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Should You Release Your Own Music For Free?

To free or not to free. That is the question.

When I started Cut Records, I decided that I wanted to release music for free. Not just my own, but more importantly other people’s!

I was seeing highly respected and established artists giving away their music for free in places like Sendspace, Mediafire, Megaupload (before it disappeared) and places like Soundcloud too.

The main problem with all of these though, was not the platform, it was the release.

Instead of having some nice artwork, a bit of information, and having the music tagged, properly named and ready for consumption, I was seeing the opposite. And it was infuriating me.

I get frustrated easily, you can imagine!

Hastily thrown together artwork, badly mixed and mastered tracks, varying formats, no tagging, no naming convention, expiring links, and really just zero care and attention given to the entire process.

If you intend on giving away your music for free, do yourself AND everyone else a favour, and at least do it properly.

With Cut, I made sure tracks were mastered, tagged and packaged nicely with good artwork. I put them on a platform properly and collected email addresses and shares in return for downloading – and I allowed people to donate if they wished. This allowed me to off-set my masterings and various other costs.

Sadly, this model wasn’t scaleable – but that’s another post…

If you are thinking about releasing your music for free – then here are some questions to ask yourself:

Where are you at in your career?

Are you just starting out or have you got an established set of people eager to hear more from you.

If you’re just starting out, you’re in a prime position to put your stuff out for free (if you feel so inclined).

If you have a decent sized audience, then releasing music for free might be doing yourself out of potential profit.

Sure, it might not – and people may look to stream or download your music for free regardless, but if enough people bought it, would you regret giving it away for free?

What do you care about more, audience or profit?

Often it comes down to this: Your free music will probably spread further.

Free music is inherently more shareable – people feel like they can give something to other people by sharing your links, and if the quality is good, then everybody loves something for nothing!

If you want to try and bring in an audience, then a free release is going to help you, but there are ways to capitalise on releasing your music for free.

Don’t just throw it out there, and let people grab it willy-nilly. You can really do much better than that if you put in even just a tiny bit of effort!

Take a look at How To Effectively Release Your Music For Free

Making back costs

Even if you intend to release your music for free, there may be costs involved that you need to somehow recoup.

Did you pay someone to master your tracks? If so, that probably cost something. Shouldn’t you try and offset that?

Do you want to distribute your music to places like Spotify, Rdio and Deezer for people to consume for free on the streaming platforms? There’s likely to be a cost involved there too, and I don’t expect the money you get back in streaming revenue to pay for that right away. Streaming revenue costs are small, even if you’re a long-established artist.

2 Common Arguments

If you let 100 people download your free EP then that’s 100 missed sales.

Not so. I’d say those people probably would not have taken the chance on your stuff, had it been even a few euros – and those 100 people are now aware of you (which is worth more than 0 people aware of you) and if they like what they hear, they may take the chance on purchasing your next release when it comes around.

If you want people to take you seriously as a musician, stop giving away music

Firstly, people will take you seriously as a musician for far more reasons than the cost of your music.

Secondly, giving away a few tracks, or giving away one or two select tracks from a release is not going to ruin your credibility as an artist – it’s one of the more commonly used promotion methods that even big artists do.

How many respected musicians take the opportunity to give away a free track on XLR8R magazine for example, if it’s going to increase awareness about them and their upcoming release?

The bottom line

Ultimately it’s up to you if you want to give your music away for free or not. Nobody can tell you how to do that, and nobody will complain if you do it either way.

Just take a moment to consider the pros and cons before you jump in – rather to think about it up front for a few days, than to regret it for months after.

You’ll probably find some use in my post How To Effectively Release Your Music For Free

Do you know somebody thinking about releasing for free? WHy not share this post with them?


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