Free. I love free. Don’t you love free? Even the word “free” is free-ing…. for me, it brings up images of running through the freshly-mowed grass (if you’re a southern continent resident) or the crinkly brown leaves (if you live up north where trees lose their leaves in the fall) or both, if you’ve been privileged to reside in both areas. In any case, free is free and whether it’s being free to roll down a grassy slope or free french fries at the burger place, it’s free! I don’t think it can get any better than free!
I really like music. (What’s this got to do with free? Keep reading – I promise I’ll tie them both together.) As a kid, I learned to play any instrument that I could get my hands on. We didn’t have popular music radio and Howdy Doody TV in our house so we did other things – like read, dig holes in the back yard and play music. My mom played the piano and my dad an accordion so there was music around us, for sure. I never really had formal lessons on the piano but I played “at” it and in public school, I learned to play the viola, clarinet, recorder, drums, glockenspiel, cymbals and timpani. I got a little inexpensive, red-backed guitar for my 15th birthday and I was in heaven, playing my own music, and trying to find the chords to go with the songs of the day, which were Vietnam war protest songs and folk songs about peace. Talk about music! Oh, wait, that’s another article – we’re here to talk about FREE.
Well, so when I got an email yesterday with the announcement that I could get free music, I thought, yeah, right, but let’s see what this is all about. And guess what? It’s about artists who are giving their music away FOR FREE just so you can listen to some great new musicians and, get this, tip them! Yeah, tip them! Just like sitting around the little coffee house stage, you can put something in their tip jar. What a great concept! So, I downloaded my first full album, Highrises in Brooklyn with the wonderfully brilliant voice of Kelley McRae. I was hooked! I went back and downloaded some more amazing music – Ben Rector, PW Gopal, Courrier. Wow!
The concept of giving something away for free is not new. It’s used to bring more customers in to a store – buy one get one free! – and it’s used to establish and reward loyalty – buy 9, get the 10th one free! – and it’s used to move your unwanted extra stuff on to someone else who can use it after you’re finished with it – freecycle.com.
But giving it away and allowing the takers to give money in return, or not, is something I haven’t seen before. (Since I don’t really get around very much, it could be out there and I just haven’t seen it. If you know of others like this, leave a comment below and let me know – I’m all about this!) For the music, you can “tip” the artist by sliding the bar to indicate how much you want to give them (from $1 to $100). And guess what, it really isn’t “free” at all – you give them your email address and zip code in return for the music…. now, that really is worth something, isn’t it? After all, they now have an email to add to their marketing database and a zip code to see where they’re going to hold the the next concert. I’m okay with that. I get great music and they get my email address and zip code. I think it’s a fair exchange. Oh yeah, and the artists get the tips I left them. We all win all the way around. And it’s FREE!