Take yourself back 10 years to the CD section of Woolies. Céline Dion is in the Number One slot with her seminal (I'm sure) All The Way...A Decade Of Song (a Greatest Hits I'm informed) and the sticker on the front would be telling you to part with 15 of your finest pounds. Return to now via October '07 and you'll not only find prices plummeting but Canterbury giving away their debut album Thank You in return for you saying you'll allow them to email you every once in a while. How things have changed. Why October '07 I hear you cry? Well a certain Thom Yorke et al seemed to start a revolution not seen since, well, Dylan went electric and any other music clichés you care to think of by letting you name your own price for their hard work, namely In Rainbows. Yes, it might have helped that it was their best album for a fair few years and that they are one of the best bands on the planet with a hardcore follower or million but it was the most notorious release not only of that year but the decade. At least. The average price paid turned out to be £4, the typical Amazon price is around that anyway so they lost nothing and gained a whole lot more. And who said PR was a dying art? It has since set the tone, bands, especially newer bands, see giving away music as a feasible way of reaching more people than they could ever imagine, which has to be a good thing if you can stay together past that initial release and on to the 'difficult second album.' It's rare that an album is released now without a free download preceding it. Canterbury, fine band as they are, aren't quite Radiohead. They could walk around their own town without too many autographs I'd imagine. Yet they too decided to let people have Thank You for free or, alternatively, donate whatever they wanted for it. They see it as a success, “I think it's something like 5,300+ downloads so far and somewhere near 200 people donating as much as £15, but on the flip side some people donating 10p.” Not too many bands on the same circuit as Canterbury can say over 5,000 people own their album. The ethos of the whole thing is admirable; they had been sitting on a finished album, an album that was always going to be made anyway, for two years even if they hadn't have become tour mates with the likes of Billy Talent, “The album was a thing we wanted to do, so we never planned to recoup the costs or anything like that.” Of course there are personalised Limited Edition physical copies too, if only for themselves but the free album 'attention' has done its job. “They're not near sold out yet, but there's been a constant stream of sales of the physical copy since the free copy went up.” For managers and promoters though, it makes things a lot easier- punters don't avoid a street teamer if they have a clear plastic sleeve with a DIY CD in it. Lauren Razavi, head of music marketing and management company Jigsaw House, feels the key to it is generating that initial interest with freebies, and then maintaining it. “People are more receptive to free music, and they’re more likely to buy in the future if they’re getting things for free now.” The waves of free mp3's banded about is equally important, if not more so. Not only do people not buy CD's anymore but the concept of an album is getting lost amidst most people's iTunes now and in a twisted way that actually works out for newer bands. “Giving one or two tracks away for free can be the difference between casually listening to a band then forgetting about them or listening to a band and having it pop up in your music library when you’re having a general listen.” This doesn't mean that in five or so years we won't have to pay for albums -in a legal sense obviously- but free music has been found to be as effective as anything else anyone has thought of. Canterbury would certainly agree with Lauren when she says “It could be a major contributor to the rise of new acts within the next few years.” As for the Radiohead's of this world releasing things for free, well that's just because they can, but for smaller bands it is the difference between having four times the amount of people hearing your work or ending up stacking shelves at Tesco. Especially in a time when- as Canterbury put so well- “CD sales were increasingly becoming and are now fucked.” What say you on this? Sound off in our Fourum!