1. "Honey, nothing is free."
2. "Emily, don't give your stuff for free. No one trusts or respects free."
I gave no defense on either occasion. Instead, I nodded in agreement both times. For most of my life, I have found both of these statements have been true. Businesses who declare they are giving something for free are inviting us to dance a mutually beneficial tango. One step, I give you free stuff, two step, you give me a referral, an email address, or a payment in six months.
And we both take a bow. It's great. Everyone's happy.
As happy as we are to receive free stuff though, we can easily admit that we might agree with the two statements. Nothing is actually free, right?
I quickly had to realize when I began living as a folk acoustic musician in a gift economy model that I had to work through insecurities and embarrassment. Instead of charging money for my concerts or my albums, I was giving everything as a true blue gift of my heart with no obligations. It sounded noble and all, but was I hiding behind an impressive mask of altruism while holding an ocean of insecurities at bay? Was the real truth that I didn't believe in my music enough to ask for what it was worth?
Yep. That was definitely part of it, at the start.
Charging a market value provides a clear message to the world that I believe in my product, right? It's true that when I started my music experiment three years ago, I experienced significant insecurities about myself as a worthy creator. But as I continued to lean into my confidence, my passion and my art, the concept of charging money still wasn't sticking. It just didn't feel right any more. I had charged money before I started living in a gift economy model. I knew what that felt like, and at the time, it did felt right. So I knew the difference. But as I grew stronger as a creator, I found myself continually drawn to to choose life in a gift economy. I felt tapped into something bigger than me. I felt part of the wave sweeping across the planet of people asking questions similar to mine:
What if money acted as a lovely companion, a delightful orange in a basket of fruit, instead of as the ultimate decisive measuring tool?
Hm, curious. I went deeper. My motivation was that I longed for something more than a bunch of oranges.
What did I actually want? Relationships.
1. ME. I decided to believe in my music, my message, and myself so BIG that whether I was charging the market value or giving everything for free, I always sent the clear message that I can be trusted and respected as a creator, and as a human being.
2. YOU. I decided to connect with others like me who felt the wave sweeping the globe. The wave is made up of millions of people who are tired of chasing the dollar, and who are ready to delve into greater depths of generosity, abundance, and the power of gift-giving for the sake of humanity's health and wellbeing.
Within these two declarations, the magic sparkled. This is where I tapped into the worldwide thriving revolution where the concept of "free" isn't only trusted and respected, free is also connective, mutually-beneficial, and awe-inspiring for both parties to behold.
Generous hearts connect with other generous hearts.
We all find each other, no matter where we are in the world. No matter if we are fully in a gift economy or working a 9 to 5 cubicle job, miracles occur in our relationships when we turn our backs on greed.
I am not anti-system, nor am I a promoter of quitting your jobs. I don't even promote living in a gift economy. What I stand for are people showing up in their relationships with respect and trust. Relationships with one another are a treasure trove, immeasurable and invaluable. The time we set apart in our businesses, in our families, and in our communities to generously send the message of trust and respect to each other is worth its weight in gold.
As for my personal journey, I joyously announce that I can now say these words:
1. ME. I believe in myself as a musician, so much so that I'm giving it to you for free. I am humbly recognizing that even when people aren't obligated to pay me, they want to anyway. Thank you for believing in me!
2. YOU. As part of my six month tour across America, I have found many just like me. At the time of this article, 31 alternative economic businesses from the USA, Canada, and Europe have signed their name in support of my Dream Walk tour with an enthusiastic YES. More come in every week. Each has asked for their logo to accompany me coast to coast.
Each are giving their services, or a part of their services...
Who are these businesses?
Stay tuned for the list to be announced later this year! I send out a HUGE thank you to Arjenna Strong from Pay What? Online Guide, without whom connections with my collaborative partnerships would not be possible. Arjenna and I are still receiving partnerships every week asking to be included. We continue to welcome alternative economic business and projects to join our expanding network!