Roosevelt Franklin, the indie hip-hop duo who are one degree of separation from every backpack rapper you've never heard of, are releasiing their second album, "Bare Food" on the web. For free.
This is not a good look for Mr. Len and Sir Kimani Rogers. The value of music is subjective, and they're telling us their album ain't worth nothing but some bandwidth.
How so? It sounds backwards, but when a company gives away a product for free they risk making their customers think it's cheap in quality, not just price. That goes double for entertainment.
HBO has some of the best shows on TV, but part of the allure is that you have to pay twice in order to watch it. And the NY Times is an excellent newspaper, but part of their authoritative aura comes from charging 4x the amount as other papers. For HBO and The Times giving away their product for free would hurt their brand more than help it.
Now, any non-platinum, working musician will tell you that album sales don't matter, and mean it. The album acts more as an ad for the live show, and that's where underground and mid-level rappers make all their eat money. However, the trick for these artists is pretend they want you to buy the album, while feeling cool with you copping it however you can. But they have to pretend.
Roosevelt Franklin has decided not to pretend anymore, so why should their fans? They should have released a gigasingle like the White kids, or a mixtape like everyone else.
And not to get too deep into this other side of it, but you can't ever actually give an album away for "free". At the very least a listener will have to "pay attention", and that's not just a play on words. In this current world where multiple forms of entertainment are constantly begging for us to look! and listen! my time is expensive, so at least pretend your album is valuable enough to spend time with.
Oh yeah - I haven't heard the album yet, but Oh Word likes it.