It Can’t All Be Free

*Kudos to my buddy Ben Brown (@_benbrown) for helping me formulate this post.


I know the music industry is changing, and I’m glad it is.

But it can’t all be free.

With everyone that is overjoyed to “stick it to the record labels,” this misunderstanding that it can all be free, is quite disconcerting.

Some things can be. I get that. And I support that.

The problem, however, is that if everyone expects it all to be free, that at some point it runs out.

Let’s consider some basic things that cost money, across the music industry:

  • gas/airfare to get to the rock show (for your favorite band)
  • instruments / gear
  • most artist support staff aren’t (can’t) work for free, no matter how much they love their artist
  • computers aren’t free, nor is the Internet service (in most cases) needed to help spread the word about the new (free) music
  • those really cool clothes you expect your favorite band to be wearing
  • lighting and other production at the concert
  • insurance (on countless things): vehicles, people, venues, etc.
  • that guy checking your ID on the way in to the show
  • those often annoying, but necessary, people wearing the yellow shirts (security)
  • food, to keep your favorite musician alive

I can’t tell you how much I wish cars were free, considering the ridiculous actions/greed of the vehicle industry. But I digress…

In the documentary Festival Express, which I highly recommend, The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia at one point is on-stage speaking (calmly) to an out-of-control crowd at a 1970 festival that is demanding the show be free. Let’s keep in mind the line-up consisted of The Grateful Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin, and other music megastars.

But, after Woodstock (especially) in August 0f 1969, which ended up being a free concert (wasn’t intended to be), there was an expectation of free.

Garcia stood on the stage and tried to explain that they were doing all they could to accommodate everyone’s (free) request, but there were still expenses on the back-end that needed to be covered.

Nearly 40 years ago, a precedent had been set, and fans were demanding the rock show be free. But wait, that’s the primary saving grace of 2009’s music industry, right? (the live touring business)

Ten years ago, a program called Napster set another precedent of free.


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