Part Of The Reason To Buy Is Actually Asking For Money

from the and-talking-about-money dept

A bunch of folks have been sending over Amanda Palmer's latest blog post, where she discusses the importance of content creators today getting used to both asking for money and talking about money. This came after a couple people suggested to her that she not be so open about money issues in talking about her various business model experiments. Amanda notes that it's becoming the new norm to talk about money, and it shouldn't be seen as a bad thing. Part of the whole process of connecting directly with fans is that you take out the middleman, who had a variety of jobs, but one of them was asking for money. So if that middleman is gone, then the only person left to ask for money is the artist, and this shouldn't be seen as bad.
artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks. please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money. dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don't fight it.

unless you've been living under a rock, you've surely noticed that artists ALL over the place are reaching out directly to their fans for money.
how you do it is a different matter.
maybe i should be more tasteful.
maybe i should not stop my concerts and auction off art.
i do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot.

BUT ... i'd rather get the system right gradually and learn from the mistakes and break new ground (with the help of an incredibly responsive and positive fanbase) for other artists who i assume are going to cautiously follow in our footsteps. we are creating the protocol, people, right here and now.

i don't care if we fuck up. i care THAT we're doing it.
She goes on to compare the new model to her experience busking in the past. In a separate discussion I had with Amanda a few months back, she referred to the new business model, "power busking." I agree almost entirely with her on this... with one, perhaps crucial, quibble. I get a little wary of focusing too much on the "busking" aspect, as it feels a little too close to the give it away and pray model, that isn't really a complete business model. I tend to believe that if you give people a real reason to buy (i.e., something scarce and valuable, offered at a reasonable price), then it's not "busking" at all. It's not "asking for money" at all.

It's offering a great deal that people want to buy. It's the difference between the PBS telethon fundraising effort and people gleefully snapping up merchandise from a TV show or movie. It's not about asking for money. It's about providing a "reason to buy" in the form of scarce offerings that are made more valuable thanks to the content that is being shared. From there, you're not begging for money, but you're offering up a great deal to fans who are thrilled to exchange their money for what they get in return.

So, I absolutely agree with almost all of what Amanda is saying, and think it's great that she's being so open about her experiments (and, yes, I know, I've been bad about giving up the data on our own experiment, which is entirely due to being too busy to just focus and write up what we learned... but it's coming soon!). But, I think that one way to get beyond the issue of "asking for money" and making that feel crass, is not to think of it as busking or asking for money or begging for money, but to focus on experimenting with ways to offer up scarce value that people simply want to pay for, rather than feel goaded into paying for it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    I'd like to buy her a shift key.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    iamtheky (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

    which is entirely 'do' to being too busy.

    due?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re:

    clue: artists dont give a crap about grammar

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

    Asking, free, and pay-what-you-want

    I'd like to see more discussion between selling stuff at a fixed price versus the pay-what-you-want model.

    I understand the idea of giving something away for free as a sample or to increase visibility. But, perhaps using Amanda Palmer as a place to start, I'd like to see what the TechDirt folks have to say about which is the better approach: levels of products at set prices, or pay-what-you-want for everything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Ragaboo, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    Lol, I was thinking the same thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    hax, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Getting something

    When I "donate" to a cause I like to get something at least somewhat symbolic in return. For example, last week I paid 30 bucks for a t-shirt to support a local athletic facility.

    I know the t-shirt wasn't a $30 shirt. But something makes me feel more appreciated and more useful buying a shirt from them which probably nets them $20 than if I just gave them $20. Plus, now I have a shirt which has their logo on it and might help them further down the road with advertising and word of mouth.

    Sometimes I think it's just as simple as letting the customer know that their purchase of X product helps the artist/gym/charity/whatever keep the lights on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    Re:

    which is entirely 'do' to being too busy.

    So busy I can't spellcheck properly... :) Thanks... fixed..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Asking, free, and pay-what-you-want

    I'd like to see more discussion between selling stuff at a fixed price versus the pay-what-you-want model.

    We've discussed it a bit in the past... I'm not a huge fan of the "pay what you want" model, even though some artists have found success with it.

    I think pay what you want puts too much pressure on the fans to decide what's appropriate. It actually creates more of a mental transaction barrier than just setting a price.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    LoL, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Buy some thumbdrives.

    Thumbdrives this days can be made in any format, you can even do it yourself. Fans like to buy stuff, just give things they want to buy and they will. The physical CD is going out, but you can always create some other physical package for your music that fans will buy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    What you can sell

    I'm a bit skeptical of the merchandising model. If I want to buy music then I want to buy music - not a T shirt! - and I don't mean buy a (zero cost) copy of some already existing music.

    Please don't try to sell me something that cost you nothing.

    I mean buy music in the sense of "pay for it to be created".

    When you do that you really are paying for something because you choose who you fund - and plausibly you could also buy some influence over what is created. (For example there are certain singer/song combinations that I would find interesting).

