The easiest way to drive traffic to a music website is to give away free downloads. It's what every music fan wants, and what dedicated fans spend a majority of their time searching for on the Internet. They hear a song they like on a new podcast, go look up the track list, and then search the name of the song and add Zippyshare to the end of it. Or Hulkshare, or whatever their preferred method may be.
If our only goal was to get as much traffic as quickly as possible, then we would simply upload these ripped MP3's (which can be low quality) to a third party hosting site and then make them available for download on our site. This would probably get our name out into the Interweb's quicker and allow us to build our social following faster and with less time/effort.
The core founding team of Only The Beat thought long and hard about what our mission was when we started this site. Why we wanted to do it, what our goals were, and how we could help shape the future of the music industry, as many of us were, and currently are, involved in all aspects of the nightlife/entertainment/music industry. There are obvious con's to giving away pirated music, like meeting your idol and introducing yourself, "Hi, I'm Daniel, I run xyz.com and we give away your music for free!"...The reaction you get is, well, less than thrilling. I know from experience. Not many people who put their heart and soul, blood, sweat and tears into producing music to put food on the table enjoy hearing that you just give away their tediously crafted works of art for free. But hey, their feelings don't affect you on a daily basis, so for the sake of a good conversation, let's be insensitive and look past that.
It's not about stealing $1.29 from an artist. There is a much bigger issue confronting the music industry that has been turned on its head since the introduction and really, the acceptance on a mass level, of peer 2 peer sharing. Or simply the Internet for the matter. The initial reaction that we all witnessed was the large record labels frantically attempting to control an element that they had seen as their main source income since their establishment. And rightfully so! We are witnessing it right now on a much larger scale with the use of fossil fuels. We know there are other sources of energy we could be harnessing, but there are too many people with too much power making too much money on oil consumption. Political rant over, yet the concept still applies. Only in the case of the music industry, unlike oil, a tangible product, the internet has allowed the users to take control, and the distribution of wealth in the industry now goes to those who work the hardest to be recognized as experts in their fields and know how to use the tools at their disposal (social media, Soundcloud, etc.) to market themselves most effectively and efficiently.
In the music blogosphere, one has to make a choice: are we going to give away pirated music on our site, or not. There's really no gray area. Even if you hosted a pirated track for a limited time and then delete the post, it's still traceable down the line (the Internet never forgets!). Not to mention, regardless of disclaimers, you won't be taken seriously as a legitimate business if you are doing something unethical and technically illegal, however awesome it is. Again, our goal is to help influence the music industry. And when the time comes for us to speak up, we want to have a legitimate say in the future of its paradigm.
Do we think that artists should give away their music for free? Absolutely. It's pretty clear that there isn't any real money in selling music, and it's silly to continue to focus on something that you can't control. Simply put, people are going to steal your music. Hell, the next generation of music lovers is going to question why we ever even paid for music! And some artists are starting to get smart. They realize that the real money is in the shows, getting booked. Building one's brand to the point where they can get paid tens of thousands of dollars for a single show (think artists like Tiesto or Armin. I think I'd be happy just to get $1000 for a gig). But instead, there are people who have been around long enough to remember what that taste of money was like when the Internet didn't allow people to download music for free. And those same people are scared by the power the Internet has given consumers. So they perpetuate the inevitable. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of an EDM artists putting out an album on Beatport and becoming an overnight sensation. But an EDM artist who releases an entire album for free? Well, we've seen quite a few of those over the last 3 years haven't we? (cough, Skrillex, cough)
It's pretty clear that the most important thing to do is to get one's music into the hands of their fans and/or potential fans, and let it spread as far and wide as quickly as possible. If the music is good, the people will share it, and the booking agents and promoters will beat a path to your door. The counter argument to this could be, "Well it's only $1.29 a song, that's not too much to ask." But for a niche audience (EDM is really still considered niche!) with a demographic that sits in the range of 18 to 24 years old, it is really hard to ask this economically stressed group to take a risk and spend the money, especially when they know how to get it for free. In under a minute. If you don't initially agree with this, think back to a time in your life when you spent $15.99 on a CD and it was a complete dud. Pissed you off, didn't it?
In conclusion, we live in an experience driven economy, where the norms of music acquisition and consumption have already changed. I'm not saying that every track an artists produces should be given away for free... but what about giving away the first half of an album for free, perhaps in return, creating a sense of security for the consumer when it comes to the second half of the purchase. I don't claim to have all the answers (yet) but I don't see things moving backwards as technology only continues to move forwards either. In the meantime, we will continue to support artist discovery and the purchasing of their music. I just hope this sheds some light on an issue that we can begin to discuss more openly and with more intelligence. And on that note, I'd like to say thank you for supporting our blog! Please, let me know what you think in the comments section below.
This video does a pretty good job summing things up.