This post is a part of the blog race that is taking place prior to the Media Evolution event (featuring Chris Anderson) in Malmö on February 4. 

I and my music label is the living proof that you can spread great art over the world and create a profit for musicians without having anything to start with. That it’s possible to build a music label in the twenty-first century and be a part of, and drive, the music climate from down the tail.

So how did we succeed? We gave much of it away for free. Every time we release a new set of songs there are free downloads and we encourage fans and bloggers to help us spread it. 

Last week at the MidemNet conference I stated, which horrified parts of the audience, that I’d rather have 100.000 listeners and 100 buyers than 100 listeners and 100 buyers. This might seem as the most obvious statement in the world. But it sure isn’t in the music business. Certainly if I add that my suggestion for reaching the large potential numbers is to make some songs available for free!

Believe me, people will pay for music even if they can get some or all of it for free.

Just because I like an artist and listen to his songs it doesn’t mean I would if I had to pay for it. I listen to it because it was available to me when I was curious about new music. Just because I like something doesn’t mean I’m willing to pay for a copy of it. But! The first thing I do when I see or hear something I like on the web I hit Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V it to people I think will like it as well. This is exactly what millions of others are doing. This is why links, embed codes etc are amazingly powerful tools of spreading music and all other digital content. This spreadability is great for business. It’s this spreadability we as content owners have everything to win on facilitating.

It’s widely known that if you get people to talk about your product, word of mouth, that’s the best way to market and sell a product. But I’m telling you - word of mouse is many times as powerful. It has a global reach and transfer itself by the speed of sound. Facilitate that and start focusing on how to do cool and prosperous things with all the million fans you earned that apparently love and listen to whatever you distribute. Stop focusing on that everybody didn’t pay for their specific copy – it didn’t cost you anything to reproduce and they’ll pay you somehow at the end of the day. If nothing else by helping you spread the message and that’s valuable enough! 

Of course the music we release would be available on The Pirate Bay, being sent in emails even if we didn’t put it there. But we think it’s much better to encourage the behavior of your fans and gain momentum from the powerful forces of internet culture. Also if you upload yourself you make sure that the files has good quality and it’s much easier for you to track the use of the music and get statistics to be able to make even more accurate campaigns with future releases.

Now, making mp3s available for free is format 1A of this. Today there is popping up new tools every day that is facilitating the spreading of the content you produce. I also think we will see a revival of the official artist site. The focus from labels etc should be to use big social networks (Myspace, Facebook, Last.fm etc) to attract new fans and then do whatever they can to get the eyeballs to their own domains where they eventually can own the discussion and build a close and mutual relationship that fans and band can earn money and love from.

You see, the music business have learned the lingo and take every chance they get to state that “it’s all about the music”. Only problem is that in 9 times of 10 they mean “it’s all about the money”, huge amounts of money. I agree that it’s important that music needs to be treated as a valuable resource. But that doesn’t mean that there need to be a transaction of money every time it’s being copied or streamed. Value of music is much broader and deeper than that and the time we are living in is better equipped than ever to handle it and make sure that artists and fans are the winners of technological innovations.

I need to end by making a correction of my first paragraph. Saying that we started with nothing is of course a bit wrong. We had nothing in terms of money. But since we’re all about music, we’ve always used the music to do the job for us. No copywriter or art director in the world can communicate our message as well as our music can!

If you are in business where producing copies is, as Mr Anderson puts it, “to cheap to meter” it’s obvious that you can keep what you got even if you give it away. In fact by giving it away you’ll end up with more than you had when you started.

 

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More interesting thought’s on this topic by the other contributers of this blog race:
Peter Sunde, Pirate Bay, Copy me happy

Morten Lund, LundXY, Friday 30/1
Sofia Mirjamsdotter och Niclas Strandh, Same Same But Different
Mikael Zackrisson,  Veckans Affärer
Eirik Solheim, NRKBeta och eirikso.com,
Free, but not that free…
Kristin Heinonen och Tomas Wennström, What’s Next, Wednesday 4/2

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