• Ken Ferguson

The price of nothing.

Music is important! Most people going through this accursed lockdown could attest to that. For many of us, music has been the backdrop to these long pandemic days. The lengths that some bands have gone to to stay connected with their listeners have been fantastic. Within a few days, Cory Band’s first attempt, Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang had achieved a staggering 250,000 views on youtube! I’m certain that there were many smiles across the world. Since then, many other bands have followed suit, just for the fun of it or to raise funds for various charities.

I was lucky to have been a performer with some of the UK’s best bands. I understand the joy of making music together, the sheer thrill of performing to an audience. As a musician, I get value from the experience. The audience have already placed a value on the music by purchasing a ticket.

Now, I have become the solitary figure that is the composer. All my days are filled with plucking notes out of the air and arranging them in a (hopefully) meaningful way. 18 hour days, 120 hour weeks and in the final analysis, I have to conclude that I have produced nothing of value. I know many of you will disagree so allow me to explain my position.

The Chairperson of Anywhere Colliery Band telephones me to ask if I will do an arrangement for their band. I listen to their requirements and calculate a cost of around £400. At this point, the conversation usually ends. Well, you can pick up an arrangement for £25 and that is about the maximum value they assign to it. If I had gone ahead with the arrangement, it may have taken me 100 hours to complete. So, that’s £4 ph, less than half the minimum wage.

Composing is far worse. Unless you have commissions, you essentially create something that has zero value. In effect, you have spent the last 3-6 months working for zilch! Then people start to listen to your work, enjoy it and provide feedback. Now the music is starting to acquire value. A recording is made, a price set and your music now has value.

I take as an example my latest album, Journey through the Mind’s Eye. This was initially a very personal project, written as a form of self-healing. The writing phase took 500-600 hours, mixing about 100 hours. On completion, I decided to release the album to the public. This meant I needed a website, artwork and promotional materials. This probably represented an investment in time of 80-90 hours not to mention the financial impact. I deliberated putting it on iTunes, Spotify etc at a cost of £5.99 which I think was very fairly priced. Instead, I decided to release it free of charge and just ask for a small donation. In effect, I asked listeners to set their own price.

I realise that asking for donations during a pandemic is like asking for water during a drought but I have to confess, the reaction has been very disappointing. I made a terrible error of judgement. So far, my work has earned me £0.22 ph. I’d love to have broken even but I’m still a very long way from that. It doesn’t help that I have no way of knowing whether people are listening unless they give me some form of feedback. I assume not.

So, dear reader, it’s not too late to help me out. Please download and listen to the album. It really isn’t that bad. If you could give me some feedback, either positive or negative, I’d appreciate it so much and if you can afford to donate just £2 to my crowd-funder, I might just make it. At the moment, that is far from certain.

Thank you

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