Last weekend, the band and I sat down to hash out plans for our album release and the issue of album pricing came up.
For those of you who know me, I am never one to be a wuss about price. If you do hard work to create something amazing, you should be compensated properly so you can do it again. That's what it takes to be an artist who continues to create beauty for their fans. Naturally, I pushed to have our EP priced where we would get a decent margin on each sale.
My guitarist disagreed and chose a price about half what I wanted. While I was initially dismissive, I listened as he said this:
Bands don't make their money from their music any more. With the birth of Napster and the freedom of distribution afforded by the internet, the fundamental economics of music changed. Supply of music was no longer limited by physical CDs, anyone who wanted a song could get it fast, and easy, for free. At the same time, millions of new musicians spread to Myspace to spread the word of their art. In both cases, the supply of music became nearly infinite, and the price adjusted accordingly. People still loved music, but they were less willing to pay for it.
Where would the revenue needed to keep artists performing come from?
You can't download the feeling of being in a mosh pit. A limited edition concert shirt can't be heard on the radio. These real experiences, unlike MP3s, are scarce.
In the music business today, the money isn't in albums. It's in merch and touring. If you can create an experience that your fans are willing to pay for, you will be able to survive as an artist. (Assuming you're not an idiot with your finances, of course)
An album is a marketing tool that tells your fans We are an experience you want in your life.
(Props to my guitarist Tito for this idea. He's the sriracha to my leftover Chinese food.)