Should Music Be Free?
There’s much debate between CEOs and record label reps, musicians and teenagers alike; Should music be free?
Not long ago at brunch with a Senior A&R rep from a label that’s ruling the airwaves (just take an educated guess as to which one), we got into a post-mimosas political debate about the topic. My opinions were quickly hushed out before being painted a very plain picture by the rep:
You’re standing in-front of two grocery stores. Both have the same groceries, both are the exact same store, except one gives its shelves away for free. Now, knowing that both are legitimate stores and that you won’t be arrested for taking the free groceries, or even looked down upon…which would you walk into?
Interesting question right? It becomes quite the moral dilemma. Or does it?
Music, plain and simple, needs to have a clearly defined role. It can no longer be considered just “music”. It has become a marketing tool…effectively a product used to gather greater awareness by the public. Giving away music for free can’t be looked as a loss of income anymore but rather an “indirect route from product to revenue“ or “loss-leading“. This is the process of leading in a consumer with a free product, then projecting that they will unknowingly spend a larger amount because of it. The Internet, although seemingly destroying the music industry, has only forced artists and product managers to think outside the box…Use free music downloads as a way to build your email list. Use that list to offer promo codes to your merch store. Sell more merch. This is a not-so-hard to figure out formula that can be applied to literally thousands of variations.
Look, if this topic was up for argument, the opposing side would have brought back Tower Records, or maybe the Virgin Megastores wouldn’t be closed in the States. It’s not something we have to accept, but it is something we can use to our absolute advantage. This is a OUR huge opportunity to provide the artist and consumer with a more direct connection then ever possible before. Build a street team, awareness, merch sales, tour support….and eventually the popularity provided by free downloads will lead you to a record deal (or you’re that much closer to opening your own label). What, sound weird? You’re probably right, there’s noooo way anyone would get a record deal these days from just posting videos online…