This is a good question, and one I see with no clear answer, no “yes or no”. I think it depends on the individuals involved and what’s at stake:
I try to stay out of these debates due to the arguments that arise. As with any debate, those who have success are going to be for all for it, and those who don’t are going to be against it.
Let’s look at the popular arguments:
Three Popular Arguments
- If you work for free you’ll have a hard time charging people later because you’ve built a following off “freebie seekers”
- It’s a great way to build a following, gain experience and build a portfolio.
- Giving your music away from free dilutes the market
All are true, but again, depends on the circumstances at hand.
I’m not looking to throw fire on a never-ending debate, I’m just sharing my experience in hopes of helping others who may be in the same boat.
I started creating music (mainly hip-hop) in 2004, maybe it was 2003 – it was one of those years.
This was easy money for me because I had an ear for re-creating sound (which later turned into a ghost production gigs) and I lived around a lot of aspiring artists; rappers, singers, poets, etc → the market was already there.
It took me 3 years to research and fund my little production setup → Korg Triton and an Mpc 3000. It was the most money I had ever spent in my life. I didn’t have monitors, headphones. I didn’t know anything about music production.
Fast forward a little bit, when technology advanced and made it possible to run powerful setups on laptops, artists started creating their own material. It was great, but it also meant less work for me → Artists were walking in with full projects.
Production was iffy, recordings were sloppy, but that didn’t matter to them, they thought mixing and mastering would fix it, and settled for whatever polish job the engineer would do.
That was a big pay cut, but I didn’t care as I had another source of income. I was a semi-professional gamer (sponsored in Call Of Duty2).
Working For Free Isn’t So Bad
Most of the people in my gaming clan (and community) knew that I produced music so I was often asked to create cues for gaming highlight clips and game-casting events (can’t remember the correct lingo for it).
Most of this work was done for free, and I thought nothing of it because I loved video games, and it was something fun to do with my music.
A good % of the people I met while gaming, went on to work for big companies like Midway, TruTv, MTV, others became graphic designers and videographers, etc. Most of them worked with technology in some form – lots of IT dudes.
What I didn’t know at the time was by doing free work I was actually planting seeds, and those gamers with no budget later turned into strong connections to those with good budgets.
We’re now going on 2014 and I’ve been hired numerous times by the same people to handle various tasks:
sound design, foley, composition, editing, beta testing, etc.
This probably would’ve never happened had I not built those relationships early on. Could you imagine if I declined to work with them because of their “lack of” funds?
It’s like the ugly girl in HS people teased/ignored who later becomes drop-dead gorgeous. Ok, not really the same, but in a way it is.
The best part about this is my network expands whenever my friends bounce around to different companies 🙂
I’m not saying that every free project will result in something great, but does outweigh the pros and cons.
Make sure you’re looking at the big picture, and do what’s best for you in the long run.
What Do You Do Think?
Is it a good idea to give your music away for free? I’d like to know your opinion and experiences.