Chris

"Free" and the future of indie music

For the past few weeks, Hypebot (a great blog for musicians) has been soliciting feedback from industry people about the idea of giving music away free. He asked me to contribute to the thread. You can find my post here.

It is definitely a controversial topic. One thing is for sure, free music is not going away, so having a strategy to use "free" effectively should be something all musicians are thinking about.

Here are some links to insightful posts about "free" and the future of music.

What do you think? How does "free" fit into your band's strategy?

Posted by Chris on 04/02/2009 | 59 comments

Comments

Racecar
Posted by Racecar on Apr 3 2009 1:47 AM
It's an important consideration. I just lowered the payment to $0.00 on some songs. There's a point where the music simply has to be heard, played and enjoyed by ears. I will be changing the download option on BZ and Racecar's MySpace. It's just so competative out there...
jennifergrassman.com
Posted by jennifergrassman.com on Apr 2 2009 9:34 PM
BRILLIANT Chris! I love the Bob Lefsetz Letter especially. He's great. I'm working on a new album to release this summer called Serpents' Tales & Nightingales, so this post is very timely in regard to me planning my marketing strategies (o: Jennifer
rodeobeatmachine.bandzoogle.com
Posted by rodeobeatmachine.bandzoogle.com on Apr 2 2009 10:08 PM
This world we live in is supposedly free, so should music . All my music is Free !!
Woolly Mammoth Productions
Posted by Woolly Mammoth Productions on Apr 2 2009 10:20 PM
Well it seems like you have to connect first then sell second. If your stuff is really good then people will pay something for it. Give it away, ask for a tip. Thats about all you can ask for now.
therisinghedons.bandzoogle.com
Posted by therisinghedons.bandzoogle.com on Apr 3 2009 1:14 AM
Thanks Chris! I've been thinking a lot about these issues lately.
RACECAR
Posted by RACECAR on Apr 3 2009 1:47 AM
It's an important consideration. I just lowered the payment to $0.00 on some songs. There's a point where the music simply has to be heard, played and enjoyed by ears. I will be changing the download option on BZ and Racecar's MySpace. It's just so competative out there...
AYENTEE.COM
Posted by AYENTEE.COM on Apr 3 2009 4:08 AM
i did the free thing for 2 years. and while its nice to be able to feel like youre reaching new people who wouldnt have heard of you otherwise, the fact is i saw a decrease in my fanbase due to giving away music. i dont know if the general public is ready for truly free music. part of the allure of downloading someone's album illegally is that you are getting something for free that other people have to pay for. I noticed that when fans found out that anyone could download my albums, it made them less appealing. its a strange phenomenon in our capitalist society. charging for a product actually adds value to the product in the consumers eyes. So now i charge officially, but still do give aways to gain new fans. only way to go in my opinion
Freelife Media Group
Posted by Freelife Media Group on Apr 3 2009 4:39 AM
I'll never understand this. I know it's a reality but it's still so strange to me; the concept of giving something away that someone works so hard to make. Music is our skill, our contribution to society. I don't think we should give in so quickly to the notion that we just have to give our 'product' away. Would an architect just give his design for a building away? Would an author just pass out all his books for free? How are we and our talents any different? This is a major dilemma of our modern society: the lessening in value of art and what artists contribute. If art is truly value-less then what have we come to?
junkyardgroove
Posted by junkyardgroove on Apr 3 2009 5:41 AM
I just think you need to put your music out there and give out some songs free but still have cd's up for sale. Like what corey smith does. If you have a strong fan base like 1000 true fans you can make money off selling music. Another thing is to have an in credible live show and connect with people. Its simple if you good enough people will buy your music. :)
The Rhythm
Posted by The Rhythm on Apr 3 2009 6:02 AM
I had this exact discussion with Bill Botrell, who's produced Sheryl Crow among others. What it ultimately comes down to is this: It takes time and work to write,play,record,mix and master good quality music. Musicians have to master the crafts of singing,playing and writing. This takes years. If all music is free, the best musicians have no incentive to make music for an audience. Why bother? If all music is free, you don't know if anyone truly likes your stuff,do you? Thus the quality and amount of music will gradually diminish under the 'music should be free' philosophy. As it becomes harder to find good music,the value increases!Meanwhile the reality has always been,is now,and always will be that people will pay for good music,whether live or recorded.
