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In the past 15 years, the model in which we buy and consume music has changed. Digital distribution and streaming have instilled the mindset that music is free, like water flowing from a stream or taking a breath of the air around us. The sad truth is that this is correct, and any emerging artist that thinks selling their tracks online is going to bring in money is mistaken.

You may wonder why you would bother. The reason is that a lot of revenue can be made from other streams, such as merchandise, physical releases, and live concerts. Below, we give 5 reasons why you should consider giving away your music for free.

  1. It Won’t Bring You Much Revenue Anyway

Unless you have thousands of followers across the world, putting your music online will not bring you much revenue anyway. The average stream on Spotify is worth $0.00318. A YouTube video play can net you more at around $3 per 1000 video views, but only if you sign up to advertising campaigns.

When you total all this revenue up, it does not amount to a lot. Especially when you weigh it against the promotional value that giving away your music for free would bring. For a long-term online music career, you need to start by gaining fans, not cold hard cash.

  1. It Will Help You Gain Followers

Followers are a strange concept because people assume that the more followers you have the better. While it may look good, you can buy followers easily, and that will do nothing. They will not comment on your feed, like your status, and they will not buy your music.

What you need is quality, engaged followers, and the best way to get them is by using your music as a tool. Engaged followers who already have access to your music will be much more willing to buy your merchandise, crowdfund your next album or tell their friends about you.

  1. It Can Promote Other Ventures

Even if the concept of giving away your music for free is alien, then consider giving part of it away. If you are looking to sell your album, consider giving away a few tracks to entice people into buying the rest. They are much likely to buy into the record if they have already had a taster.

  1. It Increases Brand Awareness

Many musicians would shudder at the concept of brand awareness, but the quicker you start to think of yourself as a product, the more likely you are to have an online music career. Part of that is getting people to know who and what you do, and that is your brand.

Giving free access to your music lets them know exactly this. The gift of music also builds a connection and trust, much more valuable than simply saying ‘buy our record’ ever could.

  1. Charge in Social Currency

Once you come around to the idea of giving your music away for free, think about charging people in social currency. These are reciprocal actions that people will do to get the gift. Ask fans to share your YouTube video, to change a profile picture to your logo, or to support your crowdfunded album.

With these tips you may not be rolling in cash. However, you will a network of dedicated fans and followers that will be ready to support you in the next stage of your career, which will hopefully involve earning some money!



This is a blogpost by guest blogger Ellie McKinsey. Ellie is a staff writer at Know Your Instrument (

Author Ellie McKinsey

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