Yet Another Musician Offers Tiers... Including A Backyard Concert

from the awesome dept

Way back in 2003, I put forth a potential business model for the music industry that encouraged free file sharing. If I believed in the old saw that "ownership" is everything -- perhaps I could have tried to patent it as a business method patent (I'm joking, people). Of course, I'm much more excited about seeing it put to use -- and we've definitely seen various musicians over the past few years adopt variations on this business model put into place. But I find it especially amusing that one throwaway idea I mentioned in that post seems to actually be getting some use: the backyard concert. Specifically, the business model I put forth was that the musicians could give away the music for free, but could offer various (scarce) goods to sell: with a big one being access to the artist. And, I thought, what better form of access than a personal concert? You could do backstage passes, but why not also have some sort of option for the musicians to actually play at your house. If you're a major fan, how awesome would that be?

Last year, Jill Sobule was the first well-known artist we saw who actually offered that. And, now, Boing Boing is reporting that John Wesley Harding is doing something similar. Like Sobule, Trent Reznor, Kristin Hersh, the Beastie Boys and many others, Harding is offering a variety of options for ways to support him -- starting with a download plus CD with bonus live disc for $16 (a bit high, honestly). But at the top of the list is a $5,000 option for... a backyard concert. Sure, perhaps no one will actually take him up on it, but I have to admit I'm thrilled that multiple musicians have now "stolen" this idea and at least are testing it out (though, my original idea was to make it more of a raffle: if you buy into something else, you get a random chance to win a backyard concert).

That said, I'm not all that impressed with the overall offering. It doesn't include a free component, which makes all of the paid options a lot less valuable. If you get more people into the music, they're more willing to buy all those other scarcities you're offering. And, the basic prices seem a bit high. When Reznor did his experiment, the "basic" two disc CD was $10 for 36 songs and there was a $5 option and a free option as well. Starting at $16 (not including S&H) seems a bit high. Still.... great to see that backyard concert option gaining traction.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 7:21am

    what a freak

    Mikey, you are a f****** idiot and you know it

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Gabe Casalett, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 8:03am

    Not a freak

    I don't think you're an idiot, Mike. I wish my favorite artists did something like that... I'd pay $5000 dollars to have a concert in my back yard (if I had it, that is). Don't people pay more than that sometimes for backstage passes?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Michael, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 8:28am

    Freak and Geek

    The free component, by my very close reading of the offer (joke), is a free bonus live CD with the album.

    Love the title by the way: "Yet Another Musician Offers Tiers... Including A Backyard Concert". If it's so dull, why bother to give it press? Oh yes! To claim credit for the idea!

     

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  4.  
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    Potato Head, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    Hmpf

    Five large wont get you Diddy though.

     

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  5.  
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    kirillian (profile), Feb 12th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Re: what a freak

    Ahh...welcome back angry dude...we missed you.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 9:40am

    Don White has been doing that for years. Private shows that is... He usually tries to schedule a couple when he travels to more traditional shows. www.donwhite.net

     

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  7.  
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    Dan, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 10:26am

    huh?

    This is just plain ridiculous. You consider this a viable way for an artist to earn a living? "throwaway idea" indeed.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    News flash!!! Musicians return to their marketing roots...

    News flash!!! Musicians return to their marketing roots!. Now you can pay $5,000 for them to play at your very own keg party!!! More at 11 pm!

    For years I've been reading on techdirt and slashdot about how brilliant entrepueneur artists and musicians have been pioneering new and exciting ways to promote themselves and turn a profit. Frankly, I'm tired of it. None of these ideas are particularly inventive or unique. It's the same old story, but with a digital twist.

    First off, the method by which independent artists promote themselves hasn't changed for decades. None of these "freebie giveaways" are all that unique. For example, this is how it played out for independent musicians years ago, before the popularity of digital downloading and sharing:

    1. Build a name for yourself by playing at basement keg parties for a flat rate or a percentage of profit.
    2. Use the money earned to fund your studio recording.
    3. Sell your record for next to nothing.
    4. Gain notariaty in your region.
    5. Get booked at bars and restaurants.
    6. Profit!!!
    7. Repeat on a larger scale.

