How To Give Away Your Music (7 Methods Reviewed)

Longtime Haulix contributor Andrew Jones has done a ton of research regarding the best methods of giving away music for free so you could read his work and get back to creating your art. If you love the article below, please check out Andrew’s own website and consider hiring him for your future management needs.

Free music giveaways can be an important part of a marketing strategy these days. However if you go this route you are going to want to think through your options carefully. The first step is to determine your goals. Are you looking to:

a) Give a gift to your fans
b) Expand your e-mail list
c) Grow your exposure
d) Get some revenue via tips
e) Other

Depending what you are looking for there are several options. After some research here are all the “major” options I have come across. There may be others, but remember the more you have to teach your fans, the fewer of them are going to convert to actual downloads. If you know of any other great options, I’d love to hear about them!

NoiseTrade

If you have followed this blog for long you will know I am a big fan of Noisetrade. The system works nearly perfectly. You give out a URL when your fans follow it they get a really pro looking page. Hit download, enter their e-mail and postal code and are immediately sent an email with a download link.Fans are also given the option to “tip” you for your music which you can keep or give away to charity from their system.

Added Pros:

  • You get an e-mail address and postal/zip code with every download. If you are smart about adding them to your e-mail list and tracking postal codes, this is invaluable to your tour marketing.
  • An added bonus is that they have a chart on the front of their page (which is quite popular) which gets additional exposure across the world.
  • It’s incredibly easy for fans to share the page to other potential downloaders
  • There are nice looking embeddable widgets

Cons:

  • At this time there is not a great discovery system on Noisetrade. There are several curated albums featured every week, but there I feel there could be a stronger “related artists system” especially since they have now added fan accounts.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp is essentially built around sales, however they do have a free download option as well. Again in exchange for an email. You give out a URL when fans follow it they are taken to a page with a “buy now” link and asked to name their price (if you set it up as pay-what-you-want). After that thy are directed through a shopping cart and soon receive the files via e-mail.

Added Pros:

  • The “pay what you want” language generally leads to better sales.
  • They have a robust charting system
  • It’s easy to re-direct fans to other albums
  • Lots of high quality file options

Cons:

  • The charts aren’t featured very prominently.
  • I don’t feel like the system encourages fans to share as much as it could

Soundcloud

One of the biggest music sites on the planet that allows both streaming and downloads. It requires very little from the customer. The site is reasonable intuitive, though there are lots of buttons like repost, add to playlist, etc. that could distract from the download. Again it’s a simple URL to send out. They click the button and receive instant MP3 download.

Added Pros:

  • Soundcloud is a social network in and of itself with a MASSIVE following, especially in the hip-hop and EDM worlds.
  • Many people look at Soundcloud stats as an indicator of a band’s popularity.
  • It’s easy to include a large catalogue of material.
  • Great looking embed options.

Cons:

  • There is no direct way to convert those downloads into sales.
  • You receive no fan data (such as emails, location, etc.) without a pro account, and even then it’s fairly limited.
  • You cannot set up to allow fans to download a full album, each track needs to be clicked on separately.

ReverbNation

The download process on ReverbNation is a little different than the URL you give out will lead to your artist page not individual downloadable music. Then they see a list of songs (no album differentiation) and a bunch of them have a Download button. They can click on each song individually to download.

Added Pros:

  • ReverbNation rankings can give you a warm feeling in your belly
  • There is certainly a crowd who routinely finds their new music through ReverbNation

Cons:

  • Very few professionals consider ReverbNation stats a major factor.
  • For people who aren’t used to the site all the buttons and dongles can distract them from the download options
  • You cannot set up to allow fans to download a full album, each track needs to be clicked on separately.

BitTorrent

Thom Yorke (of Radiohead) made headlines last year distributing his album through BitTorrent. I think there is a TON of potential for other artists to grow in this area, but for this style of promotion I think the torrenting process is still a little above the average consumer. It requires downloading a torrent link, using a separate torrent client software…etc.

Added Pros:

  • You can also add pay gates to packages
  • If the torrenting community really embraces you…you are gold.
  • You are not limited in what goes into your package. Bio, video, music, whatever you want!
  • I’ve heard nothing but great things about working with the BitTorrent team.

Cons:

  • Many people aren’t familiar with torrenting and may get lost in the process.

Dropbox

Hypothetically, you could give away an album out through Dropbox. Fans would receive the (complicated) link (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/j43qv1p9vuivcjy/AADgyC1mMv8UAr0VDhWxUOEQb), they hit download. They now have a zip file with the album.

Added Pros:

  • Most people have heard of dropbox.
  • You can add anything in that folder

Cons:

  • As Dropbox wasn’t created for this type of function you may run into troubles with files/bandwidth/crashes etc.
  • You receive no fan data (such as emails, location, etc.)
  • There is no direct way to convert those downloads into sales. Or allow fans to tip etc.

Self Hosted ZIP

On your own website you can easily host a download link. If you have fairly basic knowledge of website building you can easily add something to the backend of your own site to direct fans to when they went there they would get a nice splash page with a download button. They click on it, and get an instant download.

Added Pros:

  • Get people to your own site as opposed to some “rented” space
  • Complete flexibility. Make it password protected for your fan club, give it away to everyone. Stick it in your blog. Put it on a page with all your tour dates, create a re-direct to your sales page after they download…whatever you want!
  • Add whatever you want to that folder

Cons:

  • Depending on the size of your band/bandwidth limits etc. you may need to be careful
  • You do need to understand how your website, servers etc. work or hire someone who does.

Conclusion

Personally I feel like Noisetrade or a self-hosted ZIP are the best two options. Both allow for simple professional branding that can prominently display/and build your relationship with the downloader.Noisetrade edges self-hosted for me, primarily due to the potential front page placements on the chart, simplicity, recognition within the industry and the simple share functions that are so effective.However, at the end of the day, it all depends what your goals are.

This post was written by Andrew Jones, editor of Checkered Owl. It originally ran on his blog, but we loved it so much we felt it deserved to shared once more on ours. If you like his work and want to read more of his writing, or if you want to be super cool and offer him full time industry employment, reach out and connect with him on Twitter.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.