5 Shrewd Ways Musicians Give Away Free Music

Musicians can always find a reason to give their music away for free. Such a seemingly selfless act may result in increased popularity, real monetary profit, a statement being made, or perhaps simply sharing their talents with the world.

With such results in mind, here are five strategies musicians have for giving their work away gratis, while their fans (usually) reap the benefits.

5. Social Currency I'll use Facebook as an example here. Many musicians have a Facebook page for their music. Some offer streaming music and require a "like" for it to be played. This gets the page extra likes. However, some potential fans might dismiss the music before hearing it simply because some don't want to socially promote something before knowing what it is. People are self-conscious. It's Facebook.

4. Packaging A few years ago I bought my mother and I concert tickets to go see Prince, her all-time favorite artist. These tickets were conveniently packaged with his then-latest album, Musicology. If I remember correctly, a copy of his album was being handed out to each concertgoer at the door. I can't say Musicology was Prince's greatest work, but having that album at that moment to listen to in the car directly following his undoubtedly impressive show made it sound so much better.

The free version of Musicology came in just a sort of slipcover, and copies with inserts and whatnot at the show were also selling fast at full-album price. Prince knew his album was going to sell anyway, but offering a hard copy of the music fans had just seen could also be an incentive for them to go see him again.

3. Persistence Some musicians may require listeners to sign up for their fan club before allowing access to a free track. This allows the musicians to promote, promote, promote, and also collect information on their fans.

Later, some of those listeners may decide they aren't such great fans of the music and attempt to unsubscribe, yet continue to receive an only slightly reduced volume of emails after doing so. Some people are touchy and don't like getting unwanted emails. This would be a way to lose those fans.

2. Leaks Fans appreciate a conveniently leaked track with much better sound quality than any alternate illicit download. Looking at my copy of Radiohead's In Rainbows from across the room, I'm thinking about how the band leaked that album a few years back. It was available for a full download via a pay-what-you-want model for a little while.

Regardless of how much money was actually made from this massive pre-release, pre-release sales quantities were reportedly higher than total sales from previous album Hail to the Thief. Then when the pay-what-you-wish download stopped, I and a few others impulsively bought a physical copy of the album in stores anyway. Point is, In Rainbows was a well-promoted album, at least in my opinion. Its release was well-placed and well-timed.

1. Free Everything Bands like Bomb the Music Industry! have their entire discography available to download for free on their Web site. In return, with the proper mix of promotion, Bomb the Music Industry! has garnered enough buzz to tour as often as possible since 2004, keeping ticket prices under $10 to boot.

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