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Selling Music - NOT Copies · Wednesday July 21, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

I’m blue in the face through saying it (again), but a musician is in the business of selling their music – NOT copies.

Copies were once expensive, and were traditionally sold by privileged entities termed ‘publishers’ (distributors of ‘content’ to the public via the sale of copies at monopoly protected prices, and masters of indentured artists).

Today and tomorrow, the self-emancipated musician, who has been warned against signing their soul away to a record label, sells their work directly to their fans. They no longer sell their music to the label, and they certainly don’t mass produce/distribute/retail copies – though, yes, the inertia of tradition keeps this quaint affectation going. And even for musicians to manufacture and sell their own copies is a bit of a challenge as Zygo wryly observes in Music: You’re Doing It Wrong

However, selling CDs is not selling music. It’s only copyright that makes that conflation of music with the copy.

In some accord with the form of Zygo’s article, here’s the sequence of steps that musicians interested in selling their music will go through:

  1. Invite your fans to pay you to compose/perform/record music
  2. Compose/perform/record music and deliver to paying fans
  3. Get paid (in proportion to number of fans)
  4. Indiscriminately distribute some or all of this music to file-sharing sites, etc.
  5. Having obtained more fans, goto 1.

Of course, there may well be no fans in the first iteration, music being produced as a promotional loss leader, but the general sequence is Demand->Supply->Exchange->Promotion.

Note in these steps that the musician does not get into the business of selling copies of their music on little plastic discs. Fans and anyone else can do that themselves if they want to (the musician should have delivered FLAC files to their paying fans, who taking on the role of the label get the masters they’ve paid for). Remember, there is no copyright. Copies cost nothing to make and people give them away for nothing. Yes, ok, the musician can still sell copies if they really must. Perhaps autographed, limited edition vinyl picture discs. Whatever floats your boat.

But, let’s get this straight: to sell music you exchange delivery of your music for the money of your fans who want you to produce it. It’s the music that’s valuable. The copies should be given away – especially if they don’t cost anything.



 

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