I've been thinking about the spirit of giving that is celebrated each year at this time and also happens to be a big part of a winning strategy to acquire new fans and build up a list.
You offer a free download (it could be a single song, EP or full album - it's up to you really) in exchange for an email address in return. Once you have that email, you also have permission to contact that person in the future (as long as they remain a subscriber to your list), this is a very simple process and guess what - it works!
However, there were some people questioning whether this still works during the recent launch of John Oszajca's Music Marketing Manifesto 2.0 a few weeks ago. John took the time during his question and answer video to single out the reservations some were expressing. It seems that some people didn't believe that others would willingly give up their email address 'just to get a free song'. John reassured everyone that this process does indeed work and has been working for him for years.
I think there are two main reasons why musicians may resist this model. First, they've poured their heart and soul into their music and feel that they are devaluing it by giving it away for free. Second, they're looking to justify their own false assumptions on a thing (in this case marketing their music online) rather than put in some work, take fate into their own hands and make some honest-to-gosh progress with their music career.
Does that sound too harsh? Then it could just be that we all tend to over-complicate things when Keep It Simple Stupid works best (or if you prefer - Keep It Stupid Simple works too). Isn't it funny how people who say something can't be done will argue with the people who are doing it? The people that are sure that giving away free music in exchange for an email won't work should just set up a squeeze page, offer a freebie and prove the model wrong before passing judgment on it.
In fact, the other day I signed up for a free song from a musician I never heard of before. As someone who realizes that giving my email will mean getting future messages that will likely include calls to action to purchase this musicians music - I gave him my email anyway. Why? Because the song was free and if I didn't like it I could always unsubscribe. It turns out that I ended up enjoying the music more than I expected and now this musician has my attention and possibly a future purchase from me.
How did this happen?
Simple, I was told about his music from someone I already liked and trusted (hint - I was on their mailing list) and this musician had a squeeze page, a free song offer and an auto-responder set up to make the whole transaction happen seamlessly. I had enough curiosity to gladly trade my email to hear the song.
I was taken to a page on the guitarmonks.com site (not that particular page) where I could download his zero limits audio. It was a three and a half minute long solo guitar track that I ended up enjoying more than I would have thought.
No, I haven't spent any money yet - but there is now an opportunity where one didn't exist before and that's all you need to succeed if you duplicate this consistently several times a day. Sooner or later, you'll be able to entice someone to buy and ever so often you'll uncover a true fan in the process.
It's simple, but most people over-complicate it or fail at following through. Besides having an enticing freebie and getting people to find your optin page in the first place - the key is your auto-responder sequence and how will it works to develop a relationship with your subscribers while soft selling other products in your catalog.
For those who think this model won't work - try it. You'll be surprised how much sway a word like FREE has when it comes to internet music marketing. Once people know that they have nothing to lose but their email, and that they can unsubscribe at any time - even immediately after downloading their freebie - they often warm up to the idea; their curiosity gets them to take the required action.
So with 2011 just around the corner and the lingering spirit of giving still in the air - you could do worse than to get this business model working for your band.You'll need to put some thought into it and do your best to entice the fans that you want to attract, this may be different for each genre music so it's definitely not a one-size-fits-all mold that you just slap together.
This is not a new idea, it's been working online for many years and shouldn't break anytime soon. You might as well get your online music marketing up to speed and prove it for yourself!