Myspace has helped to revolutionize the way new music is heard by the public. Bands who had to earn their stripes for decades by traveling across the country in a 1978 Chevette and stopping in every po-dunk town’s VFW to earn gas money at a show attended by winos who thought they were there to play bingo, can now reach a wider audience via sites like Myspace. No longer do artists have to wait for that one-in-million chance to land a record deal. If done correctly, strategic downloadable postings of excellent music will allow artists to not only get their music to a limitless audience, but get labels, A/R types, music marketing gurus and others with the ability to pay artists for their music to actually come to them. Yet, a musician who knows she has a real future in music (whether as a signer, songwriter, producer, lyricist, musician) should still think a bit before she goes crazy and gives all of her music away for free.
The reasons to not put your music on the internet as a downloadable form rather than streaming are manifold. Some reasons are obvious, like the fact that once it is on the net as a downloadable file, it will always be available for free. Whether it is on a website hosted in Greenland or on a blog written by a Russian 11 year old, that file will be out there and available. An artist cannot scream piracy if he was the one who handed his work product to the pirates in the first place.
Free posts of music may also come back to haunt an artist someday. For example, lets say a band is lucky enough to be able to license its music to a Ford for use in Ford’s new on-line ad campaign. Ford will undoubtedly want to have the exclusive right to use the track. In any license agreement which seeks exclusivity, the artist will be asked to promise (represent and warrant) that no other license agreement exists for the song and that the song is not currently licensed or being used by another party. If that song was posted somewhere 2 years before the Ford deal, the minute the ad-campaign is launched, you can bet that the song will pop up somewhere else. Now the band is going to lose out on the money promised to it from the exclusive license agreement and may actually get sued by the Ford. Not a good situation.
Artists should work with their management/legal/PR team to develop a plan where they can strategically pick the songs, if any, that they want to give away. Musicians have to remember that if they ever gave it away they can’t take it back; they can disclose the fact that it was out there at one time, but they will never be able to undo the post. I think that the car campaign example is not the norm, but the point is this: think before you post.