Online music distribution: Not all free is created equal

Drummer in a gorilla suit
The image Andy Budd promoting Silverback is by Danny Hope and made available under a Creative Commons license

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

Is Online Harmony Holding You Back?

"Argument" by Filipe Dâmaso Saraiva, made available under a Creative Commons Share Alike Licence
“Argument” by Filipe Dâmaso Saraiva, made available under a Creative Commons Share Alike Licence

There are many benefits to parti­cip­ating in online social networks. The ability to build a large network without geographical constraints gives access to support, insight, feedback and promotion oppor­tun­ities in an immediate, easy and powerful fashion. There seems to be no downside apart from the time needed to engage with your online tribe, but there is an inter­esting problem lurking within the groups we create.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, director of the Information + Innovation Policy Research Center at the National University of Singapore, has put forward the idea that our online networks may be harming our capacity for innov­ation. He may well have a strong point that needs consid­er­ation for anyone getting deeply involved in online networking.

In an article in the journal Science Mayer-Schönberger examines the impact of extended online networking on software engineers and concludes that this is, in part, responsible for the incre­mental pace of innov­ation in the open-source community. Innovation still happens but the curse of group­think keeps the pace of change slow. Continue reading Is Online Harmony Holding You Back?

Using Social Media: Don’t Forget to Listen

Image by ky_olsen. Licensed through Creative Commons 2.0
Image by ky_olsen. Licensed through Creative Commons 2.0

A new study by San Diego State University reveals that US college students believe that their gener­ation use social media for, “self-promotion, narcissism and attention seeking.”

This may well be true but I believe that this is due to the users rather than the medium. Social media provides excellent oppor­tun­ities for listening and discovery. Just like in a real-world social gathering it is wise to listen first and then to speak. Those who seek the warm balm of easy attention generally find it short lived. Just like the salesman who works the room at a conference with the line, “Hi, I’m Bob, my company is the best supplier of widgets ever. Here’s my card. See ya,” blatant self promotion is empty and quickly dismissed online.

Social media makes listening easy and provides some very useful tools for doing so effect­ively. Twitter and FriendFeed provide the ability to save search terms and even provides RSS feeds for saved searches. These searches are updated in real-time.

The most common use of this is to monitor mentions of, your own name, your brands or your clients. This is a powerful tool but this is just the beginning of the potential of listening to social media. This monit­oring allows you to react quickly to any mentions of your business. Imagine the power of offering the solution to a problem to a user of your products who has not even contacted you to complain yet. That’s customer service almost indis­tin­guishable from magic. Continue reading Using Social Media: Don’t Forget to Listen