Edited August 2018:
This page is no longer active. Things have changed so much for independent artists and the way they make money from music since I wrote this.
Basically, they don't. When I wrote this CDs still sold but downloading from free sources was beginning to take it's toll. I was looking
for a way for someone who wanted to could pay something to the artist if they appreciated what they did to compensate for music they consumed from sources the artist wouldn't get compensation from.
This was an idea that really never panned out.
Donations were few and far between and then non-existant. For those that still would like to support an artist. I would say the best way is
really to buy what you can when you can from legitimate sources, go to events and shows and buy merchandise directly from the artist.
I do think at some point respecting copyrights and the value they represent by allowing an artist to actually make a living from the work they produce
that is in fact being widely distributed is fair, right and ultimately to the advantage of those that would consume it.
The original post:
I have been asked on many occasions what I think
about music downloading, file trading and music on the internet and its
effects on the music business. I want to be clear here, I'm talking about
out of print studio recordings, live recordings, videos and other art
produced by working artists that are commonly traded or downloaded freely.
As long as there has been music or art there has probably been the question,
how does the creator of things we all enjoy get compensated for the time
and talent he or she puts into creating those things? After all, art is
not something you have to have to live, it's just something that's hard
to live without. In other words it's not life-sustaining, it just makes
living more enjoyable. I also think that since the beginning of art there
have been the people who make it, the people who consume it and the people
who make money off it, and these are three distinct groups of people.
In the past it was the collective society or the ruling elite who were
patrons of the arts. The Pharaoh, King or socialist state realized it
was in their interest to patronize the arts, to show their power or status.
With the coming of the digital age, the traditional roles for the players
have changed. While multi-international corporations struggle with how
to control access to digital art, I have been thinking about how does
the independent artist cope with the age of easy digital copying. First
I have to say I have not been one of those who thinks file trading and
sharing is necessarily a bad thing, particularly for the struggling independent
artist. After all, if someone thinks enough of your art to share and trade
it, is that necessarily a bad thing? I think at the moment the state of
things is that it's just a fact of life: If you create digital art, it's
going to propagate out of your control. At the moment I don't care too
much about what the people who traditionally try to make money off of
artists are going to do; they always seem to land on their feet. It's
how can an artist continue to produce art while never being compensated
for it? The fact that the art is hard to find, out of print, copied or
bootlegged doesn't matter, because the artist is effectively put out of
work and must seek another form of livelihood. It's like if the local
food store stopped charging for food, how long would they keep stocking
the shelves. I think here is where the consumer of art has to step up
and help out. Let's just say it doesn't matter where you get your art
or music ( I'm not talking about store bought still in print music here,
I hope that's a no brainier). It's everywhere, having propagated like
the endless chain of life. You get it by downloading or trading wherever
you happen to find it. On the internet, on someone else's computer or
handed to you on a ridiculously cheap-to-produce disc. If you love the
art and you listen or look or experience the artist's creativity and it
means something to you, here's where you can make a big difference. Seek
out the artist and make some small payment in appreciation; at least pay
the royalty that the artist might have gotten in days gone by. Think about
the bargain you're getting because of the way you acquired your art: You
saved on packaging, shipping and the overhead that large media companies
try to exact from artists. If you can find a CD by an artist you like
at a retail outlet, you can be pretty sure a royalty is being paid (hmmm,
I hope, anyway). Here we offer downloads of CDs that are hard to find,
the artists still owns the copyright to this material and you can be sure
the artist gets their royalty directly. If you can't find it any other
way than trading and it becomes meaningful in your life some way, I think
it's important to seek out and become the patron of that artist. One of
the biggest misconceptions I read about justifying not paying for art
is that the artist is somehow wealthy and won't miss the revenue. I can
tell you working for over 30 years with artists who are surprisingly well-known
that this is just not usually the case. Most of them live month to month
like the rest of us. I hope this is something you will think about.
This page is where you can make a contribution to an artist's royalty
for art you have acquired by whatever means and you think enough of it
to seek out that artist and compensate them. Think of it like shareware,
if you use it, pay something for it. I'm going to start a row of donation
buttons for PayPaling contributions to artists I work with here. Give
whatever you like, but a donation of $4 or more will better survive the
minimum take by the credit-card companies. I hope next time you give a
disc to a friend, you will say, "This is some great music. If you
love it as much as I do, I know a place you can show your appreciation,
pay your fair royalty, directly to this artist."