kellypettit.com
Posted by kellypettit.com on Apr 3 2009 6:14 AM
Such a difficult subject. Sadly, the majority of musicians fall in the lines of mediocrity and are a dime a dozen. Most of us do music because we absolutely love it. We invest our hard earned cash and thousands of hours and our emotions into finally releasing a CD. Many athletes, painters, and writers have equally invested into their dream and have fallen short. But realistically, only a handful of people in any field are really excellent. Should consumers pay for mediocrity? Some will find what we do amazing but unless you are truly gifted (and I hope you have some artist in mind when I say truly gifted), you must find ways to get your music out to the world. In some ways it's a game of numbers. It's been a marketing strategy for years. Only a very small percent of the people you reach will be willing to invest their time in you. So, how do you get your music to everone? That's the secret in my opinion. Whether your music is free or sometimes free, or never free. Are you working it? Are you trying to reach the world or are you building a fan base in your community first? Do you have some loyal fans helping? Other merchandise? Are you performing regularly? Because if you're hoping someone that doesn't know anything about you will stumble across your music on the net and buy it, then times will be tough. This subject is not an easy one. I think for most mediocre musicians, music will not be more than a hobby. But true talent will still make a great living. Unfortunately some of us are legends in our own minds. Kind of like the early cuts on American Idol that had their parents tell them their whole lives they are brilliant LOL. The good news is that there has never been a better time to be independent if you have the skill because we can touch anyone in the world now. That's my two cents worth anyways. Good luck to all of us in the future. :D
4AR.BIZ
Posted by 4AR.BIZ on Apr 3 2009 4:49 PM
Everyone has great points!! it can go either way. I feel if you are just starting out with no fans, giving it away is a must! You have to create a demand for your music! But once have developed a "brand" of your sound, the people will be more willing to spend because they know you have great product. Currently my music is free as promo tools at different events to build up my fan base in other markets or regions. Supply and demand!! Peace
Highway Jackson
Posted by Highway Jackson on Apr 3 2009 5:51 PM
It's all about building a solid band-to-fan relationship. It's about USING your free tracks to help produce future sales. So many artists put out free tracks just to put out free tracks. You've got to capitalize on, and create value for your free track so it'll turn into revenue further down the line. It's like filling the pipe-line in sales. Check out this awesome article from Music Think Tank titled, "Creating your Marketing Funnel". http://www.musicthinktank.com/mtt-open/2009/3/8/creating-your-marketing-funnel.html
Katie Pearlman
Posted by Katie Pearlman on Apr 3 2009 9:57 PM
I give away our live shows for free and my studio album is for sale on my site and iTunes because I spent a lot of money to make that album. Plus, CD sales at shows help me make a living doing this. If musicians didn't give their music away, then people would buy it. Let people sample your music.
GRINDCITY ENT.
Posted by GRINDCITY ENT. on Apr 3 2009 10:01 PM
We let our fans download music for free,let them see you hot and you worth them spending there hard earned money on you.Thats the way to do it!!! Check out our website!
Carrie Armitage
Posted by Carrie Armitage on Apr 3 2009 10:47 PM
Here's my perspective. It's a scary thought for sure, that we would give our work away for free. But let's consider how music was showcased pre-internet - AIRPLAY. As it is today, airplay was available to the consumer for free, so they could 'try' music all day every day without purchasing anything. If they really liked what they heard (or thought it was cool to like what they heard) they would then purchase the single, album, merchandise, concert ticket etc. Achieving international airplay was nearly out of reach for most. As indie artists, our web sites are the airplay, and it's international. This is an enormous improvement - how easily we can publish and market ourselves today, at minimal cost. Our ingenuity is what gets us to the next level where we're making money. That is all about getting people invested in your brand/message/image enough to want to invest in it. We can't expect them to want to pay up front, no matter how good we think we are or how much we've spent - remember, it is our dream - not theirs. Our MP3s are the postcard version of our songs and post cards are a great way to spread the word. At some point, we want them to return to the source. It's up to the artist to make it interesting enough to make that happen. If it's interesting enough, and you're easy to find (BandZoogle & Google take care of this for us) - you have a win-win.
The Rhythm
Posted by The Rhythm on Apr 4 2009 12:53 AM
Carrie hits it out of the park with that analysis!:agree:
Carrie Armitage
Posted by Carrie Armitage on Apr 4 2009 1:13 AM
And of course, it's important you have some enticing things for sale when your fan comes seeking you out. [quote="therhythmmethod"]Carrie hits it out of the park with that analysis!:agree:[/quote] Not necessarily a popular opinion Steve, or easy conclusion to come to. It's a personal choice all artists need to make.
David Lydon
Posted by David Lydon on Apr 4 2009 5:31 PM
Its quite hard to see musicians use words like brand/merch and all that stuff. Not that those things aren't part of the music business. I just think if thats your bag then go ahead. But if its not then dont. Because who's to say its going to work anyway. You could give your songs away for free and maybe one or two people could download them, or maybe a thousand. And maybe you get the same results by putting a fixed or variable price on them. But if you've betrayed something in yourself to give them away for free, and very few people download them, where does that leave you?
Lunar Song Studios
Posted by Lunar Song Studios on Apr 5 2009 5:11 AM
[quote="davidlydonmusic"] "who's to say its going to work anyway. You could give your songs away for free and maybe one or two people could download them, or maybe a thousand. And maybe you get the same results by putting a fixed or variable price on them. But if you've betrayed something in yourself to give them away for free, and very few people download them, where does that leave you? [/quote] I couldn't agree more. What I found to be the most help over the years is to spend a lot of time visiting the websites of other successful bands, and watch how they market themselves before a CD release or start of a major tour. Many bands will stream their whole album for a short time in the immediate weeks before the CD release and end the free streaming the day of the CD release. This way, people get to hear the songs all they want for a couple of weeks, and those who like what they heard will rush to buy the CD as soon as they can't hear it for free anymore. I had HUGE success just a few weeks ago, sending a message to all of my mailing list members, and posting a notice on my webpage that for a period of one week they could get a free download of a "pre-mastered" song from my upcoming CD. I gave them a definite expiry date on the offer for a free song. It worked wonders!
