Stop Giving Your Music Away! Find Fans With ‘Disposable Income’.

by Brian Vander Ark



Listen, I get it. I know that it’s important to get the music out there, and that file sharing can help bring your music to the masses. You give your music away in hopes that people become so addicted to your songs that they absolutely HAVE to come see a live show.


I love interesting new music, but I am probably not going to come see you or your band. I have young kids, and most people who have young kids have to discern how to spend their one night out a week. I can’t waste getting a babysitter then convincing my wife that you’re band is going to be great, under awesome conditions. The reality, of course, is that you are most likely going to be playing in a shitty club, where 4 other bands are going to be playing that night. I can only hope that you go on first, but YOU are hoping for a headlining spot. Sorry. You go on after 11pm, and I’m done for the night. So, giving your music away to me, is not going to entice me to come see you. Honest to God, if Paul McCartney was coming to a small club and going on after 11pm, and gave me his new album for free in return for going, I would probably pass.

But here’s the thing. If I like what I hear, I will give you money to hear more. Call it guilt money for not coming to your shows, or whatever. But take my money. You have to SELL your music to me and others like me, because WE are the ones with the disposable income.

If you want to give your music away to your poor fans, you can do it without sending digital files to them directly. Make a cheap video, or spend some money on one, and let people watch and share on youtube or vimeo, or whatever other video landing site you want. But they’ll have to stream it. Of course, they can easily ‘rip’ the audio, and have it for free, but the majority are too lazy to do it or don’t know how. And if you have fans that spend their time “ripping” files from youtube, then seriously, you need to go out and get a higher quality of fan. Ones with…DISPOSABLE INCOME.

Young musicians, learn that phrase; DISPOSABLE INCOME. We want to help you. We have money to spend on music and concerts. We call it “contributing to the arts”. I can give my money to the art museum or ballet in town, but I would rather give it to you!
And there are many more like me out there.

More and more, I see bands giving it away, or asking that people pay what they like to receive it digitally. Much of the time, it’s coming from a major indy label. It’s better than NOT getting your music out there, right? Wrong. Your friends and family (with disposable income) want to help you.

One last thing. Many of you are not even doing the packaging anymore. You may think what’s the point? Most people take the CD out, import the tracks, and toss the package. And packaging is expensive. I get it, believe me. I can get 1000 CDs for $2500, but I only need 500. What will that cost me? $2200? Makes perfect sense! (sigh).

Sell the CD with the packaging and offer to autograph any message that the purchaser wants on it. A real fan, and supporter, will want his personally signed CD. “Steven! Thanks for believing in us!” kind of thing. For that you can charge $20. The people that care about you (not your slacker friends) will pay.

So, unless we are playing on the same bill one night, I probably won’t see your band. But I WILL support you if I like what I hear. I’ll talk about you as well: Word of mouth is one powerful marketing tool. And “rich” old guys like me LOVE to brag things like: “I helped them get their start”.

Brian Vander Ark is the lead singer for the multi-platinum selling band, The Verve Pipe. He is also an obnoxious know-it-all, and can be perceived as rude and aloof in his blogs. He assures you that, on occasion, it rings true in person as well. Especially when he has low blood sugar. However, if you want the truth about what it takes to perpetuate a life as a performer, he’ll give you the cold hard truth, in hopes that you’ll check out his website.