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What’s Your End Game?: Getting the Most Out of Your “Free” Music Promotion Campaign

One of the most interesting fan relationship management conversations I have with clients when coming up with digital music strategies is the “music giveaway”.  I run into artists in one of two camps:

  1. The Old School Artist – This artist doesn’t want to give music away.  They stand firm in their belief that they worked hard on their art and should be compensated monetarily.
  2. The (Wo)Man Without A Plan – This artist just posts music on a their social media profiles and tells their fans to download it. They don’t mind giving their music a way, but they have yet to find a way for it to pay off.

My message to The Old School Artist is simple. You’re not going to many new fans without letting them hear your music for free SOMEWHERE, whether it’s on the radio, at a live show, or on the internet.  Giving fans a free download every now and then won’t hurt…it actually builds a relationship with fans you already have and, when done correctly, provides a way for them to promote your music to their friends.  Radio conditioned fans to hearing at least part of an album before they bought it. Somewhere between Napster and zShare, the internet obliterated the notion that consumers would buy music from “word of mouth” alone. Don’t fear “digital”…embrace it.

To the (Wo)Man Without A Plan:  You have the right idea in providing people with free samples of your music.  What you need to focus on now is your end game. Say to yourself “I might not charge money, but what can I get in return?” Here are a few suggestions:

  • Information – Data is the most valuable possession you can have, especially on the internet. One way to make a free track giveaway pay off is to collect the downloader’s contact information (i.e. email address).  Bandcamp is a great service that let’s you do this without a lot of hassle.
  • Word-of-Mouth Advertising – Let your fans speak for you.  Trade a free track for a tweet or status update.  Tweet For A Track is a good service to use for this.  Reverbnation also has a cool sharing feature.
  • Tip Jar/Pay-What-You-Wish – Technically, this is a form of payment.  You can always offer your track for free and allow fans to pay something if they like it.  Both Paypal and Noisetrade allow you to use the tip jar system. Noisetrade is flexible because it gives fans the option of tipping or providing contact information in exchange for a track.  NOTE: The tip jar method also works at live gigs.  After a show, offer your fans a copy of your CD and give them the option to pay what they want.  I have a colleague who does this all the time with surprising results…he often makes more money at those gigs than he would if he asked fans to pay a set price. It never hurts to ask!

That should be enough to start you off.  If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section!

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