G-Major
Posted by G-Major on Apr 5 2009 9:25 AM
Here is my 2 cents worth Its not about being the greatest and most talented artist. Music is emotion. Is your music felt in the heart and soul. Are you feeling the music. Why do you play. Lets find a middle ground and make it affordable. I give away alot of our cds. Buy if you can, if not i'll give em to ya. There has to be a perceived value also. Years ago a test was done in NYC a car was advertised for sale at 500 bucks hardly any interest it was raised to a thousand bucks and the phone rang off the hook. Where is that middle ground? Only the shadow knows!!Its the love of music. If we can cover costs we are happy. Will we ever make it anywhere? Its a definate maybe. If not we get to continue our affair with music until we die. Hope and dreams are the oil of life.
Woolly Mammoth Productions
Posted by Woolly Mammoth Productions on Apr 5 2009 12:36 PM
One thing is that the public also expects you to give away your music for free. Give away your music for free then maybe people will tip you for the reason that you gave away your music for free.
Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist
Posted by Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist on Apr 5 2009 5:43 PM
I agree with Carrie that the Internet provides us with the international 'airplay' that would not have been available to most of us in the pre-Internet days. That said, I'm all for streaming music but I have recently concluded that it is a mistake to give away downloads, at least excessively. Perhaps it's a good idea to reward people on your mailing list with a free download once in a while to say thanks for support, but I have decided that it does not serve my interests to give my music away. I agree that folks will attach a value to your music equal to what it takes to get your music. As a musician I have spent many years -- a lifetime -- writing music and trying to be a better musician today than I was yesterday. My musical achievements haven't come cheap -- I certainly would be much better off financially if I'd stayed in the corporate world instead of abandoning that for being a freelance writer and singer-songwriter. And my desire to grow daily as a musician requires hard work, albeit enjoyable. I've tried the free music thing, but it never really felt right - I always felt like I was doing the equivalent of saying "I can't sell my music but I'm desperate for you to hear it, so please, take it. It's not worth much so you can just have it for free." My overall position is this: If you give away your music, you'll get no immediate monetary reward for your work. If you don't give away your music and nobody buys it, you'll get no immediate monetary reward for your work. In both cases, lack of sales is a barometer that there's a problem. That problem is that you're not reaching your market. I don't think it's prudent to react to this problem by giving away your goods, because it doesn't solve your problem. Look at it this way: Do you believe that in all the world there are 1,000 people connected to the Internet somewhere who would buy your music if they knew about it? 2,500 people? 20,000 people? Instead of giving away my work, I have been giving some real thought to who those people are out there who I believe would buy my music, and how to reach them. As you try different forms of one-to-one online marketing, shows, networking, etc., streaming will let folks sample your music without you giving it away excessively. When you start to reach the right people, the sales barometer will speak. How to reach those people? Depends on the artist. Most musicians I know are on MySpace and Facebook, but how many potential buyers are we missing if we focus too much on social networking? There are shows, press releases to newspapers, phone calls, radio interviews, street teams, and other tactics - what combination of these tactics to use depends on the artist's target market. One last thing - a friend of mine, Rupert Wates (http://myspace.com/rupertwates), and I have done a couple of shows together recently. He tours quite extensively, and I noticed that he sells his CDs at live shows for only $5 each. I'd been at $8-$10 and was having limited success selling CDs at shows. Lately I've dropped my price to $5 and I have seen a big difference in sales. Just food for thought. As the paradigm has shifted in the music business (and still shifts) these points represent the thinking behind my strategy as an indie artist today. I hope my input here helps you as much as the other posts here have helped me. Best of luck, -DT
Carrie Armitage
Posted by Carrie Armitage on Apr 5 2009 8:34 PM
I find myself wondering about this: If I am giving away MP3s for free, my postcards to the world of my original music, am I sabotaging another independent artist's ability to sell theirs? I would not undercut a fellow piano player on a gig - is it the same principle? Should we be looking at this more from a sense of our community and what strengthens it? A worthy discussion.
Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist
Posted by Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist on Apr 5 2009 9:56 PM
[quote="carriearmitage"]I find myself wondering about this: If I am giving away MP3s for free, my postcards to the world of my original music, am I sabotaging another independent artist's ability to sell theirs? I would not undercut a fellow piano player on a gig - is it the same principle? Should we be looking at this more from a sense of our community and what strengthens it? A worthy discussion.[/quote] I think this whole discussion about free music is a discussion about a moving target, an industry in flux. The question everyone should ask is: Do I want to earn my living as a musician? If the answer is yes, then as a professional you will need to figure out how to derive an income from it under current market conditions. Doing anything -- whether it's giving away MP3s or selling CDs or playing gigs -- should be done with a clear business objective. Simply giving away MP3s in a loose hope that this action will somehow drive future sales, and because free music is "what everybody's doing now" isn't going to work unless you're just in the right place at the right time, which goes back to how the music business used to work for most artists. The fact is that we have so many tools today, available with just small investments of money, to create and internationally distribute our music, and I do believe that applying sound principles of business and human relations can help us earn our living as independent musicians. If giving away your music or playing free are tactics as part of a sound business strategy (or if you're doing these things because you don't care whether or not you make any money), I'd say go for it. And to those who would say such business considerations get in the way of being a true artist, I will argue that having sound business principles and being faithful to one's artistic integrity are not mutually exclusive.
