In this article I explain how a music band in my opinion should react to all those illegal downloads on the Internet. First of all it is important to understand that no one will be able to change the people and make them stop downloading music on the Web and start buying records again. After Napster went down people found new ways of sharing music. So the question is not: “How to fight illegal downloads?” but rather “How to make the best out of them?”
4 different approaches:
We have seen all kinds of different reactions. The most frequent reaction is anger and the close attempt to sue everyone who violates against ones copy right. I will call this reaction the Metallica approach.
There is also what I call the promo approach which would include to give away one or two songs or make mp3’snippets or streams available.
Another attempt is to gain some promotion and make the music one composed and produced available through download. Last.fm advices bands to give away mp3’s on last.fm as free download for promotional reasons. In some cases I have even seen something like giving away the music via download on myspace! Since I don’t know of any famous band going for this way of free download I will call it the last.fm approach.
The last approach which I will call the Radiohead / In Legend approach is my favorite. The complete music is made available to the fans on the artists homepage. It is free of charge but the band will gain something different.
So let us discuss each approach.
The Metallica approach:
This approach might work for a band of this size. But as stated in the introduction. Even Metallica will not change the people. Just going out ignoring and hating the Internet takes away a lot of great marketing opportunities. As stated for a band with Metallica’s reputation this might work. Every information that Metallica releases will quickly spread on the Internet by magazines and fan communities. Metallica doesn’t need much promotion or customer relation management.
The Promotion approach:
Showing snippets to the fans or making songs available for a music stream is certainly a good way to attract fans and tell them about an upcoming album release. There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach. But it misses a great shot. The band never knows who is listening to the song. The band will never have the chance to talk to these people again. This is similar with views on youtube videos. Of course it is nice if a band has some youtube videos with more than a million views. But one thing is for certain. Once the video has been watched the fan is first of all gone and the band doesn’t know who it was. The only thing that remains is hope that the person liked it and might buy something in future. This leads directly to the Last.fm approach.
The Last.fm approach:
This approach is rather dumb. Last.fm really tells the artist that he would gain some advantage if he made his music available to download on last.fm. Yes of course making music available for download will attract people. In this case it will attract people to the Last.fm website. The band had the unique chance to start a conversation with the person that is being interested in his music. And what happens instead? Due to its great content (which would for example be your music) Last.fm is improving its reputation. Of course having a lot of listener’s on last.fm can be good promo for a band but I think there are much more effective ways and the band is not helping itself but rather last.fm.
The Radiohead / In Legend approach:
In this case the music is made available at no charge on the bands own homepage. After downloading the music the fan is asked weather he wants to donate some money. In scientific papers one can find that Radiohead made a fortune from the donations after people downloaded the music and afterwards the Radiohead album ranked #1 in the charts in UK, France and US. So it turned out to go pretty well for Radiohead.
After I consulted In Legend, they took this approach even further. The first in Legend release was not only made available for download on the In Legend Homepage. It was also mandatory for the fan to register to be able to download the music. This is a very smart move. Instead of the Last.fm approach the band now has a direct connection to everyone that is interested in the music. It is no surprise that a newcomer like In Legend was able to build a strong fan community on its own message board with more than 10’000 posts in 6 month. In Legend could simply inform its fans that the message board existed. Within a short time In Legend fans created their own merchandise as well as poster and flayer to distribute them in bars and music venues.
Furthermore there are hardly any torrents for In Legends music on the Internet and if you search for In Legends music on Google you will find In Legend’s very own homepage ranking number one.
Next article in this category I will write about search engine optimization for a band’s homepage. But I want to quote and explain a statement from Google about search engine optimization to justify my believe in the Radiohead / In Legend approach:
The best method for great search engine optimization is still to produce and publish great content on your website!
This means that Google decides how websites rank by the popularity of the website on the web. So if your content is great people will like it and talk about it on the web. This will in turn increase ones search engine rankings. Search engine rankings are closely related to popularity and reputation on the web. The same is true for music. If you are a famous musician your music should definitely count as great content. If you publish your music on your homepage, not only will your search engine rankings rise but with it your publicity. And if you where smart enough to follow the In Legend approach your fans will love you and you can talk to them forever inform them at low cost about upcoming tours, albums or merchandise.
If you are a band, label or band manager I encourage you to share your music with the fans. You can only win and those who love and collect CD’s will still buy them. Anyway most money is earned with concerts and merchandise nowadays and for success in those fields you will need fans, fans and more fans. So if you like the idea and need help in setting up your homepage or want to understand more precisely what to do feel free to contact me or leave a comment.