Big And Small Artists Alike Benefiting From Free Music

from the a-reminder dept

We've pointed out in the past the fact that every time we point to a less-well-known musician successfully implementing a business model that involves free music, someone (inevitably) says "but that will never work for big name musicians." And, then, when we point to big name musicians successfully implementing such business models, someone (inevitably) says "well, that's fine for a big name musician, who can afford to give away music, but it will never work for less-well-known musicians." In fact, after seeing this happen over and over again, one of our commenters jokingly referred to this phenomenon as Masnick's Law.

However, a post by Jim Stogdill over at O'Reilly Radar, shows both well-known and less-well-known artists supporting free music in different ways. He talks about going to a Nine Inch Nails show, where Trent Reznor encourages his audience to "steal" his music, noting that Reznor has said in the past that if music is free, he'll keep making money touring. Then, afterwards in the parking lot, Stogdill was handed a home-burned CD of music from the band Cube Head, who was giving them out at the show to encourage more people to listen to them. There, in a single snapshot was both large and small artists recognizing they could benefit from free music -- though in slightly different ways.

However, Stogdill seems to imply that touring is the only business model for musicians these days, and I'd argue that's not true at all. In fact, Reznor has shown that there are plenty of other business models that don't rely on touring, but, instead focus on giving people a reason to buy -- by giving them something scarce that can't simply be pirated -- such as exclusive signed copies of box sets. And, again, less well known artists have figured this out as well, with musicians like Jill Sobule who put in place a business model that worked well, without relying on touring for all of the money (yes, touring is a part of the business model, but not all of it). The focus, again, is always on using the infinite nature of the music to attract more fans, and then getting them to buy a scarce good that is made more valuable by the music. That can work for any artist, small, medium or large -- and can allow them to make more profits since they often won't have to rely on quite so many middlemen.

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    Mike (profile), 11 Sep 2008 @ 7:19pm


    Im still waiting for an article on free music business models that doesnt revolve around Trent Reznor.

    Um, then you haven't been looking very hard, have you? After all, we've talked about Radiohead, Jill Sobule, Marillion, Jonathan Coulton and many others.

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