The argument of selling your music or giving it away for free has always been in the mind of artists. You might still think, “Should I sell my music or give it away for free download?” there is an old saying that says, if you are good at something, don’t do it for free, but on the other hand, almost nobody wants to spend money to buy and download music.
To help you answer this question, we must first talk about some important aspects regarding you and your career.
Where are you in your career?
If you are a new artist, releasing your first single track, and don’t have a lot of followers on social media, it is probably best to release your music for free.
Keep in mind that less than 1 percent of your fans on social media will pay to hear your music. In that sense, if you have less than a million followers, there will not be a lot of sales on your music.
Almost 85 percent of all the albums on iTunes have only one sale or don’t sell at all. It is enough to just think about the most selling albums in the music industry. If an album sells one million copies (digital or physical) then it will be considered a big hit. Think about the number again, only one million in a world with 8 billion people.
So as a young and new artist, you should not count on any income from your albums sale. And you should not forget that whatever you do, there is always someone out there doing it better and cheaper.
Which is more important for you, profit or audience?
Well, in the end, the audience will bring you profit and if you have a profit it means you already have an audience. But at any point in your career, you will always have this question in front of you. Do you want to attract a new audience with your new release or sell it and have some profits out of it?
Many artists, even famous ones, prefer to release their music for free, in that way they will cover a bigger audience, and later, those audiences will be potential fans, and they might pay for your next concert. Let’s face it, having a profit from a concert is much easier and more possible than music distribution. People are willing to pay for live performance, while they don’t like to pay for downloading a piece of music.
Giving away a free download is different than giving away the right to your music.
Yes, giving your music for free download will bring you an audience and maybe even fame, but giving its rights away for free will do you no good.
Always keep in mind that when you release a free track on any platform, you should just let people download and listen to it on their own devices. Playing your music in a public place, using it as a soundtrack, or using the melody to create new music, is something that you should keep for yourself and don’t give away that easily.
These are the main ways of earning money with your music as a composer or arranger. If you are signing a contract with a publisher or producer, read the contract very carefully and try to keep the rights of your music as much as possible.
Streaming services can be a good solution.
While selling your music on iTunes, Amazon, Google, or any other platform like these, might not bring you any audience and money, distributing your music on streaming platforms like Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon, Tidal, and many others can help you gain both audience and money.
It is basically free for people to listen to music on streaming platforms, even if they buy premium accounts, still, it costs something between 5 to 10 euros every month. On the other hand, you will be paid for every single stream.
Of course, what will be paid to you for each stream, is less than 0.001 euros, but since it is a better platform to gain an audience, you might find your solution in this kind of distribution. and if you have enough listens every month, you can earn a considerable income from these platforms.
Ultimately it’s up to you if you want to give your music away for free or not. Nobody can tell you how to do that, and nobody will complain if you do it either way.
Just take a moment to consider the pros and cons before you jump in – rather think about it upfront for a few days than regret it for months after.