Connect With Us

Add Hypebot To Circleson

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

• MTT POSTS BY CATEGORY
• TUNE MTT RADIO
SEARCH
« ODDS ARE… (A response to What are the odds of succeeding without a record label?) | Main | CELEBRATING DEREK SIVERS’ NEW BOOK: "Anything You Want - 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur" »
Tuesday
Jul052011

Call To Indie Artists: Stop Giving Your Music Away Free

Artists are giving away way too much free music.  The belief that giving away free music will result in future sales are too far-fetch.  Also with the advancement of new distribution models cutting down the dollar value on music (Cloud/Subscription models), we are entering a stage where the public is becoming too accustomed to free music.  Sure illegal downloads are here and will continue to be here, but artists must not fall into the trap of allowing their fans to dance to the tune of music is a free commodity.

Yes, there are some high profitable outlets for making money with music outside of the music sales, but a lot of those slots are reserved for big name artists with established fan-bases already.  I hear a lot of people speaking on brand association becoming new revenue sources for artists, but not for the average indie artists, and plus that is nothing new anyway.  In fact, I won’t be surprised if brands begin cutting back their budgets on these associations beginning early 2012.  There’s just too much money being spent on an un-guaranteed model.  The best option for indie artists is to build organic relationships with their fans.  There are many options and models of doing this.  Of course, I personally vouch for my own company Music Assistant Now.  And I know there are many obstacles to overcome with building organic personal fan-bases….IE: time, costs, lack of knowledge, resources, innovation, etc.  This is why what I am about to present works so great.  It will produce additional revenue; all the while maintain your building an organic fan-base.

Firstly, limit the amount of music you offer for free.  Decrease the level of free music and offer alternative products/services for sale.  Products or services may be music related like teaching how to play an instrument, or outside of music like selling apparel.  You may have a hobby that you can profitize off of, consider it.  You can be as creative as you want, just offer something else in exchange of just your free music.  The benefits of creating side products and/or services for sale are:

1. You maintain the dollar value of your music  
2. Profits from selling side products
3. You condition fans to make purchases from you
4. You develop more control over your music
5. You build that organic relationship with fans who have now become consumers

I will explain these benefits in detail in pt.2 of this post.

Remember in this new world of the music industry you have more control over your career. Don’t be afraid to try new options.  Be free…be bold….but PLEASE stop giving away all of that music for free.

For comments click here!

About the Author:

Taurean Casey Co-founder of Music Assistant Now
www.MusicAssistantNow.com
Facebook.com/MusicAssistantNow
taurean@musicassistantnow.com

 

Reader Comments (41)

Finally, someone willing to step up and try to stop the flight to free. Thank you! But, what about using free music as a promotional idea? When I finally release my album, I plan to offer downloadable versions for free for one month; the CD will be around $8 (with a bonus track not available for download!). I'm doing this because I am a complete unknown and can't tour so I want to offer friends and acquaintances an incentive to grab the music and if they like it to tell people about it. If I charge right away, I worry I will turn off anyone who's not a close friend and thus radically limit my exposure.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... FILE-SHARING is NOT the cause of the music industry downturn. It's SUPPLY & DEMAND. http://www.excursionsinmusic.com/random-notes/supply-demand-killed-the-music-industry/

Our philosophy at Uncommon Records has always been staunchly anti-illegal downloading. We always follow up on DMCA's, etc. We are also not in favor of the upcoming wave of streaming and cloud services, not because of them not being convenient for fans, but because they only pay artists pennies (or less) per stream to the artist. These services are also highly controllable by corporate interests down the line as they grow more profitable and will, in my opinion, shut out the indies.

With that said, to rail against artists THEMSELVES giving out music for free if they choose is ridiculous. An artist putting a well made free project out there usually brings nothing but good. It's all in how you do it. We regularly will use Bandcamp's email collection tool to gather emails from a free project and then gear our mailings toward pay projects. This just plain WORKS. Sometimes we even pair a free project from an artist with a pay project from the same artist. In 2011, emails are almost as strong as currency because they LEAD to currency. If you are sitting on a pay project and no one knows who you are yet, the last thing you want to do is charge 10 dollars a download for it. You'll get no sales and no emails for direct mailings later. It's absurd.