Woolly Mammoth Productions
Posted by Woolly Mammoth Productions on Apr 5 2009 10:49 PM
Basically giving your music away for free becomes a race to the bottom. I feel that you have no choice but to give your music away for free. Somewhere a monetary standard needs to be set and everybody has to be onboard.
Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist
Posted by Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist on Apr 5 2009 11:03 PM
[quote="causeruckus"]Basically giving your music away for free becomes a race to the bottom. I feel that you have no choice but to give your music away for free. Somewhere a monetary standard needs to be set and everybody has to be onboard.[/quote] You do have a choice. If you're giving your music away because you feel you have no choice, you succumb to a defeatist point of view. If you're giving your music away because you want to, you're in charge. Don't give in to any perceived "have-tos" as these are driven by emotion and desire and not pragmatism.
Woolly Mammoth Productions
Posted by Woolly Mammoth Productions on Apr 5 2009 11:30 PM
You can do whatever you want. But at the end of the day. The artist that gives away their music is going to get way more exposure and oddly enough more sales than the artists who don't.
KERI McINERNEY
Posted by KERI McINERNEY on Apr 6 2009 12:49 AM
Even before digital mp3's, the first record company supplied with with 500 promo copies for distribution to movers and groovers in the industry. And of course these were FREE giveaways. This allowed me to get much more airplay and created an interest from radio personel and the media with reviews..which I could then utilise to acquire sales. Its tough as an indy to give stuff away free,but you need to allocate free promo gives as part of your marketing budget. It is a major benefit and seriously, its tax deductible. Doesn't matter if you are an indy or a record company signed artist, if you don't have a marketing plan in place and working towards a goal, you are wasting your time. To compete you need a professional outlook and plan of attack. A good marketing campaign will always benefit your music and your future career, and Free giveaways are a part of that.
sunburstrecords.bandzoogle.com
Posted by sunburstrecords.bandzoogle.com on Apr 6 2009 3:48 AM
In the beginning there was darkness because there was no music. Then the first note was heard and light appeared. The two albums I've produced to date have cost me over $20,000 and I know I'm still in the hole. That cost doesn't include the hard knocks life experience that gave me the material to write those songs. I've spent years developing my craft so that I can present a valuable product to the public. I've educated myself through books, conferences, college courses, online resources and live performance on the job training. If I had chosen to go to school to be an engineer no one in their right mind would even think twice about asking me to work for them for free. As a new engineer graduate I would, of course, have to pay my dues by building up work experience references for my resume. A musician has to build up their press kit too and just like the Engineers blueprints I would expect to be paid for my songs or jobs. How is being a musician any different? Perhaps free products can be part of my marketing plan, but free forever would never put any food on my table. Music isn't a hobby for me. The line has been blurred by corporate industries who have millions to burn on promo budgets. These corporations have screwed themselves with their carbon copy minute made mediocre artists and have saturated the markets with trash that people are sick of paying for. They have inflated the value of the artists that actually make GREAT music. I know where I stand and people respect that stance and they buy my songs. Let the fools give away all the free cookie cutter songs they want and before long all of those work for hire songwriters and artists will be wondering why they are out of a job. Peace!
KERI McINERNEY
Posted by KERI McINERNEY on Apr 6 2009 4:02 AM
I don't think you need to give your music away non stop...you need to sell...so put that in place with distribution. Every project you do should have free gives in your marketing plan. Once that is done...no more thats the way to deal it.
HETH AND JED
Posted by HETH AND JED on Apr 6 2009 4:34 AM
I'll give away my music for free when they start giving food and cars and air conditioners and all other "goods" away for free.
KERI McINERNEY
Posted by KERI McINERNEY on Apr 6 2009 5:00 AM
:-)
rodeobeatmachine.bandzoogle.com
Posted by rodeobeatmachine.bandzoogle.com on Apr 6 2009 10:38 AM
Ok i have been striving to get people to listen and find out who i am and what i do, Firstly when i put my tunes up as pay per download i would get one or two downloads a month. Now since i put up my music up for free i have had record amounts of downloads in recent times. So my advice as a fellow musician to those emerging as new artists/bands is to promote the music as free, as to be honest if no one knows who you are you need to attract as much attention as possible initially. Then and if people like your stuff start putting up a few tracks (maybe your best) as 'pay per download' or 'fan choose price'. :D
Carrie Armitage
Posted by Carrie Armitage on Apr 6 2009 2:29 PM
I think we need to delineate between being a musician and being an artist. I charge to play, teach, consult, compose for film/tv, arrange, produce, etc. My father had an orchestra and a music school and made his living with music. There is a difference between being a professional musician and being an original artist. As a musician we have rate scales that unions have put into place (mind you rates have not gone up much since the 50s but they are there as some kind of protection and to level the playing field somewhat). As an artist - well, we have to find our audience. My business has increased since I've started working on my 'it's up to us...' project, but not because I'm selling MP3s - because I'm putting myself out there after a period of hiding under a rock. And like rodeo beat machine, people are downloading the MP3s on my site for free. When the project is complete, I will be selling CDs. If my project is successful, I will break even. I don't think anyone is suggesting that musicians should work for free - when their work is being commissioned and sought after, but if no one is asking you where they can go to buy your work, you don't have much of a business to begin with. That's where the ingenuity needs to kick in if you're hoping to be a full time viable original artist.
Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist
Posted by Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist on Apr 6 2009 3:04 PM
Again, I think that it's wise to have free music streaming from your site (and from MySpace and other sites if desired), but I believe it prudent to be careful and selective about giving away MP3s. I believe it is important to receive something of value in return for an MP3, even if it's just a mailing list signup. This is my position now, although it may change, as every day I gain experience and learning something new about this ever-changing music business. Also, I agree with Carrie Armitage that there's a difference between musicians for hire (session players, teachers, orchestra members, house cover bands, etc.) and original artists. Musicians for hire have an array of services that they provide for fees, while original artists have a mixture of products (CDs, MP3s, merch) and services (shows), although shows can be seen as purely a promotional opportunity, making fees for live performance optional, I suppose. Having said that, if an original artist brings in a crowd to a venue and that venue earns a profit on beer and food sales, etc., then the original artist deserves a share of that profit. The bottom line is, if you provide value to a person or a business, then you should be proactive and ask to be compensated for it in return. Making sound business decisions can be hard when it comes to selling one's art, because the art is so tied to your heart. The other thing that I've realized lately about all of this is that it's easy today, given so many technological tools for marketing ourselves, that these tools can consume far too much time and take away from playing and practicing. I'm trying to compartmentalize a little more these days so I don't whittle away too much valuable time that would be better spent practicing or songwriting. And by the way, I so appreciate this thread because by posting here I'm sort of thinking out loud and it's helping me think through my strategies - so thanks to everyone for giving me so much food for thought. :)
Big Blue X
Posted by Big Blue X on Apr 6 2009 4:51 PM
You get what you pay for. My dad gave his old car away free, it was a piece of crap, he would of payed someone to tow it. There may come a time when labels pay web sites to give away their music for free (actually they are esentially doing this today it's called advertising on iTunes and Myspace), which is no different than what goes on with radio (it's called radio promo)... in hopes of up-selling more tracks, DVDs etc. End result is unless you have tons of $$ to pay for promo/advertising or you are simply excellent (viruly good), then you'll be a starving artist. We're planning on ignoring the business side to our detriment, because we're happy just to write songs and drink beer. And everything else is just more beer money. There is always www.SellaBand.com if you want to sell your soul. Cheers, - Carl
HYPNOPILOT
Posted by HYPNOPILOT on Apr 6 2009 5:48 PM
You will likely hate me for saying this... We currently do not give our music away free, however, we did when we started and it is the reason we have a name at all out there on the net. We're considering giving away our next recording free AND we have lowered our CD prices. Why? Because when I'm 60+ yrs old I don't want my CD's used around my house as coasters at tea time, because I wouldn't budge on the price, or I over-estimated my product's value to the public. The basic fact of the matter is whether you do this to earn a living or you do it for a hobby, you are in direct competition with eachother. I don't tour, I don't play a lot of shows.... I work a day job and when time permits, rock out and record it. I like the idea that people listen to it. So THAT is my incentive for doing that for an audience. Do I want the trouble and nonsense of production quality not being good enough? The trouble of music being pirated at my expense? The production costs? The distribution costs? The tax implications of running a small business? No, I'm mainly a hobby musician. It's for the music. I want to make music and I want people to hear it. So in the end it's about how "good" and "well received" your music is....that will decide whether you have food on the table or not. If you don't have food on the table you can chock it down to either A)All the musicians care more about making good music and giving it away free, than trying to make money like I am or B)Maybe I had better find a more secure line of work, and do music because I love music. Sorry but thats how I see it. If my giving an album away for free bothers you...thats a clear indicator that you're not getting the sales you want or feel you deserve, and you have possibly overestimated what your time, talent and money is worth to someone else. I'm not going to charge money for an album, just because this is what you do for work. I'll charge money to recoop costs, or I'll give it away free. Choice is mine. =o)
Carrie Armitage
Posted by Carrie Armitage on Apr 6 2009 10:11 PM
No Hypnopilot, we don't hate you. I think we all kind of feel for each other and understand each others point of view. Thanks to Dave, Keri, Steve and all the others who have made great points. Like Dave has said, it gives us all food for thought. I had thought I was pretty clear on this in my mind, but I'm not. I'm switching to streaming until I figure it out : )
The Rhythm
Posted by The Rhythm on Apr 6 2009 11:53 PM
As Carrie has said, and it's a great point, your music is your business whether you're doing it full time for a living or part time for beer money or just for a little recognition. If you don't have an audience, you don't have much of a business. There are as many ways to promote yourself as there are musicians probably! Networking and cross-promotion with other musicians, maintaining a mailing/email list, building contacts on a local, regional, national and/or international level with radio and TV producers, publishers, promoters etc. One of the best ways that I've found to build value as a musician is to make your listeners feel special. It's not that hard to do, just talk to them. At gigs, thank them for coming out and ask them a little bit about themselves. People love to talk about themselves, and they will appreciate that you, a MUSICIAN, are interested in THEM! INVITE them to join your mailing list or email list. I'm amazed at the musicians who wait for someone to ask them where they'll be playing next, or if they have tee shirts or CDs that they can buy. Don't wait for them to ask. Tell them upfront that you appreciate them, you'd love to add them to your newsletter, you have merchandise available if they want to buy it etc. Then if they ask you how much your CD is, tell them the CD is free if they buy a tee shirt(or vice versa)). If they buy a CD, give them a poster. If they buy a tee shirt, give them a CD. Sign it for them with a little note along the lines of "Carrie, thanks for all your support!'. They feel connected to you that way and you can literally add all your fans to your street team!
