Times have changed. Most music producers choose to upload their latest tracks to SoundCloud and Youtube instead of music web stores, such as iTunes and Beatport. Often musicians will enable these tracks to be freely downloaded off SoundCloud aswell. Perhaps this change in habit is due to the wide availability of “SoundCloud downloaders” and “YouTube converters” which have the ability to save songs from YouTube and SoundCloud in the form of MP3s without the permission from the artists. As the artists know this is the case, they may feel like they have nothing to lose from enabling free downloads themselves.
The advantage to artists is the increased publicity they receive for their content. More people are likely to listen and share their content if it is free. They can use this to increase their fanbase, drumming up more support for their live tours and future album releases. Obviously the advantage to the consumers is that they don’t have to pay for some of their music!
It seems that the majority of artists release their singles online for free streaming or download, but charge for their full albums on music web stores. However it is common for new up and coming artists to release more free content, including full albums (or mixtapes as they are often called) in an attempt to become noticed by the music industry. Sometimes well renowned artists such as Diplo will release a free mixtape as a publicity stunt.
However this free content culture has led to unrealistic expectations towards online content by the current generation. A survey has indicated that young people are unwilling to pay for digital music – “A third of young people would not pay for music online”. Even for full-length albums, people turn to piracy or Spotify (which pays artists very small sums for their content – as can be read here) in order to avoid having to pay. Artists such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin have protested against Spotify’s exploitation by refusing to host their content on the site.
HMV didn’t have a mass-shoplifting problem with CD’s. So maybe these expectations stem from the digital nature of the content.
Do people feel that they shouldn’t have to pay for it because they don’t receive a tangible object? Either way the increase in free content online has led to significant losses in the entertainment industry and it is under threat (not just the music industry, the film industry has also taken a hit)