In this crazy, mixed-up, experimental world that is the “new music industry”, artists giving away their music for free has become common practice. There are pages upon pages of fiery debate as to whether this hurts or helps a career, but the fact is many artists view it as a necessary strategy.
If you’re going to give downloads of your music away for free, here are a few tips to consider:
1) Include Great Metadata
Treat your free music as you would any paid release. This includes making sure that all relevant metadata is prepared for the track.
You’re wasting a valuable branding/advertising opportunity if someone throws your song into iTunes and it shows up as “demo_track(final_master)2012” with no mention of the artist, album, song title, etc.
Take the time to fill out all relevant categories of metadata. You can even include your website or Twitter handle in the ‘notes’ section, and always include some kind of artwork to accompany the song.
If you’re really struggling with metadata motivation (I know, it’s tedious) check out a service like Bandcamp that includes a convenient feature that will add all the relevant metadata to the track for you.
2) Use a High Quality Download Service
You’ve just spent time having your music beautifully mastered at Mojito with gloriously kick-ass audio quality. Do your music justice and offer it through a high quality service whose encoding technique won’t reduce the audio quality of your music.
Again, a site like Bandcamp (I swear we’re not sponsored!) requires you to upload in high-fidelity lossless formats (WAV, AIFF, FLAC). They then convert your files into a number of quality formats and give the downloader the choice of version they’d like (MP3, Apple Lossless, AAC, etc).
Your fans might still choose a simple MP3, but it gives them an option for higher quality, and the audiophiles will appreciate it. You want your songs to stand up on a professional level when your listeners throw them into a playlist with everyone else. Don’t sacrifice quality just because you’re giving it away for free.
3) Make Your Music Available Everywhere
Self-explanatory? Obvious? Sure, but there a lot of channels people don’t think about when offering free music downloads. Your website, social media networks, and newsletters are the important bases to cover.
Have you thought about submitting your download tracks to online radio and streaming services? Distribution sites like CD Baby give away tracks for free (see a video on that here). Send your tracks to music blogs and see if they’ll offer the download to their readers.
Another good opportunity is putting your music on BitTorrent or other P2P sites often used for illegal downloads. You’re giving it away for free anyways so the financial repercussion don’t impact you, and those sights get a tremendous amount of music-seeking traffic.
4) “Free” Doesn’t Have To Be Completely Free
Giving away music for free doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get something in return. There are a number of things you can ask of your listener that don’t cost them anything, but hold significant value on your end. Ask them to join your mail list, friend you on Facebook or tweet about the free download.
A number of studies suggest people feel indebted even on the smallest scale when they receive something for free. Simply asking them for an exchange can go a long way to expanding your network and building a loyal fan base.
**I would caution against requiring people to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ you publicly (ie. on social media) before they can access the music. I’ve heard a number of bloggers and industry professionals say they won’t put their name behind anything they can’t hear first.
If you’re going to ask for something in return, make sure the call-to-action is clear and visible; especially at the point of, or upon completion of the download.
Got more tips that you think are worth mentioning? Join the discussion and post them below!