On February 18th, 2011 Frank Ocean publicly release for free his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra after frustration that his label wouldn’t put it out. It instantly was downloaded thousands of times, remains one of the highest reviewed albums from 2011 and spawned two singles in Novacane and Swim Good.
One of the benefits of releasing a mixtape for free is you do not have to pay a licensing fee for any of the samples and music used because you are intaking zero revenue for the music. On the flipside Frank probably paid the bill for studio time, mastering, etc, but what would the payoff be if he wasn’t generating any revenue from the release? Touring? Nope he only performed 7 dates last year…that won’t put food on the table.
Fast forward to 2012. His official studio album Channel Orange hits iTunes a week early (on about six hours notice to the public) on the 10th of July and is on pace to sell 100k+ copies without a music video, a radio friendly single and zero distribution through retail. It will outsell the likes of Chris Brown, Linkin Park and other pop juggernauts.
So why is this?
1. If you build it they will come
The internet allows great products like software and music to travel virally extremely quickly. If people like your stuff they can push it out to Facebook and Twitter with ease. Just ask Instagram.
2. The proof is in the pudding
Frank gave away the drugs last year with Nostalgic, Ultra and a good majority of those folks are salivating the opportunity to get their next fix. Since the first go round was free I don’t think people have a problem supporting him with 9.99 on iTunes.
3. Momentum is infectious
Almost 6k people have taken the time to give it a five star rating in the first 72 hours. Imagine what it will look like by Sunday?
So I ask: Why don’t more artists besides hip hop and R & B artists go the freemium route giving away a mini album of material before serving the main course?