November 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Does Legal BitTorrent ‘Move the Needle?’

legal bit torrent bittorrent free legal musicSeth Keller of SKM Management, an artist management firm in Manhattan Beach, California, writes,

“Hi Eliot:

Would you be open to doing a follow up piece to this post [about the most-downloaded legal music on Bit Torrent]?

I’m curious to know if the number of legal downloads directly or indirectly correlates to any real world metric.

For example, did DG [Death Grips] see any tangible effects from the 34M free downloads? Did their merch sales, ticket sales and/or number of fans online or in the real world increase substantially? Did they sell more music (although I’m assuming that’s not as important to them as live/merch given the genre)?

I’m a proponent of ‘free’ as one facet of a campaign, but I don’t think it moves the needle that much without other components of the artist’s career moving in the right direction.

34M downloads is a staggering number, though; which makes me curious if that alone led to anything significant.

Best regards,

Seth Keller

We put his questions to Bit Torrent, the company (not to be confused with bittorrent, the file sharing protocol upon which it runs), which responded with the following artist testimonials.

None of them speaks directly to Keller’s request for specific data metrics, but they do provide some perspective on how artists who have worked with Bit Torrent feel about having put their music on there for free.

“If you’ve got 160 million people on BitTorrent, then that’s the new radio station. That’s a better radio station, in fact. As an artist it’s what you’ve been wanting to do all along, which is to get your music to people.”  - Adam Duritz, Counting Crows

“I’ve experienced the benefits firsthand of letting anyone and everyone download my music, which is, primarily, a momentous growth in the attendance of my live shows.”  - Pretty Lights

“(BitTorrent) took Billy’s email list from a few hundred people, to over 60,000. Google searches for Billy skyrocketed.  And likes went from under 3,000 to 10,000 in two months.  So, what did all this do? Well, Billy now has a career as an artist.  It took less than two months.”  - Michael Fiebach, Famehouse digital marketing agency (Billy Van, Pretty Lights, DJ Shadow, others)

So basically, it sounds like they’re saying Bit Torrent can deliver music to people if they want it, grow live audiences, and increase a band’s social footprint. We hope that helps, Seth, even if it’s not precisely what you were looking for.

Do you have a question for or anyone else in music? Ask away.

(Image courtesy of Flickr/Ezio Melotti)

  • seth keller

    Thanks for following up with Bit Torrent on this, Eliot. EDM DJs have been giving away music for years with great results on the live side if the music they play–sometimes their own productions, sometimes remixes of other artists–resonates with the audience.

    Rappers, too, have gained a following via mix tapes and subsequently cashed in through sales of music and merch as well as sponsorships and corporate partnerships.

    Rock, R&B, pop, country and other genres seem not to have had the same levels of “success” in doing it, which is one reason I was really interested in Death Grips’ metrics.

    Pretty Lights’ strategy has been well documented. I never heard much about what happened with the Counting Crows’ give-away. It was all over the online and traditional media and then disappeared just as quickly. I’m thinking they didn’t get much of a bump from it or there would have been a follow up press blast from their camp.

    The Billy Van case is interesting. I remember reading about it on Hypebot. I went back and checked and saw the piece ran in August. It obviously worked in jump starting his career. But if you look at his numbers since this piece ran–at least on facebook, youtube and soundcloud–they more in line with what an average unsigned artist would have.

    Facebook likes since the 10,000 mark are about 3,000.

    Youtube plays of his originals from his latest release “Retro Punch” range from 2,200 on the high end to 423 on the low end.

    On Soundcloud, those same originals have between 2700 plays on the high end and 420 plays on the low end.

    The most impressive thing to me about the the Bit Torrent promotion was the collection of 60,000 email addresses. That’s huge for any artist but for a “relatively unknown” artist as he described in the Hypebot piece, that’s extraordinary.

    The question is how many of those 60K subscribers have become fans, bought tickets for the Fall tour he did with The Green because of him, bought music or merch. Judging by the youtube and soundcloud numbers, it seems like the Bit Torrent promo may have been a good starting jolt but may not have translated into building a fan base close to what those type of numbers would indicate.

    Again, without one of these artists or their reps revealing what’s behind the curtain, it’s hard to tell, but it still seems like “free” is still a hit and miss strategy.