On my author page, I posted an article that I thought was pretty bad ass, about an indie band who gave McDonalds a big fuck you for them expecting them to perform for free in the name of "exposure." This is not something that not only billion-dollar industries are doing, but this is happening in the publishing world. And this is my two cents on the matter:
First of all, free exposure is exploitative, if you are an indie-artist or indie-writer. And it's a trap. Do we all want exposure? Of course, but you should still be paid for your hard work. It doesn't even boil down to money. It's the principal of it. Even though I understand the fantasy of it all:
The more free stuff you give to the world, the more copies people will download, and the higher the chances that people will review your book or music or let word of mouth give you the exposure you need, and then when you do release your next book or album with a price tag, people will buy, because they loved that free book or free album.
That's the ideal, but the chances are, this will not happen. Or if it does happen, it's fleeting. And we're back to square one.
I firmly believe that most of the time, something counterproductive will happen instead.
The more people that see that you're giving your work away for free, the more people will expect free stuff from you. And for an indie artist or writer, that sucks, and we are the ones who lose at the end. Even if your free book or album is getting tons of downloads, chances are, people aren't reading it, because there's no real incentive to because it's free, that or if they read or listened, there's no incentive to review it either. Even if people genuinely love the book or album, the next time that artist releases something, but with a price tag on it, they...don't buy. They only want more free stuff!
And that's not fair, but that's what mostly happens.
Mainstream artists and writers can afford to give their stuff away for free. They have nothing to lose. They're still rich at the end, and have the exposure and fan base. And people will still buy their stuff.
When an indie artist or indie writer gives their stuff away for free, in the name of exposure, there's no gain, financially or artistically, and with no fan base or financial stability to make up for the losses, it's pointless.
I understand why so many indies do this. It sounds all so simple and logical, the idea of giving your stuff away in the name of free exposure, but it's a trap, and it devalues and cheapens not only your work but your self-worth, and though people don't mean harm, by them only wanting free stuff from you, it also sends off the message that they don't take you, or your work, seriously.
Maybe it's just me, but indie artists and indie writers should be treated the same as the mainstream folk, and their work should be respected and taken as seriously. By giving our work away for free, it's sending that message out there that we should settle for less, and that our hard work isn't valid. A free short story or excerpt is one thing, but books and albums? It's not just about money. It's about respect.
There's nothing wrong with wanting more. We all deserve more, and better. Don't settle for less.