By the way, it strikes me the MC Yogi YouTube is a classic example of the way in which social media can be used to create value and sell content. A pithy case study of the lessons of marketing in the 21st Century.
Consider the Obama track in question, which has just been shortlisted on the Daily Dish’s ‘Take Back the Campaign’ competition and seems to be doing well in the ad hoc poll. As a result, it is likely to get pretty stratospheric viewing figures in the next few days. It will certainly be viewed and downloaded by more people than, say, the next British No. 1 single (two hundred and nine thousand views on YouTube, so far).
And yet, it has been provided at no cost to the consumer. How do we reconcile that with a concern for artists rights. Shouldn’t they be paid for the work they produce? Aren’t we free-riding on the back of their talent? They’ve squandered their royalties, haven’t they?
Not quite. The fact is, in this case, exposure is everything. I wouldn’t have heard of MC Yogi, and neither would Andrew Sullivan, if the track had not been available free on YouTube. The Obama track is a loss leader, a free sample. Providing free content makes economic sense. This is more true for MC Yogi, who I hadn’t heard of until last weekend, than it is for Radiohead or Prince, who both marketed their music through high profile give-aways. In these cases, there probably would be some loss of royalties.
More importantly, the free sample serves to create a loyalty amongst new customers. If they admire the free track, then they are more likely to show their appreciation but buying the full album. As some recent research (pdf) from British Music Rights and the University of Heartfordshire shows, young people have no problem with buying music legally if they think it is good value for money.
The icing on the cake is that the medium of delivery increases margins for the artist, while at the same time decreasing costs to the consumer. Once a track or album is created, actual delivery to the end-users via MP3 download and YouTube can be achieved at minimal cost.
None of these insights are news to people working in social networking and new media. But for many people, even in the creative industries, giving something away for free still a novel approach. So it is worth pointing out positive examples of these new marketing techniques, as they happen.