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May 30, 2008

My version of a Free Song Strategy

I've not been an avid reader of Bruce Warila - but I like what I do read. Now Bruce has enunciated (almost) exactly my thinking on the best way to "give away" your music. This is a brilliant and very important post. Read it carefully - and read his earlier ones that lead to this one.

It has always frustrated the crap out of me to hear promotions people - who usually have nothing at stake - advising musos to "just give it all away" in a desperate bid to gain attention. To my thinking, this ignores the nature of purchase behaviour and the fan relationship. It also assumes that revenue can be picked up by performing live and ignores the harsh reality that it costs a lot of money to tour but giving recordings away reduces the revenue available to bands/acts that might be used to fund a tour. It also effectively kills the prospects for an act that cannot tour (like movie soundtracks, musos with day jobs, and so on).

Bruce's vision is essentially the correct one for the future, and he clearly understand the fan/purchase relationship - this is one of the major lessons of the Radiohead and Niggy Tardust experiments. But he also understands that you lose nothing by denying freeloaders unfettered access. I used to express this in conversation by telling people I'd rather that people had the ability to copy and share my music than that they were prevented from doing so - but I was not going to do the copying *for* them ...

Jonathon Coulton follows this approach.

I have had the idea of multiple versions and encouraging fan remixes since before 2004, the time this blog began - though I lack the time and resources to effectively implement the strategy. I'm also not so keen on the idea of hacking endings off or appending messages. But the most important thing here is the recognition that people who want your music for free are going to go get it anyway, and that these people are NOT your fans.

However, there are a proportion of people who will not pay for your music if they are given it, but will happily pay for it if given the right incentives ...

Posted by Hughie at May 30, 2008 9:49 AM

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