At the start of this month, I kicked off a series of blogs about what I believe are the keys to success as an independent band in today’s music culture. To be completely honest, these blogs are part of an assignment. They’re blogs I’ve been meaning to write anyway, but they are on deadline. I have six that need to be posted by the middle of December, and today, I decided to do the math and figure out what a good regular interval for posting would be. Turns out, today was the next day I needed to post a blog. That’s convenient. Anyway, here’s tip number two:
Give your music away.
I think more and more bands are catching onto this, but it’s still a point worth repeating. The music culture today is all about free music. iTunes has several songs available for free download every day, bands have embraced websites like MySpace, ReverbNation, and PureVolume to allow fans to stream entire songs for free, and more and more artists are selling albums with the “pay what you want” strategy. And of course music piracy has become one of the easiest crimes to commit and get away with.
The fact of the matter is that more and more, listeners expect free music, and they’re not going to buy your music if they can’t hear it for free first. In his e-book The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online, Andrew Dubber makes a good point, saying that music is a unique product because people won’t buy a song until they’ve heard the whole thing and decided they like it. I’ll go to a movie theater and spend 10 bucks on a ticket for a movie that I’ve only seen 30 seconds of in a trailer, but I won’t even spend 99 cents on a song unless I’ve heard the whole thing several times and decided it’s worth my pocket change.
Now if you’re a successful band with a label and promoters, you have a really easy way to get people to hear your music and decide it’s worth their money – the radio. Unfortunately, unless your local radio station has a show where they play undiscovered and unsigned artists, you’re out of luck. Even if that is the case, chances are the show only lasts for a few hours and only airs once a week. That’s not enough to get your song stuck in people’s heads.
What you need to do is give your music away.
The internet provides a lot of great tools to do this. I like to use Jamendo because it automatically assigns a Creative Commons license to anything you upload. It’s a great way to allow people to download your music while still protecting it as your intellectual property. Another useful website that I have been considering joining is NoiseTrade. With this website, fans can download your music for free – but only after they email a few of their friends with a link to your music. Not only are you letting people hear your music, but you’re also getting word-of-mouth promotion.
The amount of music you give away doesn’t matter so much – giving away a small portion of your catalog will give fans a taste of your music and make them want more, while giving away the entire catalog will help more people hear more of your music. The important thing is that fans can get at least a few of your songs for free.