A running conversation among the creative people I work with is frustration at the long-standing, and now even more widespread trend of being expected to give their music, art, photography and writing away for free. While some understand the promotional value of getting their work in front of more people who might eventually purchase something, the nagging feeling that their work is being devalued and diluted and they will always have to keep their day job won’t go away. Something’ s missing for them in the explanation of how “free” makes money.
So how and why do some people and companies manage to transform “FREE” services and products into income?
A new book, FREE: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of Wired magazine provides a comprehensive and fascinating discussion of why giving things away is fast becoming the #1 business marketing strategy that is driving many parts of our economy–noticeably in the creative and entertainment sector–and explains how “Free” may be essential to survival in today’s marketplace. He describes a number of ways businesses are profiting more by giving away products and services than by charging for them.
FREE: The Future of a Radical Price isn’t without its skeptics and controversies though. An article posted on Bad Idea highlights a few of the holes and criticisms, particularly a review by author Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker and a plagarism charge from Virginia Quarterly Review.
Anderson debates his premise at SXSW 2009:
Are my creative friends voicing a darker side of Anderson’s optimistic view of a digital economy that spreads goods, services, information and, as Anderson sees it, wealth around in a more democratic way? Will the proliferation and immediate economic benefits of “FREE” come at the expense of supporting and sustaining our most creative and innovative individuals?
For a full length video discussion of Free concepts, watch Anderson’s Revenue Bootcamp keynote address.