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Written by: Chris Castiglione
James Kirsch has been creating music under the moniker General Fuzz for the past nine years. In that time he has released five albums, two of which were listed in the Top 25 Essential Albums of The Year (2007 and 2008) on the NPR syndicated show Echos.
A notable aspect of Kirsch’s music is that the entire General Fuzz catalog is licensed under Creative Commons and can be freely downloaded from his website. Kirsch’s inspiration for making his music freely available came out of “the availability of inexpensive software and the Internet”. On his website he explains, “These two elements allow me to compose music AND distribute it globally without making me destitute, which is fabulous. I know in my heart that this music will really resonate with a few people out there, and I want to maximize the probability for that to occur.”
This week I spoke with Kirsch to learn more about his experience creating and distributing free music:
Q: How can you afford to give your music away for free?
JK: General Fuzz is not my primary source of income. I’ve been fortunate enough to pursue music and share it. I just really like to do this, I don’t need to make money making music.
Q: I notice that you have a donation button on your site. Have you made any money this way?
JK: It’s surprising, but I do received a lot of donations. Or at least more than I ever expected: maybe around 4-5 a month. This year I’ve received about $500-600 in donations. Before this last year, almost nothing (but I only just installed the donation button two years ago).
People seem to find the site somehow, and some of those people get really into the music and will donate money. I’ve been lucky enough that donations have been able to pay for my last album.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to get some licensing opportunities. Most of the time if you want a licensing deal you have to go through an agent, but I’ve had quite a few people contact me directly – which is rare.
Q: I notice you don’t sell merchandise on the site. Have you considered this as a possible revenue stream?
JK: I could probably sell merch to boost my revenue. It would just take more motivation then I have right now. I’m pretty happy with my life balance right now. Its something I may explore down the road.
Q: Have you had success marketing yourself with sites like Jamendo, MySpace or Last.fm?
JK: Not really, mostly people just find my site. I know a few people that come in from each of those sites, but most of my donations and exposure come directly through the General Fuzz site.
On the General Fuzz website – in addition to a collection of beautiful music – Kirsch has posted a summary of 6 lessons that he has learned from making music as well as a behind-the-scene look at making the album Soulful Filling.
Speaking with Kirsch I get the sense that the biggest reward for him is just being able to create music that is personally meaningful and share it with his fans. “No one cares about my music the way I do”, is the first lesson he shares on the site. I think that’s an important lesson for many things in life: similarly I know that no one cares about musicNeutral the way that I do (or my music for that matter). So check out General Fuzz’s music and if you like what you hear please follow Kirsch’s advise: always contact the artist to let them know you enjoy their work6 comments