The Value of a Song?

22 posts / 0 new
Last post

A major music hosting site commented a very brief, typically generic click bait email concerning the "Value" of a song, -- what constitutes it's value?

Some here, recently, appear to confuse/collate click count comment-feedback to the "value" of their songs.

So rather than hear from me, -- you? Thoughts? What constitutes the $-value of your song ("art" in general?)..., if any, or define value if not via $? Crazy

Does this song make me feel?
If it does that, it has value to me.
Muzak makes me feel nothing. But the 50/90 output almost universally does *something*.

I like to think that every time a song it played, it sends vibrations out into the universe, and although those vibrations may quickly fall beneath our ability to detect them, nonetheless they have forever changed everything. Smile

When it comes to my own songs: Does it help me communicate? Do I feel better? Was it fun?

When it comes to other's songs: Was it interesting? Did it hold my attention? Did I care about the story?

The value of my own songs come from their creation. I have created valuable music that made me feel much better, as it communicated things I was feeling but couldn't quite express. Then, having expressed it, the song ceased having value to me and I don't relisten to it. I have a song about being a sandwich at a lynching that's like that. At the time, I was musically blocked until I could get that out.

Note, too, that I create songs for _me_. If other people enjoy them, that's cool, but I am the primary audience, even while any audience at all is secondary to the creation.

Basic economics. The $-value of a song, like anything else, is what someone will pay for it. The social or artistic value is anyone's subjective judgement.

For me, music has always created a connection, --time, place, experience. Since many of mine are based on real things, though songafied (not "reality), they are the only thing that may resemble a "diary", of sorts, so to speak; so, they have that value, especially if survive in my song-book.

With each song, as well, I remember many things, who was around when I wrote it and elements like that; other people liking a song that I may not prefer myself (ironic?), then takes on value and appreciation, i.e., my keep/delete songs. I usually wait a year or even two before I purge a song into my "krappe-pile" since many times, -- a year later, disconnected from the artistic critic while creating it, -- see it better for what it then may be. I have "impressed" myself in that regard (in a self satisfaction meaning, not "ego"). However, much like with my, e.g., Paintings, -- once I am at a certain point with them, I openly show them if even not finished since at that point anyone can say anything, good/bad and it just does not affect/effect me; for that I am very grateful since an artist heart, demeanor, as I've observed can be otherwise "miserable".

As far as what the email that prompted this meant, -- to get paid for you work is extremely validating and can be quite a rush; however for me the creation and ongoing carrying forward and teaching of others as I was taught is why I do it, "art" in general. I could not have paid for the education(s) I've had in my life, -- "value".

Very infrequently in my life have I ever been otherwise "helped", other then within the arts/music; therefore it can and does mean allot to me. For example, there was a time when I had no money, zero and as always never expected any living human being to do anything for me, at all, what's so ever... so much so, to this extreme. However, another musician, an acquaintance, not really "close" understood just how bad it was. He was well enough off, a member of an orchestra and married to a very controlling partner... meaning, he gave me his spare 19th Century, Czech made violin to sell, -- only he knew he had this spare instrument. His wife would never know he "gave away money", or this instrument. It confused me, almost like learning someone died, -- took it and said nothing as he strongly, urgently insisted.

I have that violin even today, -- as evidence that at least one time, someone helped me, (helped me). I think I would've rather fainted from malnutrition than sell that thing. So, years later when I am sure life has beaten all the hope out of me, and even my own songs don't heal me, -- I pull out that violin and know better.

-- My music, value, connections

@JWHanberry, I reject the marginalist analysis (which is subjective!) and substitute a labor theory analysis! Clearly the value of any given song can be measured by the amount of socially necessary labor time that is required to produce it! Biggrin

Dang it, TomS. I was going post about how value is subjective and you go and ruin it by beating me to the punch.

Seriously, though. If I make a dog house and no-one values it enough to pay for it, does it have value? I don't value the typical rap song nearly as much as the typical Americana song (to be overly generalizing.) You would have to pay me to listen to certain songs where as I've actually bought extra copies of certain albums to share with others because I liked them so much.

So I value a song differently than you do. And that's probably true of each song. Sometimes what we perceive as a lack of value is merely not finding the right audience.

[@tcelliot], FWIW the labor theory is supposed to be an objective measure of value; it is the theory of Adam Smith, Marx, and anarchists...I was going all marxist anarchist Biggrin ...someday I want to write a song about Eugen Böhm von Bawerk, an important critic of this view, just because he has such an awesome name... Biggrin

Well, Adam Smith basically said that the value of an item is worth the average labor that the purchaser is willing to spend on it. Marxist thought tends to equate value with the amount of labor to create it. As a way to describe value I think it might have some *cough* value *cough* but as an economic principle I think it can be dispelled fairly easily.