Artist giving away music for free is NOT what's lead to people feeling music is a free commodity. It's the publics desire to steal that has. Efforts to change the publics rational have to come from the industry's continued crack downs against the illegal bootlegging of online music, not from the individual artist or indie label putting a death grip on their sound.

The method of giving away a free sample to entice someone to buy more of the product is a tried and true method that has been around for ages and extends far beyond music online or otherwise. The rise of free sampler tapes and CDs didn't hurt music in the 90s. You need to develop your brand and create trust from a consumer fan base before you can start teaching people how to respect music again.

July 5 | Unregistered CommenterNasa

Nice - way to go, calling people out for not doing what would benefit you the most. Unfortunately, your argument amounts to a modern day version of "you should not ever allow anyone to play your song on the radio". I'm sure your crappy web site will be very successful if you can just get every artist on the planet to quit giving things away.

Other than that little niggle, I found your article to be well written and thoughtful. I particularly liked the numbering in the list, and the periods at the end of all of the sentences. THE ALL CAPS HEADLINE ROCKS, BTW. Also, I just love, love, love you trying to migrate comments to your site. Classy and innovative all at once.

July 5 | Unregistered Commenterbob

I completely disagree. It's not about giving away free music.

It's about realising that the intrinsic economic value of a good which can be reproduced for zero is also zero. Economics 101 stuff.

If your music is good and people like it, it will appear on torrent sites and elsewhere; it will be available for free anyway. Unless you do something about this, you have less control over your music.

Allowing people to download free from you - with an option to pay, and in return for their email address, as on Bandcamp - is not the only solution to this, but one which right now demonstrably works for many. You get to make contact with the people getting your music for free; you also get to encourage them to pay while you are about it, and can offer merchandise, physical objects, limited edition CDs, special hats etc or whatever works for you.

A large percentage of your true fans will pay anyway.

They are not paying for the music as such - that's free now. They are paying as a way of saying thank you. Thank you for making this specific music, thank you for understanding that it will be freely available whatever and getting all weird about it, thank you for continuing to put stuff out. It's basically a donation.

It's not one size fits all - each of us must work out what business model is appropriate for where we are at. What works for Trent Reznor won't work for me; what works for Zoe Keating might not work for Steve Lawson, and that might not work for Matt Stevens. That's ok. Different genres, different fanbases, different levels. Everyone's trying different approaches.

But artists who fall into the trap of flatly refusing to accept that music is a free commodity now, period, are going to struggle to find business models that work for them. An approach involving 'conditioning fans to pay' strikes me immensely patronising and unlikely to find much traction. That's the approach the majors have been taking for some years now - it isn't working for them and I don't see it working for many independent artists.

If it does work for you - that's great. It definitely definitely won't work for many of the rest of us. Been there, tried that, made zero sales. Dropped price to zero - people started buying instead.

Finally, you have not convinced me how my choice to give my music away for free is in any way hurting you in your choice not to do so. Nothing that I do or don't do with my business model has any impact on what you do with yours.

I wish you all the best, but in the end my response to your plea to people like me to PLEASE stop giving my music away for free is PLEASE try and figure out why it is that people like me are doing so.

July 5 | Registered CommenterWayne Myers

Agree that this piece is missing the point.

Artists are giving away music for two reasons.

First, so that they can collect e-mails, and use that to dis intermediate themselves from fans. This way they can communicate no only information about those ones and zeros hitting people's ears, but also about other ways that they can actually monetize their fan base, via live, merchandise, and other ways.

Second, which ties in to the above, profile/buzz equals value. By giving music away, you get the fans talking about your music, passing on the mp3's, and helping to market for them. If by giving away a track, an artist can get blogs writing about them, it may end up in the ear of a decision maker, say a music supervisor, or the singer of a band who may want to take the artist on tour.

It's about creating opportunities to build the foundation of a career, not holding out with the hopes of gate-keepers magically anointing an album great, thus creating demand.

