Thursday, January 26, 2012

Does Giving Away Your Music Equal New Fans?

Everyone has an opinion on what they feel is the best way to get their music to the masses. We are of the mindset that with hard work, perseverance and hammering away at all the angles, it is still a crap shoot of what band will get attention or become yesterday's news. This scenario for the most part sucks. Not that everyone should succeed or else we would all be winners and that isn't how the story goes.

But there are many ideas which have validity and it just comes down to how much do you believe in the music you are creating. Take for example the article below about the electronic artist Pretty Lights. He is of the mindset to give away his music for free and it will drive more individuals to come to his shows.

Their free song give away plan of attack has literally paid out and thus you are reading about the story. Personally, we feel that if the music is good enough to cut through the mass of bands begging for attention, then folks will buy it in one form or another. Is giving away your hard earned songs worth it? Entirely up to you as a band, but we think ya have to do something unique and different to be heard or be as talented as Adele to be heard on a large scale. Should this deter your plan of attack, no way in hell. Just figure out what works best for your band and dig in. We need debauchery back in Rock N' Roll and we need some danger. Rock has been stale for a long while unless you happen to listen to some of the bands we work with. Go out and bend the world to your liking, the masses are waiting for the next great band and why shouldn't it be you.

Here's a question: What digital media download service has access to hundreds of millions of people, who are extremely engaged in the content available through that network? That would be Bit Torrent (and U Torrent, which is essentially the same thing, just a separate approach from a branding perspective). If PL is giving away music for free already; and essentially ONLY utilizes his site to do so, why not break down the barriers of access? 
  • Put every track he has available on SoundCloud as a free stream - want the download? OK, to go to the website.
  • Put every track available on a Mobile Roadie application (iPhone version available now, Android coming soon) for free streaming anywhere and everywhere - want the download? OK, go to his website.
  • Make a download bundle of his 3 popular EPs (“Glowing in The Darkest Night,” “Making Up A Changing Mind,” and “Spilling Over Every Side”) + his newest single “I Know The Truth,” and a video from his Bonnaroo Show, then distribute those assets to 4 million people in 2 monthsincrease email sign ups by 60,000+ people, increase web traffic by 700%, and Facebook Likes by 30,000+?  
  • BitTorrent... check.
And now the power of PL’s music-for-free model has just increased by A LOT. 
The PL Bit Torrent Bundle was, and still is (as of this writing), featured on the Bit Torrent website:


The bundle was additionally an opt-in inclusion for anyone who downloaded the Bit Torrent software:


The Results
Millions of downloads in a short time period = top of Pirate Bay’s overall downloads section, and Audio section for over a month (as of this writing, it’s actually still up there):


I picked up the phone and called Red Light Management (manager for PL) as soon as I saw that the BitTorrent bundle had hit #1 on Pirate Bay. Think of Pirate Bay as the underground / music pirate’s version of the Billboard Top 100. In fact, I would say the Pirate Bay’s Top 100 might be the BEST indication of what digital content is reaching the masses on the Internet, because it includes the metrics for the millions of people “illegally” downloading content; and those top downloaded items are fairly similar to the top audio, TV, and movie downloads on iTunes and other “legal” paid services. 
UPDATE: As of 1/22/12, The Pretty Lights / BitTorrent media bundle has surpassed 6 million downloads worldwide.
 Randy Reed, PL’s manager, put it perfectly:
“Here we are celebrating hitting #1 on Pirate Bay, while major labels would be kicking, cursing, and sending take-down notices.”

The Reaction
Hitting #1 on Pirate Bay lead to reactions such as:

…and then ushered in more downloads.
Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 10.10.12 PM
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The Metrics
Effect of BitTorrent Promotion on PL web traffic:


Then the promotion went down for a bit...
Then BitTorrent loved PL so much, they re-ignited it:


PL is HUGE in the US, but we are definitely working on spreading his name to other countries, and this promotion certainly helped. 

Last month and a half, traffic to
Screen shot 2012-01-19 at 7.31.13 PM to the previous month and a half period:
Screen shot 2012-01-19 at 7.32.44 PM
Traffic from sources overseas also saw massive spikes, as BitTorrent has a large user-base in Europe.
Soundcloud plays (each spike represents when the promotion went live, twice):

Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 10.16.55 PM
 ...and YouTube
Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 10.18.03 PMNextBigSound Big Picture Data:
Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 10.19.15 PM
Some Press
Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 10.20.42 PM
Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 10.20.50 PM 
My co-worker, and frequent Hypebot contributor Hisham Dahud, put it well when he said Pretty Lights’ business model is “embracing the chaos” of the current state of the music industry. And the ever-apparent, and frequently asked question is “well, how does he make money if he gives all of his music away for free?” 

Take a look at this video and see if you can answer for yourself how Pretty Lights is one of the biggest and fastest growing acts in the electronic dance music scene, and how he monetizes his business while giving all of his music away for free:

And then check out this video and see if you can guess how he creates multiple revenue streams:

 ...and finally check out his webstore.
If you haven’t answered the question yet, you’re stupid… just kidding. 
Big buzz in a specific geographic region (Denver) among college kids, pursuant to great live shows and free music… leads to free great music to larger and larger audiences as time goes on… leads to more shows in more places = massive distribution of a FREE valuable product = increasing interest = $ for shows = $ for merch, then at a certain level = $ from brands. 

Bob Lefsetz said it perfectly:
"Just because you give away your main product for free does not mean you can't make money. We live in an attention economy, your biggest chore is getting people to listen, not to pay for your music."
Selling music?  Who cares anymore?
- Michael Fiebach (@mfiebach), Founder of Fame House LLC
Working with Randy Reed and Adam Foley of Red Light Management
Disclosure: In addition to writing for Hypebot, Hisham Dahud is also employed by Fame House.