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The best way to get new people to listen to your music is not about giving it away…

2013 July 27

“This music is free! Go download it!”

I see this statement a lot, but offering your music for free doesn’t encourage new people to listen to it. Why? Because so much music is free now!

Here’s another statement quickly becoming a cliche:

“This [formerly on a major label band] is now going indie and needs your help! Support their Kickstarter!” It was an amazing story when Amanda Palmer did it; now it’s commonplace.

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Note, I love Kickstarter and I love how we can offer our music for free. (My wife crowdfunded her first book, and I’ve used Noisetrade to share my music for free. I’m a supporter of these opportunities.)

But this needs to be said: The fact that it’s free or crowdfunded shouldn’t be the story; those are footnotes to the actual story, a story about the music.

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When Radiohead released their music for “pay what you want,” it was interesting, new, exciting. When Allison Weiss had success using Kickstarter, it was a cool story: DIY artist funds new music through crowdsourcing.

But now those stories are commonplace. It’s no longer unique to say, “This music is free!” or “We are using Kickstarter!”

Instead, to motivate people to listen, you need to find the true story. The engaging story. The inspiring story.


He was working in the mental health industry, fighting off his own depression, privately; and he discovered the best way to fight his own depression was by finding music again. After leaving his job to be a full time musician, his new record, with hints of City & Colour, gives voice to fighting demons.


She was a back-up singer in a successful touring band, but when her husband found a new job, and she had to leave the big city of Atlanta for Michigan’s Kalamazoo, she thought her music career was done. Little did she know, Kalamazoo would be the place where she would find her own voice, step out into the spotlight, and defeat ‘the wolves” with an Americana sound.

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Stories about the human experience inspire; and that inspiration is what gets new listeners to check out your music.

Whether your music is free or for sale, crowdsourced or self-funded, find your story.


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