In today's day and age, it's often easy to forget how new the idea of a free download truly is. It wasn't till the early 2000's that you could readily download music for free through sites like LimeWire and Napster, and that was of course was illegal and frowned upon by the industry. This led to problems and lawsuits with artists like Metallica, Dr. Dre, and Madonna.
Soon after companies started catching on to the idea of free music, and who could forget the iTunes free download of the week? It didn't matter who the hell was featured; I was downloading it. Whether it was online or later on cards at Starbucks, I was stoked on the idea of getting a song for free that was completely legal.
Didn't matter if it was Norah Jones or Lenny Kravitz. I was downloading and bumping that song, and if people questioned what I was listening to, the reasonable response could always be "Dude it was a free download." That phase is long gone now, but let's not forget the peak of that was less than ten years ago.
In the last five or six years though, that whole model has changed with free music being expected from listeners. The pay what you want model became revolutionary with artists like Pretty Lights and his record label, allowing users to get the release for free or donating to an artist they believed in. This really took people by surprise and the idea spread like wildfire, and being able to download hundreds of songs from the Pretty Lights Music website was a blessing.
This is something Soundcloud has never picked up on, with the only option being a free download directly through their site, or the ability to link to another platform. For Bandcamp though, this has always been one of their bigger sells. The site was never as simple to navigate and discover like Soundcloud, but the ability to receive donations directly through their site and collect most of the money stood out from others.
While this was happening, we also had the rise of the modern blogosphere and social network craze within music and specifically electronic music. The result: the follow for free download method. At first it was simple. You "Liked" an artist on Facebook, and next thing you know you were downloading free music. This was often done through email, but was always pretty quick and painless.
Flash forward to 2015 where the obsession with social numbers has skyrocketed, and now people are getting way too thirsty when giving out free downloads. It's getting away from the entire concept when people are asking you to follow on every network, like and comment on all their networks, share the post on your Facebook, and sign up for an email list where you will be blasted with updates.
People want things easy and simply these days. If too many steps are required, they will just give up. Long gone are the days of spending hours to get a good download of a new album, when dealing with sites like LimeWire was a constant battle to not accidentally download hazardous or fake files onto your parent's computer (sorry mom). It was worth it though, because you needed that free music.
Now we are being told what we must do in order to unlock downloads, and it's getting excessive. Next up is giving your social-security number, buying a ticket to their concert, reposting every song on their Soundcloud, credit information, and your blood type, but don't worry they got this fire bootleg for you that you need.
"If this status gets 1,000 likes I'll give you a free download. If you help get my page to 10,000 likes you get a free download." It might look good to have a few more likes, but nowadays with social interaction, forcing people to like your page is about the last thing you need. Let people like willingly, and those people will interact more. If you want to celebrate a milestone with a free song then by all means do it, but don't force us to help you get there or work for it.
The point is, just make it free or make us pay. Simple as that. I would rather spend a $1 to get your track then jump through 15 loop holes, but often times that's not even an option. At that point, any positive feelings I might have had about your work has probably disappeared, and I'm on to the next one.
Plain and simple, this trend has been taken too far, and needs to disappear right where it came from. This method cheapens the value of music, in an age where buying vinyl records is starting to boom again. There's a major difference between the emotional attachment you have when physically buying music versus commenting on every social network of an artist you barely know, and too much too fast has turned a good thing into a bad thing.