The following comes from music entrepreneur Matthew Parsons, who applies a simple premise: ‘free’ isn’t free for the musician, and it shouldn’t be free for the fan. And, there are now best practices for maximizing the return on free stuff.
There is nothing wrong with giving your music away for free. It can increase your fan base and drive even more sales. Remember through that music is not free. It costs money and time to produce, so you should be compensated. Here are 10 rules for giving your music away for free.
1. Keep it simple.
Choose one platform to give away your music and direct fans there.
2. Do not forsake your current fans.
Free music is not just for new fans. Reward your mailing list with free songs. Do NOT post mp3s within the email. This can eat into people’s bandwidth and annoy them. Always make sure you send out a link to download the song.
3. Music is not free, fans should pay in ‘social currency’.
Get a Facebook like or Tweet, preferably an email address in exchange for your music. If you are sending to your current mailing list make sure they tweet the link out to friends. Here is the twitter goodies page where you can set up a “Retweet” button. You can also use a platform like bit.ly to track click throughs.
4. Social currency is reciprocal.
Tag fans on Facebook/Twitter when they buy the album or talk about you.
5. Follow up on social.
Send out regular emails to your list, post at least one per day (fb statuses’ shelf-life is 3 hours, tw is less).
6. Do not charge too much social currency (20 questions) or fans will go elsewhere.
Basic data (name/age/location/how they heard of you) will give you enough to market.
7. Let people listen before they download.
No one will spend time downloading music they haven’t heard yet.
8. Have a strategy.
Once you decide to exchange your music for social currency, make sure you have a strategy for how you WILL make money.
9. Manage your copyrights.
If you plan to make money from merchandise instead, make sure no one else can reproduce it and cut you out of the loop.
10. Do not stop promoting.
Just because it’s ‘free’ doesn’t mean it is promoted any less than a paid release, in fact it gives you the tools to market and engage your fan base and build new ones. Artists promote one album for 1-4 years. Don’t stop promoting your music just because it is already available.