When Nashville based singer/songwriter Derek Webb showed up to the Knitting Factory for his first gig in Los Angeles, there was a line down the block. He thought to himself, “man, I wonder who’s playing tonight.” Little did he realize that by giving his album away for free (and collecting zip codes and email addresses from the 80,000 people that downloaded his album in the first two months) he’d be selling out a Sunset Strip venue for his first visit with no radio or other major media attention.
This was in 2007 (before Radiohead’s In Rainbows “pay what you want” experiment). This sparked the inspiration for Webb’s well-respected, free download site, NoiseTrade.
Officially launching in 2008, NoiseTrade currently has over 1.2 million subscribers to their email list and gets 500,000 downloads a month. That’s 500,000 new zip codes and email addresses for bands to route tours from.
“I think maybe a lot of fans think of us like a “daily deals” kind of platform where they wait to get an email blast and they’re going to see what we feature that day,” co-founder and designer, Brannon McAllister, mentioned to me via Skype from his Brooklyn based studio office. “NoiseTrade does curate and feature great artists to our audience, but the platform is completely self-service –– artists and labels are totally able to manage their own campaigns,” he explained.
Half of NoiseTrade’s traffic comes from the music featured in their email blast and the other half comes from artists promoting their own music.
The free download widget collects zip codes and email addresses, similar to Topspin’s widget, and can be embedded on any website. Many artists use it on their website’s homepage to promote a release in advance of setting up a tour. Every fan who downloads an album must give her zip code and email address. That email address and zip code go directly to the artist.
When Indiana based singer/songwriter Josh Garrels gave away his catalog on NoiseTrade, he obtained 161,000 downloads in the first two weeks and 269,000 downloads total. That’s 269,000 new emails and zip codes. I’m salivating just writing this.
Once a fan downloads the album they are encouraged to leave a tip for the artist. McAllister mentioned the average tip is $6.50 and 1.5-3% of people tip. With 500,000 downloads a month, that’s about $5,000-15,000 in tips. NoiseTrade takes 20% of all tips. He emphasized, though, that NoiseTrade is not setup to be a “pay what you want” platform. The tip, to most fans, is an afterthought.
Any artist or label can sign up for free and create a landing page artist profile and a free download widget to embed on their own website.
To get featured in their email blast (that goes out to 1.2 million subscribers) that will cost you. McAllister asked me not to post the amount they charge, but you can email Chris Moon and ask! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately, they only offer 192kbps mp3 downloads. BandCamp offers nearly every size and format imaginable up to FLAC – for the audiophiles. It would be nice to see similar options in the future – it may even encourage the loyalists to offer increased tips for their eardrum appreciation.
You Ari’s Take readers are asking yourselves, “But Ari, you just posted an I Hate Downloading Music article! And now you’re encouraging downloading? You confuse me.” I confuse a lot of people. You’ll get used to it.
Yes, personally I don’t like downloading music. It takes up too much space and takes too long to transfer to my iPhone (if it’s not downloaded from iTunes). Not to mention the headache of downloading mislabeled tracks.
I prefer streaming (or listening on vinyl). Spotify premium streams at 320kbps (iTunes offers 256kbps downloads).
As an artist, I’m happy having people download my music (for zip codes, emails and/or cash). The majority of music fans still download and are not yet subscribed to a streaming service – this will change in the coming 5 years and I predict downloads going the way of the CD in 10 years.
McAllister mentioned that they have things in the works for streaming down the line. I’m eager to see the evolution.
Visit Noisetrade.com to signup for the email list or create a free artist account.
If you’re interested in being featured in their email blast you can email Chris Moon at email@example.com
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based DIY musician and the creator of Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake