Chandler Kellogg, Charles Crumble, Mery Cole, Isis McCullough
As the music business crumbles, new methods of distributing music are arising. Entrepreneurial companies such as, NoiseTrade, are expanding, while major labels are cutting employees and experiencing dwindling profits. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Derek Webb founded NoiseTrade in an attempt to revolutionize digital distribution methods. In essence, the company attempts to cut out the middleman from the music distribution process to create an artist-fan relationship without the aid of rack-jobbers, major labels, and $.99 download restrictions. The company believes that instead of fans going to peer-to-peer sites to download albums, artists should have an outlet to provide a free service for their fans while gathering information that could benefit them in the future. Their method theoretically results in creating a harmonious relationship between the artists and their fans where artists give away their music, and consumers don’t have the guilt of getting an album for free.
Derek decided to start the company after seeing the success of direct-to-fan methods from the marketing his own album, Mockingbird. The album was downloaded 80,000 times in 3 months in exchange for fan’s email addresses. Ironically, Mockingbird, saw an increase of sales on iTunes while they were giving away the album for free. After giving away his album, Derek has sold more tickets and merchandise at his shows, and has made a steady living playing music. If it worked once, Derek figured that the method could revolutionize the way consumers get music.
NoiseTrade’s service is rather simple. Artists upload albums for free on the site in exchange for a 20% cut from donations given to NoiseTrade. Customers browse the site by clicking on albums and then songs to test them out. If they like what they hear, they can choose to either A) Give 5 email addresses of people who they think may like the album or B) Donate money to the artist. While many people choose to give out 5 email addresses, this information can prove crucial to the success of an artist. The artists can choose to send out emails pertaining to tour dates and updates to create buzz and increase awareness about the band. As explained on the site, one email address can equal to one dollar after selling tickets and merchandising at the artist’s show.
Although NoiseTrade is a great idea in theory, it has many shortcomings. For example, many people enter in fake email addresses when downloading an album. This could be for many reasons: customers don’t want to annoy their friends, or because of address books, many people honestly don’t know their friends email addresses. NoiseTrade realizes this problem and is trying to fix it by using easier and more functional mediums such as Facebook to garner information. They have created widgets that artists are able to embed in social networking sites, but they have not found a way to send information directly to consumer’s social networking accounts. Regardless, widgets have proven an effective means of advertising. Artists can embed these widgets into messages, emails, blogs, etc.:
When it began, NoiseTrade’s services were $250 and NoiseTrade kept 10% of the profits. As of July 2009, the company’s one anniversary, they changed their policies omitting the $250 entry charge and are now taking 20% of all income. After the update, they saw the number of artists on their site double overnight. This change has been met with much resistance from artists who bought the service prior to the change. To balance it out, NoiseTrade has refunded some of the money to artists who paid for the services before the change. Other concerns from previous customers of the NoiseTrade’s services were that since now there are so many people on the site, potential downloader’s browsing the site will have a less likely chance of seeing their music. This is a valid concern as now there are several artists added to the site everyday. NoiseTrade is open about their imperfections, and is doing whatever necessary to make their innovative service a sustainable stream of revenue for independent artists wishing to make their music into a career.