I’m seeing more and more DJs and Producers giving away free music downloads these days. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter… Obviously, it’s totally up to the artist on whether they want to give their music away for free, (I’ve done it myself a few times), but I think we all need to stop and think about a few things first… For example, most people I know who give away free music seem to think that’s it’s a promotional tool for gaining some new exposure. But is there any actual proof that giving music away for free actually does any good in leading to sales and gig bookings etc? Especially when it’s only being given away via that artists social network pages. The only people I’ve ever known to get any major exposure from giving away free tracks, are people who were already famous in the first place, and already had plenty of gigs and album sales. Have you ever heard of someone who became famous/successful purely because they gave their music away for free?
Secondly, who are the people most likely to download your free music? Your existing followers on your social networks? Of course they are! So if you only allowed a streaming preview instead of giving the whole thing away for free, it wouldn’t be any different would it? Sure, a free download might get passed on to a mate of a mate, but that’s not going to happen in any significant numbers. Again, perhaps if the download was being offered on the front page of a hugely popular website, then this could bring new exposure, but if it’s just on your own social networks to your existing fans and followers, then you’re hardly going to make a huge impact.
Originally, the whole idea of giving a track away for free, was supposed to be some sort of “exclusive reward” or a one-off case of “giving something back to the fans”…And while that’s a good thing to do, if you don’t already have a significant amount of fans, then giving stuff away for free is basically like saying “I’m not worth any money” or even “no record label wanted to sign this and give it a proper release”.
At this stage, you might be thinking “Oh but I’ll only do it once a year”, but the fact that virtually every DJ and Producer I follow on Twitter and Facebook gives away a track at some point at least once a year, when you multiply this out by the number of DJs and Producers in the world, you end up with a world of constant free music downloads from everyone of all shapes and sizes, and this in itself devalues music as an art form, and lowers the expectations of every music fan out there to the point where people start to detest the idea of paying even 79p for a track… Then we all start to wonder why nobody buys our music?
So what it really comes down to is this question:
By giving away free music, are you really gaining *new* fans that will then buy your next single/tickets/merch?
I’m yet to see any evidence of this. Of course, it’s almost impossible to measure due to the natural growth of existing fan bases and social networks already… I mean you could compare before/after stats on social networks etc, but again, even if you gained 100,000 fans on Facebook from giving away a free track, you still don’t get the answer of how many of these people will listen to your next track, let alone pay for your next single/gig/merch.
As an artist, you can’t start giving everything away for free, and then complain when you can’t afford to eat.