Justin Timberlake has made his new album free on iTunes a week before it is to be released.
What do you think of this tactic? Is this the direction that musicians/artists will have to take?
[iTunes/Image via AP]
The music isn’t the commodity - the album itself is essentially worthless. What has value is the live show (an irreplicable experience, and thus worth paying for), and the brand (JT as an entertainer, enabled by the success or awareness of his music and acting projects.)
But the value of the actual album? It’s essentially zero. Give it away. Let it spread. Make it easy and frictionless for people to promote your profitable ventures (the aforementioned) so you can actually make money.
I’d also like to point out that streaming an album before release and giving away a free download are pretty different things… JT is streaming the record on iTunes, not giving it away, like the story seems to imply. Streams are, for the most part, not very portable, so they’re another tool to help build hype. This is not a new idea! At all! People don’t want to listen to music only when they’re tied to an Internet connection, so if they like something enough, yes, they’ll pay for it to have the files on the devices that need it. (Or acquire it by other means, but the idea is that SOME people who stream these things will think it’s worth their money and pay.)
Doing this on iTunes is just a much more visible way to do it than on any of the various music magazine websites (or a band’s own website or bandcamp page) that do advance streams on a regular basis, with the additional protection that I’m sure JT and his label can expect from iTunes vs, say, Spin or Rolling Stone.
Honestly, I don’t even understand how this is a story.