July 5 | Unregistered CommenterSomeGuyinLA

I disagree too. "Please stop..." sounds like "Please stop giving your good music away for free, because no one gives a shit about our crappy stuff we try to sell". I get pledges for my shit, that is basically free. (bandcamp name your price zero, FreeMusicArchive)
So pleople who care, will give. Any other just go away...

July 5 | Unregistered Commenterdf

I think the indie artists have no choice to promote his work, so they prefer to promote their works by freely sharing the results of creativity. But it has a lot of indie artists who distribute music for free to get the loyal fans.

July 5 | Unregistered CommenterIan Smith

It is bad advice to tell artists to not give their music away. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube and any artist who is unwilling to put their music out there is just going to be out-competed by artists who get it.

Mass exposure gives you a better chance of achieving fame or reaching a deal than obscurity does. That is to say, if you are lucky enough to put a song out there and to have it take off virally you will do really well. The currency of the digital age is attention. If you get people’s attention you have a better chance of converting it into income than if you languish in obscurity. Unless you are a writer of hit songs with a proven track record, a network of contacts waiting for your next creation and top artists beating down your door for your songs you need to do whatever you can to establish yourself. Having one of your songs go viral will help you do it.

"The belief that giving away free music will result in future sales are too far-fetch."

Please fix that.

Also, I think this article is great. I hope that 99% of all indie musicians take this call to action and stop giving away free music. In fact, you guys should really stand up for yourselves and raises the prices back up to 2002-era CD levels! Be assertive!

That way, my team will have an even easier time continuing to bring in new audience with our free content, and converting that attention into sales for our paid albums. Every sale gets reported to my email...I see it happening every single day. I made $22 since I woke up this morning off my last album.

So when I see some blogger telling me that's, uh, "too far-fetch," how seriously can I take you?

Agreed with Wayne.

The old model is "marriage before sex"--and now all music is already free. There isn't a song worth listening to that one can't find in two minutes for free. And what will the listener do if it isn't out there for free? Head on down to Best Buy, or just forget the song ever existed?

It's easier just to forget it.

It's about creating true fans, people who want you to keep doing what you're doing, not convincing someone to risk buyer's remorse...like I used to do every time I bought a CD. I recently nabbed the entire album by an unknown artist, loved it, and spent $30 on tickets to see them perform the following week. Awesome. That venue pays me too, so I know it's cash straight to their pockets. An alternative is that I would have deleted the tracks eventually, probably, and I wouldn't have paid for a little bit of regret.

We've still got biology on our side--people love collecting, holding, owning...I streamed a movie over the weekend, loved the hell out of it, and now I want it on DVD--and I don't even have a DVD player. I just want to make it mine! And in the meantime, I listen to hundreds of new tracks a week and delete most of them after hearing the first chorus. A few of them hit me right. And one of the criticisms is that listeners need to just listen more closely and then they'll hear the quality they've been too dense to miss. Repetition is the reason why I know a bunch of Toby Keith lyrics...and I make like those songs now, but I won't claim they have any inherent quality! And that's what it all comes down to--giving away music, or anything else, means that what's most Touching should make its way upward, and its creators should benefit. Those who complain about the trend have always seemed to be the ones with the least flexibility in their careers.

@Wayne - I couldn't agree more with everything you've said here, and I'm so glad you've summed it up so eloquently!

I agree that it seems like a mistake to keep trying to make monetization models of the past work in today's environment. If the big four are unable to function within any other model, then maybe they just don't fit in the music industry of today/the future? I think I'd be okay with that!

STOP GIVING AWAY YOUR MUSIC FOR FREE!

,,,to give an advantage for one who does.

July 5 | Unregistered CommenterVospi

Answering all comments HERE

Some people obviously didn't read the full post. People need to stop looking at free music as a black and white issue. Of course it's perfectly fine to give away free promo copies, but artists giving all their music away for free with no plan in place are missing the point completely. And I believe that is what she's saying...

Ok so I'm confused now... I've read articles that say "give your music away, thats the best way to get new fans." Now here's an article that says "Stop giving your music away, getting new fans is far-fetched". Jeez, but I think I would agree with Mike McCready who left a comment on here he says the article is "bad advice & giving your music away for free is good for achieving mass exposure." That seems to make more sense to me so I will stick with that advice... Google Sounds 4 Da Masses

July 5 | Unregistered CommenterS4DM

Going to wait until part 2, but I'll probably respond to this via a blog post.

