Today in Music: Give It Away Now

The Crimea are not content to fade
photo from MySpace

Remember The Crimea? The British band were once poised to take over the US, and while they didn’t gain the popularity they might have wished, they did catch our attention with memorable tunes “Lottery Winners on Acid” and “White Russian Galaxy.” That was early 2005. Two years later, the market is flooded with other British acts like trying various blends of post-punk and new wave to rise above the rest. Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, and The Bravery, all contemporaries of The Crimea, have been more productive, and new UK bands like The Fratellis, The View, and The Holloways have sprung up in the meantime. So what’s a band to do? Why not give it away for free!

The Crimea are currently offering their second release for free on their website. The entire album is available for download in mp3 form for your listening pleasure, which media outlets are claiming is the first time an “established” band has done such a thing. However, The Crimea are not the first to try such a radical (and I mean radical!) method of promotion. Here’s who else has given away the farm:

  • Among other unorthodox marketing techniques, Nine Inch Nails have willingly released three tracks from Year Zero, as the band says on its website, “via torrents you certainly know how to use.” Most interesting though is the band’s choice of host: The Pirate Bay is a popular bit-torrent tracker that has faced continual legal attacks for facilitating illegal peer-to-peer file sharing.
  • Joseph Arthur first released his current album, Let’s Just Be, as a free download on his website in December, claiming “If you love it, donate somethin. It’s pass the hat time. That’s how we do things now. With love And peace Across this earth God bless.” Even now that the album is available only for purchase, Joseph Arthur’s website still generously offers free songs to download, like this Notorious B.I.G. cover:
  • Joseph Arthur & The Lonely Astronauts – Ten Crack Commandments (MP3)

  • We shouldn’t forget the whole MySpace revolution either. Currently popular artists like Lily Allen and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have risen to stardom only because they first give it away. Many artists like Lily Allen used MySpace as a promotional vehicle to release songs for free, like this “mixtape”:
  • Lily Allen – My First Mixtape (MP3)

  • Early on, MySpace music players featured a lot more downloadable mp3’s, but now it seems like every new album is being streamed via MySpace a week or so before it comes out. Among artists to offer full album streams are Cat Power, Feist, Nine Inch Nails and Arctic Monkeys. You can still stream new albums by DNTEL, Mark Ronson, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and many others you can find with an easy web search. By the way, we highly recommend Mark Ronson’s latest album. Here’s a reinterpretation of The Smiths, courtesy of Fluxblog:
  • Mark Ronson – Stop Me (MP3)

  • There are many other outlets for artists to give away songs, like, which may not give away whole albums but does offer a “Web Mix” for popular bands like Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Beirut, The Go! Team, and Voxtrot, in addition to lesser known but equally brilliant bands like this fantastic song by a new Sioux Falls group:
  • We All Have Hooks For Hands – Hold On, C’mon (MP3)

    There is no doubt that music market is re-adjusting, but there are many questions yet to be answered. What do these artists gain from giving it away? How much is an mp3 worth? or an album? Will The Crimea benefit or lose albums sales due to this marketing stunt? Will such promotions become the norm? And how will the market shift to re-coup funds? We’re already seen panic in the form of the CRB, for instance, yet we’re also seeing more artists and labels willing to contribute to our podcasts. Hopefully, one day all labels will see the promotional value of giving it away.

    Speaking of promotion, we’re excited for the Elliott Smith collection of rarities, New Moon, which comes out tomorrow. We’ll leave you with this beautiful video, “Lucky Three,” a tribute to Elliott and to Portland, by Jem Cohen. You can read more about the video and find a link to another video at New York Magazine:

    To send us your thoughts about giving it away, or to share any other interesting music news, email

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