There is nothing wrong with giving your music away for free, especially at the start of your career when you’re still relatively unknown. Giving your audience free access to one or more of your tracks can help to increase your fan base and drive more sales over time.
However, remember that creating music is not free. It costs money and time to produce, so eventually, you should be compensated. Giving away your music for free is not a long-term strategy, particularly if you’re hoping to turn your passion into your career. Before we start, let’s be clear that we’re talking about giving fans the opportunity to own your music for free, not just listen to it on Spotify or other streaming services. With that said, let’s dive in.
10 tips for giving away music for free
1. Keep it simple
Choose one place to give away your music and direct fans there. Make it easy for your audience to find and don’t overcomplicate things.
2. Music is not free, fans should pay in ‘social currency’
Get a Facebook like, Tweet mention, or preferably an email address in exchange for your music. If you are sending your tracks to your current mailing list, make sure they Tweet the link out to friends. Check out this page where you can create Twitter Mention and Follow buttons to embed on your website. You can also use a platform like bit.ly to track click through rates.
3. Social currency is reciprocal
Social media interaction works both ways. Make sure to tag fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when they interact with your music or mention you online.
4. Always follow up with your fans
Send out regular emails to your mailing list, once you’ve got one. Also, be sure to post at least once per day on your social channels. A Facebook statuses’ shelf-life is around 3 hours, while a Tweet is even less.
5. Don’t forsake your current fans
Free music is not just for new fans. Reward the people who’ve signed up to your mailing list with free songs. Also, never post mp3’s within the email. This can eat into people’s bandwidth (which can be annoying!), so be sure to send out a link to download the song, rather than the song itself.
6. Do not charge too much social currency or fans will go elsewhere
Basic data (name/age/location/how they heard of you) will give you enough to market and get a good idea of who your fans are. If they give you their details, it means they want to hear from you.
7. Let people listen before they download
No one will spend time downloading music they haven’t heard yet. Offer a preview of your track to entice listeners before they choose to download.
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 in the long-run. You could give away a single track, and then direct downloaders to purchase your full album. Or offer a discount on your other music and merchandise to anyone who downloads your free song.
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 should be promoted any less than a paid release, in fact it can give you the tools to market and engage your fan base and build new ones at the same time. Many artists promote the same album for 1 to 4 years, so don’t stop promoting your music just because it’s been available for a while.
There you have it – 10 rules for giving away your music for free.
With the rise of Spotify, YouTube and other streaming platforms, it could be argued that almost every artist ends up giving their music away for free in one way or another. But letting your fans download and own your music without charging anything is a different ball-game, so it’s worth thinking carefully about. Got a burning question or opinion about giving your music away for free? Let us know in the comments below, and share this advice with your friends.