Giving Music Away Smartly

Free©  2009 Vinny Ribas

There is an ongoing debate regarding giving music away for free. Those who are against it argue that artists and songwriters should get paid for everything they create, and that giving music away keeps fans expecting more for free and prevents them from buying music. While I agree the public is getting more and more accustomed to getting things for free, I still believe that they will pay for something they really want. Therefore, the first trick is to make products that the public (your fans and future fans) is willing to pay for.

 I also believe that it can pay to give some music away, but only if you have a very specific reason for it! After all,{private_pro} manufacturers, restaurants, grocery stores and department stores have all used free samples to entice potential customers for forever. Here are some smart ways to utilize giveaways as marketing and publicity.  

  1. Collect email addresses – The more fans that you have on your mailing list (NOT your ‘friends’ list!), the easier it is to learn about them, track their purchases. Sell your new CDs, tell them more about you than they read in press releases, target market fans when you’ll be performing near them etc. You can offer your fans a free download, but they need to give their first name, email and zip code in order to retrieve.
  2. Contests and Incentives – You can offer deals like ‘forward this newsletter to 5 friends and get 2 free downloads’. 
  3. Teaser – You can give away 1 or 2 songs from a new CD, but you might be better off giving away an acoustic version of a song that will be released on a new CD shortly. You might also give away a composite of parts of 4-5 songs from your upcoming CD, similar to a movie trailer (which are now being sold).
  4. Fan Club – You can reward fans who pay to join your fan club by giving away free music. It can be part of the deal that they get 1 free download per month. In effect, they are just paying for the downloads in advance.
  5. Using content you thought was scrap – Do you have songs you’ve recorded that never made it to a CD, or that aren’t available any more? How about ‘rehearsal recordings’?  Fans love to get things that the masses don’t have access go. They feel special and appreciated, and they get to see another side of you.
  6. Enticements for concert tickets – You can offer free downloads with the purchase of a show ticket.  Just include the cost of the download in your ticket price.
  7. Enticements to buy your CD – You can include a free download card in your physical CD. Offer them as ‘bonus tracks’ for the first 500 CDs sold.
  8. Radio promotion – Are there radio stations playing your songs? Why not let them offer a free download in exchange for doing a radio interview? Both things make the radio station look good, and you get to use the promotion to add to your email list, drive traffic to your website etc.
  9. Thank you gift – Free music is a great way to thank your fans. Record something special for them. It could just be an acoustic version of one of your popular songs that you record in your living room. Or maybe you can write a song to thank your fans.
  10. Drive traffic to your website – The more traffic your website gets, the easier it is for you to get advertisers, tour sponsors and endorsements.

 The bottom line is that giving music away can be a great marketing tool if it is used smartly. Know ahead of time what outcome you want to get from the giveaway, and make sure that the results are measurable. If you do this, you should be able to greatly increase your fan base, sell more music, drive more people to your shows, increase traffic to your website and create a serious ‘buzz’ about your music![/private_pro]

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.