One of the early pioneers of direct-to-fan distribution appears to have gone dark after 15 years. The NoiseTrade platform is no more.
Founded in April 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee, the platform allowed users to upload original music and books for download without any DRM. The only information required to download from the user is sharing an email address and a ZIP code. NoiseTrade was created by Derek Webb and some of the artists he knew after he became one of the first major label artists to give his digital album away. Over 80,000 copies of the album were downloaded and Webb used the mailing addresses gathered to help him plan booked shows.
Artists using NoiseTrade could upload music with a free account for anyone to download a zip file of the .mp3s and album art. The site also contained an easy way to follow artists’ social media presence and tip them for their work. By and large other models like Bandcamp have superseded NoiseTrade—which was a pioneer in the direct-to-fan distribution space.
The platform was acquired by PledgeMusic in 2016, but was sold to Paste Media Group. In 2019, the site was merged into Paste’s website and at some point this year, all available downloads were removed from the website. At its peak, NoiseTrade allowed 1.3 million users to download and stream hundreds of thousands of songs and books. It gave those artists and authors a direct connection with their fans.
NoiseTrade was caught up in the PledgeMusic scandal after the latter was found to be witholding payments from dozens of artists who crowdfunded using the platform. PledgeMusic blamed a transition in payment platforms, but many of those artists were never paid what they were owed. Ex-PledgeMusic employees allege the company didn’t hold money on account for the artist, but used funds for the ongoing operations to grow the company.