    Eventually, your target market becomes larger, with small towns being replaced by metropolitan cities and keg parties being replaced by larger venues. The only way the steps changed was if you got a record deal, in which case the record company would front the cost of recording, equipment, and travel in exchange for a huge percentage of your profits on everything from t-shirts and posters to cd's and concerts.

    Now some people are claiming that hip modern artists around the world are finally warming up to the idea of eliminating the record companies by embracing new and brilliant business models! Frankly, the only thing that's changed is the order of actions because it's easier to create and communicate with communities of fans. Now it's...

    1. Sell your record.
    2. Use the money to fund your studio recording.
    3. Gain notariaty in your region.
    4. Get booked at bars and restaurants.
    5. Play at super small keg parties for people who paid $5,000 for your record.
    6. Profit!!!
    7. Repeat.

    This doesn't consititute some brilliant business evolution. It just means that artists are offering their records for sale BEFORE they are recorded... Whoop-di-doo.

    Second, musicians have known for a long time that the majority of their profits come from live performances and merchandising, whether a record company was involved or not. So eliminating the record companies sounds fantastic for the musician, but turning your customers into "non-profit sharing" producers is not what I'd call a brilliant alternative. So, let's get this straight... I pay $5,000 to you and you record an album. In return I get a copy of the album and a live performance in my living room. That's not what I'd call a substantial return on my investment.

    Third, this tier system of sales is nothing new either. If you've been to a local bar or club in the last 30 years, you've seen a band setup a booth at the back where they sell CD's, posters and t-shirts. Any smart musician will make it affordable to "upgrade" their purchase with pricing tiers. Buy a CD for $10... a CD and poster for $15... a CD poster and t-shirt for $20. Taking this to the internet doesn't make it more ingenius, it just guarantees a larger potential market which is easier to reach. If you give away a CD and charge $20 for a t-shirt it's the same as if you give away the t-shirt and charge $20 for the CD. Regardless of the tactics used, the ultimate strategy boils down to one circular idea. Market yourself with merchandising that ultimately increases your market.

    More specificly, free file sharing implies one important assumption. The music is free. Including a t-shirt and then charging $20 is not free music. Creation and distribution of recorded music is a form of marketing and in this day and age should be considered a loss leader. The goal has become to increase your fan base, thereby increasing the number of people who will pay $7 a ticket to fill a 1500 person venue, 4 nights a week for 30 weeks. And later... $30 a ticket to fill up a 15,000 seat auditorium... 4 nights a week for 30 weeks.

    Recommended reading:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_leader

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchandising

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 12th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: News flash!!! Musicians return to their marketing roots...

    For years I've been reading on techdirt and slashdot about how brilliant entrepueneur artists and musicians have been pioneering new and exciting ways to promote themselves and turn a profit. Frankly, I'm tired of it. None of these ideas are particularly inventive or unique. It's the same old story, but with a digital twist.

    Um. Actually that's exactly the point I've been trying to make. That this isn't really new at all -- which is why everyone should stop freaking out about "piracy". It's not a big deal if they just focused on doing what they used to do.

    Basically your entire post agrees with what I say on a regular basis.

    But the problem is that the "digital twist" as you dismiss it, is not well understood by many. They get scared by that digital twist, so you need to show these examples of it working for them to start to feel comfortable with it.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Re: News flash!!! Musicians return to their marketing roots...

    Sorry Mike. I guess I've missed your point all these years by not reading between the lines. I've always more or less agreed with your cause. Lose the record companies, stop suing customers for file sharing, and embrace a digital fan base by offering "finite" goods with your "infinite" digital product.

    I guess I didn't make my point very clearly and I didn't intend my response to be an attack on you, or the sites you contribute to, since it's clear that you state in your last paragraph that you aren't that impressed with this particular offering. And I've always appreciated your willingness to defend and reconsider your opinions through debate in the comment sections of your articles.

    However, neither example you offer involves free music. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The music is expensive... In Jill's case $25 for a CD is more that what I'd pay at almost any store. $10,000 to sing on the album? And if my angelic voice contributes to Jill's success how am I rewarded? With squat.