Re: A Song. If it takes me a year and many hours to create song A and it only takes me thirty minutes to create song B does that immediately make song A more valuable? In a pay what you want type of store, if song A is averaging .50 per download and song B is averaging .51 a download does that make song B more valuable? If a listener listens to song A and then song B and they feel that song A expresses an emotion they are currently feeling very well, but song B fails to hit the mark.... then ten months later listens to song A and then song B but this time feels that song B has a greater connection than song A .. but decides to download both songs from the internet without paying at all... does either song have value?

It's an interesting concept, value. And ultimately I do believe it's subjective. Just like my kid was the smartest kid in the world when she was learning to walk and talk and not crap herself. As I'm sure many other parents felt the exact same way about their kids. Or as I'm willing to spend 15 bucks on the new Halestorm CD but I won't pay a dime for the new (insert a pop artist) album.

I think there are two senses of value. One is a monetary value and then the other is the importance we place on an item. If I have a family heirloom that is worth $10 and a gold ring I bought for myself that cost $200 it is not unreasonable that if one ring were to get lost, I'd hope it was the more expensive.

Interesting discussion! When I was in college, my parents wanted me to study business, and for a while I studied economics because it was the most liberal arts-y of the business majors. Then I wound up majoring in education and taught for over 20 years, and then I began teaching yoga, and now my wife and I run a yoga studio and I wish I had a business mind like hers so I could be more helpful. But anyway ...

I have a visual artist buddy who once explained to me his formula for what he charges for a piece - mainly labor hours, materials, but also the time spent thinking about and conceptualizing the piece. So I suppose that means you could factor in the hour you spend cutting the grass and thinking about the piece. But you also have to have an hourly rate in mind to do that.

But songs aren't like that, of course. If I considered the rate I charge to teach yoga (I'm going with private session rate here) and then applied it to time spent on a song, even my quick skirmish songs would be worth about $75. But then who do I charge and how do I earn that $75? Selling downloads? Performing the song?

Still, this was fun to think about - a good morning brain exercise with my coffee.

After finishing video production school in the 90's, I did music for videos for money. Good money. It lasted about two years. It was the sweetest job. I didn't feel I had to sell my soul or compromise my "artistic integrity". I'm pretty adaptive, able to adjust that way.

Now the music I make has some kind of social and entertainment value here and with my friends. It's impossible to measure that value but I can't say it's meaningless. Sure would be nice to get some money from songs too.

When I was younger I thought that music will basically always be the same: good melody is always a good melody. How was I suppose to know that popular music would change so much. The hit song aesthetics are totally different today. I just can't adapt to that. It's interesting to watch this change, how certain musical values have transformed into something else that I can't even recognize as values anymore.

And when I say it's interesting I mean it's awful, wrong and depressing. Smile

Oh my, this did take an interesting turn, -- value. This comes up within the circles I sometimes travel, they refer to "animal spirits"; purely a "Wall St" term, not spiritual in any way Crazy hahhh...

With that term, often, comes two titles, -- "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", C. Mackay, and "Confusion de Confunsiones" J. De La Vega.

There was a time in global history when we had "Tulip Wars", or Mania. It examples what I'll call, Want, Need, Gotta-have. I need food/water, I want a cheeseburger, I gotta have my friends... -- Context is everything.

That's so esoteric, I'll leave it there and not engage Mao, Marx or King George Crazy We were right, the Brits wrong, -- no regrets, America Wink

However concerning the artistic value, some artist get "lucky", e.g. Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Springsteen, Doobie Brothers... in that their stuff got associated with folks life events and folks payed $15, $20 bucks for an album. However, Bach, whom I love, I get free and use his stuff for industrial grade bass lines no one wants to hear. I won't pay for Bach, but I will by a 30 year old Doobie Brother album for $5bucks Wink hahhh...

"Here", now, over time as I get to know people and know how they did this song or that song and I see a large body or work, -- their stuff has value to me. If they played at a local bar that had a cover charge I'd go, pay, by a CD I'd likely never unwrap.

On the news this morning was a "Ticketmaster" fiasco thing again... -- people want the SOCIAL in person thing so badly they'll pay $190 for a Paul Simon ticket? Uh, no, not me, not to mention the cost and hassle of getting into that sewer called NYC. Not fun.