"There’s just too much money being spent on an un-guaranteed model."

Name any guaranteed models for music success. There are no guarantees.

"we are entering a stage where the public is becoming too accustomed to free music"

Welcome to 2002. I think we are entering a stage where the public is becoming accustomed to paying for music again via subscription services and cloud-based locker services.

Anyway, I'll hold back until I've read the second post. Can't wait ;-)

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterBas

I agree with most posters - telling musicians not to give away music is like telling the public to go out and find Betamax machines on Ebay.

I could go on and on about that but it's a tired debate - one that's already been said enough.

Having said that - I agree with the part of the post that suggests niche products associated with the music for revenue. I'd even go so far as to suggest that musicians allow an abridged version of albums for free download. Reasons:

1) - it's free
2) - 'kids' are rarely listening to full albums
3) - it allows you to present physical products with niche tracks and other cool stuff, which you might make a few sheckles from. If they like the download album, which should have most of the 'singles' on it, then hopefully they might go on and purchase something.

I don't think everything a musician produces should be free. We've just become accustomed to thinking that way.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterGareth Ebbs

market is completely saturated. lots of talented people out there i think but it's getting harder and harder to get noticed. it's not gonna get any better especially with the growing notion that everything should be given away for free.

The post was a nice effort, but I think there are many different factors that are not being taken into account. Of course most people don't like giving music out for free and would rather have people buy but times and technology are changing. Over the last 10 or 15 years the internet has played a significant role in music. Fans are able to obtain and listen to music that wasn't necessarily available to them. And with so many media outlets artist are able to expose themselves a bit more. As someone had mentioned before, no one is going to pay $10 for an album, by someone they know absolutely nothing about. Artist should have the freedom to make their music free or not. There are many musicians out there who are more concerned with getting their music out their than making an immediate gain. You have to get your foot in the door somehow.

I would go on but enough, this is a debate that will continue to go on. Free music and illegal downloading are not going anywhere for now. It's up to artist to stay current and keep up with today's ever changing industry and technology.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterAA

In response to many comments:
CALL TO INDIE ARTISTS: STOP GIVING AWAY YOUR MUSIC FOR FREE Part 1.5 HERE

I think this article is not very useful and does not resonate with me. Its completely out of touch with today's reality. And judging by the outrageous prices this people charge for their services, you can tell they don' t really understand the new music economy. I think this kind of article does not reflect they way most artists feel.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterChris

As someone who sells CDs live as my primary sounds of revenue other than live performances I can say that there is something broken with the "let's just accept that you have to give it away for free".

No, you don't. I sell $5000 of CDs at $20 a pop at my live shows, each year. The key to this have a steady stream of well-paying live shows. The key is to be really good at what you do (and charge for it) and make the amateurs who play for free and give away their music for free look amateur.

BUT if people want to give away their music, that's fine, let them. You can't stop that, and you can't (at least for now anyways) stop people from illegally downloading music. I do agree that the "give it away before they steal it" is just helping devalue music further in people's mind. (It's not a priviledge to have our music listened to, it's a priviledge for YOU to listen to my music).

However no one is going to stop idiots from doing stupid things business-wise. They think they're getting ahead by giving their music away to get ahead of the next artist trying to emerge. Maybe they are, but what is this whole thing leading to? Musicians becoming hobbyists. The art will suffer as a result.

If anyone wants to lecture me on the long tail and all other BS, go shove it, I make a living from music and I'm very involved in my business.

I'm sorry, I have never read such an ill-informed and wrong-headed article on MusicThinkTank until I just read this. And to include a plug for your own "solution" is treating the more thoughtful amongst us with disdain. This is like discussing America Online circa 1994. Have you noticed who the audience is for music these days? That's right, young people who have grown up with the web, and then everyone else who had to adapt to it.

You apparently don't understand that musicians have adapted to it.

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterDave Allen

Stop giving away your writing for free. How much do you plan to charge readers for the second part of this article?

