Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's Not P2P's Fault

There doesn't seem to be any end in sight to the conversation regarding P2P technology and its effects on music sales. There's obviously a great concern that it's affecting the music business in a negative way, but I don't believe it is. Ninety-nine percent of the articles I read are filled with finger-pointing and the blaming of individuals and corporations alike for declining revenues and the suggested solutions are generally not addressing the real issues.

I think the real reason for this 'problem' is that most music fans are just not finding much value in the music that's being offered by most of the artists who are making music, whether they're independent or backed by a major label. Why is this? I think there are three things that determine how much value a band/artist has: The quality of their songs, their image/live show, and their story. None of these things is enough on its own.

Obviously, it's best to have all three, but I believe having at least two of the three is required. If you have amazing songs and a killer live show, but no story, that can be enough to turn heads. If you have a killer live show and a great story, but you're not knockin' em outta the park with your songs, you can still make some noise. I'm not saying that you can get away with putting out music that's pure shit, I'm just saying that you don't necessarily have to be releasing Thriller or Back In Black.

Look at your band with a critical eye and try to be as objective as possible. Maybe even get feedback from your friends and fans to see how you're doing in each of the three areas. The more aware you are of your strengths, the more you can capitalize on them.

I was reading an article on the DIY Musician entitled "Being Overly Protective Of Your Music: A Great Way To Frustrate Potential Fans" and one of the comments that followed really caught my eye and I feel he made a lot of great points. Ian Clifford writes on all aspects of music marketing and more at his website http://www.makeitinmusic.com. The overall tone of his comment is that if an artist is bringing real value to their fans, then P2P will only benefit them as the new fans they attract will be only too happy to pay for their content. Here's his comment:

I actually feel unwell when I read this kind of post and the comments that it inspires.

I have been involved as a manager with record sales in the millions. I’m old school but I also embrace the world that we live in today – I am something of a music marketing expert and thoroughly get ‘direct to fan’.

So, I have experience (lots of it) with the old way and quite a bit with the new way.

And, a lot of what you read in these comments is utter crap from people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

How can you know if freemium works when you haven’t seen the upside and the downside? – all you know is it didn’t work for you.

The truth is that free does work and it does sell.

It works for established acts who had the luxury of breaking before file-sharing became common but it also works for brand new acts who are building a fanbase now.

If YOU ARE ANY GOOD then giving free music away will get you to a point where you have a fanbase who will also buy the same music that you give away free and will buy other stuff that you do, whether that be merchandise or tickets.

If your efforts to build a fanbase by using the freemium model aren’t working, it is 99% likely that the root cause is that you’re music isn’t good enough to be commercially viable.

You have the right to express your art and to try to promote your talent but that doesn’t mean that your expression of art has to find an audience. It might not be shit – just too odd to find listeners to love it. On the other hand, if you can’t find fans on the web, then it’s probably just shit.

The old rules of economics haven’t been changed by file sharing and freemium. If people like what you gave them for free, they will come back and pay for it. It’s worked for hookers and heroin dealers as well as farmers and merchants for thousands of years – why would it be different now?

You give away music, people get to hear it and talk about – which they will if it’s good. If you don’t give it way, they can’t.

If this didn’t work then why would Corey Smith and Pretty Lights have been able to build sustainable and very profitable careers from giving away lots of music?

I have seen it with a client of mine whose sales GO UP now that he gives away half his debut album for free. It is slowly rising up the iTunes charts 5 years after first released and sells more every month than the one before. BECAUSE more and more people are picking half of it up for free and raving about it.


The Arctic Monkeys weren’t broken by MySpace – that’s industry hogwash. They broke because they and their fans gave away CDR’s (and downloads) of their songs, thereby building a rabid fanbase.


So, stop thinking that a free track is a sale lost. It’s not. That was a sale that could not have happened as no-one knew what you had to sell.

Instead see it as a way to open the door and create the start of your story – because that’s what it is.

And if it doesn’t work for you. don’t blame the free track model, blame your material. Go away and sort that out and come back for another shot.

If what you give away is good enough then giving stuff away for free WORKS.

And that, by the way, is fact, not opinion.


  1. Thanks for posting that again.

    I was riled up by the original post and as my (lengthy!) comment states, if you're good enough P2P and giving stuff away fro free WILL work for you.


  2. I agree 100%. Thanks for ranting about it. lol


  3. This is correct - from personal experience

  4. I absolutely agree with this. I've lost count of the number of artists (both 'signed' and indie) that I've become a concert going/cd buying fan of because I heard their music for free.

    Often this happens through recommendation of an existing fan, occasionally from a randomly found download online.

    I'm at the point where I won't bother with a new artist if I can't hear whole songs in two or three clicks of the mouse. If they don't want me to hear their music, why should I care about them?

  5. Yes and you're right that it is often through a friend's recommendation, just as it was prior to digital file sharing. If your ears liked what they heard, you'd be addicted and actually excited about supporting the band. Some might say that you're a little impatient to expect that kind of convenience all the time (expecting to hear a full song in just a couple clicks), but this is the kind of attitude I'm seeing more and more of and I tend to feel the same way.