by EJ Coleman
There are two types of people in this world: those who say they like free things, and liars. Free samples at the grocery store, free t-shirts at baseball games, free toys in cereal boxes. Debates on free music is something that you encounter wherever you go, about pirating and streaming and so on, but when it comes to live music, there’s very little to hear about it.
As artists rely more and more on revenue from shows and merchandise instead of album sales, concerts have become more expensive and less attainable. Free shows offer the chance to get the feeling of getting to hear your favorite songs in new and different ways without spending money you don’t have.
“But, Elizabeth!” I hear you cry from the back, “What about the artists? They’re creating a commodity just like food or clothes; don’t they deserve to be paid for it?”
Of course they do! But just because shows have no admission fees doesn’t mean the performers don’t get compensated. Many shows like this are either sponsored by someone, in support of the artist’s new music, or are put on by new artists trying to get their names out there. Especially for smaller bands, free shows are important for exposure. If someone hears about a free event and has the time and inclination to do so, they’ll go check it out and possibly become fans. Shows like this foster community, bringing people together that might not meet otherwise.
Especially in the all-ages music scene, free shows make music more accessible. For younger fans who don’t have the money to pay $50 for a ticket or who aren’t old enough to get into the shows they want, free concerts can be the only way to see the music they want to. It can be enough to hear only recordings of the songs you love, sure, but experiencing those same feelings in person with the musicians who’ve made them is completely different, and the opportunity to do so should be more open to young people. Live music can inspire people to become musicians and show that it’s possible for them to actually do it, ensuring that the future of music will do the same. But for that to work, the people who make up that future have to be there, and that’s hard enough as is without the restrictions of age and funds.
With things like record store signings and shows, acoustic performances at malls, and even events such as Chipotle Cultivate Festival (which will be in Minneapolis on August 22nd), free shows are becoming more prevalent in the music scene. But there still isn’t enough of it out there. “It’s just another free thing meant to draw in money,” you say, but you underestimate what it can do, and you aren’t hearing what they’re trying to say. Open your ears a little, go to a show. What’s there to lose?