During my descent to £0, I believed that when my bank balance hit zero, I would launch my new recording studio website (goldflowerstudios.com – now live), a kickstarter page for my album and tear all engines blazing into building a successful business. I was rearing to go and getting impatient.
However, after over a month of living with as little money as possible, I ran out on June 18th, having completely lost interest in profit. It turns out, the process changed me permanently and I couldn’t bring myself “push my own business”. The very idea made me feel a little queasy. I continued building goldflowerstudios.com, feeling strangely off colour. Something felt wrong.
How could I price my services? The jobs I’ve been best at, besides performing music, have been to do with helping people to do something difficult that’s important to them. Producing records for other musicians, teaching, mentoring and care/enabling work all come into this category. When it comes to production, if I charge what I know I’m worth, many musicians couldn’t afford it. More than that – exactly the people who I want to help the most, wouldn’t be able to afford me: Dedicated, free range, organic, unsigned musicians who no doubt work part time to support their art. Charge too little on the other hand, and I’d risk undercutting other studios unfairly.
Would I do it for free if I could? Yes. I believe so strongly in building an alternative music industry and in helping independent musicians to make industry standard records, that I would do it for free if I was rich. So why can’t I? Because I haven’t gone moneyless, neither am I rich so I still need some money to live on. Not only that, if my computer or other equipment broke or needed upgrading and I didn’t have the money to replace them, then I’d have to stop doing this work.
Then it hit me. What if I opened my services private clients for donations of money and/or resources? What if I went around teaching people music, produced independent musician’s records and in return they donated money which I could use pay for music gear to keep me doing this. Other resources I’d need could include food, a place to stay, or something else they might have to offer. I could have a wish list. I could run my kickstarter page (to be launched in my next post) for funds to get the studio up and running.
What’s the difference between allowing donations and simply being paid? It’s a subtle difference but it’s important to me. Being paid is a contract which specifies the value of the service. If I give one client extra time for free, it won’t seem fair on others. Plus, recording is an organic process – if a client takes a day longer than estimated to finish their record, that causes tension. In my experience, it’s hard to be creative, both for me and for the artist when the meter is ticking. Taking the idea of “payment” out of the equation removes these stresses and allows us to put the record first. Instead of “being paid”, I could give my services and people could give what they want in return. As long as in my life overall, I have everything I need, it doesn’t matter if some people donate a lot and some a little. It doesn’t matter if they donate in advance, or afterwards, meaning I don’t have the stress of chasing people up.
It also opens up other opportunities for people to contribute. Someone who I’ve never met, could reading my weblog and then donate because they’ve enjoyed reading it and they want to support me in doing what I’m doing. Maybe they want to contribute just to help continue writing here, making my own music and contributing to the independent music through my recording and producing services. It has a different feel to saying “Buy this and you can have it”. Instead I’d be saying “Here, have this. I don’t expect anything in return but if you want to give me something to say thank you, that’ll help me”. The exchange will feel more like busking.
To me, busking is far from begging. I stand in the street and play. Putting a hat out is a way of saying “I’m open to receiving donations”. Donations should not be for pity, neither are they a bizarre “listening tax”. The best reason someone could give for dropping money is to show their appreciation if the music has brightened their day. Another reason I give to buskers is because I love live music. I love to support the busking tradition that fills our streets with real music. Hearing buskers had a hugely positive effect on me as a kid. Too young for gigs, it was the only time I was hearing music played live, right there in front of me.
I’ll start this subtle movement from “earning” to “giving and receiving” with Goldflower Studios. If it works I could extend it to my other music services to. Rather than being part of the “music business” (two words I’d rather not see together), as a singer songwriter, teacher or producer, I am an organic, free-range musician.
Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XNDwS7wUwE
Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com