A free sample track to share has become the price of entry for every new artist as well as many more established acts. But will giving away music free still have value if everyone is doing it? The music industry may be close to finding out as to more players jump further onto the free music bandwagon.
Microsoft Windows 7 has just announced a second round of their Windows Sponsored Songs partnership with ReverbNation. This time it is called “Playlist 7” and has a few twists. They're still giving away free music, but now followers on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter also get special access to a weekly pool of 50 Featured Artists. They can download up to 7 of these songs free, and those downloads help decide which artists will be available for others the following week. More here.
MySpace Music has partnered with the music discovery site and digital label RCRD LBL for RCRD of the Day. This exclusive free, daily music download will be available only on MySpace Music. RCRD of the Day is the first result of a collaborative relationship between RCRD LBL and MySpace. Thursday's free track is the Cold War Kids available here.
While both relationships are smart for each of the partners, are they good for the artists?
There is little doubt that artists need to to participate in these kind programs. Their promotional value, even if diluted, is far better than total obscurity.
But the real long term power of free is as a sample that is tied to a greater opportunity. When an artist trades a track for an email address, they receive the opportunity to continue to talk to the fan. When an act plays a free show, they have the chance to sell them merchandise. When a track is given away via the artist's own site they're given a chance to say in effect say, "Here is my online home. Come visit again".
Good music can serve as a connector. But if the plethora of companies asking musicians to give away free music wants to deliver value, they'll need to help their visitors become fans of the music as well as fans of their brands.