by Troels Folmann. January 2015.
In 1998 the global music industry earned approx. $27.3B and in 2014 it had dropped to $15.1B (source: IFPI). One of the primary reasons is that the music industry was tragically slow adapting to the internet and all the possibilities of new distribution methods. When the industry hammered down on Napster it spawned a slew of other illegal networks and – perhaps more importantly – managed to install a counter-culture of freebism. In essence cultivating several generations of users to the notion that music should be free. So here we are … the revenue is pretty cut in half over the last 15 years and there are no signs of notable recovery. We are seeing streaming services that makes it impossible for any upcoming artist to make any notable revenue and even high-end artists (ex. Taylor Swift) have decided to pull out. But the notion is not just that music should be free. It is also that movies, games, software and music software should be free.
Let’s switch this to the viewpoint of us as software instrument makers. We (8Dio) get daily requests from people wanting our products for free and the story normally goes like this … You are probably an upcoming composer/producer and you are starting to land jobs. The jobs don’t pay much or nothing at all, but we all have to start somewhere, right? The parties you work with may not even have a budget, but they are ambitious just like you. You are most likely promised to get featured credits for your music, which will then lead to new opportunities and your career will just take off… Well in theory at least… In reality it is just a dark lie you keep on telling yourself. You are essentially not only ruining your own career by setting a precedent of working for free, but you are also setting a precedent for an already tortured industry. A precedent that dictates that working for free – and asking someone to work for free – is completely legitimate. And it all leads to nothing … or nothing good at least.
Now granted … making music is the greatest feeling on earth … but be honest with yourself … in what other business does ANYONE work for free? The answer is obvious. You are a horrible prostitute and the streets will abuse you until you get it right. It all starts with integrity and negotiation – here is a couple of tips for you:
1. You should NEVER work for free – unless you think your music should be for free. Free (most likely) meaning your music sucks so badly – no-one wants to pay for it.
2. You should NEVER sign up for projects under the promises and illusion that the credits alone will boost your career. Credits won’t matter when you are staring at the last can of baked beans.
3. You should ALWAYS negotiate an amount that makes you feel reasonably well about yourself. It doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars pr. minute, but something that matches the current level in your career – and something you can survive from (unless you don’t want to survive that is!)
Now let’s assume you understand you should NEVER work for free and that you have a cool indie project going that pays a little. You start looking for virtual instruments that fit the project and you think to yourself: “…OMG! I am sure the developers of this orchestral library would DIE to get credits on my indie project and in return I should get their products for…” STOP! Just stop please.
Credits won’t help us as developers. Credits won’t pay for larger six digit sessions and they surely don’t pay for players, conductors, orchestrators, studios/halls, engineers, editors, scripters/programmers, user interface designers, Q&A, web designers, marketing, product updates, PR, SEO, cloud-server distribution tools, software development, administration, accounting, taxes, 24/7 support, lawyers, web-servers, newsletters, licensed software and countless other activities associated with higher-end sample development.
So in summary you are not only setting a precedent for your own career by working for virtually nothing, but you are also creating an environment of abuse by stigmatizing music to something that is free. This stigma is then inherited to us instrument makers and now suddenly we have to give you our products for free. An evil loop in a downwards spiral.
But look man! We want to support you. We want to help your career boost forward. We want to give you the best possible software instruments you could ever wish for. We want to help you save money – by offering affordable instruments you can use forever. Products that would otherwise be impossible to do. How else are you going to get a 240 8W Piece Orchestra? A 200 piece Emperium Choir? A 75GB collection of Alternative Acoustic Grand Ensembles? A 60GB collection of Orchestral Effects? A completely comprehensive set of deep-sampled, expressive orchestral strings, a one-of-a-kind instruments like our Bazantar? Who else is going to deep-sample a drumkit with over 40.000 samples, create a deep-sampled instrument out of wrenches and so forth? We just hope that you can appreciate our efforts a little bit too – cause we pour our hearts, souls, families and everything else into this – to help you – help yourself.
Please don’t do this to yourself, to the industry or to us. You will eventually bring us all down and we beg you to ask what you are worth. Don’t be afraid of giving or receiving a “No”. Wouldn’t you rather be perceived as someone worth something – instead of someone worth nothing?