    I guess I'm just far less accepting of "examples" which turn customers into non-profit sharing investors. Digital or not, independent musicians should see value in increasing their customer base with infinite goods. Charging exhorbant amounts of money for "bonus" content or services only turns the customer into an investor, especially in cases where the customer is "pre-ordering" content that hasn't been recorded yet.

    Someone could claim that the customer who pays $5,000 for a backyard concert is a willing participant in the transaction, but it's all just polish on a turd. The customer should never be a financial replacement for the record company. Willing or not, the customer is funding the artists recording session with no substantial return on his investment.

    Anyhow... I appreciate the rebuttle. Keep on fighting the fight.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Phillip, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: News flash!!! Musicians return to their marketing roots...

    Free music doesn't mean a free CD.

    Also 10k to sing on the album might be quite a sum, but if your a vocalist, you success is based partially on the quality of your music. I'd venture to say that 10k is a price set for two reasons:

    1. It prevents nearly everyone from buying it (so that she won't have to let 20 different people sing on her next album)

    2. In the likely case where the person isn't a very good singer and screws up the song, it's a sort of "insurance" on the damage it does to the album.

    Furthermore, if your voice is good, it rewards you a LOT. If you are good enough for people to want to listen to you, you just got a massive amount of exposure via a very well known artist.

    If you didn't have an intention of starting a music career, then you're probably doing it for the fun and novelty anyway, and that's what you'll get for this very expensive investment.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 2:52pm

    Re: Hmpf

    Would it get him to go away though?

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    GJ, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 3:39pm

    Nothing new

    Musicians are available to play at any venue, provided you're willing to get in touch with their agents to set it up.

    I believe "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" makes a reference to Van Halen playing at Jeff Spicoli's birthday party.

    So Mike Masnick's novel idea existed at least in 1982. Sorry, no patent for Mike!

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Nobody, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Re: what a freak

    ... Not!

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Blort, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 6:38pm

    Too expensive?

    Re: $16 being too much for a CD. In general I agree. BUT, for an artist I like, where I know they are getting the whole $16, I'd pay it pretty gladly.

    I think the pricing thing is kind of variable and sort of requires a more personal communication between the artist and his fans. A really big name who can't possibly do much 1 on 1 or 1 on small group interaction, sort of has "economy of scale" on their side and can charge a lot less and still make a good profit, or even use the "pay what you want" paradigm.

    But if there is a relatively unknown artist with just hundreds or a few thousand fans, and they can communicate more directly with them and sincerely convince them that the price is necessary for him to keep performing and producing new music, I think a lot of people would find it a reasonable price for their very favorite artists.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    nasch, Feb 13th, 2009 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: News flash!!! Musicians return to their marketing roots...

    $10,000 to sing on the album? And if my angelic voice contributes to Jill's success how am I rewarded?

    By getting to sing on the album. That's what that fan wanted, and what she got.

    I guess I'm just far less accepting of "examples" which turn customers into non-profit sharing investors.

    Why must the customers share in the profits?


    Someone could claim that the customer who pays $5,000 for a backyard concert is a willing participant in the transaction, but it's all just polish on a turd.


    You say "could claim" as though it's a dubious claim, splitting hairs, or a technicality. Weasel words, really. If a customer pays $5000 for a backyard concert, then they're paying what they think is a fair price for a service. I don't see the problem, or the turd.

    The customer should never be a financial replacement for the record company.

    Why?

    Willing or not, the customer is funding the artists recording session with no substantial return on his investment.

    How would it ever be unwilling? I don't think anyone's promoting the "mug your fans" business model.

    And the substantial return on investment is that the artist keeps producing music. If it's worth 10 bucks to buy an album, wouldn't it be worth 10 bucks to help ensure the album gets produced in the first place, if you (and everyone else) get it for free afterward?

    Is it that "everyone else gets it too" part that's sticking in your throat? Your first point that I mentioned kind of hints at that too - it's not OK to help Jill Sobule make money unless I make some too. Keep in mind that the fact that others benefit too doesn't diminish the benefit to you, despite how the music labels think of the world.

     

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