The Three Best Reasons to Give Your Art Away For Free

Free dirt by Zeb Andrews on Flickr

“Please do not limit this CD to your iPod and earbuds, play it   at parties and with your friends and make memories with us. Illegal duplication is encouraged.”

When I first started blogging a few years ago, I wrote a little known article on Handshake Media about Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price (never mind that some funny controversy came of the book later, oh my…).

It wasn’t exactly a new idea I had thrown out there, but it did get me thinking about the whole “freemium” concept – especially in relationship to the arts.

Okay, so that message above? Sure, it’s good for a chuckle, but it also speaks the truth. The more people you expose to your art – and even better, the more fans you generate from it – the higher the chances your art will spread like wildfire. (That message, by the way, is taken from the back of Making April’s awesome final album, The Egg Hunt.)

It goes without saying that offering a portion of your art for free gets more people to bite. Everybody wants a free sample; some people want free samples just because they’re free. This is important because you can make new fans with “free” that you normally wouldn’t with a price attached. (I’ll download free songs and e-books just for the heck of it.)

So what are my three best reasons to take the “free” route when putting your work out there?

1. Your next raving fan is out there – but they have no idea who you are.
It used to be the only place we’d hear a song was on the radio, see a book was on a bookshelf, or view art was in an art gallery. Now it’s different, especially for independent musicians, authors, or artists. The first place we see or hear the next big thing may not be on the radio, on a bookshelf, or in an art gallery. The parameters have changed. Now we indies have to face a reality where the likelihood of getting noticed depends on how available our art is to the world. A writer I know recently self-published her book, but only after testing her audience waters by releasing the first few chapters on her blog.

2. Free can add value.
You might think the opposite to be true. “Free” usually means cheaper, right? Just the word “cheap” usually brings to mind things of lesser value. But let me ask you this question, is a movie ticket considered to be of less value than a just-released DVD? No? Why not, it’s cheaper. What we’re paying for in both cases is an experience – the experience is where we place value. So when you pack a kick-ass genuine experience into a freebie, it can only add value.

3. You sell more in the long run.
Back before He Is We released their first full-length album, I downloaded all their original demos for free that they offered via Bandcamp (the demos are of course not free anymore, but they’re totally worth the $5). I’ve since gone on to buy nearly every single one of their songs, and I’m certainly not the only one. Whenever you offer something for free, the idea is to get people hooked so that they’ll stop at nothing to snatch up whatever you put out next. At any price.

Let’s get a dialogue going, what experiences have you guys had with offering your work (whether it’s large chunks or small snippets) for free?

Photo belongs to Zeb Andrews


By Tanya

Tanya Marcy is a writer, storyteller, and avid reader who loves advising writers and mentoring young creatives.