If you want to offer your song for FREE, is it beneficial?

Broadjam.com recommends their artist to have their songs for free.You can read the broadjam newsletter release here. The primary reason is exposure, getting fans attention etc. In this post I will attempt to examine what are the advantages of offering songs for free and what are the potential legal issues involved.

A complete song (music , lyrics and recordings) is protected by copyright. Someone can only use a song if they can obtain some form of license. This license could be exclusive and non-exclusive. Exclusive means that once you license the song to someone, you cannot re-license the song again to another person. A non-exclusive license is the the complete opposite.

You may not aware of this but if you are buying a CD in store, the money you have paid acts a form of “license fee”. License like any form of contracts have terms and conditions, this means that once you have paid money for the CD, you agree to use the songs only for your own benefit or personal use. In other words, you are not allowed to replicate the CD and re-sell it to another buyers. Also you are not allowed to play this CD in commercial establishments like big restaurants , theaters, malls except you pay some form of “performance royalties” to the songwriter.

What will happen if you offer you song for free. It implies that you are still the copyright owner of the song but anyone can now use your song for free, it acts as a sample that everyone can use. I think broadjam does a pretty good marketing job here, by allowing their members to label their songs for free, it makes it easy for consumers to test their songs, thus encouraging a good exposure to artist overall. Good exposure leads to sales. The only shortcoming is that if we treat songs like a “shareware” is a bit hard to control unlike softwares.

In shareware software, once it expires after 30 days for example, it will not work again unless the user will download or purchase a workable license.We cannot do this with songs. Also offering songs for free still needs some license that songwriters should entail into some form of contract, in writing with the users. Broadjam does not have this feature and as a songwriter/publisher of the songs, I hope they will add some form of online contract that we as “writers/publishers” can state the usage of the song and state the terms and conditions of the free for license song contract.

If users cannot be controlled or does not have a copy of the license we would like them to sign for our free song offer, then this service is not beneficial and could lead to confusions in the long run. We would like to control the usage/ users of the song even they will use it for free, so that we can trace who are our customers using the free license.

Again, this move by Broadjam is a pretty good move to increase exposures of us, the songwriters. But if they can sort out the above issues, then everything will work smoothly between the songwriter/publishers and the consumers.

What is my recommendation if you are a broad jam member?

a. I highly recommend reading their newsletter if you are a broad jam member. It discusses very well whether offering your songs for free will be suitable in your case.
b. If you are serious about publishing and avoiding messing up in the future by not having executing a fully agreed license for free song usage between you and the user, then wait until broad jam fixes this issue. It is really hard to trace who downloaded or use the song. Also to what are the terms they have agreed or limitations on how they can use the song for free.

Good luck :)

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