In my State, you can't swing a stick and not hit famous, almost famous, or otherwise accomplished artists musicians. Coffee houses, Festivals, folks hanging out in the park jamming? -- Un, no. Folks complain, but rather sit at home and Bluetooth to their Headphones. It's a very disfunctional thing for something everyone wants so badly.

So, when I skimmed the original email and read their click count validation, following, -- I thought we'd have a great time with it here, in some manner of speaking. The thing is, folks who are "liked" or perceived as can be "used" to pull theirself up/forward get the "clicks". So we wind up with many who are great at attempting to fool folks, -- "hey, I'll make you a star"... thing.

When I was a kid, the golden age of "Rock", people lived Face to Face and the Music got associated with that experience, so we bought the Albums. I never purchased a Zep album until after a few prolific parties where it was blasted over 700 Watts of prolific sound equipment, -- when the levee breaks baby... I get drunk just thinking about it, u no? Smile It's hard to deny that, ~~purely bull annecdote Smile coming next, hahhh.... but, ---- the less Face to Face we became, the less Value Music had.

Now, unless some $4M mind altering Music Video ships to create that association, -- sales languish. Anyone here NOT see "shake it off"? Not HEAR it, SEE it, the video Smile I'll bet $1, not one person has not seen the video. And, many bought it, -- magic... adorable blonde chick walks a fine line of pop marketability and is now worth $200M?

I've said this many times, our greatest value is in our artistic relationships; it is all we really "have"; -- be nice to everyone always, it's a long road, have no regrets.

re: $200M - That's just it. If some piece of crap sells at a dollar a download and someone buys it then it was worth that dollar. If 200M people do it then it IS worth the $200M. Even if it's widely accepted as crap. Even if 199.9M people regret it later. It is/was worth that amount. Monetarily. Cotton candy melts almost immediately upon taking a bite. But it's still worth what you're willing to pay for it. A drink of water is worth what you are willing to pay for it. In the public space drinking fountain you get it for free. I doubt you'd pay for the ability to drink from that fountain since you don't have to. If you're in the middle of the desert then suddenly you're willing to pay far more for that same 12 oz of water.

@TomS re: the "labor theory analysis"; this guy knew more about it than I ever will. Hank Williams used to say: “If a song can't be written in 20 minutes, it ain't worth writing”.

I think the attention to details both lyrically and melody. Also, a good hook or riff prooves value to me. Many people have "connected" with me through their song or songs. The value of a song is its ability to connect favorably with its audience.

I really don't play out much, cause I don't think I'm good enough. In six years I've written about 300 songs. I co-wrote two songs this year in Nashville with a couple Bluegrass/Country pros and I wrote 14 lyric songs for a musician professor in the UK who just released his album, he used nine of my songs lyrics. All that was fun and I connected with nice folks. I do love to write songs and am always thinking of the next one, the next idea. I'm a creative person and paint also for many years, but I haven't tried to sell many of them, although next year hope to do a show. I want to price them very reasonable so if someone really likes something everyday people could buy it. I think the joy comes in the creating and sometimes frustration as I recently had when I wanted to be better than I was.

I think the value to me is that creativity is like therapy, maybe cheaper. It helps keep me saner in this crazy world. Everything we all do is impermanent, we're all leavin' here someday. 100,000 years in the future, will some archeologist study us and carbon date us, probably thinking we were pretty primitive. Who knows if anyone will care what we wrote or painted or did? Probably not. Hey but it's good for the soul in the present.

This is quite an interesting thread, has remained wide open, -- wonderfully. There's personal value, value to other people, ever kind of value commented. It's all great to read and consider, especially in this context.

For me the "Tulip Wars/Maina" explains human nature as to what one can charge for something and why and why in a day and onion sized bulb could buy a fleet of ships, and the next you could get charged for littering with it.

If there was only what one would pay and no buyers remorse, there could never be "Fraud" or any very human crime of value.

If you ever walked into, e..g, "old age home", other, etc., and are able to gauge the human interaction value FtF as story teller, performer, musician, songwriter, warm body in the moment you'd see -- you are priceless.

As far as selling stuff, ever again, and all the rest; well, unless some time warp occurs within global-culture, me, license it for free, retain all rights and if money is made get some part of it. So, like, was it "Friends", "Two and a Half Men", other... where they went from a few thousand an episode to a few million, -- relativity counts. If I as a Star Quarterback draw 100,000 to a stadium and each buy a beer for $20 a cup, yeah, I get 10% of concession, % of the tickets, % of the "TV"/Cell phone commercial revenue and have a value of $nKazillion per Minute of Play, with franchising and future use.

