In a globalized economy with myriad choices in just about every area of consumer life, goods and services can go from being about sharing a quality craft to being a question of dollars and cents. Business owners and artists alike must be conscious of their finances if they are to stay afloat. Nevertheless, some musicians refuse to allow money to dictate their approach to music distribution. Josh Garrels, the subject of an earlier review of mine, is one artist who has been using free distribution to spread his work, even going so far as to release his most recent album for no cost. Counterintuitively, the results of this decision seem to indicate that not only are his profits (largely from tips) on par with a purely commercial release, but also that Garrels is gaining tens of thousands of fans for his mailing list.
Jake Aldridge, a hip-hop/R&B artist from Suffolk, UK, is taking a similar approach to his distribution. A press release from May records his decision to turn down a major US record deal in order to keep his operation free and independent. “The deal just wasn’t right for me,” he reflects. “I know a lot of artists will probably call me a fool for turning down a deal and then releasing tracks for free. The truth is, I’d rather earn nothing for music which I enjoy making and am proud of than make a killing from music which I couldn’t stand or was embarrassed by. I have to love it myself before I can put it out. Going it alone means that I get to make all the decisions.”
His music certainly stands up on its own, aside from his philosophical convictions. He relies mainly on the spine of his lyrics, with female backup singing and strong instrumentals that make his work very friendly for pop audiences. Yet he does not come across as just another mass-market artist. As his avoidance of major record labels demonstrates, Aldridge has a clear mind when it comes to his unique brand. He combines mass appeal with a very personal vision, skillfully riding the line between success and individuality. It is only to be hoped that his commitment to his craft remains as vibrant as his words suggest.