By Ashley Aron
At last year’s South by Southwest in Austin, TX, a British man with white bed-head threw blueberry muffins into the audience while cursing about the disastrous state of the music industry and how to fix it. The man was Martin Atkins, a drummer/producer/record label owner/writer/all-around badass from England. His book, Tour: Smart, contains a plethora of insider knowledge about the industry, advice for bands and people in the music business, and over 160 uses of the word “fuck.” He ended his presentation by telling the crowd, “When in doubt, throw muffins,” and proceeded to toss bags of the miniature baked goods into the audience.
Muffins, mad scientist hairstyles, and countless uses of “fuck” aside, Atkins made an important point about the purchasing of music – or lack thereof. Software such as Limewire and Acquisition and torrenting sites like The Pirate Bay are now common places where consumers can get their music. These channels of obtaining music illegally are equivalent to walking into a record store, taking an armful of the latest releases, and walking out without a single security alarm going off.
As an artist, wouldn’t you rather have someone obtain your music legally and not get paid, than have him or her steal it illegally and still not get paid? Imagine your band is gaining traction in your local scene by playing shows at small and mid-sized venues. If you’re trying to sell your EP for $5 to a crowd who’s only seen you perform once, it might be difficult to convince them to spend the money on a band they’re unsure of. However, we’ve all learned one thing in college: PEOPLE LOVE FREE SHIT.
You give away anything for free – music, buttons, stickers, hugs, etc. – and people will be all over your merch table. This is also true online, as sites such as Bandcamp, PureVolume, and even the Internet dinosaur Myspace are easy places for your fans to legally download your music for free. If you start out with free music, people who enjoyed listening to it are more likely to actually purchase your work in the future. Think about Yogurtland, where you can get a sample taste of a flavor before deciding if you want to buy it or not. Pretty similar concept, right? Give away your music legally instead of having people hunt around for it on Mediafire, and they’ll be more likely to purchase your music in the future. And remember…when in doubt, throw muffins.