FTFC-HomeSeveral years back in 2010, I teamed up with a number of reputable producers from around the house music scene to offer free daily music downloads for the 12 days of Christmas. In return, the artists had the opportunity to build their profiles with accompanying releases, events and online profiles. Free Tunes for Christmas was born.

I collaborated with Oliver Ker to create the website, originally built on TextPattern as it was an opportunity for me to experience a new CMS and Oli was already au fait with the infrastructure and templates. It allowed me to focus on the content and marketing whilst Oli was able to implement the desired UI.

The original project was relatively successful; featured artists gained further exposure from untapped audiences, fans of the music got access to free music and the project was great fun to work on with many lessons learned along the way.

Years passed without proceeding campaigns due to other commitments but, last year, I felt it was time to give it another try.

Through my side project House Finesse, I have been lucky enough to extend my music network so I approached a number of new, upcoming and established producers about the project. You may expect artists to be quite hesitant about giving away their music but, surprisingly, most producers jumped at the chance.

The original plan was to only make the free download available in exchange for a social handshake, typically known as a like on Facebook, tweet on Twitter or +1 on Google. We tried a number of tools to facilitate this such as Pay with a Tweet and Dropify but found these solutions were causing complications during user testing.

In the end, we decided to remove the limitation and administer downloads through a dedicated Soundcloud profile instead. This allowed us to have full control over the downloads including statistics as well as extend our reach on other platforms.

For this campaign, I decided to move the website over to WordPress. I am familiar with the framework with many years experience and, with limited time to build the site, it was the quickest solution. It also allowed me to integrate the editorial process into our primary marketing channels on Facebook and Twitter for a streamlined workflow.

Whilst I was limited on time, I wanted to take the opportunity to experiment with a few new web design principles on this project.

In light of the festive theme, I wanted to maintain the advent calendar style on the homepage from the first edition but utilised CSS3 animations to create the 3D door effect this time.

The secondary call to action for posts are raising online profiles so links had to be prominent and clearly identifiable. I naturally implemented relevant icons to each link and used the Mono Social Icons web font by Ivan Drinchev to deliver the icons. This allowed for scalable images to appear clearer on high resolution (retina) screens that could also be modified in appearance for different states.

I did consider adopting a responsive design – it should be standard with any new project now – but, due to the functionality of the site, mobile was beyond the scope. Many mobile devices (I’m looking at iOS) don’t allow users to download and save files out the box so desktop was the main focus. That said, I am keen to allow those mobile users who can save downloads locally to use the site, especially with the dominant social audience on portable devices where the marketing is focused so something to consider for the future.

As with all projects, the hardest part was coordinating with clients, in this case the music producers. Whilst they were all keen to contribute content, it was difficult to get all the details with plenty of time to compile into features – especially during the Christmas break. I found myself contacting most of the contributors at the most inconvenient times when they wanted to be relaxing with friends and family (myself included).

The Christmas schedule also appeared to have an effect on expected traffic. Social engagement was minimal whilst many people went offline during the break. Christmas Day is probably not the best time to launch a digital campaign and maintaining the project was more demanding than I expected – not ideal when I was meant to be spending time with the family.

When we come around to the next campaign (possibly next Christmas), I am considering running it as an advent feature leading up to the big day. This would not conflict with any planned holidays then and also improve traffic when many people will be online shopping or procrastinating.

Overall, I am really pleased with how the project went this time round. We delivered everything we intended and on schedule. There’s plenty of room for improvement which can be addressed next time.