    Of course the ordinary public would have to club together to do this but the internet makes that possible and maybe the current entertainment industry could have a role in organising it...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:54pm

    A listers and Z listers busking together, shoulder to shoulder...that must be a beautiful image if you're an anti-social, artist-hating, cubical drone who swears by the economic principles of parasitism and prays to TechDirt's vaunted Patron Saint of Chinese Rolexes.

    "i do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot."
    ----------------

    You can say that again. In fact, just keep repeating that line until your lips fall off. Given your own admission of still being "more or less in debt" and how you still "struggle to pay the rent sometimes" I am often amused to see you being put on a pedestal and pointed to as a positive example for the way things are heading.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Tony E (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    She sounds like a badass

    Amanda Palmer sounds like such a badass. Where are the rest of the badass ladies these days? I like her style. Instead of saying "I'm sorry for offending you with my talk of monies" she comes right out and says "Look, I didn't mean to hurt your marketing-sensitive ears and eyes, but we don't 'market' here, we sell music and music accessories."

    I recently emailed AT&T something along the lines of "Why can't you, a giant cell company, offer service at the same price as Boost even though they are relatively tiny compared to you?" (Sorry, I know this sounds like advertising. I apologize.) Frankly, I'm sick of paying them for what I feel is very poor service.

    Anyway, I got a marketing response rather than a human response. "We offer rollover, we offer 3G, we offer free back rubs for long term customers blah blah blah" It was this long, inane description of everything I already don't care about. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm glad the artists have to be their own 'marketers' now, because I'm sick of the candy-coating that goes with professional marketing. It's not $14.95, it's $15!

    Amanda Palmer, keep on being a badass!

    [end rant]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    LoL, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 2:08pm

    It is not that difficult.

    There are two ways really, merchs and services. They both work together so one can:

    - Ask for money to produce the recordings. It doesn't hurt and if one puts a meter on a website people will know when to donate or not.
    - There are deals to be make with business.
    - There are merchs you can sell, like stickers, T-shirts(don't forget them), caps, books, lyrics with autographs in a nice paper, digital music in a higher quality like FLAC, you give the MP3 away, but if they want a better sound quality fans can pay for it.
    - A fan forum with some extra goodies on it.
    - Paid live streams of shows.
    - After the shows a DVD collection for fans.
    - Biographic books.

    I just get tired of listing all the things people are already doing it and make money out of it without the need for CD sales. What people don't realize is that the CD is a physical format the music was free already playing in radios, on the internet and in other places, so if you wasn't making money now is because you are not that good.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    Re: What you can sell

    I mean buy music in the sense of "pay for it to be created".

    Indeed! The creation of new content is a great scarcity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Buy some thumbdrives.

    "Thumbdrives this days can be made in any format, you can even do it yourself."

    You know what? That's actually a real idea, particularly for small to medium sized live shows. You can set up a couple of laptops ready to transfer all the songs you heard at the show that evening (when the appreciation of the performance is stuck in their heads), just pay $5 to have the "tech" transfer them for you. Don't have a thumbdrive w/you? A small-margin transaction for one of ours will get you the songs to take home with you.

    Any reason that wouldn't work?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Yogurt, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Buy some thumbdrives.

    Perhaps one could build some custom thumb drives and sell them at the concert already loaded with pictures and music from that very same concert... the concert you were just attending... the newest album... some pre-release tracks specifically to be taken home and shared (depending on the owners of the music).. etc..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Doctor Strange, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 9:17pm

    Re: It is not that difficult.

    I just get tired of listing all the things people are already doing it and make money out of it without the need for CD sales.

    What's interesting, though, is that most of the ways you list for making money are basically susceptible to everything that's killed CDs. You're still talking about selling infinite goods in a physical medium.

    You list:

    Ask for money to produce the recordings. It doesn't hurt and if one puts a meter on a website people will know when to donate or not.

    OK, fine, begging. At this point you're "selling" a good feeling.

    There are deals to be make with business.

    Also known as "getting a job?"

    There are merchs you can sell, like stickers, T-shirts(don't forget them), caps, books, lyrics with autographs in a nice paper, digital music in a higher quality like FLAC, you give the MP3 away, but if they want a better sound quality fans can pay for it.

    FLAC is an infinite good. Stickers, T-shirts, caps, books, and lyrics (sans autographs) are all just infinite goods (art) that is printed on a physical medium. With on-demand services, anyone who can download the art can get these things put on the same media. It's slightly less convenient than burning a CD, but only slightly.

    Autographs can make merchandise more "special," but what's the collectible value of an autograph anyone could get, that you can't even guarantee authenticate came from the original artist and not some assistant, or an autopen? Moreover, what's the value of having more than one autographed item from the same person? Diminishing returns hit you pretty fast.

    A fan forum with some extra goodies on it.

    Artificial scarcity.

    Paid live streams of shows.

    Artificial scarcity.

    After the shows a DVD collection for fans.

    Artificial scarcity. Digital good bound to a physical medium.

    Biographic books.

    Another digital good that's bound to a physical medium.