Woolly Mammoth Productions
Posted by Woolly Mammoth Productions on Apr 7 2009 3:19 PM
I also find that the more interesting the merch you sell the more people want to buy it. Just like if your band had its own brand of beer.:)
HYPNOPILOT
Posted by HYPNOPILOT on Apr 7 2009 8:38 PM
I thought you were from Calgary John?
Shred Lords
Posted by Shred Lords on Apr 8 2009 1:25 AM
Giving away your music is basically saying to the world"Hey I don't value this so why should you"
Woolly Mammoth Productions
Posted by Woolly Mammoth Productions on Apr 8 2009 3:11 AM
[quote="hypnopilot"]I thought you were from Calgary John?[/quote] I moved to Toronto. :P
Bobby Rivera
Posted by Bobby Rivera on Apr 10 2009 3:23 AM
the rhythm said "If all music is free, you don't know if anyone truly likes your stuff,do you? Thus the quality and amount of music will gradually diminish under the 'music should be free' philosophy. As it becomes harder to find good music,the value increases!Meanwhile the reality has always been,is now,and always will be that people will pay for good music,whether live or recorded." I agree with this 100%. I think this can have another downside as well. We had (and still do have) some bands in my city that would play any show for free. They ended up getting lots of the good exposure opening gigs because the club owners didn't want to pay an opening band. When folks came to see the national acts, they though that these crappy local bands where what the local music scene had to offer. I know this for a fact because I spoke with many folks who were new to whatever band I happened to be in at the time, and they said things like "you guys are good, you must be from out of town". When I asked them why they would say this, the would reply with things like "well, I saw -insert national artists here- and the local openers were all really bad. Point being, that anything free is generally pretty crummy. When folks get used to not paying, they will seek out free music-not necessarily good music. I think it diminishes everyone. A couple free tracks once in a while is OK (for ex.-maybe a "new album preview track" to pique interest in a new release), but if that's the only way people are willing to obtain your material, then I think you have some thinking to do about your musical aspirations. Instead of giving away free music, try submitting to Padcasts, internet radio, college stations, etc. If its good and you do your groundwork (i.e. contacting DJ's via email, submitting to the proper genre shows, etc) it will get played and you will get exposure- far better (and more real) exposure than just giving away your tracks. As Metalgodclassifieds said "Giving away your music is basically saying to the world"Hey I don't value this so why should you"
Tci
Posted by Tci on Apr 10 2009 9:58 PM
Remember how back in the day (60s, 70s, when rock'n'roll was really coming into its own), the purchasing of an album was really a big experience in and of itself? You'd get the album art, the liner notes, the lyrics, the weird random stories and such. You didn't just buy the CD, put it in your CD wallet and toss the case away. In order to keep people BUYING recorded music in the digital age, buying an album is going to have to be an experience, not just a means of acquiring the music. Bands are going to have to start offering extras, and making the hard copy of the album something that really stands apart from the downloaded mp3 file in its own right. I can't remember who posted this, but it is a few posts up, and along the lines of "Giving away music says 'We don't value this, why should you?'" The thing is, value is a subjective thing. I sure value my band's music (because it is awesome :D), but there's no law of nature that says everyone has to value it to the same extent I do. I value it highly because I have a lot invested in it emotionally, physically and creatively. The listener will value it based on its entertainment value, which will necessarily be less than what I've invested into it, because for the average listener it won't be the same sort of personal experience. Add to this the fact that recorded music is no longer scarce, and you cannot expect people to pay for access to the recorded music for much longer. If a resource is infinite (like recorded music, recorded movies, pretty much digital anything), its value will be zero (in terms of what resources people will be wiling to exchange for it). Like if we had infinite bread, bread would not cost anything because it would take no effort to procure it. These factors pretty much have relegated recorded music to promotional tool status. In order to sell an album, your album will have to be more than just music, it will have to be something that people value, and thus you'll have to put more effort into it than just slapping some cover art on the front and credits on the back.
