Keith Green was influential in my early life as one of the few bright lights in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene. Green was preachy, but passionately so – which somehow made it seem more legit than the many faux-preachy “Jesus singers” of the day.
Endowed with enormous talent in addition to his passion, he released five excellent albums before his untimely death at the age of 29. He, along with two of his young children were killed in a small plane crash, leaving behind another daughter and a pregnant wife. His page at Wikipedia is a good read.
Here is a section from that page that caught my eye:
“His first solo project, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, was released in 1977 and his second solo release, No Compromise, followed in 1978. In 1979, after negotiating a release from his contract with Sparrow, Green initiated a new policy of refusing to charge money for concerts or albums. Keith and Melody mortgaged their home to privately finance Green’s next album, So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt. The album, which featured a guest appearance by Bob Dylan, was offered through mail-order and at concerts for a price determined by the purchaser. By May 1982, Green had shipped out more than 200,000 units of his album – 61,000 for free.”
So the math goes like this: he offered the album for free and shipped 200,000 units, 139,000 of which people paid for. Of course I’m sure it helped that Zimmy made a guest appearance, but this was an idea ahead of its time.
We musicians are now smart enough to know (thanks in large part to guys like Bob Lefsetz) that a little free goes a long way, especially if the art is good.