Chicago band Wilco put its album online free, after being dropped by their record label. It seemed to work out really well for them. In a great Wired interview with Xeni Jardin (Via Boing Boing), frontman Jeff Tweedy makes this excellent comment:
A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that’s it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it’s just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.
Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.
People who look at music as commerce don’t understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.
I’m not interested in selling pieces of plastic.
Big message here, and not just for the music business. Do you want to treat your customers as collaborators? If so, you have to let them make their own meaning out of what you say and lighten up around “owning” ideas. (It’s called conversation)