Join Bobby Owsinski for an in-depth discussion in this video The pros and cons of giving your music away, part of Selling Music: MP3s, Streams, and CDs.
Every musician wants to be paid for their art, and there's an understandable reluctance to give it away. That's said, sometimes giving it away is one of the best marketing tools you'll have at your disposal, even though it might seem counter intuitive. We see a form of this everyday in supermarkets and department stores with loss leaders and pricing below cost to get customers in the door to buy products at regular price. One of the basic tenants of digital music business, is a business theory called economics of free. In Music 4.0, the economics of free encourages content owners to give some of their products away for free because if done correctly, it can increase your market size greatly.
This theory is very misunderstood since there's more to it than simply giving your music away. You, the artist, have two types of products, infinite products and scarce products. Infinite products would be your music, especially in digital form. Physical products, like CDs, don't fit in here because it actually costs you money to produce them, the CDs not the music on them. Digital music is easy to copy and steal and just as away to give away. Scarce products are tickets to live shows, access to musicians, signed merchandise, backstage passes, private concerts, custom CDs, CD box sets, time spent with you, writing a song for a fan willing to pay for it, or anything else that has a limited supply.
So to take advantage of the economics of free, the artist must do the following. Set the infinite products or at least some of them free. Put them on a touring site, Facebook, YouTube, and anywhere you can. The more you get it out there the greater the publicity and the wider the visibility. This makes the scarce products more valuable. Because of the free infinite products, you can now charge for the scarce products. If you don't set your music free, maybe no one wants your CDs or vinyl albums, but now they're valuable as a collector's items as are the box sets.
Setting your infinite products or your music free expands your fan base. As your fan base expands, the demand for your scarce products grows. But the fact of the matter is, that there's a better strategy than actually just giving your music away. The person wanting to consume it should pay in social currency. Ask for a Facebook like, a retweet, or preferably, an email address in exchange for your music. If you're sending to your email list, ask them to retweet the links to their friends. Remember the social currency is reciprocal.
Tag fans on Facebook or Twitter when they buy the album or talk about you. Also, don't charge too much in social currency for your music. If you ask for too much information, they'll give up and go somewhere else. Just stick to the basic data like name, age, location and maybe how they heard about you, although the less you ask for, the more likely you'll get it.
Next he moves into the digital realm, giving an overview of the digital music services and players available. Bobby shows how giving away some of your music can actually lead to more sales, and how to set the price point for your music. He discusses the importance of metadata and registering your songs with performance rights organizations to ensure you get paid when your music is played on the radio, TV, or the Internet. Finally, Bobby wraps up by explaining how to submit your music to the largest online services, including Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes.