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Will "Free Love" Shape Music's Future?

Love Consumer expectations of "free" in exchange for their increasingly divided attention are beginning to shape many music marketing campaigns.

EMI's successful launch of Coldplay with a free track and free concerts is a recent example. Wired's Chris Anderson has also been writing about the rising power of free for more than a year and his forthcoming book may bring the concept into the mainstream.

But a new brief from TrendWatching.com focuses a particularly sharp lense on the reasons behind as well as the  potential power of "free" dubbing it "FREE LOVE".

  • FREE LOVE: the ongoing rise of free, valuable stuff that's available to consumersFreelove online and offline. From AirAsia tickets to Wikipedia, and from diapers to music.
  • FREE LOVE thrives on an all-out war for consumers' ever-scarcer attention and the resulting new business models and marketing techniques, but also benefits from...

...the ever-decreasing costs of producing physical goods, the post-scarcity dynamics of the online world (and the related avalanche of free content created by attention-hungry members of GENERATION C), the many C2C marketplaces enabling consumers to swap instead of spend, and an emerging recycling culture.

  • Expect FREE LOVE to become an integral if not essential part of doing business.

What is fueling FREE LOVE? According to the brief:

  • An all-out war for consumers attention (make that saturated consumers), including various handout and sampling techniques.
  • The online world, with its amazing capacity to create, copy and distribute anything that's digital, with costs that are close to zero, forcing producers to come up with new business models/services, which are often purely ad-driven.
  • The ever-decreasing cost of physical production makes it easier to offer more (nearly) free goods in the offline world too. In fact, many goods have actually become insanely cheap. Just one example: the price of televisions has fallen, on average, by 9 percent each year since 1998, according to U.S. Dept. of Labor data.
  • The avalanche of free content created by attention-hungry members of GENERATION C.
  • C2C marketplaces enabling consumers to swap instead of spend, making transactions cash-neutral.
  • An emerging recycling cult

For years the music industry has fought "free", but from P2P to mp3 blogs to We7, FREE LOVE is everywhere. How the industry handles "free" will help shape its next chapter.

Nokia's "Comes With Music" and ISP licensing are attempts to make music feel free.  But serious hurdles like antiquated licensing rates and practices remain; and labels must deal with them or FREE LOVE will continue to be their nemesis rather than their friend.

Read more online or download a pdf of the TrendWatching.com FREE LOVE brief and tell us how you and your company or band are handling "free".

MORE: Pirate's Dilemma: The Best Stuff Is A Steal

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