Music Industry

Should Artists Give Away Music for Free? | Artists That Gave Away Music

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Artists who give their music away for free have found a lot of success. This has been done online or at gigs and even resulted in Grammy wins. But how do you give away music for free, and is there any point? 

The best way of giving away free music is by using digital platforms such as SoundCloud or Noisetrade. You could also put it up as a straight download from your own artist website. You can also find plenty of other artists out there that give away their music for free. 

Is free music promotion a good idea?

Some artists give away free music as a way of giving back to their fans. Here are some of the biggest artists that have done this.

Artists that gave away free music

Chance the rapper Artists that gave away free music 

  • Chance the Rapper
  • Radiohead
  • U2
  • Gorillaz
  • Childish Gambino
  • Nine Inch Nails

Of course, a consideration here is that these acts make money from many other revenue streams. They aren’t necessarily reliant on these revenue streams and will probably create more value in publicity. This ends up being hugely beneficial to other areas of their brand.

There are many smaller artists out there that give away free music. All you have to do is type into google and sites come up with artists offering their music for free. DatPiff is a website which lists many different types of artists offering their music for free. From classical to indie rock, all available for download, all for free. It is an exciting time to be in the music industry with so many new and older artists choosing to take this course and give away songs and albums. 

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper won 3 Grammys for music he gave away for free. He is known for saying that he ‘never wanted to sell his music’. His reason for this is because he felt like it was ‘inhibiting him from making a connection (with his fans)’.

‘Chance’ makes money exclusively from going on tours and selling his merchandise. He sticks to the game plan that music is for the people therefore music should be free. His album ‘Coloring Book’ made it to number one on the Billboard Charts and was the first-ever album to do so from streaming alone.


‘In Rainbows’ was entirely self-released by Radiohead on in 2007 and put the music industry into disarray. The excellent strategy that Radiohead used for ‘In Rainbows’ was to release the album on their own website with their pay what you like scheme. This coming from such a huge band like Radiohead turned certain aspects of buying music around.  

‘In Rainbows’ was Radiohead’s first release after leaving their record label. What better way to celebrate than by putting out an album and rewarding all their fans!  


If you owned an iPhone in 2014 then there is a chance you woke up to a free U2 album. This is one of the biggest examples of free music promotion. This caused quite a stir amongst iPhone owners. It wasn’t positive either because the majority of people who got the album never asked for it. 

This is a good example of the line between giving music away for free and imposing it without consent. Allow people to make the choice to get your music for free, don’t force it upon them.


The Fall was released by Gorillaz as a free download in 2011. It was recorded entirely on an iPad while Damon Albarn was touring and was later sold as a vinyl release for record store day.

Not every release has to be for commercial purposes and it can be good to put out music you make just for the sake of it. Who knows, you might be able to capitalise on it years down the line.

Run The Jewels

The first two albums from RTJ were released as free online downloads. Combined with their critical acclaim, this helped cement their popularity and enabled them to play at huge festivals across the world. 

Childish Gambino

Artist who gave away their music

Another highly acclaimed and talented musician, ‘Childish Gambino’ has seen no end the positive benefits the come from giving your first album away for free. The Grammy winner released ‘EP’ in March 2011 for free download and has only been making a name for himself in the music industry ever since.

Nine Inch Nails

Another artist that has gone out of their way to give away free music is Nine Inch Nails. Their album ‘The Slip’ was offered up for free download in 2008. Despite being able to download it for free, it did not negatively impact CD sales. This is a really positive example of what you can achieve just by sharing music for free. It doesn’t necessarily have to affect how many albums are sold as people out there will always be willing to buy music from bands that they like.

Free music distribution 

What you have to take into account as a band or musician is making music costs time and money. Therefore, if you are going to be releasing for free, then you need to really know your market and make sure that it will be worth your while. 

There are a number of ways to distribute your music for free. An easy way of doing it is to give out a number of CDs at gigs. This is a good way of getting your music to fans who want to listen to your music. It is also a more costly process as per the costs of making the CD, and only really works on a small scale. 

 If you do choose to give out CDs at gigs then there are many positive outcomes. Your fans will be happy to come away with something. People always like getting stuff for free and they will be more likely to remember you in the future. 

Another place whereby you can distribute your music for free is on the internet. There are many places on the web where people can access free music and these sites are there for the pure purpose of giving away free music to fans from the artists themselves.  

Give away music for free

Many like-minded artists and DJ’s are currently in the market of giving away their music for free. The positives of this scenario are that the artists generate exposure for themselves. Because their music is free the idea is that more people will want to listen to it. 

Nowadays the internet allows us to have instant access to songs at our fingertips. Artists and bands are waking up to the fact that there is a lot more competition to get their music heard. No longer can you just walk into a record store and have a browse at what tickles your fancy. With millions of tracks downloadable at the press of a button, artists and bands have realised that the easiest way to get their music heard by new ears is to give it away.

Should I sell my music or give it away? 

Give away music for free

For the most part, it is going to come at a cost to give away your music for free as there are the costs of recording the tracks. However, if it is not the money that you are worried about and just want some decent exposure and to gain more fans then it is a great attention-grabbing strategy.

If your aim is to achieve more exposure then giving away free music is the way to go. It opens up people’s eyes to the discovery of you as an artist. People will be grateful that they can have a listen to your songs, or an album before buying. It also entices people to buy other music you have out there.

Free music as a taster 

If listeners can download music for free and really like then they are more likely to spend money on you. 

If you have the resource to give away free music then certainly consider giving your music away as a taster. The free music giveaway could drive future music sales. It will also bring good positive feedback from fans and help to spread the music you are making. 

A good tip if you are giving away music for free is to ensure you are capturing the fan’s contact details. Get their email so you can keep in touch of up and coming gigs, events and releases. 

Best way to release free music 

There are many ways to release music for free and the easiest is the internet. There are many sites dedicated to music releases on the internet. However, if you want your music to be accessible then have it on your own website. 

If you can direct fan traffic to your website then they can check out when your next gig is. They can also check out any merchandise or music that you might have for sale. ‘Chance’ the rapper had meetings with 3 major record labels before he decided that it was in his best interests to give away his music for free, and for him, it worked.

How can I give away free music? 

Before you decide to give away your music for free make sure that you are completely satisfied with the finished product. That means you’re happy with the mix and master as well as the artwork to go along with it. 

Once this is done you can start sourcing places to release your tracks. Your own website is a good place to start. You can have your music available for download in exchange for a sign up to your bands or artists newsletter. Other websites, like Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Noisetrade are a fantastic place to give away free music. Bandcamp has an excellent system in place whereby people can pay what you want, including nothing at all. 

Another way is to give your music for free in exchange for a tweet or some form of social currency. For example, sharing the album cover on Facebook which then again generates interest in the songs themselves. This is a great marketing strategy and doesn’t take up much of people’s time. Their reward: they get your music for free.  

Is giving away free music a good thing? 

In many people’s opinion giving away music for free can only really be a good thing, as everyone gets something out of it. If Grammy-winning artists can find it in themselves to give away music for free then you can too.

Just bear in mind these major artists have many other revenue streams so as long as you don’t bankrupt yourself and feel it’s a good use of resources then it’s certainly worth considering. 

Free music promotes loyalty, gives people a reason to talk about you as an artist and also generates publicity. If you do decide to give away free music, perhaps don’t see it as a long term survival tool. See it as a goodwill gesture to fans and as a thank you, for sticking by you as an artist and supporting your ongoing work.

If you’re giving away music for free and have tried free music promotion, share it in the comments below.