As an independent musician, you HAVE to give away some of your music for free to build a buzz and an audience for it. However, that doesn't mean you can't sell your music as well. That's one of the seeming paradoxes of free music.

If fans like your music, they will download it for free from your web site and, at the same time, buy your music from iTunes, Amazon or other sites. People like names they trust and convenience.

"Of course, I personally vouch for my own company Music Assistant Now. "

Sorry, I really struggled to keep reading after seeing that.

If your music DOESN'T HAVE ANY DOLLAR VALUE TO START WITH, due to no fault of your own, what are you going to choose - try to sell to noone, or use a resource like the Free Music Archive or netlabels to have HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS (not exaggerated, verefiable figures in my case) of people listen to you while giving them the option to give you donations instead (which I receive). I'm sorry, I'm going to choose option 2. More than anything, I want to be heard.

I struggle also to see the value of the 5 points you've made when I read the likes of the use of the word "condition". I'm sorry, if I'm going to be able to "condition" some behaviour in my fans through not giving my music away for free, then surely they are also being "conditioned" in a vastly superior way than I can achieve by the millions of free songs that are already available to them every day. Also, how do I have more control over my music? If my music is good, and people want it, they will get it for free. That is an indisputable fact now. If it's good enough, you cede control the moment you release something nowadays.

So, to summarise, I agree with folks above who say this is way off the ball and anachronistic, and also this is essentially shilling.

July 7 | Unregistered Commenterjunior85

I miss Bruce.

July 7 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Ugh really music think tank? Really?

July 7 | Unregistered CommenterVoyno

Might I also add - I couldn't write any more until my first comment was approved - I think it's absolutely in keeping with the beyond-ethical approach of this author that he is not answering the questions directly here on this page, but rather cutting and pasting them and answering them on his own website. Says it all, really.

July 7 | Unregistered Commenterjunior85

This is garbage. You think I don't want to sell my album for $15? Of course I'd love to.

No one is buying at that price, no matter how much you "condition" them. For a new/unknown act, there is NO OTHER OPTION than giving it away. And once you're established, there is no better way to maintain a good relationship with your fans than to continue to give them something free from time to time.

I'll tell you what I would LOVE to see. A detailed financial breakdown of exactly what kind of value you bring to the acts that work with you. How much traffic and buzz do you generate? How many additional sales do you bring to the table? What is the bottom line value of YOUR service?

Do you REALLY think that an artist will build a more personal relationship with their fans by having YOUR service answer their fan e-mails and respond to internet comments on their behalf? You've got to be kidding me.

Here's MY call to indie artists: forget about bullshit companies like this one trying to sell you stuff that you don't need. Get out there on your own and build your own personal relationships with your fans. Get a couple of people who are also just starting out to help you with things like publicity and promotion. It's much more rewarding.

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

I also have a reply directly to Mr David Cavan Fraser:

http://www.davidcavanfraser.com/

Amazingly enough, on your own website, there it is. A free download. And if it's any indication of the quality of your music, people who pay $20 for a CD are being ripped off.

Glad you're so super awesome that you can sell 250 CD's a year. You've really hit the big time. In fact, wasn't that you on the cover of Billboard last week?

Get real.

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

Which, by the way, is the whole point of giving away music for free - so people can verify for themselves whether they're being ripped off. The music business for SO LONG ripped people off by putting a hot single on an album and surrounding it with crap. I bought many of those albums. I have that same desire, when someone tells me about an artist I go and find something free to listen to so I know whether or not they are worth my time and money.

Our only choice is to take on the sins of our fathers and make up for it by making GOOD music and doing the work so that people know we are not ripping them off.

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

This wrongheaded post had me thinking so I decided to write my own post in response. It's titled -
Want to Stop the Decline In Music Sales? Then Do This

Let me know if you all agree..

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterDave Allen

I think just about every reader missed the point of the post. I completely understand where the author is comming from. I also bet every commenter is under the age of 25 and doesn't have much knowledge of business101, marketing 101, and music 101. The article was not made to be literal, it was written to help reshape the mind set or mentality of thinking that a free career amounts to a long prosperous and profitable one. I've read every comment and they all sound very defensive as if your freemium business is making you millions. Get reall children and start acting like real musicians who respect and value their work. You can give away your music for free all u want because the value of it is= $0. The music industry has become a complete joke because all of the players are a joke! We can go on for days disscussing this issue but I choose to create great music and sell it for profit...a simple solution. Goodluck to all and I hope the freemium works out for you. Great post!

