When I released Introducing Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont for free in July last year, I already knew a free strategy wouldn’t last forever, even if I secretly hoped people would be generous enough to allow me to make the second album free too. Although everyone praised the release, my secret dream didn’t happen, so back to the plan A. The free strategy had a primary goal: gaining traction in a complicated market. But recording an album, as romantic as it seems, always ends up in the same way: paying the bills.
The free strategy was a huge financial effort for me: although a small crowdfunding lowered a little the final bill ($1500), I had to swallow the rest of it (+/- $5000). I was ready to do that and it has been a great experience: I met very supportive people and I’m happy I could promote Janacek’s and Ravel’s music to new ears who wouldn’t have listened to this album otherwise.
But everything has a price, especially professional audio recordings. And even if it’s not really cool nor fashionable to say it, we have to face it: free music isn’t sustainable in the long run. At least, not yet sustainable, and not until big myths about recording artists are definitely buried (like: we make tons of money, we don’t pay for recordings sessions or with the internet, releasing an album costs almost nothing). Hear me here and now: these myths are spread by people knowing little or nothing about this industry. Or living in a parallel world where stuffed animals can actually speak, and where you never get broke. Either way, you should really wonder if trusting them is a good idea!
As I said before I could do it once and chose to do it for my first album. I didn’t get paid for this album nor got enough donations to break even. I’m fair in business and consider professionals working on my releases must get paid (too bad this doesn’t apply to me!). You might think that’s not a lot, but that’s more than 10 people. If music is free, artists won’t have money to pay these people. If we can’t pay them, they’ll probably go out of business and we won’t be able to record again. Maybe not in the next 5 years. But one day, in a not so long future. Remember that: nothing that expensive can be free forever without huge financial support.
So for those who asked: no, the first Volume of Beethoven Evolutions won’t be released for free. We have to think about the big picture and avoid accustom audiences to get everything for free (or let them believe things are free), otherwise we’ll have a serious problem to solve. Not a problem of income level, an issue of industry death.
As an artist, I don’t really care about being rich but what I care about is my artistic future and being able to continue my work according to my way of thinking. I need this possibility to produce barely commercial or even non-commercial meaningful works of art without being limited in creativity or people saying “we’re out of budget, you can’t polish this project more than this”. I need time to think about arts, life and change. I need to take my time and be able to stop polishing projects when I decided they were ready. And in today’s society, this means having money. I would be delighted to invest my personal funds if I could but that’s not the case.
As long as I don’t get enough people to support my projects, free won’t be an option anymore. Which is really not fun: I want people to listen to, discover and understand my work more than anything else. This is the real aim. But with no money I can’t go further in my work, since I can’t realize my projects for free.
For me, living a simple life devoted to music, it is just a way to be able to produce further projects, continue my work. Money only serves my lifelong commitment to music.
Next time you don’t support your favorite artist or don’t pay for music, even if it looks free, just ask yourself if you’re not a joyful contributor of degradation of arts quality: yes, getting less money means less budget for production, equals producing faster and cheaper, in other words quality loss. Or worse, if you’re not just killing artists who really have something to say.