Hey guys, I’ve a big one for you today. I seriously believe this will change the way a lot of musicians give out their ‘free’ music, as the way most do it now only hinders their music career. If you’ve ever asked “should I give out my music for free?”, this guide will help you.
If your strategy involves putting your latest album or mixtape on your website for people to download at the click of a button, you need to read this guide.
I wrote this guide as I see an increasing amount of musicians giving out all their music for free with no real aim. The theory many give me is that more people will hear them and they’ll therefore make more money from gigging later down the line. This however is a flawed plan, and in this guide I’ll tell you why. On top of that, I’ll also give you a better way to do things rather than just plopping a free download link on your website for people to use.
What You’ll Learn From Reading This Guide
- After reading this guide, you’ll have a better knowledge of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to free music.
- You’ll know how to set up your free music to get the most from each downloader.
- You’ll have a idea of how to monetize the people who go on to download your free music.
- You’ll have a full strategy which will help you get a more valuable type of fan from your free offer.
- You’ll have a strategy to build up a more lasting relationship with any fans. This is better than the ‘download once never to return again’ fan which is usually attracted by freebies.
Give Out Music For Free? Here’s The Problem
Giving out free music in it’s traditional form is largely a flawed plan. While it used to work well and would help get your music out to more people who might later buy something or attend a show, this isn’t what generally happens any more. With there being so many musicians giving out their music for free, ‘free’ isn’t nearly as much of a strong incentive to download as it once was. Here’s why the traditional free model doesn’t really work any more:
Being Free Alone Doesn’t Get You That Many More Downloads
Ask yourself, how many times do you see free music which you don’t go on to download? If you’re a regular browser of any of the music websites such as Soundcloud and Reverb Nation (both good sites for finding new musicians by the way), my guess is every day.
Putting your new single, mixtape or album up for free on your website isn’t likely to get you known on a much wider scale than you are already. Yes you may get some downloads, but that’s generally after you promote it yourself and give people a reason to download your music in the first place. They’re not generally going to just find your website and download you music without any promotion.
So either way, you have to market yourself if you want to get any downloads. The art of marketing is basically the art of convincing people to look at your music and give it a try. So if you can get good at that side of things, you’ll have a big advantage over the majority of musicians who try and stay clear of the business side. But back to the main point.
There are thousands of thousands of musicians who give out there music for free, meaning that zero price point alone no longer gives a real edge when trying to gain new fans over other similar artists. It’s because of this that you need to do more than give out all your music for free via a single download link. We’ll look more at what else you can do later in this guide.
Giving Away All Your Music For Free Cheapens Your Image
Another problem with giving away all your music is that it cheapens your image.
As you progress in your music career, you’ll want to gradually build up a solid fanbase who interact with you in a certain way. You have the power to influence the way your fans interact with you.
If you give out a load of your music for free, this is what your fans are going to come to expect. In affect you’re training them to download your songs for free, and not give any financial or other type of reward in exchange. You’re training them to be in a one way relationship, and you’re showing them your music isn’t something that needs to be bought.
If you then turn around down the line and expect them to start paying for songs, chances are the majority of people won’t. They’ll be too used to the old way of doing things, and won’t really support you as much now there’s a price involved.
If you had worked on getting more interactive and supportive people in from the beginning, while your fan base may be a bit smaller, you’ll have attracted higher quality fans who are more open to spending money and supporting you in other way. This is much more beneficial for a consistent music career. Furthermore, you give off the impression of a more premium brand.
Free Music Alone Often Gets Ignored And Forgotten About
A last point I want to make about free music, is that it doesn’t always get listened to. If you’re a regular downloader of free music, chances are that you know this.
There are a number of serial downloaders who go around and download a load of new artists. These new songs and albums then end up sitting on the person’s computer, never to be listened to. When they haven’t got enough space on their hard drive, all of these songs get deleted without ever getting a real play. Any title they don’t recognize (including your song) gets deleted.
The problem is that there’s nothing reminding people who you are, why they downloaded your music, or why they really need to give it a listen.
When people buy your music however, you don’t get this problem. The fact that they paid for it means they already know something about you, and are highly likely to listen to what you have to offer.