July 9 | Unregistered Commenterdsherm

Taurean, thanks for responding to all of our responses on your personal FOR PROFIT website. I'm sure it will increase your business. Writing an inflammatory article and dropping your link in it is NOT THE WAY TO PROMOTE, so I'm not taking any business advice from you. I find it funny that you are getting the same response from almost everyone and pointing to random lines in your article to dispute them. Obviously if everyone read it the same way, then there is a flaw in YOUR writing that resulted in you not getting your point across. But alas, that's what you wanted, a reaction - not an understanding.

Someday people that write articles like this will actually have good intentions for musicians at heart instead of attempting to bring attention to themselves. I used to be able to turn to this site for such articles. I hope this kind of shameless self promotion and boombastic prose isn't the future of Music Think Tanks, because that would be unfortunate.

July 9 | Unregistered CommenterNasa

I'll follow on from Nasa and add this little fact from the very top of the tree:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/m​oney/2011/07/05/137530847/​how-much-does-it-cost-to-m​ake-a-hit-song

$1 million to roll out a hit song. Including a lot of budgeting for giving a hell of a lot of things away FOR FREE. In fact, 2/3rds of that budget is free stuff, be it either promo copies, free performances or "nice treatment" for radio content schedulers etc.

I'll echo Nasa also that you've created a fiercely bad buzz for yourself with not only this article but some of the replies you've made in relation to it AND this insistence on replying on your site rather than on the original article. That's madness and you still haven't addressed why you do that.

July 9 | Unregistered Commenterjunior85

Yeah, that last thing ticked me off too and to me is a huge indication of an oldskool mentality and frame. Driving traffic to your own website and not wanted to deal with the non-linear nature of the web. You should participate in your conversations wherever you can. If time permits, but since this is an obvious promo thing, I would guess that it's worth your time.

July 10 | Unregistered CommenterBas Grasmayer

I completely disagree with this!! You have to get people hooked before you charge them and you are completely limiting your fanbase if you charge right off the bat.

I put my debut album up for sale for $3.33 and had maybe 3 people buy it. The next week I put it up for "name your own price" starting at zero and not only did tons of people donate, but then tons of people shared it on their walls and tweeted about it being free. I'm sorry but putting the album up for free has been the best thing I've done for myself.

That being said... go download my music for FREE bandcamp.roniit.com

July 13 | Unregistered CommenterRoniit

Bob (July 5) in a lot of countries radio air play means the copyright owners receive royalty payments.

July 23 | Unregistered Commenter3

(sorry for being late to the party on this comment :-)

No you shouldn't be giving away something of value for free. But it can be a good idea to not charge money for tracks if you're getting non-monetary compensation in return.

A fan's valid email address is a thing of value if I use it well. So I should be willing to pay for that with a song download. Moreover, as an artist starting out what I really need is publicity and recognition. In my situation I need to realize that it's much more to my long-run benefit to have ten thousand people listening to my first EP for free rather than one hundred people paying ten bucks apiece. I should be so lucky as to have the problem of ten thousand free downloads. If you don't believe me, ask Skrillex.

This is common practice in the software industry - we think nothing of getting the "lite" version of a program or app for free, and upgrading to the paid version if we like it. This strategy has long been advocated by venture capitalists, and they are certainly not interested in flushing their investments down the toilet.

Of course I need to be in control of what is free and what isn't: piracy is a cute word for theft. We have somehow let a culture crop up where our "fans" think it's OK to rip off artists because "the artist doesn't get much money anyway, it's all taken by the big mean corporate record company." I think that as artists one thing we need to do is educate and communicate to the fan community that the majority of us are indie these days, and the artists are the ones taking the big financial hit from this casual theft.

I'd like to hear people's ideas on how we can get that message out.

- Tungsten ( the human operators )
http://tungstenbloggen.com

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>