Music Should Be Free: "There's No Escaping or Preventing That Reality"
Gramatik is part of a generation of musicians who have built their careers on a revolutionary new model for the music industry - giving away music for free. His style recalls great eras in music's past, fusing classic R&B, blues, funk, and soul with hip-hop and electronic production, but his approach to the business of music is as forward thinking as it gets.
He recently sat down for an interview with Mic to discuss the inevitability of free music, and why he personally believes that giving music away is just the right thing to do.
Gramatik, (legal name Denis Jašarevic) doesn't want people's access to music to be limited by their financial status, because it's just too important for bringing joy and inspiration to our lives. "I think music is such an important and vital part of human existence that it should be something all people are able to enjoy and be inspired by to do great things in life," he says, "regardless if they are able to afford to pay for it or not."
He acknowledges the role that piracy played in his own career, allowing him to access the music that inspired him. "I come from a working-class family. There was no way in hell my parents could afford to buy me all those high priced albums I wanted from all my favorite artists every year."
And he also recognizes that pirating music software was the only way he was able to learn to make music. "There was no way in hell they could afford to buy me all the super expensive software that I was using at age 13 when I started to learn how to make music on a computer. I couldn't exactly get a job while in seventh grade." Without piracy, he says, "I wouldn't be talking to you right now. I'd be working a shitty job back in my hometown."
And those very same piracy and torrent sites that gave him so many opportunities have also played a huge role in his music reaching a massive audience, and catapulting him to fame. As his following grew, largely because of the internet, he was finally able to buy all of the software he had pirated with money he made from touring.
"The thing that really jump-started my career was making my entire discography available for free on those same torrent sites that made the aforementioned software available to me, and all the music I was inspired by, which made it a full circle for me."
[Editor's note: Software developers generally can't go on tour to make up for revenue lost to piracy, the way musicians can. So it's important to note that while torrent sites can be a boon for the the budding careers of certain musicians, it's not quite accurate to draw a parallel between music piracy and software piracy in this regard.]
He also speaks to the inevitability of piracy, and the flip-side where certain people will proudly pay for music, even when it's available for free.
"In the age of the internet, there are people who take pride in paying for music; they will buy it no matter what. And there are people who don't like paying for music (or simply can't afford it); they will pirate it no matter what. There is no escaping or preventing that reality. That's why making your music available for free with an option to buy or donate is the most rational thing to do. You'd be surprised how many people appreciate this approach and donate money to it whenever they can, not only to pay for an album, but to show appreciation for the philosophy itself."
Read the full interview over at Mic.
And check out the lead singles off his upcoming album Epigram, which drops tomorrow March 25.