The term ‘free music’ is thrown around a lot these days. It covers the net all over, offering free downloads in conjunction with a quick survey (that takes just moments to complete!), or giving you the option to pay what you want. Is this just a marketing ploy? Is this just a very clever way to give the demand of a need to a recipient, while gaining what you need? Supply and demand is everywhere through business, as its just the background on which it runs – but are we being manipulated into a secret way of supplying this need?
The idea of free music came about when Napster started up in the early 00’s, offering music to the world for no cost, but just a few minutes of downloading and file sharing. A great idea in theory, but Napster casually forgot about licensing laws, and the fact they were essentially throwing away millions of dollars in copyright infringement. Once the program realised its ways and asked for a fee, the program quickly lost members as other copy-cat programs were popping up across the net. Shareaza, Limewire and the like became instantly popular, as well as the access of downloading files at a mass production rate through bit torrenting.
All these programs do in fact give away free music for little more than a signup to their program – but do you think it’s really doing damage to the artists at hand?
Some yes, and some no. In the case of yes, it’s usually the struggling independent musicians who are physically losing out on their own monetary input by downloading the music. Some will offer a free download from their webpage in order to encourage listening to their music, and hopefully encourage buying the album at a later date.
In the case of no, it’s the big brand names in music, who are run by the big brand names in the industry. These people do not usually lose out on a lot of money if their music is downloaded – because honestly, it doesn’t cost that much to produce anymore.
People who have endeavoured to change the way in which we perceive include Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. These two bands in the process have inadvertently caused a riff between the two, due to quality and pricing issues.
With Radiohead’s last album release, In Rainbows, fans were asked to pay whatever they thought was fair, and they would then be sent a download file in which they would receive their album. Fans were also offered the chance to purchase the album, and the vinyl at a fixed price.
Nine Inch Nails however, released their last album The Slip entirely free. A free download for all fans, and you had several different downloading options for this album also. This is where the tiff occurred between the two bands – Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails believed in a free album entity where the fans could download the tracks as they saw fit. They were album to change the download rate and the quality of the songs in conjunction to their needs.
Trent Reznor also didn’t ask for any fee for the album either, and it definitely paid off. Through offering a free album, Reznor inadvertently gained more fans, who were then more inclined to buy concert tickets and merchandise, the revenue of which almost makes cd sales completely insignificant.
With this, Reznor was able to carry out a massive tour with almost every show selling out – he kept fans happy, he gained some new ones, and managed to put a new spin on free music.
This concept of free music is a rare one indeed. Nothing is ever free, unless of course you stumble across a musician who is so fed up with the way the music industry is run, he does everything to derail it. While free music is never really just that, there’s no harm in striving to gain that bonus of a form of entertainment that places far too much value on itself in the first place. So if you’ve got a band, think about your marketing strategy – maybe giving the world a free taste of your music is the best way to go about things in the first place!