Should you give your music away for free?
There's a big debate in the music industry on whether artists should give their music away for free or charge fans to hear their music. It's understood that artists can't work for completely for free. Everyone needs to make a living. But is it better for artists to offer a freemium model of their music? Our argument is yes...at least at first!
No one is going to spend money on your music before they've even heard it or heard of you. So at some point, they had to have heard your song for free before spending any money. Maybe they heard it on the radio or on some discovery section of streaming radio, but for 91% of aritsts, they remain completely undiscovered and the average artist isn't getting their music heard on these platforms. Now that listeners can essentially get your music for free on many free music streaming services that still pay you royalties, it's important for you to get your music to their ears so that you can increase the number of streams you get.
If you truly want to gain as much exposure as possible, you can not limit the potential reach that fans have to spread your music virally. The first step to success is getting as many people as possible to hear your music. If you limit this initial reach, then you are in turn limiting your exposure.
Take a quick lesson from freemium apps. The most successful apps are all free to download! They give away a free valuable service for users and then earn revenue in other ways. How many apps would you download if you had to pay before using them? Many businesses and services give something away for free at first to show their users value.
You need to give it away for free first to build a fan base and then ask the fans for support! This is key that the fans know they are supporting you rather than having to buy your music. Don't make them feel that you are selling them a product. Music is emotional. Make them feel as though they are supporting you so you can provide them with more value. You need to show them your product before you start asking them for compensation.
Amanda Palmer has a now famous TED talk in which she makes a very powerful statement: "Don't make people pay for music, let them." She raised millions in the most successful music related Kickstarter campaign to date by giving her music away for free and asking for support.
Pretty Lights worked for years on his first album and gave it all away for free on his website. He now has millions of fans and headlines major EDM festivals.
One could argue that anyone who wants to get your music for free is going to get it anyway, so you might as well be the one who is giving it to them.