Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pimp Your Song! - What is free music?

Amazon has a promotion on. X5 Jazz sampler. Five free recordings of Jazz Classics. I have an Amazon account already. I did my download. Everything was cool. So I passed the link on to a friend.

He thought they wanted his credit card info and declined the downloads. I'm sure it left a sour taste in his mouth. I tested the Amazon "free" giveaway as a new customer and I did have to create an account and I did have to fill out billing information on a screen that looks exactly like a credit card collection screen but I did not have to actually enter a credit card number. But still is this download Free? Is my time worth nothing? Why do I need to give out my billing address and phone number to receive a free download?

Here's my apology to my friend.


Sorry. I didn't know. We have an Amazon account and nothing came up.

I guess it's a sales ploy after all. I mean promotional downloads are always a sales ploy but they shouldn't collect information like that. Let the songs be the promotion.

Now I don't mind bands giving away free mp3s when you sign up for their mail list. But that's an upfront transaction and you can always opt out easily if you don't like the newsletter.

I don't do that though. My free mp3s are free. As a bird. They might as well be. People will share music whether you want them to or not.

And, of course, I want them to. Sharing is the new music distribution system. Word of mouth is everything.

I started rambling but this shit is good. I'm going to turn this into a post.


Like I said I set up a new account and got the download without entering any credit card info. They did send me to a billing address page and I did have to enter a mailing address and phone number which I feel is excessive for getting a free download. But they did not collect credit card info like they would have to if the download wasn't free.

I feel that this is far in excess of the standard practice of getting a free mp3 or pdf for putting an email address into an opt out mail list.

There is no hard rule but there is a question of motivation. Is the promotion about the music or about getting new customers? Amazon made it clear that the reason they are running this promotion is to collect new customers.

Still the mantra in internet sales is WWAD? (What Would Amazon Do?) In this case I disagree. They clearly lost one download customer with their excessive data collection. I mean life is too short.

So I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and define just what "free music on the internet" means to me.

First thing, permanent links to the mp3 file. (or flac or ogg or mov) Plain links that you can read in your status bar. Click on the link or right click and Save Target As or Save Link As. Easy to download.

If I want to play a podcast or provide a streaming experience I use plaintext .m3u or .xspf playlists. Preferably both. These playlist formats provide the listener with a link to the file so they can easily download it if they choose.

Second song files are stored on more than one site. One site can go down. I use and many other music hosting services besides my web site for my downloads.

Third, I license the recordings for sharing so anyone who downloads them can feel free to share them if they want to. I use Creative Commons licenses but a simple statement from the songwriter is sufficient. I call this Copy Freely and the Creative Commons licenses spell it out in detail.

So for me free music on the internet means.

1. Download links available
2. Posted at many sites
3. Licensed for sharing

Please comment on this and tell me what free music means to you.

Also I have a question to throw out for comments. If your music is available for free on the internet should you also post it to iTunes and Amazon for resale? Will a customer who purchases a download be upset if he later finds it for free. Or are these channels just too big to ignore and should you have your music on them period? (note - that sentence ends, "period question mark")


Hairy Larry


This article is available for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Copy Freely!

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