Jonathan Ostrow has written an interesting and thought provoking post on distributing your music for free at Music Think Tank. The main point is that no money doesn’t have to mean no transaction. Even if you are not getting paid cash you can demand value in the form of attention, in a newsletter sign-up or publicity, in a tweet or Facebook like. The post gives some good advice on how you can put this in to practice and there is a useful debate sprouting in the comments about the general concept of giving music away without charging cash for it too.
Jonathan’s post and the comment thread have made me think more about my previous post, Give your music away: You have nothing to loose but your obscurity. That post was intended as an overview but there is a great deal to this subject and it deserves a deeper look.
If they don’t value your music they don’t deserve it
This point is made well and forcefully in the comment thread of Jonathan’s article by Tim London. The key question is, are we as musicians devaluing digital music by distributing at no cost or are we reacting to an existing situation?
I think it depends on where you are in your career. My previous post was based on the idea of a musician emerging on to the internet with a small local following. For them attention is valuable. If you have a national reputation, are touring yourself (perhaps opening up for established acts) and have a robust and active online fanbase then perhaps free is no longer a useful strategy for you.
The main point is still how to you get attention. Perception of value is important. This perception is influenced by popularity. Even the most jaded hipster in the whitest skinny jeans likes some kind of validation of their choices. I think that risking a non-existent income stream to try to build a business is worth a shot. The perception of music as a free resource is not just down to independent artist distributing for free. Spotify, YouTube, Songza and the file-sharing community are part of this too. Changing a culture is a big ask. Continue reading Online music distribution: Not all free is created equal