You Should Pay Musicians for their Music. Period.

Last week, I stumbled across an article online that infuriated me. Nothing revolutionary there, but the particular article belittles musicians and artists who use Kickstarter to fund their projects. I used Kickstarter several years ago, and found it to be a valuable tool at that stage in my career. You can read the whole article here: http://www.straight.com/music/boo-hoo-broke-bands-quit-asking-charity

For those of you who don’t work in music, let me break down how much a low budget five song EP typically costs to put out independently. Keep in mind these are very conservative numbers.

Studio time: 5 days x $700 per day = $3,500

(You could argue that recording in your home is much more cost effective, but buying the gear for that home studio is going to run you a lot more than $3,500.)

Mixing Engineer: 5 songs x $500 per song = $2,500

Mastering Engineer: $500

Manufacturing Costs: $800

Online Distribution: $30 first year ($50 each subsequent year)

Artwork: $250

Total for making a 5 song EP: $7,580

Now if you want people to hear it, you need to pay for advertising, a radio promoter, a publicist, and then book a tour. You get the picture. Producing a quality record is an expensive endeavor.

As artists, this is our calling. Music is our oxygen. If we don’t have money in the bank or a record label to fund the album, we find creative ways to make it work. Kickstarter is one way to make it work.

Beyond his attack on Kickstarter, the writer, Michael also attacks musicians altogether. He writes,

“You don’t see me aggressively asking people to pony up for my summer-long, cross-country cocaine and drunken slut–boning binge. So why is it okay when musicians do this? I work hard for every cent I make. ‘Oh, but I’m a musician and making a living is tough.’ Boo-fucking-hoo. Try writing for a living, asshole.”

To compare making an album, going on tour, or working as a musician to a drunken, coke binge is incredibly insulting. I play in piano bars three nights a week to pay my bills and fund my band. I also tour, write music, play one-off gigs for other bands, do interviews, make videos, book shows, and the list goes on. And I have to find time to practice. It’s hard work that I don’t always get paid for.

When a fight breaks out at the piano, or you get a request to play “Seasons of Love” for the 100th time, then let’s talk about hard work, Michael. Not saying that I don’t love my job. I feel incredibly lucky to make a living playing music. But don’t say it’s easy because it’s not. 

Photo by William Murray at Vinegar Hill Sound

Photo by William Murray at Vinegar Hill Sound

Michael also suggests, Release some halfway decent music you recorded in your apartment and give it away for free. I’ll come check you out and pay the $10 cover. (I’m speaking as a metaphorical everyman here. I don’t actually pay cover, ever.)”

The starving artist is not a new concept. Because music and art are in an artist’s blood; we would rather work for free than not work at all. Does that mean we don’t deserve to get paid? Certainly not.

Imagine a world without music and what your life would be like. Spending $0.99 for a new song doesn’t seem like such a high price to pay, does it? While we aren’t performing open heart surgery or discovering the cure for cancer, the work we do as musicians is important, and we deserve to be compensated for that.

He does make some good points. I agree musicians should “produce something people actually want to give you money for.”

But for the most part, go fuck yourself, Michael. You and I are not gonna be friends. Musicians work just as hard to make a living. And just like everyone else, we also deserve to get paid.

Check out our video for “Not Gonna Be Friends” for free at: https://youtu.be/OB0q_YGS4Tc . And if you like the song, buy it here https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/not-gonna-be-friends-single/id813667793 . Because I know you think you should pay artists for their art.