An In-Depth Case Study on the Pretty Lights + BitTorrent Partnership
(UPDATED) Guest post by Michael Fiebach (@mfiebach), founder of Fame House, who coordinated a unique partnership between indie artist Pretty Lights and BitTorrent to release a customized media bundle.
When Pretty Lights reached out to me to work with him, I got so excited because I knew I would have the ability to be creative from a marketing and business perspective. PL gives ALL of his music away for free, and answers to exactly 0 people (no label) about how / when / or why to release his music. What was the first thought that popped into my head for potential collaborations for spreading his music beyond his already massive & die-hard fan base? Bit Torrent.
Here's a question: What digital media download service has access to hundreds of millions of people, who are extremely engaged in the content available through that network? That would be Bit Torrent (and U Torrent, which is essentially the same thing, just a separate approach from a branding perspective). If PL is giving away music for free already; and essentially ONLY utilizes his site to do so, why not break down the barriers of access?
- Put every track he has available on SoundCloud as a free stream – want the download? OK, to go to the website.
- Put every track available on a Mobile Roadie application (iPhone version available now, Android coming soon) for free streaming anywhere and everywhere – want the download? OK, go to his website.
- Make a download bundle of his 3 popular EPs (“Glowing in The Darkest Night,” “Making Up A Changing Mind,” and “Spilling Over Every Side”) + his newest single “I Know The Truth,” and a video from his Bonnaroo Show, then distribute those assets to 4 million people in 2 months, increase email sign ups by 60,000+ people, increase web traffic by 700%, and Facebook Likes by 30,000+?
- BitTorrent… check.
And now the power of PL’s music-for-free model has just increased by A LOT.
The PL Bit Torrent Bundle was, and still is (as of this writing), featured on the Bit Torrent website:
The bundle was additionally an opt-in inclusion for anyone who downloaded the Bit Torrent software:
Millions of downloads in a short time period = top of Pirate Bay’s overall downloads section, and Audio section for over a month (as of this writing, it’s actually still up there):
I picked up the phone and called Red Light Management (manager for PL) as soon as I saw that the BitTorrent bundle had hit #1 on Pirate Bay. Think of Pirate Bay as the underground / music pirate’s version of the Billboard Top 100. In fact, I would say the Pirate Bay’s Top 100 might be the BEST indication of what digital content is reaching the masses on the Internet, because it includes the metrics for the millions of people “illegally” downloading content; and those top downloaded items are fairly similar to the top audio, TV, and movie downloads on iTunes and other “legal” paid services.
UPDATE: As of 1/22/12, The Pretty Lights / BitTorrent media bundle has surpassed 6 million downloads worldwide.
Randy Reed, PL’s manager, put it perfectly:
“Here we are celebrating hitting #1 on Pirate Bay, while major labels would be kicking, cursing, and sending take-down notices.”
Hitting #1 on Pirate Bay lead to reactions such as:
Effect of BitTorrent Promotion on PL web traffic:
Then the promotion went down for a bit…
PL is HUGE in the US, but we are definitely working on spreading his name to other countries, and this promotion certainly helped.
Last month and a half, traffic to PrettyLightsMusic.com:
Soundcloud plays (each spike represents when the promotion went live, twice):
My co-worker, and frequent Hypebot contributor Hisham Dahud, put it well when he said Pretty Lights’ business model is “embracing the chaos” of the current state of the music industry. And the ever-apparent, and frequently asked question is “well, how does he make money if he gives all of his music away for free?”
Take a look at this video and see if you can answer for yourself how Pretty Lights is one of the biggest and fastest growing acts in the electronic dance music scene, and how he monetizes his business while giving all of his music away for free:
And then check out this video and see if you can guess how he creates multiple revenue streams:
…and finally check out his webstore.
If you haven’t answered the question yet, you’re stupid… just kidding.
Big buzz in a specific geographic region (Denver) among college kids, pursuant to great live shows and free music… leads to free great music to larger and larger audiences as time goes on… leads to more shows in more places = massive distribution of a FREE valuable product = increasing interest = $ for shows = $ for merch, then at a certain level = $ from brands.
Bob Lefsetz said it perfectly:
"Just because you give away your main product for free does not mean you can't make money. We live in an attention economy, your biggest chore is getting people to listen, not to pay for your music."
Selling music? Who cares anymore?
Working with Randy Reed and Adam Foley of Red Light Management
Disclosure: In addition to writing for Hypebot, Hisham Dahud is also employed by Fame House.