Free Revisited

Some time ago I wrote a blog post specifically to people involved in music called “What If We Gave It Away?” It was met with one part celebration, one part scorn and ridicule, and one part…huh?

Recently I have started giving away some of my excess CD products at a local thrift store. Not giving it to them to sell, but offering it in the front of the store, completely free. Besides freeing up some space in my garage, and a write off if I really want to since it is a charity thrift store, it just feels good that the music is getting to people’s hands…and hopefully ears.
What if there was a way to disseminate our art to thousands or hundreds of thousands. For free. What if we just gave away physical product to those who value a CD, or a small MP3 player with headphones, or a book we wrote or containing our art. Or T-Shirts? Or DVDs with our videos or short films?
Not Online, But in Person
In the previous post I suggested we give it away online. But perhaps I had it backwards. We keep all our art for sale online. We still sell CDs and merch at shows. Let people still support us there as they do now and buy it at whatever price we think is fair.
But if they discover us by other means (a thrift store, a gift at a hospital, or in a retirement community, or at a table at a fair, college or trade show) it could lead to more of the long tail of sales and discovery we need as marketing.
What if we found a way to distribute thousands or tens of thousands, or even more to people for free and let them just absorb it. Fall in love with something they took because it was free. What does it hurt if someone across the country (or down the street) that doesn’t know you takes a free CD, or book home from someplace and discovers your art?
Last year we started a non-profit side called Creative Heart with A.C.T. International. We have offered it to artists to use to raise money, but that hasn’t seemed very popular so far. Maybe putting it on artists to raise money for their efforts is not the right model.
But what if we found people that would give monthly to see art distributed around the country and the world? Perhaps at some point we could even find the donations to make the art as well as distribute it. Creators could still be free to sell their art if they wanted to, online and in person. But the real goal of Creative Heart would be making our art available for free out in the real world where people live. (These would likely be compilations not full artist CDs unless artists wanted us to distribute their full album as well.)
The Future of a Radical Price
In his book “Free” which I am re-reading right now, author Chris Anderson talks about how brands as well known and venerable as Jell-O and Gillette got their start by actually giving away things for free to get national recognition. Jell-O came up with a free cookbook that salesman gave away to show what you could do with Jell-O. Gillette gave away disposable razors by the millions to encourage sales of disposable razor blades, it’s true product. Both are now 100 year old brands because of this method.
Perhaps as a label and artists we need to find a way to give away products or songs by the thousands or tens of thousands to let people realize the quality of our brands, then they can go search online and find ways to buy, download, or stream our work. Or perhaps encourage then to contact us and bring our creative talents to them?
I know when I write these blog posts many of you sit there reading going, “Yeah, I can see that!” Or, “Yeah, right. Easy for you to say Bub!” But I create my own art just like you do. As I look at the finite amount of years left on this earth, I want as many people in the world to hear, read, and watch the creations I am making. If perhaps someone enjoys the music, writings, or visual media I create, and it touches them as much as one of my favorite bands, authors, or filmmakers does for me, then I will feel I achieved what God put me here for.
Can I hear an amen?
It’s Just Marketing Folks
We let radio play (actually we pay THEM to play) our music for free hoping people will hear it and want to buy it, or at least be blessed by it. We put our paintings in (or pay to be in) galleries for free hoping people will buy our art. We do all sorts of free things online or contests we pay for, or let Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Vimeo, and the like play our music hoping for some pieces of pennies. All so our music will be heard.
We have to think of this as a radical, guerrilla type of marketing. Go find the real people in our country, or other countries. The ones who still listen to CDs, read books, and love art. Let them see, hear, and fall in love with our creative songs and albums, then build a demand for our music in a more authentic, grassroots way than just hoping someone finds us online and discovers our genius.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Would you be willing to give away hard product to local thrift stores, hospitals, retirement communities, or have your art given away for free at fairs, colleges, and trade shows? What if we had a system to give thousands or tens of thousands of pieces away? Would you want to be part of it?
I know I would.
Have a great week!
EC
Eric Copeland is giving his music and books away where he can to get people listening and reading, and also selling and licensing it online. For more about his creations go to EricCopelandMusic.com, or for more writings like this one go to FortheCreativeSoul.com

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