Why Our Album Costs Five Dollars

How do you determine the value of music?   Can you put a dollar amount to it?  This album was not commissioned by a generous benefactor.  This band did not form at the order of a corporation.  We made this album together only because we wanted to.  We didn’t re-shoot the ending because it didn’t track well with focus groups. We would forego a platinum record’s worth of profit to maintain the amount of control over our own music that we enjoy.  We made it on our terms.  You can’t buy that.

Our equipment did have a very real price, however.  Accounting becomes ambiguous at this point.  We could add up the worth of our entire studio, but saying our album is worth that much assumes that we will destroy all of our equipment and start over before our next album.  We could divide the worth of our studio by the number of notes on the album and calculate a price per note.  But that would also suggest that songs with more notes are more valuable than others.

A compact disc costs less than one dollar per CD to replicate in mass.  To distribute our album digitally over the internet would cost pennies.  But art, protected by the shield of capitalism, suggests that the value of a work of art is not determined by the cost to distribute it.  A CD’s worth of randomly generated noise would cost the exact same amount of money to replicate and distribute as your favorite album.

That’s the problem with determining the price of a CD.  Its worth and its cost are easily confused, and yet they are hardly the same.  It costs you five dollars to purchase our CD.  It costs you 49 minutes of your time to listen to it once.  Ten cents a minute.  Our favorite records have been reduced to pennies per listen. As the producers of this album we are the most invested in it.  But as the consumer you also must make an investment.  You must determine its worth.

We are charging five dollars for our album because fifteen or twenty dollars is an astronomical amount of money to pay for a CD, regardless of the album’s worth.  We produced this music independently, and we’re distributing it independently.  We’re charging five dollars because that’s how much we want for it.  We think we’re being reasonable.  We’re proving to the major labels that music can be sold for a fraction of what they are charging and still maintain a healthy profit margin.

We want you to buy our CD, of course.  But besides that, we hope it’s worth something to you. 

- Yarmilla Vashti

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