Is It Better To *Require* Or *Request* Something In Return For Free Content?
from the the-debate-goes-on dept
Over at Music Think Tank there’s a blog post provocatively titled: Why Music Should Never Be Given Away For “Free”, which brings up a point I’ve heard multiple times from various music industry marketers (many of whom I generally agree with). They say it is okay to give away music without a monetary transaction taking place, but instead you should demand something else in return. In this post, he suggests requiring an email address, a retweet or a Facebook share in order to get free music.
I definitely understand the general rationale for this line of thinking, but I’m afraid that people are going too far with it, and it’s actually harming the value of free music in some cases. Obviously, it’s great if you can get something (monetarily or not) in exchange for the music, but putting up a barrier can also be harmful. First of all, if it’s truly a brand new fan who hasn’t heard your work, they might not be willing to commit to you in that way. Especially when it comes to Tweeting or Facebooking an artist. If I don’t know the artist, there’s no way I’m mentioning them to all of the people who follow me on various social networks. On the flip side, when I do see friends who make those kinds of Tweets, they feel like spam. They’re not at all convincing and they don’t feel authentic. They feel forced. Honestly, when I see people post social networking messages in exchange for free tracks, it actually makes me less interested in the musical act, because I feel like they need to beg for attention, rather than letting the fans organically give them attention.
Finally, part of the reason the whole “free music” world exploded the way it did was because of the massive simplicity and lack of friction in music sharing, which made music discovery and promotion much more seamless and easy. Putting required friction back into the process seems like a mistake, and will likely just drive fans (or potential fans) either to other artists or back to the same file sharing systems that remove that friction. That doesn’t help anyone.
So rather than requiring an explicit exchange, it always seems a hell of a lot more effective to offer the content for free, but ask for the exchange as a voluntary setup: “If you like these songs, tell your friends or sign up for our mailing list” or something like that. This way it’s not forced. It’s not inauthentic. It’s not friction. It’s about trusting the listeners, rather than trying to force them to act in a certain way.