I know there’s kind of a debate going on. Some artists feel like they always need to charge for their music because of how much time, money and effort went into creating and recording the song. But other artists feel like giving away their music is the only way to get people to listen to it.
You wanna know where I stand on the argument?
I think you should never give your music away.
That’s right. Don’t do it. Don’t ever give away your music for free.
But it’s not what you think. I’ll tell you what I mean.
People always seem to be focused on the money aspect of this argument. They’re either getting money from someone in exchange for their music, or they’re not. But I think there’s something in the middle that artists forget about.
One of the big reasons my music has spread around the way it has is because of the fact that I have a few albums that people can get for “free”. It should be completely obvious that someone will be more inclined to download my music if they don’t have to pay anything. And if they like it, they’ll be more inclined to spread the word and tell their friends about it. But the reality is that it’s not really free, I always ask people for something in exchange for the music even if it’s not money. The only way I let people download my music without paying is if they give me their email address.
The more I do this whole music thing the more I’m convinced that the key to growing your listeners is by focusing on your email list. Not your Facebook fans or Twitter followers, your email list. Why? Because email is more personal. It’s a more direct connection with someone who has received music from you before.
So what’s the best way to get your email list going?
Well, it’s by giving your music away for free on a platform where you can collect email addresses.
I am a huge proponent of letting people download your first one or two albums for free in exchange for their email address. That’s part of how I got started. I used Bandcamp to facilitate it, since they collect email addresses for you. I put those email address into a mailing list (Fanbridge) and told those people about each subsequent release, even if they weren’t free.
Really it’s about seeing the long term instead of the short term. Yes, it might be a bummer that no one gives you any money at first. But if you’re doing it right and you’re using Bandcamp or Noisetrade or some other service that exchanges music for email addresses then you have a MUCH BETTER chance of growing that list of people who are interested in what you do. And you don’t lose people. You have a connection with someone that’s much more reliable than Twitter or Facebook posts.
The worst thing you could do is give people your music in exchange for nothing. Always get something from them. And in my opinion it’s in your best interest to have something available for free, in exchange for an email address. It might hurt a little in the short term, but I think you’ll see it pay off in the long term. I know I have.
Do you give away your music for “free”? Why or why not? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.