April 20, 2014

Free! How DJs can Exploit the Digital Business Model

DJ in silhouette, sunspot behind him
DJs mine the value of “free”

Radiohead did it: they use free digital distribution to maximize their celebrity, and then monetize that with concerts and merchandise.

In the EDM community, Girl Talk has found great success by giving away his music for free.

So why not Pretty Lights? The Colorado-based sample artist has parlayed 800,000 downloads on his website from six LPs and EPs into a major festival presence. Just this year, he’s issued a trio of EPs, including his latest, “Glowing In the Darkest Night.”

Pretty Lights, a.k.a. Derek Smith, understands that a fan giving their time to listen to his music is the ultimate goal in digital economics, a true measure of value.

“[Giving my music away] seemed to create a loyalty and a respect from my fans because they thought that I was doing something for them,” he told us. “So I [want my] music to push forward and to give my fans a continual, unmediated supply because I want to foster that personal relationship between them.”

Pretty Lights also maximizes Ableton Live-centric virtual studio and vinyl samples. Ableton handles practically every facet of sequencing as well as EQing and compression duties, and Smith adds to that the Ohmboys tape echo plug-in as well as Predator and Alchemy as VST synths and iZotope Trash for his hard bass sounds. He also utilizes a monome, a sequencer which runs open-source software such as MLR .

“[This] allows me to chop up samples together in ways that other applications don’t really lend themselves,” he says. “I often use the monome with MLR as sort of a starting point for songs, because it’s like a multitrack looping pedal with immediate chopping functionality. So, as soon as you loop something in, it’s already chopped up into all the pieces and you’re able to play it or trigger it.”

For full interview with Pretty Lights, check the next issue of DJ Times.

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