Face it. Music sales are being bastardized by “pirated” free downloads and the free will of consumers. Sure, the legal digital music market is growing but it won’t pick up the slack for declining CD sales because singles rule the market.
Analyzing the purchasing habits of the music-buying public, it is quite clear that they are much more interested in spending money on singles than on albums. Even if you were to distribute your songs and albums online through iTunes and other popular e-tailers hoping to sell some music, it’s still inevitable that people will find and download free digital copies of your music. Whether you like it or not.
This is a war you can’t win so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by trying to fight it. If you’re gung-ho and you think you can win, I urge you to consider how well the major labels have fared in the ten years following the great Napster debacle. Cooperate with the inevitable and you’ll be a lot better off, I promise you.
Free vs. Paid downloads
Believe it or not, free and paid downloads can co-exist. To make it work you must have an appetite for innovation and a fearless entrepreneurial spirit. Why not revolutionize music e-commerce by placing a “Buy” button side-by-side with a “Download” button for your entire catalog of music on your website? Yes—every single song and every single album.
The majority of you won’t try this because you’re afraid that you’ll lose sales. That is a legitimate concern, certainly, but imagine the good will you’ll build with your audience by doing this. Good will establishes a positive relationship with you and your market. Those relationships develop into sales when properly nurtured.
Give the Customers What They Want
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
When a song or artist has captured someone’s interest enough that he or she seriously considers a purchase from that artist, many of us will download the music for free before we buy it. This allows us to become intimately familiar with that piece of music so we can be absolutely sure that buying it will be worthwhile. However, as you all know, downloading one simple song can sometimes be a more frustrating process than need be–navigating through treacherous, spam-infested illegal download sites and P2P software for just a few minutes of free music to put on your iPod.
Eliminate this pain point for your customers and you will endear yourself to them. Let your fans have the option of downloading for free or purchasing downloads from you and make it easy for people to download your music for free right from the same online destination they can buy it from–your website.
Create Value For Your Customers
First, your free downloads should include all the vital ID3 tags and your CD artwork. This effectively puts your free downloads leagues above a large percentage of “pirated” music available online since many music files on the Web have incorrect song information or none at all.
Next, package your paid downloads with extra goodies and premium digital content to increase the perceived value of your product, thereby giving people an incentive to own the paid versions of your downloads. The premium content and goodies you include are limited only by your imagination—be creative! (click here for ideas)
If you want to innovate even further then you could have your “Download” buttons link to direct downloads from your website AND link to downloads of your music from popular P2P networks and bit torrent portals. This provides additional options for your picky and demanding customers to get your music. Adding this nifty feature makes life easier for the individuals in your fan base who download all their music from one main P2P network. This feature also has the added benefit of increasing the likelihood that your music will be listened to since it will be downloaded to the same central directory on the downloader’s computer as the rest of their music collection.
One Last Piece of Wisdom
Not providing a free download option isn’t going to stop people from downloading your music for free, so what have you got to lose? At least if they download from your website (instead of elsewhere) you can collect their email address and add them to your mailing list. Now that’s something to think about.
Beat “pirates” to the punch by pirating your music yourself.
Dexter Bryant Jr [d.BRYJ] writes and produces dance rock and electro crunk music. His primary areas of study are music business 2.0, music marketing, digital marketing, new media, and music publishing. Dexter helps organizations expand their brand presence online and he is currently the Digital Marketing Director of Dynasty Music Entertainment and d.BRYJ Music Media Group. Learn more @ http://hitmusicacademy.wordpress.com/