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I think the primary flaw with BPG's stance on this is assuming that companies are supposed to simultaneously build incredible tools for musicians while figuring out some other way to make money. The minute a company says, we want to offer these tools free so that they're accessible to impoverished artists, and we'll make our money from ads, they have to split their focus between making tools that work, and optimizing their ad inventory and performance. The best way to maximize the value of ads is to drive more clicks and engagement to your sponsors, which is in direct conflict with helping fans engage with bands. You're getting paid to drive people away from the music and to a sponsor, which is a distraction from helping artists. Yes, you can do both, but not nearly as effectively as you can by staying hyper-focused on one of them.

Also, $10 may be a heavy price tag for a musician that delivers pizzas, but it's pretty much nothing in terms of a starting advertising budget for a small business, which is what professional artists and bands are. This oft-cited viewpoint that artists deserve to make money just because they are a good guitar player isn't doing artists any good. Bands are small businesses. Starting a business takes capital and hard work. If you wanted to open a pizza place, you would save up money or get a loan. You would make use of some free tools, and you would pay for others. If you want to start a successful band, it's the same thing. There are plenty of companies out there making effective tools for musicians. There is no reason to assume they can do as good a job of it while making the tools available for free or basement prices. Good tools for businesses cost money. Anyone who thinks you can build an ad-based business on the backs of music hasn't been paying attention to the market. Pandora lost $15M last year doing just that.


Could we for once have a think tank with people who are actually relevant to some aspect of the music industry?

Mike Fabio

Thanks, Clyde, for this post - hoping the comments here add to the conversation.

To be clear, and I don't intend to put words in Brian's mouth, there most certainly ARE a number of free and freemium tools out there. LOTS of them, in fact, including the major players you mentioned and myriad others.

What's important is not that those tools are there, but that they are ultimately useful beyond their cost. No tool is free (advertising, selling your data, services that take a cut of sales, whatever it may be), and many free tools are inherently less feature-rich than their freemium counterparts (SoundCloud's free accounts are great, but limit you to 2 hours of sound uploads, which is about 30 songs). Sure, the average artist can easily get away with using these services for quite some time - sometimes forever - but eventually they'll be asked to shell out some cash, and that day often comes before the artist can afford it.

I think the most salient point from Brian is that $10 a month is a very large cost to an independent artist. Hell, most people aren't even willing to pay that for their own email provider (seriously, if Gmail started charging, you'd have a whole lot of new Yahoo users). And while I recognize that these companies have to keep the lights on like everyone else, asking independent artists to pay for products with unproven value to them creates an ecosystem of animosity and disillusionment.

Again, thanks for the discussion, Clyde. Much appreciated.

Mike Fabio

Oh and to clarify this comment further: I truly do think there are many valuable free tools available for artists. I use many of them myself on a daily basis. But the best of these tools demonstrate value to the artist that meets or exceeds the product's cost.


Hey Clyde, Sum here... intriguing post and think tank, I'll have to look a bit more into them. Their mission statement is speaking to something that's been on my mind for a while. I do agree with them to the extent that many music tech companies and startups are kind of operating in a bubble that has not too much to do with the actual lifestyle of the DIY artist who doesn't have alot of money to invest, and doesn't have a lot of time to invest because they're working to pay bills, perfecting their craft and living life like normal human beings.

The most valuable tools I have seen for expanding fanbase and then possibly converting that into some type of sale (from personal experience) are Earbits, Soundcloud and Youtube. The rest of the platforms and services out there are shots in the dark and are a little overconfident in their language about how useful they actually are to DIY artists. For the hours you may spend per week cultivating these channels and outposts on all these different platforms, the return might be minimal, and most times doesn't justify the amount of time and/or money it may take to keep churning one's presence on them. Although they may be free, to truly make them worth your time requires time (tagging, engaging, networking, etc), which is the most precious resource an indie artist has, and it's usually in very short supply.

Brian Rawlings

Great stuff Clyde I appreciate the forum to clarify what I was focusing on in the original post. First I stipulate that the various "freemium tools" you listed are a great help to musicians large and small. My comments were directed at the current slate of new tools in development and I should have pointed that out. Our work at BPG is focused primarily on tools that are either in development or pre-market.

I think the tools you pointed out are great examples of how we should be looking at the future. The reason FB became so massive is in large part that there was no barrier to it's adoption. I have watched a handful of great ideas disappear under the weight of trying to build a pricing model that will support their fantasy valuation which is intended to raise more money. In retrospect I should have started the blog with "Dear Angels and VCs". If you want to have the next Twitter, don't build it based on a pricing model build it based on it's unique power to move people. The money will definitely follow.

I think your response and examples support my theory. The big plays in music tech are free or at least have a free version. If we're going to make money in music we will have to get it from fans and sponsors. The poor guy on stage simply doesn't have it.

Thanks for thought provoking insights.

Brian Rawlings



What about Noisetrade? They have a nice little widget that is free to use. You can embed it on your site. Then you also have Bandcamp which is essentially free until you start making money.


Did you read the site bios? Relevant...um...yeah I think so....


making music is a costly business. Thanks Clyde for the insights!


- maybe I missed out on the related explanation, but how exactly are creative folk without money supposed to acquire the platform (Computer or muscular mobile device) to run any of the above on? The way I see it they'd have to be not-"poor" in order to even enter the discussed scenario.

Clyde Smith

Most people without personal access use public libraries or community centers. Public libraries have been revitalized around free computer services.


Actually having people who are already in the insuatry is the last thing we need. We need a fresh set of eyes and that is what theae guys are providing.

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