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David Jude Jolicoeur aka Trugoy (from left), Vincent Mason aka P.A. Mase and Kelvin Mercer aka Posdnuos pose for a portrait outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem in September 1993


De La Soul give away free back catalogue – a new strategy for label marketing execs?

It’s as if two (or in this case four) great minds came together in some kind of Hip Hop oriented Vulcan mind meld. I was contemplating on doing a piece on the pros and cons of giving away free music for marketing purposes and low and behold, De La Soul mark their 25th anniversary by giving away most of their back catalogue for free, for 24 hours.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, De La’s Posdanous says:

“It’s about allowing our fans who have been looking and trying to get a hold of our music to have access to it…It’s been too long where our fans haven’t had access to everything. This is our way of showing them how much we love them.”

At a time where free music is considered by many to be a right and not a privilege, I am struggling to remember such a high profile artist/group/band willingly giving away such a huge chunk of their sonic arsenal. They obviously love their fans (and it is Valentines Day after all), but I don’t think that this is completely out of the goodness of their hearts. They are business men as well as esteemed MCs/DJ and they have obviously looked at the bigger picture. Being that they are on a much publicised celebratory tour, making such a gesture now could be recouped, and more, later.

I may be biased but upon perusing various portals and legitimate ‘e-hangouts’, in terms of numbers, Hip Hop seems to have the highest amount of artists giving away free music. Let’s be honest, everyone loves a freebie (me included) but isn’t this hurting the genre? Only those at the top table are eating properly and plentifully. But for those not of royal blood, food is harder to come by and the evidence is everywhere.

You only have to look at the vast amount of collaborative album releases as a guide. These unions aren’t just born out of a mutual respect of eachothers skills. Needs are a must and with the internet now being the majority shareholder, plus the worldwide economy such as it is, most of us simply cannot afford to blanket buy the latest releases every single week. Consumers are a lot more choosey with their purchases thus, there are choices to be made. Either the cost of the music is reduced or ever more creative ways are needed to stick out from the crowd.

That crowd is now huge, yet the space that can be occupied by it has shrunk considerably. The world wide web means that todays Hip Hop generation have knowledge seeping out of every pore and instant access to a plethora of up & coming and well established MCs.

The quality of readily available ‘FreEPs’ and ‘name your price’ albums matches (and in many cases surpasses) their regularly priced counterparts. For all and sundry, marketing is the name of the game now more than ever. They may be legends, but De La Soul are no different.

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