    All of these business models either 1) rely on the same principle as selling CDs: taking an infinite good and putting it on a physical medium or 2) getting money by selling either good feelings or remission from guilt. As you pointed out, the former isn't a good business model. The latter, I suppose, works for some members of the two groups that use it: charities and beggars.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    LoL, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 4:17am

    The whole thing is the business model...

    ...not one or the other if you can't do it then step aside for those who can. I don't see Madonna complaining, she got $200 million dollars in profits touring alone, not counting merchandise sales.

    Madonna merchandise

    Madonna posters are those downloadable too?

    Not counting all the B2B(Business To Business) deals.
    Paulo Coelho pirated his own books and made a killing, Cory Dotorow released his own work under creative commons and is doing fine.

    YKK sells zippers and they are a giant in the market their phylosophy is "No one prospers unless he renders benefit to others."

    Madonna books. She even sells children books WTF?

    Madonna T-Shirts in the "Official Store".

    So what Madonna, Paulo Coelho and others have that others don't? Madonna is not even in her hey days.

    I think the real security net that artists have is the fan base they build when they are young, those are the people that will buy their stuff when they get old. Treat them with respect or face the consequences.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 4:40am

    Re: Asking, free, and pay-what-you-want

    The point is - what are you actually "selling"?
    If what you are selling has a zero or near zero marginal cost to you then you are not selling it. You are either asking for donations to cover a past expense (producing the content) or to fund a future one (producing some new content). If you are asking for donations then the item being offered is really just a conveneient "choke point" for you to wave your collecting tin - like a charity collecting at the doors of a supermarket. In that case a "pay what you want" model is appropriate - but it is helpful to provide some suggestions so people do not get stressed over deciding what to pay.

    However it is definitely better to find something scarce, then you can set a real price, and if it is a reasonably valuable thing you will be able to add enough markup to make a decent contribution to your fixed expenses.

    The music industry's problem is that the thing it used to add the markup to (the physical CD) is now too cheap - and in any case has been supeseded by media (hard drive/flash memory) that are not tied to the content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    LoL, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 4:57am

    @Richard

    "The point is - what are you actually "selling"?"

    That is easy to answer:

    You are selling the artist and his image, the artist is the real product, not the containers. The music can be free and still people will buy it if they get more then just the music.

    Otherwise big names wouldn't be doing it. CD sales hurt only the label(manager) not artists and all the things labels(managers) do artists can find other people to do it for them with better conditions now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    LoL, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:04am

    There is no payola on the internet.

    The internet is as fair as a playing field can get, everybody have the same chances, well not exactly, big names still have the money to hire the best people to do things for them, for little guys they have to do it all by themselves, but no one will cut you out or squeeze you out of the internet. So you have a better bigger chance of making it if you are any good.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Jason, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:17am

    artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.
    True, but who says they need to make money from their own art? Plenty of artists have made amazing music while working day jobs. Very few are able to make even a modest living with their art.
    artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.
    Major label artists, maybe. Hundreds and thousands of indie bands have had no problem handling money. She seems to be oblivious to this.
    artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks. please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money. dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don't fight it.

    unless you've been living under a rock, you've surely noticed that artists ALL over the place are reaching out directly to their fans for money. how you do it is a different matter. maybe i should be more tasteful. maybe i should not stop my concerts and auction off art. i do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot.
    Unless you've been living under a rock, you'd know that independent artists have been reaching out directly to their fans since the dawn of music. If you need a recent example, go down to your local art space, VFW hall, bar, or house show.
    BUT ... i'd rather get the system right gradually and learn from the mistakes and break new ground (with the help of an incredibly responsive and positive fanbase) for other artists who i assume are going to cautiously follow in our footsteps. we are creating the protocol, people, right here and now. i don't care if we fuck up. i care THAT we're doing it.
    She's learning to live as an indie artist. How is this breaking new ground?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: It is not that difficult.

    Good breakdown.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re: There is no payola on the internet.

    Actually there is payola on the Internet. Many of those bands that are "featured" on certain sites have cut deals of one kind or another.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    Good points. Artists have been selling themselves forever.

    What I do like about Palmer is that she is open to talking about the business of selling oneself and she gives real numbers. Too many artists/musicians/bands won't talk about income and expenses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:31pm

    Re:

    She's learning to live as an indie artist. How is this breaking new ground?

    Heh. You say that as if anything that anyone does that involves asking for money is exactly the same. Amanda has done a number of unique and different things (the flash mobs, the online auctions, the impromptu video, the photo book). I'd argue she's absolutely breaking new ground.

    But, even if she's not... um... who cares? This isn't about "breaking new ground." It's about figuring out what works, so that we stop having to listen to artists insisting there are no business models.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Christopher (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 11:10am

    Re:

    do we do +1 funny here? We should.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Christopher (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re: What you can sell

    I'd pitch in ten bucks to have Megadeth record a thrash version of "Jingle Bells". I'm sure other weirdos would jump in to get, say, Meshuggah to cover "Silent Night" in their own ironic way; and The Mars Volta to re-interpret "When Doves Cry". Shit like that should be eminently possible, especially if they have their own studios to do this.

    C'mon, who wouldn't want to download a handful of covers by Slayer for XMas?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This