As you can see, the general way of giving out free music isn’t really that effective. Yes you may get some downloads and some fans, but you’re not really maximizing your potential at all. Luckily, today I’m going to share with you a better way to make free music work for you. A way that will get you better quality fans, and make you more money in the long run. Here’s the solution:
Ok, so as you can see above, giving out all your music isn’t most likely going to get you many more fans or move your music career forward much. So what should you be doing instead?
While there are a few strategies you can adopt, one that I’ve found works well is the ‘gradual freebie, remind & monetize’ method (yes, I did just make that name up as there’s no official name for it). 🙂
Let me tell you what this involves, why it works, and how to implement it in your music career…
Basically what this involves is having a few songs to stream, and / or a few videos to watch on your website (if you haven’t yet got a website, you can set a professional one up quickly and easily using this guide). Instead of giving these songs away as a free download however, what you want to do is only give a free download to people that sign up to your mailing list. If you haven’t already got a mailing list, you can learn how to set one up using this guide.
It’s your choice how many songs you give as an incentive for people who sign up, but don’t make it more than a four track EP. You can give away one song if you want, but often a three or four track EP sounds more attractive and will increase the likeliness people will sign up. Furthermore, using that many tracks will mean people can hear a few different sides to you, and see what you’re really capable of doing. This will set you off on a better footing over if you only gave away just one free song.
As well as giving out your small EP, you should also set up your email autoresponder to email subscribers with one new free song say every two weeks. This can be more or less frequent if you wish, but that will depend on how fast you record your songs and what your overall strategy is. I’d say for most people one new free song every two weeks is fine. After all, if you were going to give out a whole 12 track album on your site for free in one go, that will give you 4 month of interaction with this potential fan instead (4 tracks for them to sign up, then two track a month = 4 months worth). Much better than the one time ‘give out and forget’ strategy.
As well as emailing them a new free song every two weeks, email them interesting news about yourself in between (usually once a week), sending them back to your website or any relevant places. In your email template, add offers such as other songs for sale, merchandise, gig tickets and the like. Also include them in some places on your website. Make them prominent, but don’t over sell them as this can get annoying.
This way they’ll know there’s a way they can further buy into you, and a percentage of people will most likely take you up on that offer if you give off a good impression of yourself.
Why This Solution Works
So why is giving out free songs over time better than giving them out all at once on your website? Simple, because of the ‘reminder’ factor. If you market your next free release and get 200 people to your website who go on to download your free release, that’s a good thing. Chance are though, that out of these 200 people who download your music, a lot of them will go to waste. A percentage of them won’t listen to your music more then once after they’ve downloaded it (if that), and the majority probably won’t interact with you again in any way after that. While a small percentage will, without reminding them or giving them a proper incentive, chances are they’ll go on to the next new musician with a free promo. And when you go on to release your next free or paid product, you’ll have no way of letting these proven downloaders know.
If however you made people give their name and email address in exchange for these free songs and gave the promise of sending more free music in future, you’ll now have a way to contact them whenever you like. Using these details you can email them once a week, remind them you exist, and remind them to listen to what you have to offer. You don’t have to actively say “remember to listen to my songs;” simply by emailing them you’re reminding them they have something of yours which they can listen to if they haven’t already.
While you’ll probably get only 100 or so people downloading instead of 200 (giving an extra step will reduce your download numbers), these 100 people will still be of more value to you in the long run. This is because:
- You’ll have a higher quality of fan. By adding their details to sign up to your newsletter (mailing list), they’ve proven themselves to be a action taker and someone who is willing to do that bit more to hear your music. These are more likely the type of people who will benefit your music career in the long term.
- You make yourself harder to forget. While they may still download your music and not listen at the time of download, when they get another email from you they’ll be reminded you exist and may go on to listen then.
- You can build up a relationship with these people. People don’t generally buy songs and gig tickets from musicians they haven’t got a connection with. In order to build up this connection, you should email your list subscribers at least once a week. You couldn’t however do this if they had downloaded your music then left without leaving their details.