Highway Jackson
Posted by Highway Jackson on Apr 11 2009 1:51 PM
[quote="therhythmmethod"]As Carrie has said, and it's a great point, your music is your business whether you're doing it full time for a living or part time for beer money or just for a little recognition. If you don't have an audience, you don't have much of a business. There are as many ways to promote yourself as there are musicians probably! Networking and cross-promotion with other musicians, maintaining a mailing/email list, building contacts on a local, regional, national and/or international level with radio and TV producers, publishers, promoters etc. One of the best ways that I've found to build value as a musician is to make your listeners feel special. It's not that hard to do, just talk to them. At gigs, thank them for coming out and ask them a little bit about themselves. People love to talk about themselves, and they will appreciate that you, a MUSICIAN, are interested in THEM! INVITE them to join your mailing list or email list. I'm amazed at the musicians who wait for someone to ask them where they'll be playing next, or if they have tee shirts or CDs that they can buy. Don't wait for them to ask. Tell them upfront that you appreciate them, you'd love to add them to your newsletter, you have merchandise available if they want to buy it etc. Then if they ask you how much your CD is, tell them the CD is free if they buy a tee shirt(or vice versa)). If they buy a CD, give them a poster. If they buy a tee shirt, give them a CD. Sign it for them with a little note along the lines of "Carrie, thanks for all your support!'. They feel connected to you that way and you can literally add all your fans to your street team![/quote] So they say, "You used to tour to support your album, now you put out an album to support your tour." We figured out some time back that we weren't going to break even on our record purely through CD sales...in fact, not even close. We did the whole CD release thing, put up a bunch of radio spots, did some web advertising, etc. When tickets went on sale(through a local ticket outlet) the show sold out within 2 weeks. All over the advertising we let everyone know that if you came to the show, you got the album free. The whole thing. Not a sample, not a song, but the entire album artwork and all. We also bought 2 iPods that we loaded with rareties, demos, our albums, and anything else cool we could find related to the band and gave one away on a radio station and reserved the other for the release party. If you bought a t-shirt for $10 you were automatically entered to win the iPod. We have a merch girl who rocks, and we also have a mailing list girl who goes around the club asking people to sign up for the mailing list. After the show every single person who signed up for the mailing list (and there were a ton!) got a personalized email from myself thanking them for coming to the show, and thanking them for taking the time to sign up for the mailing list and actually reading the emails. I give out my personal email and make sure they know they can email me whenever they want. I was in Florida last month as well and drove 45 min to meet up with a fan of ours who's been loyal from the beginning, and I gave him the album for free. So anyway what's the point? 2 weeks later, after giving away 250 copies of the album at the release party, we're the #6 top selling artist at the local music store chain Bullmoose Music. Top SELLING. For my band, and I don't know if this would work for everyone, it's about the BAND. Not just the music. We worship our fans, not the other way around. A show is an experience, an album is an experience. We make sure the fans know how much we appreciate them and in turn they make sure we know how much they appreciate us. You can get our album online as "pay what you want"...the last person to buy it payed double the price that you could buy it in the store. I think that's living testiment that what The Rhythm said is true, and done correctly can work wonders.
Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist
Posted by Dave Turner singer-songwriter and pianist on Apr 11 2009 3:09 PM
[quote="highwayjackson"] After the show every single person who signed up for the mailing list (and there were a ton!) got a personalized email from myself thanking them for coming to the show, and thanking them for taking the time to sign up for the mailing list and actually reading the emails. I give out my personal email and make sure they know they can email me whenever they want. I was in Florida last month as well and drove 45 min to meet up with a fan of ours who's been loyal from the beginning, and I gave him the album for free. [/quote] A long time ago my dad gave me a copy of Dale Carnegie's book How To Win Friends And Influence People. I knew some guys in college who scoffed at the book when they were required to read it as part of a sales class at the University of SC College of Business Administration. But while it was written in the 1930s and can come across as corny and dated in its presentation, Highway Jackson provides yet another example that even in this age of advanced technology, the fundamentals of one-to-one human relations presented by good old Mr. Carnegie still work.
Alice Sweet Alice
Posted by Alice Sweet Alice on Apr 12 2009 2:10 AM
There are SUCH excellent points here on both sides. Myself, I feel "dirty" when I give away my music. I feel a little resentful. So you know what I do? I don't do it. Frankly, there are still people out there that WILL buy music. It us up to us to find them. Now, I'm all for giving away promo copies of things. That's just par for the course. That's just DONE. But I give them to people that can help me, and in return, I do promo for them. These are DJ's on the internet, whom I then help promo through our label and band sites. A "scratching back" relationship. Just like in the old days. It used to work then, and it works even better now. That having been said, sure, we've sold SOME physical product and MP3's, but not nearly enough to quit our day jobs. So what do we do? Keep clocking in during the day, keep our creative juices flowing afterwards, and then build and maintain industry friendships. We won't be giving away our music, but we won't be charging an arm and a leg for it either. Frankly, if we can BREAK EVEN — I'll be happier than a clam. That's sorta my objective. Anything else will be gravy. ;)
G-Major
Posted by G-Major on Apr 12 2009 2:32 AM
Check out the movie"give them the pickle" Lots of wisdom
KERI McINERNEY
Posted by KERI McINERNEY on Apr 12 2009 3:20 AM
Guys I have found that a few free gives of an individual track encourages sales of entire albums. Overall you just need to get good distribution to sell....your website sales and your gig sales should be an extra. Independent or not....distribution is avaialble...you just need to go looking and asking. I now have two distribution deals happening...both are contracted but...allow for other companies to also distribute. They only get commission on what they sell...so its to their advantage to sell your product. Free gives are useful...especially to the right people. Right people being industry folk who make the difference to your airplay overall and of course in turn to your professional profile and development of fan base and in turn your live gig aquisition I have never UNDERVALUED my music...far from it...I value what I do very highly. But I do realise that as a songwriter...I can write a thousand songs..so my songs are not irreplaceable. A single has only a small shelf life for promotion....new songs are needed all the time....Once an album has done is run...use those tracks as a free give for some of your fans....one or two is sufficient and you may just sell an OLDER album sitting around that you are using as coasters. There are all sorts of ways to market and sell your music. Don't be fearful...don't think you are selling out...you are developing a brand YOU.
