by Alex Cosper (1/15/13, revised 3/18/14)
Giving away music helps create a fan base and get the word out about your music. There are many examples of indie artists who have sold a lot of CDs after giving away free music online. The more you let people use your music, such as for videos, the more you can expand your market. The marketing of music has always been a numbers game in the sense that only so many people are going to want to hear a particular type of music whether they buy it or get it for free. On a small scale, you might be happy if one out of ten people who download your free song gives you a response about it.
Making your songs available free online can be done by uploading the mp3s to the website then telling users where to find the link. It's a good idea to offer the song as a free mp3, which is a universal format. If you offer a free song that requires the user to download a player it can be a lost cause since people don't like to spend extra time downloading things they may not have needed otherwise.
Even if you don't want to give away free songs, you might still want to consider offering song samples or maybe even a one minute production that includes a medley of your album. By giving people something free you are creating possiblities to be remembered in this age of artists everywhere you turn. While digital songs make excellent gifts and promotional items, physical CDs should be thought of as more an investment with a desired return. You should still give away free CDs to certain media and music industry people who can help your music career.
It's a good idea to get used to the concept of free music, at least as a promotional tool. Music sales have dramatically dropped since the 1990s. Although iTunes helped redirect sales toward digital downloads, which rivaled CD sales by 2013, the music industry continued to struggle. The problem hasn't been so much nobody wants to pay for music anymore as it is the music industry hasn't come up with any new creative business models besides ringtones and online streaming, both of which have not been able to make up the difference in lost revenue.
It's true that music fans have learned to enjoy music for free on YouTube. Vevo, funded by the music industry, is a platform that monetizes music videos with annoying pop up ads that a lot of music fans don't like. People would rather most ad-free videos on Facebook and other social networks, but many times Vevo videos have no other viable alternatives. Consider making a YouTube video that's like a clever commercial for your song. Only show a minute of the song or a montage of songs to promote your album.
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