Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

News, notes and ideas on music marketing, self-promotion, artist empowerment and more

November 28, 2005

Free Music Downloads: The Truth

There's been a lot of debate over the years regarding the effect that illegal music downloads and file sharing have on actual sales. I've had my own theory on this -- but it was only speculation until a Harvard PhD student named David Blackburn published a paper on it.

As reported in this post on Chris Anderson's Long Tail blog, Blackburn's research concludes that P2P file-sharing "does indeed depress music sales overall. But the effect is not felt evenly. The hits at the top of the charts lose sales, but the niche artists further down the popularity curve actually benefit from file-trading."

The New Music Math

You probably already figured this out on your own, but it's interesting to see the numbers once they've been crunched. The most fascinating factoid is this:

If you took all musical artists and placed them on a graph from least popular to most popular, the 25% of artists on the popular end of the scale would have lower CD sales because of file sharing, but the remaining 75% of not-so-popular artists actually benefit from fans freely sharing their music.

Anderson writes, "The Long Tail implications of this are pretty clear. For the majority of artists further down the tail, free distribution is good marketing, with a net positive effect on sales. Which is yet another reminder that the rules are all too often made to protect the minority of artists at the top of the curve, not most artists overall."

Take-away marketing lesson: If you're not on the Billboard charts, don't be so tight-assed with your songs. You won't sell more by hoarding your recorded music. Give a few of your best songs away to any fan who will listen, and encourage them to share and spread the word.

Despite the old music business cliche, it's not who you know that matters -- it's who knows you!

posted by Bob Baker @ 9:45 AM   2 comments


At Dec 28, 2005 11:56:00 PM, Blogger indieheaven said...

Awesome Bob...I totally agree with you.
Keith Mohr

At Jan 16, 2006 5:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post Bob. Nice to see a ray of truth break through the dark clouds of RIAA dis-information and propaganda. :^ )


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