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Tuesday, June 10, 2008 

Give Away Your Songs For Free?

Major label artists... maybe. Indie artists... hell no!

So I was reading a very interesting blog post recently on giving away your music for free and relying on sponsors or other promotional efforts to foot your bill. Huh??

Okay this is not the first time we've been hearing about this interesting yet touchy subject. The Internet allows you, the indie artist, to compete alongside the big names via Myspace and other social network sites by allowing you to create a larger-than-life image. The smart indie artists are working hard to brand themselves. That is the name of the game now.

In Kevin Maney's post, Free for All (that I reference above), he says:

This flurry of experiments is painful but probably necessary, like a teenager's goth phase. The endgame is clear, however. Sometime in the next decade, Pittman's model will win. Artists will give away recorded music and consider it promotional, just like music videos. All of the revenue in music will be generated in other ways.

I just don't see indie artists giving away their music in hopes of recouping and actually making a living off their live shows, merch and licensing. What about those who don't or can't gig? What if you can't afford to buy t-shirts in bulk to sell at your shows? And if your recording is mediocre how will you get a licensing deal?

Indie artists already rely on generating revenue in other ways as it is. But to stop selling your music and give it away? Well it just doesn't make sense.

Am I wrong? Maybe so. I would LOVE to hear what you have to say. Post a comment and give me your thoughts.

Copyright © 2008 Madalyn Sklar, IndieMusicCoach

Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach, consultant and author. She founded IndieMusicCoach and has spent over 12 years working with a wide range of independent musicians all over the world - U.S., Canada, Ireland and Japan thus far. Her goal is to help indie artists achieve greater success in the music business by working smarter not harder. She is also the founder of GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest and largest online community of indie women musicians, with a vision of bringing together and empowering musicians from around the world.

Madalyn is available for one-on-one consulting and coaching at affordable prices. Check out http://www.indiemusiccoach.com/ for more info.

"What about those who don't or can't gig? What if you can't afford to buy t-shirts in bulk to sell at your shows? And if your recording is mediocre how will you get a licensing deal?"

I wanted to address the three reasons you gave above for not giving away your music for free.

First, those bands/artists who cannot do live gigs or don't want to, well I say good-luck! Everyone knows that even the big bands really make money performing live shows. So either get over it and get out there or don't expect to get far.

Second, if you give away your music via downloads or sell MP3's then you can put money into buying merch for your band. Even if you do sell CD's there are so many places out there now to buy t-shirts that it is not that expensive anymore.

Third, if your recording is mediocre then how do you plan on selling your music much less try to get a licensing deal?

I know indie bands that travel the world, sell merch and make a decent living and give away songs. I think each band needs to see what their strengths are and use everything that is available out there for them to gain a fan base. It's a job that not all bands/artists have time or energy to do but the ones that put that effort in usually see the pay-off.

I think Trent Reznor is shining a light with his price point system. About a dozen iterations from a quarter of the album on lo fi mp3 for free to the limited box set at $300.

A lot of my work focuses on different revenue models, many based on creating value around free products. I seek harmony between creating value from musical products and services and more common strategies that bloggers and internet marketers use to create revenue.

Help me out with this, will you. I realize that I may just be stuck in a paleolithic worldview, but there's something about this new model that gives me the willies.

If we disconnect from payment for our music and opt instead for a licensing deal, are we not just utterly buying into the 'there is no distinction betweeen art and commoditized entertainment' movement? Are we not reducing ourselves to hired mascots for corporate puppetmasters, ultimately? As time goes on, doesn't this turn the music creator into nothing more than a panderer, if that's what it takes to make money? (Yes, I know that popular music has always been about pandering to the audience to some extent, but the distinction here is that we're pandering to businesses and their need to falsify an appeal, not to actual humans, and that's a different equation.)

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    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

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