In my recent site redesigns on nathanhowemusic.com, I rearranged some pages, changed some colors, and got rid of Google ads.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with AdSense for nearly a decade now. In the beginning of my self-publishing life, it brought in a couple hundred dollars that I really enjoyed having at the time. But the internet has changed more than a little bit since then.
One of my big motivations for dropping Google ads was the issue of privacy. I don’t believe in collecting identifiable data about my site visitors unless they choose to give it to me in the form of a donation, comment, or message. Google feels pretty differently about collecting information from people who visit sites that display AdSense ads.
While this change removes a portion of my funding strategy to support the creation and distribution of my music, it seems like the right thing to do. As more people find out about my music and click the “donate” button when they use it, I expect that soon I will not miss the meager revenue AdSense previously provided.
On the discussion board at KZION LDS Internet Radio, John Hesch asked me:
“…Nate, can you please explain why you think that spiritual music should be given away for free? Why should an LDS artist like yourself give away your music just because you song is about our faith? I don’t understand that way of thinking and you’re not the first person I have heard this from. LDS authors don’t give away their books, LDS movie producers don’t give away their movies, LDS artists don’t give away their paintings. As an LDS consumer I expect to pay for your music, art, books, etc. What I don’t want to do is pay more for your music, art or books just because it is about our faith.”
This is a question I get often, and a question with which I continue to struggle. I am posting my answer here as a statement of my current feeling on the subject.
Good question. I don’t think all music of a spiritual nature should be just given away, but I do think that it should be accessible. At this point I choose to give mine away because I have reasonably low overhead and I can afford to do so. But any way you slice it, 17 to 20 bucks for a CD with one good song is highway robbery (pardon the pun). Sometimes the ones who really need to hear it are those who can’t afford it.
I suppose it depends on the nature of the music and the goal of the artist. For fun songs or songs mostly for entertainment purposes rather than spiritual teaching, I have no problem charging whatever the market will bear. However, if I actually believe the concepts about which I sing in my so-called spiritual songs, I should share that testimony freely to all who would benefit from it. If I claim any degree of divine inspiration in writing a song, it should be primarily for the building up of God’s kingdom.
There are production costs. There are administrative costs. I don’t generally give away or sell my copyrights or place much music in the public domain. Music is still a business. I just feel that by allowing free access to the music and asking for donations, in time those with more resources will pick up the tab for those who cannot afford to pay. Call me a hippie public radio tote-carrying idealist fool. Maybe I am. At the moment, we are doing better than breaking even on web hosting costs, so I have no real complaints.
This is not to knock artists who use different business models. When I go into the studio to do session work, or when I teach private lessons, do I turn down my rightful payment? Of course not. I also encourage donations when people download my music, I do occasional commissions, and if I was offered a good job making LDS music, I would seriously consider the offer. If I decide to release a CD, I will certainly charge for it. But I will do my best to make it affordable, and I will always offer a good amount of spiritual music for free.