Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Will all music one day be free?

June 25, 2008

prince.jpgOK, they may not be Prince in terms of their importance and popularity, but youthful band McFly are a pretty big deal in Britain, boasting seven number one singles and two chart-topping albums. So when they announce they will be giving their new album away for free with a Sunday newspaper, perhaps they should not be ignored.

The band is following Prince’s lead to the letter. The U.S. star also issued an album free with the Mail on Sunday last year in a move that enraged retailers and record labels, for obvious reasons, but which was seen as a commercial success when the tour he was promoting sold well.

McFly will release “Radio:ACTIVE” with the same newspaper on July 20 in order to lure more people to their live shows. It underlines the trend in pop music towards giving your music away for free, or at least selling it for a song, in order to make money through live performances, merchandising and advertising.

Prince has done it, Radiohead has done it with their “pay-as-much-as-you-want” scheme, Coldplay gave away a single from their latest album online — the list gets longer and longer. The reason? Selling music does not make enough money, due to online piracy and the popularity of other forms of entertainment like video games.

Artists are convinced they will be the winners in the long term as revenues from touring go on rising. Record labels are going to end up among the losers if the trend continues. But there is another potential loser. The music fan.

Industry executives, perhaps unsurprisingly, argue that the more music is given away for free, the less money music labels make, and the less money labels make, the less money they spend on discovering new talent.

Do you buy that argument? And will the trend towards cheaper music continue to the point where some or even all of it is free?


There’s a rivalry between making money and making music. It is sad that the music scene is controlled by a few Czars. They determine what is going to be heard. They charge radio stations for playing music that they control. They don’t allow stations to play independent artists.

So, it’s either dealing with the big shots of the music world, or starving. Or at least, not making it. It is a sad fact of the music world that commercialism took over artistry. In the old days, there were many promoters and agents looking for new talent. They represented recording companies and their work found so many of the great giants of music we know today. If you think about it, there are not many giants being created today.

Definition of a giant in music: An artist that survives through the years and doesn’t fade away (becomes unheard) when new artists are discovered. Examples: JS Bach, L. Beethoven, L. Bernstein, G. Gershwin, Art Tatum, C. Parker, L. Armstrong, F. Sinatra, T. Bennett, and many, many others. These artists are still heard today, and they’re still selling recordings of their music.

Posted by elipicayo | Report as abusive

Music from a main stream musician free? Never. If a musician has a way to supplement his or her income then maybe the music could be free. However, this is America and if you don’t have money chances are you’ll starve.

Posted by j | Report as abusive

All music should be free, cd’s would still sell.


the comment above reflects the state of the music industry – plagued by theft and piracy. would you also have your trainers, food, rent & bills for free? we’re not living in a utopian society unfortunately, the music industry is a business, like every other business it needs to generate income to survive, that income is used to help create new music and bring new artists to attention.

Posted by ... | Report as abusive

“Industry executives, perhaps unsurprisingly, argue that the more music is given away for free, the less money music labels make, and the less money labels make, the less money they spend on discovering new talent”….

if the overall gross goes up, from touring and merch, then SOMEONE will spend the money to uncover new potential goldmines…..just not the fat old bastards with the gold records on their walls….probably a young, hip financial punter who can smell the money


I think it was a good idea for Coldplay to release a song for free. They had been underground for so long it was a good way to get back into the music world without giving their entire album away. It was a good preview for what was to come.

Posted by coco classic | Report as abusive

Funny, the article mentions Radiohead, Prince, Coldplay and these kids in the UK, but does not mention Nine Inch Nails, when they had the biggest give away of all: a FULL album, in lossless FLAC files-free. Period.

No “pay what you like”, no money from a newspaper, no nothing. Just a “thanks” for supporting the band.


Posted by xvomega | Report as abusive

Prince benefited the most from the giveaway. If he had just given away the cds and done nothing else then how do u measure success. Instead he soldout 21 shows in the largest arena in london cashin in with close to $25 mil from just one city

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

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