- You encourage repeat visits to your website. If you include a link back to something new and interesting on your website each time you send out a email, you’ll encourage more people visiting it. And when people visit it more and grow a stronger connection with you, chance are you’ll start making more sales.
Overall, this is the strategy you should adopt if you want to go the free music route. By getting people’s email addresses in exchange for a shorter download, you’re giving yourself a way to contact people again in future. On top of that, you’re giving yourself the chance to build a relationship with them, one that will have them buying into you on a bigger level. Neither of these things are anywhere near as easy if you don’t collect contact details during the free download.
Lastly, by delivering your freebies over time, you’ll get a lot more benefit from each 10 or 12 track song package. Instead of giving it all out on day one and not seeing a lot of the downloaders again, by spreading it out over time you can instead use it to start building a lasting relationship with each potential long term fan. On autopilot.
As you continue to build your list, future releases will become a lot easier as well. You’ll have a list of people who you can contact when you have a new show / new release / when you need someone to vote for you for some kind of award. If you hadn’t built up this list, you’d have to rely on social media for these kind of announcements. While social media can help, a email from yourself is often a lot more effective at getting people to do the kind of things you’ll want.
Don’t Forget Part 1
In order for this strategy to work, you still need to market your music. Don’t expect just because you’re offering your music for free people will find it, it really doesn’t work like that. You need to put your music in relevant places, and give people a reason to listen and download in the first place. If you can’t do that, your music won’t take off, regardless of whether it’s free or paid.
You can see my music marketing guide here, so check that out for an idea of why you need to market and some of the things you can do. Many of the future premium lessons will also cover top ways to market your music.
Don’t Forget Part 2
As well as the free music, you need to offer a paid option as well. There will always be people who want to give you money in exchange for good music, so take full advantage of that. In fact, actively encourage people to support your music if they like what you do and pay for the songs that you give them.
For example, you can let people know they can either wait four months to get the full 12 songs, or they can buy it for $7.99 and help you make more new songs. A small percentage of people will go for the second option.
You can also give them the option to buy all new songs which can’t be downloaded for free. Market them as a premium option, and one that’s special as not everyone gets to hear them. Let people know they’ll be among your most cherished fans if they get it, and possibly give them a nice bonus if they buy.
On top of that, offer merch and gig tickets on your website so they have the option of buying into you in different ways too.
So To Recap
Overall, this is a much better option than simply giving out your music for free to anyone who visits your site. To make this strategy simpler to understand, here’s a quick recap of how it all works:
- Set up your site so it has music to listen to and watch, but not download.
- Set it up so if people want to download your music, they have to sign up to your mailing list. Give them a 3 or 4 track EP as an incentive.
- On all your pages where people can listen to your music, direct them back to this option of signing up to download some songs.
- Once they’re on your mailing list, email them one new free song every week or two. On the first day of download however, give them your free 4 track EP.
- In between emailing them further free songs, keep them update with your music career and build up a relationship with them. Also offer them premium song packages / merchandise / gig tickets etc which they can buy. Don’t however be forceful with this.
What To Do Now
- Set up your website if you haven’t already.
- Set up your mailing list / newsletter if you haven’t already.
- Include a download link to a 4 track EP for anyone who signs up to your mailing list.
- Set up your autoresponder so a new free song gets sent to your subscribers every two weeks (Or however long you decide). Also include any other updates in that email.
- In between those two weeks, manually send at least one more email with updates of what’s going on in your career. Include links to blog posts on your website, your social sites, pictures, and anything else people will find interesting. Within your template, include links for people to buy your songs, merchandise, gig tickets and the like. Also announce some of these things in the body of your email at least once a month too.
- Set up a page on your website which has your opt in form and also explains what people will get for signing up to the newsletter (free EP, a new song every two weeks, interesting updates and competitions, your love etc)
- Include a opt in form for your mailing list in the sidebar of your site so it appears on all of your pages.
- On your website, add some non-downloadable songs and videos. On each of those pages, include a clear call to action to visit your subscribe page if they want to download some of your songs for free.
So there you have it. Start putting the above things into action, and I’ll see you in the next Premium lessons. 🙂