Moby’s Best Selling Track? The One He Gave Away For Free

Posted on 02. Jul, 2009 by in INNOVATION

moby_with_gun_smallFor all those in the music industry who are still not convinced that ‘free’ can play a defining role in an artist’s business model, here is yet another success story.

Bob Lefsetz posted an email yesterday that he received from Moby regarding his new album Wait for Me. I took the liberty of re-posting it below:

How’s it going?
The album just came out and it would be #1 euro charts if not for michael jackson re-releases.
So that’s good.
But here’s something funny: the best selling itunes track is ‘shot in the back of the head’.
Why is that funny?
Because its the track we’ve been giving away for free for the last 2 months and that we’re still giving away for free.
How are you?

So, not only did Moby give ‘Shot in the Back of the Head’ away in the months leading up to it’s official release, he has continued giving it away now that it is available for purchase. Offering the same product for free and for purchase at the same time may still seem counter-intuitive to many. Yet, Moby has clearly found that the promotional value of the free downloads has far outweighed whatever sales those downloads may or may not have cost him.

The reason for this phenomenon is simple. There’s a lot of music out there – certainly too much for anyone to purchase all of it. This has led consumers to become more selective. Yet, if a listener is able to hear a song for free – not thirty seconds of the song, the whole thing - that’s the song they’ll recognize when the album officially drops. ‘Shot in the Back of the Head’ is what people are downloading because they’ve already heard it, sometimes many times. It’s similar to what radio can do for for a major act, except it’s all the more powerful because the listener is given the track to enjoy whenever and however they want. There’s no risk that they won’t like it once they’ve paid for it, so they’re more willing to pull out their wallets. Add to this the fact that people have been telling each other how much they like the song for the past two months, and you can see what has caused it to rise to the top.

Free music does not spell the end of the music industry. It’s a tool that artists are using to elevate their work above the noise of a saturated market. Moby’s new single is only the latest example of how effective this tool can be.

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2 Responses to “Moby’s Best Selling Track? The One He Gave Away For Free”

  1. [...] free track impressed some people, but not Billboard (or more specifically Glenn Coolfer Peoples) who doesn’t think people [...]

  2. [...] in 2007 for their In Rainbows LP. It made headlines all around the world. More recently, I read an article that interviewed Moby about his up and coming album. He was greatly amused that the lead single [...]