I for one am 50/50 with this whole thing. For one, I've been a musician for 20+ years and I've seen the whole world of music change in so many ways. Additionally, I'm an IT Technician, and I also write, record, mix, and master all my music - in my electronic industrial project it's just me and my singer (he does all the lyrics and singing).
I for one am not for "Hey, download my free album!!!!!". Firstly, no matter how you paint it it does denigrate your music. You come across as an at home musician noob that probably doesn't know how to record well and uses all cheapo gear. Even if you used the most pricey gear and have years of experience that is often what people initially think. And if that is what a large amount of people will initially think it also means a large amount of people won't waste any of their time even giving it a shot, and that was the whole point no?
People also place value on things they buy. I can give a quick simple example here, though some may object to my comparison the fact is it's true. People take better care of .... they buy and value it higher because of their own personal vestment in it, even if it's only a $10 CD. At my job people treat firm laptops that cost $1200 like .... and their own $799 laptops like gold. They value their cell phones and treat them far better than the firm provided blackberry. It's no wonder they always lose/break the firm model but never lose or break their own. I've downloaded free music that was rather good, including some free music released experiementally by some of my favorite artists. Even NIN did it, although I only liked two songs a lot on their album the Slip. I don't hold anywhere near as much value on those as I do as a Type O Negative CD I bought for $8.99 on Amazon.
In addition to making you look desperate, it also does not get your music out there any more than releasing one free track with a link to buy the album. Or, you can release 2 minute clips of each song with a link to the album purchase. It's better than those bull.... 30 second clips, which do absolutely nothing to sink a buyer. Another option, what I do with my electronic industrial project is put the full album on your website for streaming, but not download. This way people can hear the full thing but would need to buy or capture a ....ty lower quality stream to own the full thing.
One last thing... due to regular life interruptions and delays our next album is taking longer than planned to release. We wanted to do 13 tracks but I talked with my singer and we may release the album as a 10-12 track album and simply offer the additionally intented tracks for free download after it's released. So, in some regards I think if done correctly some free music is definitely wise and beneficial. However, I still don't believe releasing full albums for free is wise nor beneficial and only cheapens your image in the long run. Music cost a ....LOAD of time and money to create and record. No shame whatsoever thinking it's worth a ....ing paltry $10-$15 for someone to spend their money on. ....ing people are complaining about gas prices hitting $4 a gallon and it makes me laugh because these very same people are willing to plop down $8 for a pint of beer here in Manhattan. Why would anyone complain about paying the average price for a CD online that they will enjoy possibly for many years but are fine with spending 5x that for an evening in a bar or restaurant.... or for a video game that will be beaten in 14 hours?
*EDIT - crap, one thing I forgot to mention as I went off a bit on a tangent. I used to give away my songs for free when they were just instrumental, before I had my singer as I knew I would eventually have vocals over them. This garnered a good amount of attention for my music, especially on the European gothic/industrial boards. I used to also give away free homemade CD's of those tracks in clubs when my wife and I traveled to Europe, which used to be often. Once I got my singer and recorded the vocals and the tracks were full we then sold them. So I am for giving away for free depending on how it's done, I think it needs to be done right not to devalue one's music.