Saturday, March 12, 2011

Getting People To Pay For What Can Be Free

If you're a music fan, chances are you have downloaded music on the Internet. Some of it you may have paid for. Some of it you may not have. Some music is meant to be free, and is posted online by the artist themselves for promotion purposes. Other releases are aimed to generate profit; though even these albums are downloaded by many fans for free. The morality behind this is a discussion for another time...and another blog.

But, some artists just complain, and/or try to get even. Others are more productive and are dead set on being successful anyway. How do they do it? They adapt. They embrace technology. They make it work for them instead of against them. They think outside the box. And, they will end up leaving their less creative peers behind. Issues like this are where you will see the difference between a person who is just an artist, and a person who is both an artist and a business-minded professional. These professionals will not be "starving artists". They refuse.

Keeping the focus on the music business for this discussion, I have noticed tactics recently by a few musicians that display clever marketing strategies executed without a large budget that will help to push them towards success.

The first tactic is artwork. I downloaded a (free, I assure you) album from an artist containing 12 tracks. I put it on my iPod and took it with me when I headed out for the day. After the first 3 songs, I noticed that each one had it's own artwork displayed on the screen. Yes, the album was free. The artist didn't actually generate any money from my download. But, a simple thing like this gets his music noticed more than the others - the "competition". I put that in quotations, but it really shouldn't be. All musicians have to compete at some level. People have limited disposable income, and the purchase of one album often limits the ability of buying another one.

Seeing a unique picture for each song made me notice it more. Some downloads don't come with artwork at all. Some just have to resort to the generic black background with a white music note - iPod's way of telling me I'm listening to an audio file of some kind. This musician clearly knows what he's up against and wants to win. He's making the music a little more fun, and a little more memorable. And, I've seen fans, that are especially interested in artwork, buy an album largely for this reason.

Another musician uses his website to offer a free download for his album. However, each song can be clicked on individually to see a short video treatment which accompanies it. An additional link offers a 10 minute interview displaying more of the artist's back story and personality. All of these videos are YouTube links as well - they can be shared easily with others. Such an effort may not seem like that big of a deal to some. But, it causes the audience to take a closer look at the artist. It causes them to spend more time on the website, more time absorbing the music, and even seeing it come to life. This tactic pulls the audience in.

These free offerings make people want to spend their money in the future. They know this musician's personality more so than others they may listen to. They have experienced more free content, and may feel like an official release should be supported by them now. What comes next? Tour dates which tickets can be purchased for. Pre-orders for the album. Free shipping. A recap of what they have given away for free in the past year. Details on the new product. The music. The artwork included. A free, exclusive bonus disc. An autographed copy. Etc., etc., etc. They are now asking for the sale.

Yes, the official album can more than likely be downloaded for free somewhere online. But, offering a taste for free with additional content delivered in a clever and unique way, gathers support from fans. It creates fans. Loyal fans. Fans who would rather spend their hard earned money with this artist than with the competition ("competition" being more than just other music. It's any and all other entertainment). Because this artist is worth it to them.

In a marketplace that is overcrowded because of technology, and which offers content for free because of technology, the embracing of technology is what makes these artists stand out. And, it is this thought process that will make them successful in the business they have chosen.