However, then we got the, what I call "stale mate" contract of *your future value due to their promotion today.... think that are calling it a 180 contract, -- never sign one of those..., imo.

I think as far as the extreme conversations about money and value, and if your song is worth $0.99/download, that's not really even a consideration. I think that in that line of thinking, we all start at minimum wage, flip burgers, people see value and we proceed, if "lucky" so to speak. If we all entertained, e.g. "Indecent Proposals", we be selling our children to the highest bidder, some do. Me, one could offer an obscene amount of money to use a song in a very inappropriate way, and it would never be allowed, -- priceless in that regard.

Someone might say, oh yeah, really... -- yes, really.

Moreover, in terms of "money" collection in life, I and my wife, even during a period of time we were both unemployed for an extended period, -- we were the ones folks came to for money and other. Now, --not saying it didn't irritate me, it did; but never said no either and to folks we have never seen again, or who will never be as kind to someone else down the road. (That's not my concern, and don't care, beyond not being stupidly taken advantage of; that's a different skew entirely). You'd think we have a phone book of friends, -- no. I had a birthday this week and my wife, (I know she did this Smile ) , call folks to remind them to send a text or call Wink --- i know who my real friends are and expect them to take advantage of me, --part of the blessing of friendship/love, imo. Not stupid abuse, just normal abuse Crazy hahhh...

For me, the relevant-Value of human interaction is an *accrual; one with which we all take from to get where we are today. All speak of "taking and accrual" of help *from FAWM, 5090 and proceed. -- Priceless, like love, kindness, mercy can't buy it and if you could, couldn't afford it, --authentically. What value does this/these threads afford your songwriting? If at a "University", it'd be part of a $3K tuition course and no better than this, I assure any here who've never been.

Free, is as good or better than paid for, -- really.

-- "Value" ? Indeed.

@JWHanberry, a codicil from Lou Reed: "One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz." Biggrin

The value of any artistic effort is priceless, even the ones you don't like.

For me personal/spiritual/well-being value is all that matters in the end.

So, one thing I learned from this thread and others that for me looked related, well, in my mind Crazy relates to this latest purchase, "Doobie Brothers", -- 5 original first albums, from "ama-zon", for ~$7 shpg included. Five Albums, the Doobie Brothers... ~$7 !?! O M G... Wink (Who are the Doobie Brothers? Yeah, I know, but that's another thread...) Anyway... getting to a "point"...

The ONLY reason I purchased these from circa '70's was -- association.

So, like when I commented about not paying attention to Led Zeppelin until after a couple of "high school" parties with, really amazing sound systems, ala "1970" ... the FtF parties, good times associated then "caused" me to buy'em, and now so many years later since now actually have $7 to spend Crazy this 5 Album bundle.

As I previewed many of the songs on "ama-zon", for me, regardless of ones "taste" of the individual, -- I was right back "there"; -- wondering about life in decades to come (not really, just sounds good though, aye Smile )

So, for me, the "revelation", if anyone gets me is, -- the decline in the "music world" ~ if there is one ~ and the "value" of music is we as a global society ? , towns folks with torches and pitch forks ?, just don't do much to create FtF, time/place, associations, like "beer hall octoberfest ditties", or local pub in some EU country (if that ever happens "over there" anymore); flogging folks in the town square? (Oh, yes, we still do that, but not FtF anymore, too bloody and gritty in person Wink ... ah, the music to a good floggy, what would it be? "Flogging Molly" !!! Love that band!!!) Anyway...

My Dad, I don't think liked or valued the beer hall polka, --but he valued the instant buzz from memory. Oddly, well for him..., he, end of life fell madly in love with Blue Grass, which blew Mom's mind (kinda like Bach w/a kazoo alignment of the stars event), -- but hey, they lived in Nashville... so, it was gonna happen Smile

So, just a "follow up" -- what I learned on my Summer Vacation class report, -- as used to be assigned, 5th Grade and this is first days of school Wink I could be completely off on this, but strikes me as an interesting Thesis where quantitative annecdotals could offer an answer to something that was on my mind from time to time. For decades, an "album" was no less than $5... even in the "dollar" bin, it was $5. Then slowly went back up to $15, then $20 yet again decades later.

So, derUgo Crazy

-- Thanks to folks this 5090 for interacting in the Forums in such a meaningful way! I post my threads, 'cause I really am wondering, or comment for spawned thoughts of authentic discussion.