from the worth-a-read dept
Bas Grasmayer alerts us to a paper he’s written as part of the research for his thesis on the future of music distribution. This isn’t the full thesis, but is a quick analysis of 5 different musical acts (pdf) and the new music launches they did. All five are ones that we’ve talked about here: Radiohead’s name your own price deal for In Rainbows, Trent Reznor’s tiered reasons to buy for Ghosts I-IV, Groove Armada’s spam your friends EP sponsored by Baccardi, Danger Mouse’s blank CD-R and book given out after EMI wouldn’t release his latest project and Mos Def’s t-shirt album. The paper gives a pretty good summary of all of them, and concludes with some key points:
What does NOT work (well)
- Not going all the way. Fans love free music and so do people that are not
familiar with an artist’s work, but if you’re going to give something away then
really give it away. If you don’t, you won’t get the attention you were hoping for
and might even disappoint some fans instead of connecting with them.
Creating unnecessary mediums instead of utilizing existing ones. While
the Bacardi B-Live Share application looked cool (now offline), it was completely
unnecessary. Instead of creating a digital dashboard with meaningless graphics,
it could have been executed in a much simpler fashion by utilizing existing social
networks or filesharing websites. IF you’re going to set up such a thing, then at
least make it interactive, social (in terms of enabling users to interact with each
other) and add value (with videos or a game for instance). You could even use it
to sell other products of the band or artist.
Expecting people to pay for what they can get for free. People might pay,
but most will pick whatever way is most convenient. Usually, this is by remaining
seated at your computer and by avoiding complicated online payment procedures.
Sure, people should use legal ways to buy music, but the reality is that people go
What does work (well)
- Giving fans a reason to buy. Instead of expecting people to pay for something
which they can, perhaps more easily, get for free, create added value. This is
what Nine Inch Nails, Mos Def and Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse all did very
well. Instead of expecting people to pay for the music, they all created something
besides the music which people would be more willing to pay for.
- Freemium. By offering something for free, one connects with fans and they will
spread the word about you (as long as what you’re offering has value). Once
attention has been garnered, and perhaps sympathy has been won, you can
offer a premium product. This is how Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have been
successful with aforementioned albums. First you give something for free, then
you market your premium; freemium.
- Understanding that the package IS the product. This goes for all of the
cases, except for Groove Armada. In the case of Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
as well as Mos Def, the package was actually the reason to buy the product. In the
case of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, they marketed the package as premiums,
perhaps understanding that it’s hard to make money if you have to compete with
free, meaning music downloads.
- Buzz. By generating buzz, you can turn people just turned on to your product
into fans. These fans can then later be marketed to when trying to sell premium
packages (or subscriptions for example). Even if they don’t buy, having them
talking about your brand or product increases the buzz. This works best if they
can give others free samples (free music) to see for themselves how great the
brand or product is.
- Co-branding. By co-branding, the two brands can both benefit of each others’
resources and skills. In the case of Groove Armada and Bacardi, the latter benefits
mostly from Groove Armada’s image and the ability to promote themselves on all
Groove Armada-related products, this includes live performances. Groove Armada
on the other hand, benefits from the resources Bacardi has, for instance to set
up the website and network for the distribution of the music, as well as their
marketing capacities. Both are connected to different audiences and by working
together, they can promote each other to their respective audiences, perhaps new
I think this is a fantastic list — and the results of other experiments we’ve seen seem to support many of the points on this list as well. The rest of the paper is also worth reading, and I look forward to the final thesis. Of course, two small quibbles: the paper cites me a couple times, including claiming that I coined the term “competing with free.” I can’t take credit for that, though I have no idea who coined it. I was under the impression the phrase was in widespread and common usage prior to me ever mentioning it. Second, it claims that to get In Rainbows that the “minimum donation” was a penny. Perhaps that’s technically true, but the real minimum donation was nothing at all — and you could still download the album. Bas seems to recognize this, because later in the paper it mentions that many people got the album for free. Overall though, for folks who are paying attention to this stuff, this is a nice summary.