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'Free' Thinker: Music Xray's Bruce Warila

LONDON (Hypebot) – As part of a week long exploration into the meaning and value of "free", Hypebot asked some of the music industry's most forward thinkers the value and future of free music. Bruce Warila is a Music Xray investor where he is currently acting as their strategy and technology officer.. He also operates and blogs on Music Think Tank, as well as on Unsprung Media. Here Bruce shares his perspective on "free."

"You can’t copy digital exclusivity – you can only steal it.

One of the biggest justifications for illegally sharing music was that the labels were bundling shit and selling it for gold. Now that music is unbundled and selling for copper (pennies), it’s time to fight a new battle. If sharers rob us (rightsholders) of our right to digital exclusivity, which is our right to exclusively launch, release or to maintain an exclusive digital presence, then we are the fools for not insisting otherwise.

"…an artist’s next best path
to generating frictionless income."

When music is free, digital exclusivity will be an artist’s next best path to generating frictionless income. Your exclusive digital presence will convert to page views, clicks, site engagement and other measurable actions. Brands will pay you for this right and nobody should steal it from you.

When music was bundled and expensive, illegal sharing of music made some sense: file sharing satisfied frustrated consumers, and the viral capabilities of sharing networks undoubtedly helped more than a few artists obtain market traction. However, when we reach FREE as a price, all the justification for (heavy bits) music sharing halts. Price will no longer be an issue, and the URLs to free music (lightweight bits) are far easier to share than MP3s.

You should not endorse music sharing if it robs you of your right to be FREE and exclusive at the same time. Furthermore, don’t buy into the exclusivity-is-a-form-of-control argument either. Exclusivity is your right as much as privacy is. As for the argument that not being everywhere simultaneously (being exclusive) will hurt your upside potential – that’s nonsense. You couldn’t be any more accessible than being FREE and a mouse click (driven off your shared URL) away from wherever fans are.

Your strategy now should be to prepare for the day when a brand offers to buy your exclusivity. Since your songs are your advertisements, your calling card and your audio pheromones, perhaps consider being a bit more mysterious about everything else in your life. Hold back the baby pictures, the studio session videos and the near death experience stories until the exclusive offer shows up in your inbox. After all, if your free music offers don’t get you marketplace traction, the other stuff is just a pile of (fill in the blank)."