat and everybody should be compensated for the work they do, even if it is fun. I think the guy above is motivated more by a desire to justify downloading music without paying for it than he is by any philosophical belief. I wonder how he’d justify going into a grocery store and wheeling a cart full of groceries out without paying for it?

For the guy who wants music for free, maybe he should listen to music made by musicians playing for free and see what he thinks of that. Go out on the back porch and listen to Uncle Hershel play his banjo. I’d like to see how much of that he could take.

The point is, if you want great music, it’s going to cost because good equipment, lessons and whatever else you need to get to a professional level don’t come cheap. If you want free music, then be happy with what you get.

How would you guys handle this? What would you say to someone who thinks he should get paid for the work he does but considers the work you do worth nothing?

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One Response to Music Should Be Free?

  1. Brian Christiano says:

    Vic:
    Although I am not of “Nashville” or “Austin” caliber as a musician and do it as a sideline hobby, I agree with you totally. I have played for pay and had many discussions about playing for free or “you’ll get good exposure”. I feel that if the person who wants a professional, polished sound doesn’t feel they need to pay, ask them the question, “Should a professional ball player get paid?” They enjoy what they do. I am a Professional Engineer. I enjoy being an engineer; if I didn’t, I’d get another profession. However, if someone wants my services, I charge. If not, I stay home and play music, polishing my sideline hobby so I can play for pay.

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