Fact: Everyone loves free stuff. That’s not fake news, people. We (humans) are happy as clams to take something just because it’s free. Have you ever been to Costco?? You can basically eat a meal for free with the amount of samples they give out. One study shows that by grocery stores giving samples away, it has the potential of boosting sales of the product by 2000%! WHAT. That’s a crazy lot of percentages. Why am I talking about grocery stores? Because IT APPLIES, trust me.
You can think of yourself as a tiny, up and coming, highly specialized, grocery store (maybe you only sell mozzarella, I don’t know). You’ve built the store and stocked the shelves, buy how are you going to get people in the door? Oh, I know! BY GIVING AWAY SOME FREE SH*T. Not only does this create interest in your store, but it has the potential of creating incredibly loyal customers. People love to be taken care of and feel like they are getting a good deal… so take care of them and give them that good deal!
Ok, I’ll back off from the grocery store analogy. I know in our current music industry world, it seems like everything is ALREADY free. And it kind of is. However, it doesn’t diminish the fact that there are still plenty of ways to give your fans or potential fans something special to either spark interest or keep people engaged with what you’re doing.
NEW ARTISTS -
When you’re first starting out, you want there to be either an extremely low barrier or NO barrier to entry for fans to access your music. It’s tough enough in this world to get people to pay attention, much less to get them to pay for something, so make it as easy as possible. Some tips:
Have all of your music on every streaming platform. I don’t care if you generally agree with how they pay or not - this is how people are consuming music. You don’t have a choice, you are not Taylor Swift. (Update! As of June 2017 she is also now everywhere!)
Play free shows (sometimes). Look, I know that “exposure doesn’t pay the rent” line, but when you’re first starting out, you have to give people a reason to think they should pay you. Dollars are precious things to give away.
Have one free merch item. Stickers and download cards are SO CHEAP. Our artist, TRUETT probably gave away thousands when he opened up for Ron last year. Plus, it gives you a reason to talk to people - “Hey, can I give you one of my stickers” Who says no to a free sticker??
MORE ESTABLISHED ARTISTS -
Once you have a few people who are paying attention, it’s easy to forget that sometimes you need to give them a little something back. They are giving you their time, money, and ears when they could be giving it to literally anything else (INSERT DOG VIDEO). Here are some ideas:
Partner with a brand to give away a cool product. We’ve done this a few ways! Ron partnered with our buds over at Wearhaus to give away 2 sweet pairs of headphones over Valentine’s day. Tim Olstad did a similar thing with a startup called BEM Wireless (speakers and such). We also did a really fun Nashville gift box where we gave away all sorts of goodies that Ron loves - East Nashville Spice Co, Project 615 Shirt, Bongo Java Coffee, etc etc etc.
Give away an experience. Ron’s fans love facetime with him, so we give a Skype session away every few months. Plus, VIP/Backstage meet and greets are really awesome ways to give them an unforgettable night.
Bonus content. This is a tried and true method that still holds true in this day and age. Give away additional content to a special group of fans (maybe the first 50 to pre-order; the first 50 to share; etc).
REASON TO IGNORE THIS ADVICE: You are not interested in getting people to pay attention to your first batch of musical goodness.