Here’s a thought: your free downloads won’t necessarily motivate local music fans to listen to your songs.
t’s hard to wrap your mind around why someone wouldn’t take something that’s free. It happens all of the time, though. Not everyone takes a free sample of food. Your neighbors didn’t take that free couch at the end of the driveway, even though it was still in good condition. Free cheeseburgers for a quick three-question survey are ignored. The Portland musician hustles free CDs in downtown, but so many people ignore her or say no. I like free things, but I don’t always want them. I can make a long list of reasons why consumers refuse free products, but to keep it simple, they’re lazy.
Don’t get me wrong: I will always take a musician’s album, give it a listen or two, and pass it along to a contributing writer for review. But I’m a die-hard Portland music fanatic. As a musician trying to grow your audience, you want to reach the average music listener. Your goal should be to remove all barriers of access to your music; don’t give listeners reasons to not listen to your music.
Observe the devices people use to listen to music. Most people are using some sort of digital music player, whether it’s an MP3 player (like an iPod) or a smartphone. Over 129 million people in the U.S. own a smartphone, and that number is growing. Hopefully, this isn’t news to anyone.
Digital music distribution is crucial. It’s the tail end of marketing. Let’s say a local music fan hears your music and loves it. Now where can she get it? Putting a free download on your website or Reverbnation allows access to your songs for an amount of effort from the listener –they need to find the download, then add it to their device. The keyword here is distribution. Put your music in front of listeners. Hand it to them.
The majority of the population listens to music in a digital format, yes. But listeners have preferences in the way they access digital music. Whether digital downloads or streaming with an app, the available music library of listeners’ adopted digital music platforms will dictate their playlists. If you’re not on a specific platform, you’ve closed the doors on potential fans, because you will never get on their playlists.
Put your music everywhere. Even if you intend to give away your music. So you make a few bucks because fans decided to download songs off of iTunes or they stream your songs on Spotify –what’s the issue?
iTunes still dominates the digital music market, owning 60% of digital music sales (hint: you need to be on iTunes). Don’t neglect streaming services like Spotify or Mog. Amazon, Google Play, and CDBaby are also big players in the market. Even the lesser-known distributors, like Rdio and Rhapsody, are important. It doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of work for the do-it-yourself musician to work with most of the big names in digital music distribution, but if you need help, look into digital distribution services like TuneCore.
Your website can be a home for your digital downloads (you can make them free), or link to the distribution platforms you use. Don’t stop making CDs. True fans will always want something tangible. Some Portland bands have even sent The Portland Pick seven inch vinyls. Now that’s pretty cool.
Want more ideas? Shoot me a message — email@example.com.