A few years ago I spent the winter in the Caribbean playing music in the resort town of Cabarete, in the Dominican Republic. The winter that I arrived there was an influx of new musicians to the area. A lot of them were willing to play music for less money than a group of musicians who had been there for years. In some cases, they were willing to play for much less, as much 75% less, than those who had been on the island for years.
The local musicians were understandably upset. They were being undercut in price by a younger, newer group of musicians, and it was affecting their business. In some cases they were forced to lower their prices and a few musicians either lost their jobs or saw their slots cut back to make room for the newer/cheaper crop of musicians.
One day I was out for lunch with another singer/songwriter, also named Aaron, who was playing gigs on the island and one of the older musicians who had been playing in Cabarete for close to ten years approached the other Aaron and said, in a fairly aggressive way, "Dude, you have to raise your prices. You're killing the market for not only me, but yourself too! You're setting a bad precedent for all of the other musicians playing on the island."
At the time, I thought this guy was over reacting a bit. But, he had a valid point. In any industry, prices are set based not only on supply and demand, but also what suppliers are willing and able to sell their product for. If a large percentage of musicians lower their prices, play for free, play for exposure and so on, it has an undeniable effect on all of us and it makes it harder for more established musicians to demand higher prices.
In my last podcast, with Jason Moss from Super Sonic Noise, one of the things he stressed was treating your music with respect and not just giving it away for little or nothing. He made the great analogy that you should make a choice of either "treating music like your bitch and pimping it out for a few bucks here and there. Or, treating your music like your wife, respecting it, nurturing it and demanding that people give it the respect (and money) it's worth.
We all have to pay our bills and meet our immediate needs. I understand the temptation to sign bad deals and chase a few bucks here and there. But, be careful about not selling yourself too short. Don't sign deals you're not comfortable with. The market is already flooded with cheap, mediocre music. Strive to be better than that. It hurts all of us when musicians settle for so little.
In my upcoming course, The Ultimate Music Licensing Guide, I break down all the different types of publishing, library and licensing deals out there. I also talk about one type of deal you should avoid at all costs and in my opinion you should never do.
Watch the video below to see what I'm talking about.
What are your thoughts on musicians giving away their music, charging too little money and so on? How can we as musicians work together to raise the value of music? Please share your thoughts below:
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.