How Artists Can Profit From File Sharing
January 11, 2011
Jim Grobecker in profit

FACT: people download music for free.  

Sean Parker of Napster fame recently stated in an interview, “you look at the data, somewhere between 4 trillion and 10 trillion songs are illegally downloaded every year.  And we’re looking at maybe 4 billion or so legal downloadeds per year.”

Music will always surface on file sharing platforms and consumers will continue to download music for free, but recordings are even more important for artists than ever before.  There is a new purpose for recorded content; artists will no longer generate revenue directly from recordings, instead this will be the entrance point for consumers into the brand.  Great music will generate revenue through merch or ticket purchases, or lead to sponsorships as major brands seek out artists to enhance the value of their own product.  The solution to file sharing is for artists to better manage their recorded music by creating a dedicated landing page on their own website, housing a free album download.

Search Rankings for Landing Pages Defined 

There are many different factors that go into how sites rank on search engines like Google or Bing.  Let’s look at the key ranking factors that build online authority, (online ranking based on amount of links to your site and the quality of those links), to outline the importance of a landing page with free album download:

File Sharing Networks are Commanding Links for Free Downloads 

People are searching for free music online, and right now only the file sharing networks are benefiting. has 6.2M inbound links, has 6.4M, has 2M, has 3.8M (tally another link after these).  Files from these networks are laced with artist and album names; these are keywords that consumers are using to find music online.  Because of this, file sharing sites often rank in the search results for music downloads before an artist’s page.  It just takes one taste to convert music fans to file sharing. 

How to Capitalize with Artist Managed File Sharing 

When an artist creates a dedicated landing page with a free album download, great albums will earn artists inbound links. With more links artists will outrank file sharing sites in the search engines, and ultimately, deter traffic from those networks.  This is artist managed file sharing; it will directly benefit individual artists.  Let’s look at an example: 

Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, released a new record called “All Day,” out 11.15 on Illegal Art.  GT embrased these concepts.  The record was free and hosted on a landing page, resulting in 4 key developments:

1. Girl Talk earned 14,903 inbound links.  These links would have otherwise gone to file sharing platforms.  The GT landing page received links from high authority sources like and, therefore achieving higher rankings in the search results.

2. Huge increases in traffic during the month of release.  Analyzing traffic figures with, the 6 month traffic average between May and October was 3,025 unique visitors.  Traffic jumped to over 211,111 unique visitors for the month of November.   

3. When typing the keywords “Girl Talk download” into Google search, the GT landing page appears in the search results ahead of file sharing networks.  Thus, using a file sharing network becomes pointless.  This is exactly how artists should manage file sharing.

4. Girl Talk social media conversations skyrocketed the week of release.  There was an estimated 18.5M in consumer reach the week of. 11.15.2010 - 11.22.2010 between Facebook and Twitter, up from 15 tweets the previous week.  These mentions developed the brand and encouraged inbound links.

Girl Talk landing page traffic spikes the week of album release

Optimize the Free Download Landing Page 

It’s clear that a free album download will be linked to and will attract new visitors.  An optimized landing page will convert these visitors to customers.  Make the page a better experience than file sharing sites.  Keep in mind that not everyone on a site wants the same thing; visitors are in different stages of the buying cylce.  Some are familiar with the music and brand, others are not.  Think of the buying cycle as a funnel.  Recorded content is at the top of the funnel, and is the entrance into the buying cycle and an artist’s brand.  Once in the funnel, consumers should be guided through to the bottom of the funnel, or a sale.  

First time visitors will want to check out the record.  Offer email newsletter sign-up on site, and social media links (ShareThis has great plugins and customizable buttons).  This will allow consumers to stay in contact with the brand and return to the landing when they are ready to buy.  For those returning visitors who have fallen in love with the music, there is unlimited opportunity to sell merch, tickets, and exclusive packages for super fans.  All of this should be featured on the landing page.  Great music will sell other products.

Lastly, optimize the landing page by targeting specific keywords for search rankings.  Do keyword research with the Google Keyword Tool (make sure it’s on “exact” match).  Think like a potential consumer who is looking for new music when adding keywords to a site.  Try ranking for the keyterm “your artist name Torrent.”  The keyword “Torrent” recieves an average 151M global searches per month; this is how folks are thinking and searching for music online.  

Does selling a record for $9.99 that will show up on file sharing networks anyways outweigh offering it for free on an artist’s site, generating inbound links and higher search results, selling merch and tickets, and developing a strong, lasting online presence?  File sharing has already changed the music landscape - now it’s the artists chance to change the landscape of file sharing.

Jim Grobecker spent nearly 6 years developing artists in the music industry, first at Fontana Distribution, then for Universal Music Group.  Currently he runs an Inbound Marketing and Digital Music Strategy shop based out of Boston, MA.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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