Song-writing can be an arduous affair; from the tedious write-erase-rewrite process on the notepad to the long hours spent at the recording studio, it’s fair to say that once a song is completed, a feeling of pride and ownership prevails. Therefore, why on earth would an artist, who devoted so much time in crafting a song (which essentially, is a product) work so hard, only to give it away in the end for free? Well, we cracked down this week to find out these answers as this week’s topic is:
As this series is powered by the YOU, we encourage any feedback you may have and feel free to ask any questions of your own! What topics do you want see covered in this series? This is all about YOU, the artist, so let us know what you think about this post and share any lingering questions you may have.
1. What marketing techniques can artists use to leverage free music to build a bigger (and more loyal) fan base?
Voyno from The New Rockstar Philosophy: I hope everyone says that getting fans on the email list is the most important part of any marketing technique. ABGE. Always Be Gathering Emails; for a songs via Bandcamp, for early ticket sales via Topspin, for new videos via private YouTubes, whatever, this way you can always reach your fans.That’s part 1. Part 2 is engaging them with cool content and walking that ‘oh so fine’ line between consistent content and pestering. All audiences will be different so it’s okay to experiment.
2. If artists are not making money from their recordings, where can they make money from?
Ryan from the F.O.R.M. Blog: Shows! Lots and lots of live performances. You’re playing for pocket change, but if you play often and save smart you should start to accumulate some income, which will be reinvested in your efforts (i.e. food and gas money to get from show to show).
Sell your merchandise. You’re not “selling out”, you’re building a brand that others can support and believe in. Anybody can put a name on a T-shirt, poster, sticker or button. But for some reason, not everyone does. Set your self a part from low quality merchandise.
Create quality products that you would love or find useful, and your fans will feel the same. Get creative because there are plenty of opportunities out there! Network with music supervisors who are always on the search for new, affordable music to be added to the background of their TV show, video game or movie. This can be a very lucrative source of income for many artists/bands.
3. If an artist doesn’t give away free music, what are the most effective ways to promote an upcoming release?
Rick from Musician’s Coaching: YouTube is huge. Beyond huge. Even if you can’t afford a real video, make a still of the album artwork or even slides of the live show and set that to your music – YouTube is a very big destination for those searching for music. Oddly, people are more likely to watch a still image of artwork set to music than they are to stream a song without visuals.
4. What is the biggest mistake, or most common mistake, that you’ve seen emerging artists make when giving away free music?
Kevin from Eleetmusic: Not having a centralized way to manage and analyze the music you are giving away. The service you choose to use should allow you to collect intelligence about what is working. If you cannot get an email in exchange for a download, stop what you are doing and change services. You should also be able to the who, what, why, when and where for each stream or download. I know for a fact that official.fm has these capabilities along with a host of others.
4. Is there a limit to the amount of music an artist should be giving away for free?
Kevin from Eleetmusic: I think it is important that artists are selective with what music they give away for free. Depending on your level of experience and brand recognition, the amount of music you give away may be different. For bands just starting out, giving away an entire album or EP may be ok. For artists that are a bit more mature, giving away the lead single may be the best approach.
Voyno from The New Rockstar Philosophy:Digital music is infinite. Get them hooked with the digital stuff then get them to pay for the real deal. As long as you’re in contact with them via email-I think the more you give, the more you get.
5. How do artists create incentives for their fans to buy their music? How do they keep their fans faithful and constantly interested?
Ryan from the F.O.R.M. Blog: There are many incentives that artists can create for their fans to become more faithful, stay interested and buy their music. For starters, create limited edition albums, with extended cuts or bonus tracks. Release multiple versions of cover art for album, and ask your fans to choose the best ones. Create collectible items and memorabilia that your fans will find fun and entertaining or even useful. Autograph cd’s and merchandise. This is also another great way to build a connection with fans. After every show, stick around and see if fans are interested in having anything signed and see to it that they leave with a good experience of meeting you and connecting with your music.
Perform live at free shows and festivals or at special charity events.Take up a cause! This is one of the greatest ways to promote yourself and your music. Try to provide your fans with an overall better experience. Anyone can record songs, perform them live and put out a T-shirt. The real music business is more then that. It is building a long lasting connection with people who become fans and believers of your brand.
6. Where should artists be giving the music away? Does driving traffic to any single place make more sense then sharing the wealth?
Voyno from The New Rockstar Philosophy:It depends what stage of your career you’re at. A service like Bandcamp is great for starters, then you could merge to create your own thing or use a service like Topspin. I think it’s less about “sharing the wealth” and more about what your audience uses. Try everything you think will work in the beginning and see what works. Then stick to that so you don’t waste too much time. But more importantly it’s always a good idea to have all of your emails in one place/list. MailChimp is good for 2000 emails for free, and then it’s a small but worthwhile fee after that. Organization is key to all of this stuff.
7. How do artists (particularly older ones?) connect with today’s youth, especially college students, without giving away music since their generation are the main ones downloading?
Loren from The Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Business: They have to take the same steps as younger musicians and put in the effort to build that education on social media, the marketing of today and the way promotion is working in the music industry of now. So much of it, regardless of age, is coming down to the marketing and the content that draws a potential fan to listen instead of the days when it was listen first, and then find out about them later.Again, having short sample clips, video clips and other snippets that represent can help to draw people in to the purchase.
With the over saturation of millions of bands online all going after the same thing, the industry is in a partial shift to bands being seen and read about online before being heard. The story is the hook to get many to the music on the independent level. Hook them fast to the music with samples! Giving someone a 30 second sample of ten of your songs which will allow the listener to hear 10 samples in 5 minutes, will up the chances of the purchase. Whether a few free songs or a number of free samples, give them a taste. It is one more step to drawing new fans in and keeping old fans interested.
Rick from Musician’s Coaching: The best way I know of accomplishing this is by aligning yourself with younger artists. Butch Walker did this very well with the whole friends or enemies scene. He was in metal bands in the 80s, an alternative group called The Marvelous 3 in the 1990s and wound up producing and writing with younger musicians who embraced him and gave his career longevity it may not have had with a younger audience.
We would like to thank the panelists who participated in this post, and remember this is powered by YOU. What topics would be most helpful for you? What do you want to learn? We’d be glad to find a new panel to address your questions and concerns in our next blog series post.