The Terry Hess Band
Posted by The Terry Hess Band on Apr 13 2009 2:39 AM
it's a double edged sword,,, if you give it away, and rely on selling your work to make a living, then it's going to be a very hard decision-as you are probably not going to make a living giving it all away, especially the costs of studio time/effort, etc., But, I think that giving away some songs is alright,if it increases your fan base, and then having some tunes with a fee, Bottom line, ....We shouldn't give it all away,.. but it's a great way to promote yourself.
OFFICIALKRAFTY.COM
Posted by OFFICIALKRAFTY.COM on Apr 13 2009 1:17 PM
Hey Chris, I just read your post at Hypebot and also checked out the links. I agree with your post 100%. I believe that while you are trying to gain fans and hook people in you should be giving out free music. I'm actually working on a mixtape right now (it'll consist of around 12-15 tracks) and it's being professionally mastered AND printed and I'm giving that out for free. My last album did alright as far as sales went but a lot of my fans said because of the recession they weren't up for paying for it. So my next joint will be free, the fans will just have to pay for postage. I think the word "free" can be used very cleverly. Using "free press kits" or "free promo packs" to hook fans in when they sign up as a member or buy a piece of merchandise etc. I used to be very exclusive about my music but I came to realise that fans want free music they can put on their iPods/MP3 Players etc. Thanks for the post!
Woolly Mammoth Productions
Posted by Woolly Mammoth Productions on Apr 14 2009 1:12 PM
http://revision3.com/diggdialogg/trentreznor/ He has a good point.
Alice Sweet Alice
Posted by Alice Sweet Alice on Apr 15 2009 2:53 PM
[quote="causeruckus"]http://revision3.com/diggdialogg/trentreznor/ He has a good point. [/quote] Yeah, what a fascinating interview. Thanks for sharing this. I've changed my attitudes a little bit. Trent knows what he's talking about, he's highly intelligent, and is someone I for one, look up to. Thanks gain for sharing this link.
Pettidee / Soldier Sound Recordings
Posted by Pettidee / Soldier Sound Recordings on Apr 16 2009 4:12 PM
FREE is good in it proper place. It Usually takes a few people to make a good song great. Those people spend hours away from family & friends to make this happen. Every artist is not making millions off there music. Most are just growing Fruits & Veggies in there garden. If the Artist (Gardener) gives us FREE Samples, and the product is good to us, we Should buy it. Then as regular customers (fans) we will be the first to get extras (FREE Songs) in our baskets. We help & support hem, they bless and supply us. PETTIDEE/CEO SOLDIER SOUND RECORDS :):)
atomic skunk
Posted by atomic skunk on Apr 17 2009 5:18 PM
Anyone here using Bandcamp? http://www.bandcamp.com. They are free and give you a lot of options. I currently give away a 128K MP3 version of my album - http://atomicskunk.bandcamp.com and I charge $9.99 for lossless/high-quality downloads. Also, I have it set so that you need to give your email address to get the download. It's been working out great for me!
bzchris.bandzoogle.com
Posted by bzchris.bandzoogle.com on Apr 17 2009 5:24 PM
AtomicSkunk: these functions will be added to the album feature shortly, along with an widget version. Stay tuned. Also, you can make downloads "members only" in the Album Download feature. This requires people to send their email address.
Katie Pearlman
Posted by Katie Pearlman on Apr 20 2009 2:31 PM
I'm taking a marketing class and I was taught that when introducing a new product, it is best to give a sample. This establishes your product to the consumer. When people visit our websites, they can listen to our music, possibly download an mp3 or multiple mp3's for free. But don't give away the whole store! That eventually degrades the value in the consumer's eyes. If they can get music of all kinds for free everywhere, then why would they pay for it? The same thing goes for performances. We as songwriters, musicians, artists need to convey to the public: the value of our music. Being on the radio is usually a sign to the public that your music already has value because it was good enough to get on the radio. Therefore, the internet is not necessarily "international radio". However, the look of our website adds to perceived value of our music. Let's look at this as a sense of community and help build awareness about our efforts. :) [quote="carriearmitage"]I find myself wondering about this: If I am giving away MP3s for free, my postcards to the world of my original music, am I sabotaging another independent artist's ability to sell theirs? I would not undercut a fellow piano player on a gig - is it the same principle? Should we be looking at this more from a sense of our community and what strengthens it? A worthy discussion.[/quote]