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Canterbury - Thank You

Canterbury 6 November 2009 at 22.21

A guest blog about free music from the fine fellows in Canterbury.

We are Canterbury, and we have just released our debut album 'Thank You' as a free download.

In light of that, we got asked by Rock Sound to write a blog / bit / thing about music being "worthless and priceless at the same time", which is a pretty big subject (we're guys in a band, we thought we'd left essays behind when we finished School), but it's worth giving something a go while we're killing time between tours, so here we are.

Of course, as with so many things in the lives of our generation, it all hinges on the Internet. The Internet has, essentially, created a new economy. An economy where for the first time the artist (if they so choose) can have complete control over how their band and music are promoted, discovered and accessed. It's forward-thinking websites such as Music Glue (who we are using to distribute our album) and Band Camp that are leveling the playing field that label's used to rule exclusively.

Yet, the simple act of giving music away for free is still a novel concept, which is probably something to do with the perceived quality of the music that is released this way.

Even in this day and age, where music by artists of all sizes and shapes is available for "free" from file sharing sites or by swapping hard drives with your mates, there's still this stigma that unless your album's on iTunes or whatever with a pricetag attached then its not really a "real" release, or that the music is somehow worth less than music that someone somewhere has to pay to get (even if you're not the one doing the paying yourself).

The idea to give our debut album away for nothing more than an email address was spurred not out of a need to do something unique or notable, but for the sole purpose of trying to get our music into as many ears as possible. After 3000+ downloads in about three days, we'd like to think we're making progress.

We're certainly under no illusion that 'Thank You' would be in as many homes or on as many iPods as it is now if we'd tried to send people to iTunes to download it for £7.99 a pop. We never considered that to be a viable option, and neither should it really be for 99% of the bands who release albums nowadays... but they still do, and maybe that's because the music industry has done such a good job of blurring the line between music's Worth and its Price.

Price is something that's (obviously) dictated by financial considerations, by the need to make sure that everything pays for itself, and - just maybe - starts to turn a profit, whereas Worth is something decided by the listener and the listener alone - a million miles away from recording contracts, advances and royalties. Worth is what makes a fan go buy a ticket to a show or a t-shirt and support the band that creates the music they love.

While it might not work for every Tom, Dick or Lily Allen, THAT is the reality of the new musical economy. You may have to give your music away for free (or at least a lot cheaper than the 79p that the industry expects people to pay for a four minute long digital music file), but that will hopefully translate into more people at your shows and more merchandise being sold when they get there.

As for our own financial situation...

In addition to giving 'Thank You' away for free (and also releasing a limited edition CD of the album for sale through our mate Pip's Friends Vs. Records label), and in a loose nod to what is now known as "doing a Radiohead", we set up a sort of donation box on our website for anyone who felt they had enjoyed the album enough to feel we deserved a little bit of money for our efforts (to help keep the van MOT'd, keep Scott in drumsticks... those sort of luxuries).

What was absolutely amazing to see was not just the level of uptake of the the free album, but the fact that kids as young as 14 were naming their own price and actually donating! So while industry type's tie themselves in knots over the question of "how much is recorded music worth these days?" these kids have been answering with their wallets.

Add that to the pre-orders for the limited CD and extra merch orders and, ironically, by giving the album away for free we're actually bringing in more cash than bands selling up to five times the amount of albums on iTunes.

Of course, it's still a small amount of money, and with no label advances or tour support to fill the band kitty, we're still sleeping five to a Travelodge room (or even in the van) when we're on tour, and selling a couple of shirts can make the difference between being able to fill the petrol tank or not. But it's a step in the right direction.

Anyway, feel free to download the album. If you like it, then please come to a show and say hello, or drop us an email. Or just tell your friends. If you don't like it, just delete it. After all, it never cost you anything, so what is there to lose?

Click here to download a copy of Canterbury's debut album 'Thank You'

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