Thanks for this post on Chance the Rapper. I’ve actually never heard of this musician, so I had to do a bit of research — made for a very interesting case. I think this notion of freeware is part of a larger strategy that is ideologically at odds with the altruistic underpinnings of ‘free content.’ This might sound cynical, but if we are to consider a company like Uber again, there’s a brand that has changed the way we think about getting a cab. We’re not hiring a taxi, we’re “ride sharing,” which just ‘sounds better’ to us when we think about making the choice between a cab and an Uber. In reality, though, you’re still paying someone for transportation, so what has changed? Aside from some largely inconsequential details regarding the make and model of the car and the insurance coverage should the driver get you into an accident, the transactional nature of the exchange is the same. When an artist releases free content, he or she attracts a tremendous amount of media attention (depending on his or her initial popularity). We’ve spoken at length about the power of audiences, but once an artist as the attention of a rather large one, he or she relies upon a seemingly altruistic gesture (i.e. the release of free content) to re-brand him or herself in front of a large audience. Free content is often a precursor to paid content, and the audience’s appreciation of free material is often demonstrated through impressive sales of the content that follows.
This is a really interesting area, Wylder — thanks for the post.