Fair Trade Music’s NoiseTrade becomes Free Trade

“A great record is its own best marketing tool,” says Derek Webb, singer/songwriter and Co-Founder of NoiseTrade. “All the marketing dollars in the world can’t accomplish what one great record can, especially if it’s set free to roam around and connect with the right people.”

The music industry is changing rapidly and our tools are going to have to change with it. A couple of years ago, Derek got fans to give him five emails for a free album download. A few years later, we have a generation that hardly uses email, preferring to Twitter and send Facebook messages.

In 2006 Webb gave away his ‘Mockingbird’ record for free online, asking in return for a little information (name, email address, and postal code), and as part of the process, for fans to invite their friends to download as well. In three month’s time Webb gave away over 80,000 full downloads of his record and collected valuable information for as many new fans. In addition, Derek has since seen many sold out shows and increased merchandise and record sales, including a curious spike in sales of the very record that was given for free.

It was the massive success of this experiment that inspired Webb, with the help of a few trusted friends, to start NoiseTrade. Now any artist can freely distribute their music online, via NoiseTrade’s remarkable and embeddable widget, offering fans the choice to tell 5 friends or to pay any amount in exchange for an immediate download.

I discovered NoiseTrade being used by Texas singer/songwriter, James McMurtry and followed his lead to open an account and develop a widget for recording artist and songwriter Debra Hadraba. I had to generate and correctly tag the MP3s at 192kbps, upload them, then NoiseTrade creates the Widget, plays samples and handles the rest.”Who needs peer-to-peer when you can have artist-to-fan?” Derek concludes, “If artists and fans realized how they could help each other and started making direct connections, without a middleman, the whole industry would change overnight. It would start a revolution.”

Calling themselves “Fair Trade Music,” NoiseTrade began their concept charging a $250 artist signup fee. They celebrated their one-year anniversary by dropping the fees altogether. They did get a few complaints from some of the charter artists who paid to use the service in the first year and tried to honor this group by locking them in at 90% of profits rather than the 80% that new artists get.

“For us the most obvious reason we had to make this change was because we need to practice what we preach,” explains Joe Kirk of NoiseTrade. “We tell artists to give away music to build relationships with their fans and to find new fans. We tell them that there are many ways to make a living if you have a solid list of fans and you know who they are, where they live and how to contact them. Then we ask those artists to pay us upfront for our help. Get the disconnect? We haven’t been living by the principles we espouse. We affectionately refer to it as ‘eating our own dog food’.”

“It’s Alive!” Tinker – a New Twitter Tool with a Great Widget

Tinker, belongs in my toolbox and I need to start using it. Not only will it allow me to follow the ever-changing trends in the thought stream, but I can create widgets for my clients that empower their Websites, taking a static page and making it an entry point to begin or add to the social dialogue.

Word-of-mouth is the new emerging standard in marketing, displacing the top-down model that once gave print and broadcast media it’s power and revenue. People trust word-of-mouth before traditional advertising so it’s only natural that as the reach of conversation through digital social media increases, the shift away from print-media accelerates. Building a collection and using the tools in your toolbox is an ongoing devotion that pays direct and immediate benefits.

With Tinker I can see a branching categorical listing of posts by topic and follow news and the upcoming in an Event Stream. I can also research and find Twitter users by profession, category or interest.

Now if only the developers would fix it so I can login and make a new account I can get started… whew!

“It’s Alive!” I feel like Colin Clive in the 1931 classic, Frankenstein – the scene where the monster comes to life… I discovered Tinker and wrote this post on October 7, 2009 and have been returning like a puppy to check on it again and again to see if I could actually create and account and fulfill all of the promise it implied… Today it finally works!

Yes! I now have a working Tinker account. Yes, I can accept Beta and all that it implies. Yes, I am excited… cuz this is just like Christmas and I am unwrapping my new set of Tinker Toys – how appropriate a metaphor. This rocks!