Making noise for new musicians

Free, legal music downloads give artists an advantage

Story by Rachel Streich, Staff Writer

Some bands and solo artists see free music downloads as the ultimate enemy in the fight against music piracy. Eminem made a public service announcement in November urging fans to buy his new album, rather than download the songs without paying for them. But websites giving away free downloads are becoming friends with indie musicians.

Websites like NoiseTrade, SoundCloud and Bandcamp allow artists to post their own music, which users then legally download or stream for free after creating an account. These websites are beneficial for up-and-coming musicians as well as their listeners.

Indie bands once gained success in the music industry by creating a presence primarily by touring and selling albums. Now that digital music is so popular, it’s no secret that it is essential for new musicians to gain a fan base on the internet world as well.

NoiseTrade does a good job helping artists become relevant in the music business. Bands like The Civil Wars, Policia and The National have gained exposure and recognition because of the site. Local bands are no exception.

The Dust of Men, an alternative southern-rock band based in Eau Claire, has recently seen positive results after putting their music on NoiseTrade and being featured on the “new and notable artists” section of the homepage in the beginning of January.

More than 800 people from about 30 countries have downloaded the band’s three-song sampler from their first record on NoiseTrade, frontman Grant Schultz said.

“Through this technology, people all over the world have access to something that in the past only people in this small region of Wisconsin would have heard about or had access to,” he said.

Despite the huge success of music online, critics of NoiseTrade say it’s not worth it because artists do not gain revenue for their music. Users can donate tips to the musicians, but some people find issue with the miniscule 20 percent of donations for the artists going to the site. People need to understand making money is not the key point of the website.

“Our goal is not to pretend we can make a ton of money on record sales or anything like that,” Schultz said. “It’s just to get our name out there, and for that purpose NoiseTrade is really incredible.”

In the long run, listeners who become fans of certain artists will likely buy their whole album or purchase tickets to see one of their shows.

Another positive aspect of these kinds of websites is artists have complete control of what and how many songs they choose to feature. If they don’t want their music to be free, they don’t have to put it out there.

Joe Hunt, a sophomore at UW-Eau Claire and musician, said he would like to use a website to get his music out to the public in the future because giving music away for free is a positive and even necessary endeavor for an artist.

Websites with free downloads are win-win situations for the producer and consumer.

Users of the sites can feel good about contributing to artists and giving back to them in tips, while obtaining the songs without a cost. I have enjoyed using NoiseTrade to discover new artists as well.

Next time you want to download music, consider doing it on a legal website not only to improve your own music collection, but to help new artists who want to be heard.