Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exit Stencil: i Free February!

The small, Cleveland-based record label, Exit Stencil has decided to open up their catalog for free downloading this month. According to their website, this generous offering has no strings: "No gimmicks, no asking for donations, no limit to the number of releases available to each person --- just a free chance to check out a bunch of bands that we've been happy to have had the chance to work with over the past couple of years." They also suggest that you, "feel free to post, forward, tweet, or whatever, this to as many people as you'd like!"

Undoubtedly this relatively unknown label, whose catalog contains around 20 records, is looking to gain exposure with their Free February stunt. And their openness to people spreading the word probably means they're hoping to get some viral marketing action. Hopefully, starving college students, and anyone else whose mouth starts watering at the idea of free entertainment in this tough economy, will download music from these artists they've never heard of and love it so much they buy a concert ticket or the next album. If they don't do that, maybe at least they'll tell a friend with deeper pockets about the groups and they'll buy something. What I wonder is whether this strategy will work for them? Will the people who stumble upon their website for the free music, me included, become loyal fans or will they have a loss on the books in February and no real gain in March? If nothing else, it's in interesting case study in whether labels can create value through free downloading.


--Katherine Wood--

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