Free: it’s not the ‘F’ word anymore.
In fact, there are now more than a dozen strategic reasons for artists to consider giving away music for free.
It’s an easy way to collect analytics on fans, at least on copies you deliver.
2. Quality Control.
If your fans are going to pirate anyway, beating the leak at least beats out lo-fi copies. In the case of VEVO, early releases have effectively supplanted grainy, sketchy video uploads on YouTube.
3. Leaks = Buzz.
A leaked track can create buzz in a noisy, over-saturated media space, especially if it’s a real accident (or feels like an accident.)
4. Market Research
Free is a free way to test-market tracks among core audiences, and get fans engaged in the creative process.
5. It Can Obliterate Obscurity.
Just ask Danger Mouse.
6. It’s a Great Way to Say ‘F-U’ to Your Label (and Get Dropped).
Just ask Death Grips.
7. It Can Power Branding Deals.
For example, packaging a free download into a broader branding or advertising arrangement. In that scenario, the artist gets paid no matter what.
8. It Can Drive Paid Purchasing.
Free often coincides with paid purchasing of the exact same content.
9. It Can Drive Premium Purchases.
Awareness can lead to higher-end buying, whether vinyl, premium bundles, concert tickets, or exclusive digital versions.
10. It Enables Content Crowdsourcing.
If free can solicit feedback from fans (see #4), it can also get them actively involved in the creation of new content. This can be achieved through stems, remix-friendly environments, or any other ‘work in progress’ approach.
11. It Can Build Brilliant Packages.
Just ask Prince about the endless possibilities. The artist was ahead of his time when he packaged an entire album into a concert ticket, and more recently, Prince has been layering free albums into newspapers bundles. All of these ideas were seriously groundbreaking, and made serious money.
12. It Stimulates Physical.
A vinyl purchase has value. A vinyl purchase with a download code has greater value.
13. It promotes virality.
Just ask PSY, who worked to break down every barrier on spoof videos and derivative works.
14. It Rewards Fan Loyalty.
That is, for buying an album (with a free bonus track), attending a concert, or being part of a fan club.
“It’s not about giving it away, it’s about what you’re giving back or getting back.”
Bernie Cho, DFSB Kollective.