Here's yet another one for the books to respond to those who claim that music giveaways only work for "big" artists. Corey Smith was a high school teacher, doing weekend music gigs. Then, apparently, his manager had a revelation and started giving all of his music away for free: and last year Corey brought in $4.2 million. And the music industry is complaining that if the government doesn't step in creative content will cease to exist?
Corey's story is quite interesting. He mostly makes money from concerts, and the free music drives more people to those concerts, but there are a few other aspects that are worth exploring. First, even though the music is available for free, plenty of people still buy his music on iTunes. However, as an experiment, they took down the free tracks from Corey's website for a period of time last summer… and sales on iTunes went down. Once again, this proves how ridiculous the claim is that free songs somehow cannibalize sales.
But, still, the real money maker for Corey is concerts, and even here he's doing something innovative: making concert tickets cheap: $5. The thinking here appears to be that once you see him in concert, you become a true fan who will keep going back (and paying) for more. And, in fact, at $5/ticket, you can afford to drag along your friends as well, and turn them into fans as well. And, of course, part of building up those true fans is better connecting with fans — and so Corey will meet with pretty much anyone who asks. Contact his agent, and he'll set up a meeting.
One other point is worth noting. Corey's manager, Marty Winsch, has tried this with other artists, where it hasn't always worked as well. So, some may claim that the model (again) is very limited. Of course, the reason is that those other acts just weren't that good. To me, that's a system that works quite well. It rewards good musicians, rather than mediocre ones. Still, it's great to have yet another example to add to the (increasingly) long list of musicians adopting the various business models discussed around here and finding tremendous success.