So, Pieces is out in just over a couple of weeks, and you’ll be able to download it for free. I’d just like to take this quick opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered the extended/audiophile versions so far – your support genuinely means a great deal to me, and I’m looking forward to sharing the extra goodies with you all.
So – on to the topic at hand: all of my larger independent releases so far have been paid-for releases, so why the sudden change with Pieces? And, for that matter, why on earth am I now offering my previously paid-for albums as pay-what-you-want offerings? Yes, I’ve released free EPs and singles before now, but not albums. Why the sudden change of heart?
Well, there are actually a few different reasons as to why I’m doing this – but I’d like to preface this by saying that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with releasing albums with a price attached, or for free, or however an artist wants to release an album.
Pieces is my first independent release in about four years and, frankly, I thought it’d be fun to try something new! I’ve released free EPs and singles in the past, but I’ve always been a bit wary of releasing what is, essentially, a free album. In some regards, the very nature of Pieces is a bit of an experiment because it’s not what I would typically classify as a normal album (as I’ve detailed previously), so I felt a little safer in the knowledge that it could all blow up in my face. I have attached a monetary value of zero to this project, and I am going into it with every expectation that I won’t make anything from it. Before now, I’ve seen artists and content creators release material using a pay-what-you-want model, only to turn around and get pissy at customers because they aren’t paying enough for their material. As far as I’m concerned, that is an absurd stance to take, and if you expect everyone to pay for a release then you should damn well attach a monetary value to it! In essence, by putting out Pieces as a PWYW release I am removing any financial expectations from it. I fully expect to make nothing off of this release, and the fact that people have pre-ordered the extended version so far has already surpassed my expectations, and I am hugely grateful to anyone who has chosen to support me despite there being absolutely no obligation to do so. That’s amazing, and – in a way – has already validated this experiment, in my eyes.
Secondly – and this relates directly to my re-pricing of Distant Activity and Lightfields as PWYW releases – I want people to listen to my music! I don’t want to get in the way of that. If people want to listen to an album, then you’d better believe that they’re going to find a way to do so, regardless of whether they want to pay for it or not. I could talk about the ethics behind content piracy until the cows come home, but my number one aim is for people to listen to and enjoy my music. I’ve never made a lot of money off of album sales, and I’ve never released an album in the hopes of making a quick buck. In a sense, re-pricing my earlier output is my way of putting my money where my mouth is – obviously I’d love it if people would continue to choose to support my work financially, but I don’t live in a fantasy land where I expect to live off of album sales alone. There are plenty of people out there who manage to do just that, and I applaud those individuals. It’s bloody hard. I just want to make my music available to as many people as possible, so it’s my job to let people download it easily and in their format of choice. Conversely, my releasing my music essentially for free is not a declarative statement that I believe people should feel entitled to have whatever they want (content wise) for free. I don’t agree with that. But, with regards to my own music – it’s my personal decision, not some kind of bold statement.
Thirdly – it’s a digital-only release. As I said before, I don’t expect to make anything off of this, and it costs nothing to release an album on Bandcamp. That’s awesome. I have zero overheads in that regard, and while Pieces took a hell of a lot of effort and time to put together (as every one of my releases has), I’m in a pretty financially neutral position from the get-go. I decided to release Pieces through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify et al because, once again, I don’t want to impose any kind of barrier to people who want to listen. Because my option in terms of releasing a free album via those services is restricted, I’ve decided to release the extended version through those services. Obviously, I’d much rather people choose to support me via Bandcamp but, again, I don’t want to get in the way of people listening to my music. Unfortunately, releasing music through iTunes costs money, but it’s really not a huge amount, and that’s a cost I’m happy to swallow.
I know it sounds like a giant cliché, but I am not putting out albums to make money. I release music and work in other fields related to audio to that end, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to release solo material without having to make any compromises. I do, however, feel that this was compromised slightly with my most recent label releases, but that had more to do with personal psychological issues than anything else – I wasn’t working to a deadline, and I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted.
With all this talk of separating music from financial value, though, I feel as though it would be remiss of me to suggest that I think my music has no value. If that were the case I would have stopped writing music a long time ago! As you’ve read, there are lots of little reasons as to why I thought this would be an interesting move, and none of those bear any relation to my own personal views on my musical output.
Ultimately, I stand by every single one of my releases and, though there are always things I would change about them in retrospect, they represent very specific periods in my life… and that’s something I would never want to interfere with, and it’s something I feel incredibly grateful to be able to share with people… well, not only that, I feel incredibly grateful that there are people out there who would want to share in that.
Regardless of whether you choose to support Pieces financially or not, I sincerely hope that some of you out there enjoy it and connect with it in one way or another. That’d be neat.