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Giving Away Your Music to create MORE Income Streams


Web 2.0 Strategy - Giving Away Your Music to create more Income Streams

A few weeks back I tweeted an article that I think ALL musicians should read. It was Andrew Dubber's : New Music Strategies - Why give music away for free?

Giving away music for free seems to be a SCARY thing in the music industry these days. Many artists are so in love with what they've created that they couldn't fathom even giving it away for free. The key to wrapping your mind around giving away music is to do it in exchange for something that can benefit you down the road i.e. bribing fans to sign up to your email list with a free mp3.

Andrew Dubber gave a GREAT reason on why giving away your music for free is not a bad thing:

- Don't try to make money from your music, make money BECAUSE of your music

After I posted that tweet I received an AWESOME email that I wanted to share just as a case study of how giving music away for free worked for an independent hip hop group.

My artist management company represents an independent live hip-hop/soul band from Chicago called "Animate Objects." In the past year and a half, the band has won quite a few awards and contests, had a big spread in Billboard, charted on CMJ, was chosen for a bunch of festivals (CMJ, NXNE, etc.), and generally had some success. But all of that was not translating into a solid fanbase. (MySpace friends were in the thousands, but as you know, that site is worthless and those aren't "real" fans.) So we made an easy decision to release the new EP for free in exchange for email addresses.

The EP was made officially available less than a week ago. We have only begun to do some grassroots promo by being very active on Twitter, contacting a few bloggers, emailing college radio stations, posting on some online forums, and sending one email blast to the existing fanbase. We have much more promo to do, but this minimal promo has resulted in us DOUBLING are email list in 6 Days!

Some people might say that we gave up an entire income stream. I disagree - the income stream wasn't there in the first place. Since these economic times are hard, we knew there is no way that people would pay to download an EP. And even if they did, we would never expect this many people to download it so quickly. Giving it away for free is the best decision the band has made in a long time...perhaps in their entire 5-year career.


We now have many more fans to which we can promote gigs, peddle merch and offer even more bonus content. Plus, the band didn't have a street team last Thursday; now we have been forced to create one thanks to all the fans who offered to help promote the band.

Dubber goes on to clarify that this is a business strategy - not a business model. Giving stuff away for free is NOT a business model. You'll find it very hard to make money if all you do is give things away. But equally it's very hard to make money UNLESS you give things away.

So as you can see they are not LOSING an income stream with giving away free mp3's, but actually gaining an income stream with a solid email list of fans.

Cyber PR Urban is Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR's new urban division that handles Hip Hop and R&B as well as urban and urban crossover artists. We connect urban artists to Blogs, Podcasters, Internet Radio Stations, Vlogs, Social Networking sites, and Webzines. Cyber PR Urban's Urban Plug newsletter is a free bi-monthly e-zine for musicians & entrepreneurs who want marketing, promotion and PR tips for navigating the new music business. Sign Up here: Check out past articles at:

Christina Duren started her music career as an intern at Island Def Jam where she spent a year in the Radio and Promotions/Publicity department. At IDJ she worked with Mariah Carey, Rihanna and Ne-Yo. From there she took her first real job at Shore Fire Media working campaigns for The Roots, and Heineken Red Star Soul Tour. Christina now acts as PR Director for Cyber PR and co-founder of Cyber PR Urban.

Reader Comments (5)

That fine distinction between business model and business strategy is what's been going over everyone's head. If you plan to pursue a professional endeavor, you have to make money somewhere. If you play your cards well, you can use the freebees -- a legitimate business strategy in many industries -- to attract fans and grow your business. But you have to have a strategy first -- just blindly giving away your products is, as you said, a suicidal move.

Ari Koinuma

February 11 | Unregistered CommenterAri Koinuma

Hey Christina,

Great post, too many artists and brands alike get stuck on the "business model" development phase. Giving away free products/services is an excellent way to increase your reach and depth of engagement, but will ONLY yield a return if there's a system in place to harvest it.

The key to this is using music as an ancillary item of a larger packaged brand.

The Sports-Entertainment industry is a great example of this. Your favorite NFL team "gives away" it's games for free on your local TV station and/or ESPN every week. It then cleans up on PSL (season ticket holders), game by game tickets, jersey & merchandise sales, and not to mention Sponsorships/Endorsements (this is a whole other topic of discussion in terms of creating Ad Revenue and Sponsorships around Music).

There are many many different available Income Streams for musicians. I believe the key is thinking "outside the box". Actually, there should be no "box" to limit our thinking in this Information Age.

Music should be a PART of an entertainment business model, not "the" model itself.

~ Jamal and Jasmine Rose

Un World Life - Artists, Activist, Altruists and Everyone else Disgusted or Left Out by the Mainstream

Yes I agree with you both!

the freebies is just to get them IN your marketing funnel and from their your able to move them further down the money stream!

While I do agree with giving music away in exchange for an email address, I have to disagree with comparing it to the NFL. While the games aired on TV are "free" to the end user (fans), the NFL still makes a LOT of money for the games that are aired on TV. The individual networks bid for the rights to air the games. I believe the NFL actually makes more revenue from TV deals then they do from ticket sales!

The point is that nothing is really "free". We just need to re-evaluate what exactly "free" is. In this case, in the long run an email address my be more valuable then the $10 you would normally charge for the CD.

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterTim

We are an independent record label not a big bad corporation out to sue you for file sharing, we WANT you to spread our music around.
With such an overcrowded market place giving away your music is essential in my opinion. The biggest problem for emerging indie artists today is obscurity, not piracy. To find out more listen to The Antiqcool Podcast .

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterPete Smith

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