The UK gets free music at the holidays

In the past week, I’ve come across two music promotions taking place in the UK that I just wanted to share. I think free music is a great way to reach out to fans, strengthen an artist’s base, showcase quality, and give something back. Here are the details:
The BBC’s Radio 1 has launched their Christmas special, giving away a new MP3 every day from December 15 until Christmas Eve. So far, the list features Chris Moyles, Kings of Leon, The Ting Tings, Coldplay, The Script, MGMT, and Pendulum. That’s a solid group that includes some progressive-thinking individuals that truly value their fans. Radio 1 is currently promoting it on their website and through their Facebook group (and I’m sure in other places). By the way, I tried to download several of the tracks myself, and the BBC has it locked down, allowing only UK IP addresses to access the files. Bummer.
Apple is launching a similar promotion, called the iTunes 12 Days of Christmas in the UK (and possibly in France and Germany). According to the iTunes website, the promotion will offer “rare singles, exclusive live tracks and free music videos from some of the biggest artists in the world today.” The giveaway starts December 26 and Wired.com’s Epicenter Blog has an interesting take on why they’re doing it. Here’s part of the post:

iTunes tends to experience a big sales bump after the holidays, as new iPod owners and gift card recipients flock there to stock up on music, videos, podcasts and now applications for their iPods. But market penetration being what it is, there are likely fewer first-time iPod owners each year. By giving people one song each day and showing them or reminding them how easy it is to buy songs once you have your account set up, Apple could put some first-, second- and third-time iPod owners in the habit of going to iTunes for music.

Kudos to both Apple and the BBC for smart marketing and thinking of music fans in the UK. Hopefully, one day, we’ll be able to straighten things out in the music business here in the US and get back to thinking about the consumer, and not just the consumption.
On a somewhat related note, the Wall Street Journal reports that the RIAA has changed their tactics to prevent illegal file sharing, deciding to drop the expensive “subpoena, settle, or sue” method in favor of making agreements with ISPs to cut off the Internet connections of accused pirates. Read the full article here.