A Creative Commons License Is The Ultimate Music Promotion Tool

The Future Buzz is not just a place where I help marketers, bloggers and PR professionals spread buzz online.  I also help artists, photographers and creative people do the same.  In fact, if you read between the lines, much of the advice I write on spreading ideas can be applied to anything you’d like to successfully share.

I don’t mention often that when I’m not blogging or helping companies achieve their goals online, in my free time I write music.

Previously I tried to sell my music on online mp3 shops and CDs – with mixed results (it’s difficult being an unknown artist).  I sold a few copies – but eventually came to a realization I would rather have my music reach more ears as the money I was making was worth far less than the joy of being able to share it with others.  Soon after that, I released my latest album along with a few of my older works under a creative commons license.

My goal with art shifted to purely enjoying the process, and I didn’t even worry about promoting it, I just uploaded it.  And believe it or not, that’s when the real magic started to happen.

Every so often someone stumbles-upon my art through a link or a friend, and it reaches more ears.  A creative commons license encourages people to share your art through BitTorrent or whatever file sharing they want – with attribution.  They’re free to burn copies, listen on iPods – whatever they want.  All that is required is you keep the attribution and don’t profit from it.

With all of that said, I will give a piece of piece of advice I hope you’ll listen to if you’re any kind of artist that can put their work into a digital format:  put as much of out under creative commons as you can.  It is the most powerful promotion tool I’ve come across in nearly a decade of making music.

If I was a completely unknown artist and trying to make a living off my art today, I would do all of the following:

  • Release (at least) an album’s worth of material under creative commons license.
  • Put all of it available for download on one easy page with subscription options to receive future updates and links to purchase more of my music (iTunes, Beatport, MySpace – wherever it is you’re selling it digitally).
  • Send links to the page to a few music bloggers telling them what you’re doing (they will be happy to share it with their readers as music bloggers love to find new artists – they will actually be buzzed you found their music blog).
  • Find people making creative videos on YouTube and offer them some original music to pair with their video.
  • Share your music personally with people you interact with in social media.
  • Use all of this to build a fan base of 1,000 dedicated fans…then follow Kevin Kelly’s advice on having them support my art.
  • Not even think about monetizing until you have reached critical mass with awareness and demand for your music.

It is totally realistic to do all of this.  It’s simple, it will get your name out there, and move you closer to the day you can create art for a living.

I am not just saying this as a marketing blogger -  I actually will show you just a few quick tangible examples of how real the results can be by releasing your art under a creative commons license:

  • A few weeks ago, a local South Florida blogger, Mike Fruchter, was interested in meeting me for lunch as we had been speaking on and off via Twitter, FriendFeed and email about social media and related topics and wanted to sit down to meet face to face.  I had noticed Mike was interested in some artists I also liked via his lifestream on FriendFeed, so I figured I would give him one of my CDs and see what he thought.  What was amazing was Mike enjoyed my music enough to share it with the infamous Louis Gray, who actually wrote about my art on his popular blog.
  • My music was linked on a popular electronic music blog when I put one of my albums out under a creative commons license.
  • People on Twitter have asked me to supply them with original music for their videos.
  • More than 5,000 people have downloaded my creative commons albums from my server, and I encourage them to share it throughout the social web and throughout file sharing services legally. There’s no way to track how much my music has been shared peer to peer, but I do get emails every so often from random people telling me they enjoy it (which is always great to hear).
  • Someone made a profile page for me on last.FM – just discovered that today, neat.
  • Someone made a music video for one of my remixes where a space vixen is on the run from evil killer robots (yes, seriously).
  • My music has been featured on many web radio stations which can’t play RIAA music
  • Recently a blogger asked if they could use some of my music to intro their podcast (and I’m working on doing something original for them)
  • 20,000+ people have visited my MySpace music page and 15,000 of them have stuck around to sample my art.

These are just some examples of how the web has been a huge enabler for my art to reach new people.  For all but the last example, none of this would be possible without putting music out under a CC license.  Also keep in mind, I’m not out there actively pitching myself or pushing my music, all I do is write it and upload.  Imagine if I came up with ways to creatively market it – the possibilities are endless.

If you’re reading this blog, you already know the power of creative commons, as you probably notice I use Flickr CC images frequently here (see my stunning images post for a good sample).  Many of the producers of those images have literally hundreds of thousands of views for their art on Flickr, and perhaps millions when spread across the web.

Bottom line?

We hear so much about how social media can help artists – well, nearly every fan I have is from message boards/forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.  Without those things, I probably wouldn’t have any fans other than those who vaguely remember me from when I used to play gigs in college.

If you’re an independent artist or freelancer/content producer of any type, you can’t afford to miss the awesome power of setting your art free via creative commons.  This is the great equalizer for democratizing art.  I see the incredible potential when I witness just a few samples of what people have done with my stuff – and I’m a totally unknown artist.

When you put creative work into the magic of social media and let others use it to build upon for their own art or just share it with their readers/friends, everyone wins.

Related posts from The Future Buzz:

Social Media And Artists – A Natural Fit

21 Reasons You Should Make Art

For Music And News Industries, Power Is Now With The People

Related posts from around the web

Time For Journalists To Take A Lesson From (Smart) Musicians (Techdirt)

The best selling MP3 album of the year was free (The Long Tail)

Lawerence Lessig’s Blog on Creative Commons (his whole blog is related)