Recording Artists and Free Music

Bands and recording artists have figured out a way to “Give People a Reason to Talk about Them”. Prince did it in the UK and now other artists are falling in line with the same or similar strategy. In the UK Prince gave away music to anyone who purchased a local newspaper or a concert ticket. No Doubt, the popular band, gave away their entire catalog of music online to anyone who purchased a ticket to their concert.

Here is the beauty of the strategy; artists can increase the level of control on their material and leverage it against other income streams. Historically recording artists made the majority of their revenue from touring or spot performance dates. The money made from the record companies for the average artist is tied up in accounting and legal slight-of-hand verbiage and processes. After all, the record company’s job is to sell records. And since the record company is taking the biggest financial risk they would get the biggest reward from sales.

When a project is released or about to be released, the artist tours or performs at various venues to promote the project. The money from the show, as a booking fee or percentage of the gate, would go to the artist and is usually (there is no such thing as a standard contract) not tied in with the record company agreement. This is how artists make a majority of their money.

Regarding this strategy here are several take-aways for bands and recording artists:

1. For artists signed to recording companies, the artist can negotiate with their record company, who may be sitting on older music, an agreement in which the artist would give the company a percentage of the gate by letting others download the song library. This will put the artist in control of paying the record company instead of the record company in control of paying the artist. Since the artist is taking the biggest risk then the artist would get the bigger reward. The record company would not have a serious expense as their overhead would be licensing.

2. For new independent artists, move towards the college crowd and college towns. Once you build a fan base you can begin doing small tours and spot dates offering the same benefit of free music.

3. For independent bands with a following, tap into your network and hold a live concert or event. You can give catalog material away for free with some exclusive songs. At the event you can sell the new CD along with some band merchandise.

Please be advised that there are some infrastructure issues, publishing and licensing issues that have to be considered when setting up, implementing and monitoring this type of strategy. The main point is for the artist to put themselves in position to leverage their catalog and not to depend on the music sales or downloads alone to make a living. Think of other ways as a recording artist to “Give People a Reason to Talk about You”


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