Jan 022012

There are many arguments against giving away your music for free. While a good portion of independent artists do this, we need to look at the potential damage you are doing to your career before deciding if it is the right choice for you. Today, the people at Independent Music Advice share with us their opinion and why they think it is never a good idea.

The Problem With Giving Out Too Much Free Music

It Doesn’t Make People Want To Listen To You Any More.
Just because you give out your audio as a free download, it doesn’t mean that you will get a lot of people downloading it. Even if you hand someone out a free CD, there’s no guarantee that person will go on to listen to it. Many times people have given me free CDs at events and shows. Do I go on to listen to all of them? No. And I know a lot of people are the same.

It takes more then just giving someone your music for them to listen, you have to give them a reason to want to listen. If you don’t do that, your CD will end up at the bottom of a pile and never get played.
Now the interesting thing; If you can give people a reason to want to listen to your music, you won’t have to give your music out for free! You will be able to ask for something in exchange, and they will be willing as they already have it in their mind they want to hear your music. This largely makes giving your music out for free obsolete.

People Start To Expect It.
If you always give your music out for free, people will come to expect it. So when you start to make more of a name and you decide you want to start charging for your music, you will have a hard time selling it. After all, the majority of your fan base is made up of people who are in it for the freebies. As soon as they see they have to start paying now, many of your fans will disappear. They already have a load of your music, so what’s pushing them to get any more?
While you may get some that stay and don’t mind paying for your music, you will look back and realise you spent a lot of time and effort making people happy who didn’t benefit your career in any way. Not a good feeling at all.

Your Music Will Have A Lower Perceived Value.
Perceived value is what people think your product is worth. If something is widely available for free, people will naturally feel like it’s not worth as much as it’s easy to obtain. This is how a lot of people think about music right now.

If however something is harder to obtain or it’s a higher price, people naturally think it’s of a better quality. Because of this, it’s sometimes possible to raise the price of your product and make more sales then if you set a lower price point.

You of course don’t want to charge so much that it’s not worth buying your music, but giving it all away for free will definitely make people perceive your music to have less value.

You’ll Lose Money.
Making good quality music isn’t free. You have to pay to use the recording studio, for the cost of pressing up products, for marketing and promotion expenses, and for anything else that needs to be done. If you do all of this only to give your music out for free, you are losing out on money. And where does that money come from? My guess is your own pocket.

You shouldn’t be paying to make other people happy, it should be a two way thing. You should benefit from people hearing your music, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for something in exchange for your songs.
You Will Lose Motivation.

If you keep spending money on creating music that people don’t end up downloading, you will eventually lose motivation. If you lose motivation, what’s to keep you making music any more?

What You Should Be Doing Instead
Instead of letting people download your music for nothing in return, you should only allow people to download some of your songs if they help you out in some way. This could be them giving you their contact details, or by them promoting your music in some way. This is a win win situation for everyone. They get to download your music and learn about you, and you get to keep in contact with them or have them promote you to all their friends.

We call the songs we use in this exchange process ‘promotional songs’, and cover this strategy in a lot more detail here. In that article we look at how to give out your promotional songs (And the best way to maximise their effect), the single to promotional songs ratio, how to encourage more people to download your promotional songs, how you can use your promotional songs to encourage people to buy your paid releases, and much more.

This is only a portion of a very helpful article, so be sure to visit the link above to read the whole thing.

As an independent artist, do you give your music away for free? What made you decide to do so?

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  One Response to “Why shouldn’t I give my music away for free?”

  1. I’d say releasing atleast the first few for free is a good idea. You have to sacrifice a bit in order to get initial followers or fans.

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